This past season afforded me a lot of time to think, unfortunately. The rut was slow due to all the warm weather, so there wasn’t a lot of that customary grabbing for the grunt call and binoculars to interrupt my daydreams. I spent some time at full draw, pretending I was in the action. I studied how I would handle certain shots if, by an act of God, something entered my shooting lanes.
One thing I noticed was my repeated poor vertical bow alignment at full draw when shooting downward. I tended to cant the bow to the right as I bent forward to shoot. Granted, when hunting from a treestand, angled shots are close shots, so changes in bow angle have only a minimal affect on accuracy. But it got me thinking about other situations where the affects wouldn’t be minimal.
Suppose the shot was 40 yards down from a hillside stand. What if it was a 50-yard shot down a steep mountainside for mule deer or elk. This naturally occurring bow cant would have a much larger affect on accuracy in those cases.
Use A Bubble Level
Obviously, the easiest way to counteract the tendency to cant your bow at full draw is to use a bubble level. However, you can’t totally trust it if you are prone to taking long uphill or downhill shots. That’s because it’s not just your shooting form that affects the movement of the bubble in the level but the design of the sight itself. If the sight is not perfectly square with the mounting bracket (the sight body may toe-in, for example), the bubble will move when you bend up or down to shoot at an angle.
Think about this; it’s important if you take mid-range and longer shots at upward or downward angles. If the sight body toes inward (the pin guard points very slightly back toward you) when you point the bow downward (even if you keep it exactly vertical), the bubble will move outward from bow. Of course, this false reading will cause you to adjust your shooting form when it is not required. The result is that you will shoot poorly by blindly doing what the bubble tells you to do. The opposite will occur if you aim the bow upward.
If you know you will be taking 30-yard and longer shots at moderately steep angles, you should really look for a sight that permits third-axis adjustment. This allows you to square the sight head with the bow so the bubble behaves the way it is supposed to even at steep angles.
I think every single bowhunter should use a bubble level. Most people sight in their bow while standing straight up and down on level ground. However, while hunting in a different setting, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking your bow is vertical when it isn’t. This is especially likely when standing on a slope. Subconsciously, we tend to align the bow perpendicular to the ground. So, if the slope drops off to the right, it is very easy to lean your bow right. And since the arrow tends to fall to the side of the target that coincides with the way the bow is leaning, that means you will miss right.
Trees growing on a slope offer a frame of reference and help with bow alignment, but you can’t count on them being vertical — or even being present when you need them. With a bubble level, aligning the bow becomes simple and consistent. The first few times you use one, you’ll be amazed how far off your natural form can be at times.
When I am shooting down from a treestand, the bubble in my level moves to the left. I know the sight is square to the bow, so the change is entirely related to my shooting form. I tend to bend forward as I lean over, causing the bow to tip to the right. The bubble level shows me this flaw in my shooting form and reminds me to lean back to the left as I aim.
I don’t try to turn the bow with my hand; that almost never works. Instead, I turn the bow with my body. In general, you will be much more accurate if you use your body to move the bow rather than your arm or hands. These big muscles don’t move as quickly and provide a very stable shooting foundation. So, when the bubble moves on angled shots, don’t try to straighten the bow by twisting your bow arm. Instead, lean your entire upper body in the direction of the bubble to bring it back to the center.
Center Your Round Pin Guard
I have written about this subject a few times, but I think it is worth mentioning again here. By centering your entire round pin guard inside your peep sight, rather than centering each pin individually, you create two shooting advantages.
Every bowhunter has an anchor point that feels best. Suppose your anchor point feels best when you center your 30-yard pin. When you switch to your 20-yard pin, you have to raise your hand on your face slightly to center that pin in the peep. Now, go back to 40 yards. Your anchor point will have to go down along your face in order to center the 40-yard pin.
The slower your arrow, the greater your pin gap and the more you will have to move your anchor point up and down to keep the various pins centered. The affects are also magnified for archers who use long-range pins for Western hunting. Unless you practice a lot at every distance, you are likely to feel uncomfortable changing your anchor point. There is another way to aim that lets you keep your most comfortable anchor point for every shot.
Center your entire round pin guard inside a large (3⁄16- to ¼-inch diameter) peep sight. To shoot near or far, all you have to do is lower or raise the bow until the proper pin is on the spot; your anchor point remains the same for all distances. Because you are still centering something (the pin guard), you don’t give up any precision.
The larger peep also permits better visibility in low-light conditions bowhunters often face, and it affords a wider field of view so you can better keep track of moving game as it nears your shooting lanes.
If you’ve spent years mastering the art of centering each pin in your peep before releasing the string, it will take more than a few weeks to retrain yourself to center the pin guard instead. I recommend you
begin practicing this style right now, while you still have months before the hunting season. If you head into the season still having to remind yourself to center the guard instead of the pin, you are setting yourself up for a miss.
A bubble level is mandatory if you are serious about this sport, and if you will be taking sharply angled shots at distances past 30 yards, a sight with third-axis leveling capability is also critical to your accuracy.
Further, centering a round pin guard inside your peep sight offers definite advantages. You’ll see your target better under low-light conditions, and you’ll feel more confident settling into the same anchor point for every shot.
What you see and do at full draw has everything to do with your success. Give some thoughts to these aiming aids.