April 20, 2021
In the last column, we began the discussion on shooting well in the wind. We covered estimating and compensating for wind drift. Now, we will discuss the other components of shooting well in the wind: choosing and setting up your equipment to better handle the wind and developing “wind-resistant” shooting form and timing.
To shoot well in the wind, you must reduce the surface area of your bow to minimize wind drag. Reducing wind drag will minimize the distance your bow moves when buffeted by the wind. I prefer to use a relatively short axle-to-axle bow with a removable quiver and a small sight, set close to the bow. If I use a stabilizer, I use a very low-profile model such as the AAE Hot Rodz series.
If it’s windy, and if I have time, I’ll take my quiver off and attach it to my belt or lay it on the ground before I shoot.
I find it much easier to hold steady in the wind with a heavy mass-weight bow. A heavy object has more inertia than a lighter object, so it takes more force to cause it to move, allowing steadier aiming in the wind. Obviously, you must weigh (pun intended) the accuracy advantages of a heavy bow against the added weight if you are hunting in severe terrain.
I’m usually a “relaxation” shooter, meaning I like to keep all my muscles relaxed and let the bow shoot the shot. This technique is unbeatable for me in calm weather. However, get me in the wind and my relaxed arms act like floppy noodles. So, when I’m shooting in the wind, I’ve found that I can hold much steadier if
I pull hard into the stops and use the muscles of my back to aim and control the bow. The key to this style of shooting is to keep your bow hand, bow arm and the entire left side of your body (for right-handed shooters) relaxed while you are making the shot. Practice this at home, as some bows will tend to shoot low if drawn hard into the stops.
There are also shot-timing issues that often arise when shooting in the wind. First, you may rush the shot when your pin finally settles on the spot. Don’t undo years of perfect practice by allowing yourself to punch the trigger in the wind. Focus on making a faster squeeze (but a squeeze nonetheless) and you will be able to shoot both quickly and accurately.
Second, try not to hold too long. Try to shoot within the same time frame as you would on a calm day. Obviously, you can’t let down and start over when you’re hunting. However, during practice, if you can’t get the shot off within your normal shot time, let down and start again. It’s tempting to try to hold longer as you wait for a lull in the wind. Unfortunately, your shot will deteriorate, and you’ll miss because of a breakdown in form. Often, if you hold too long, you’ll miss your mark even if your pin happens to be in the right place when the shot breaks.
There isn’t anything you can do at full draw to make the wind calm down, but you can be patient and wait for the occasional lull before you draw. There is often a rhythm to the wind. If you watch the grass and the leaves blow, you can see it and hear it. In fact, if you watch closely enough, you can even see the lull before it reaches you by watching the trees upwind of you. Normally, there is a lull right after a hard gust. Patience is key. If the animal isn’t moving away, be patient until you gain a feel for the rhythm of the wind and try to shoot during a break.
There are two effective methods to aim to compensate for the wind. The first is to aim off to the upwind side of the target and let the wind drift the arrow into the spot. The second is to cant (tilt) your bow’s upper limb towards the upwind side of the target and aim dead on. Many target shooters prefer to cant their bows because it’s more comfortable and natural to hold their pin in the center of the target. They dope the wind by canting their bows and using their sight levels to measure the severity of the cant. They cant a quarter bubble or a half bubble or a full bubble depending on wind speed and direction. However, we bowhunters aren’t aiming at a round spot, so it’s easier to pick a spot left or right of where we want to hit and aim there.
When I shoot under calm conditions, I often focus on the pin and blur the target, especially when I’m shooting spots. However, when I’m shooting in the wind, I prefer to focus on the target and let my pin blur. This technique keeps my mind off the movement of the pin. I let the pin move but try to keep it always moving back to my aiming spot. When the shot breaks, this centering force seems to help the arrow hit a little closer to the middle than where the pin was when the shot broke.