Hunting from a tree stand is a very common technique among both rifle and bow hunters. A tree stand offers you a stable shooting platform and a wider field of view for prey-spotting. You can spot a deer from farther away and have the time necessary to set up an accurate shot.
But although shooting from a tree stand does improve your odds of coming home with a trophy, it has its own issues. Among the numerous questions we’ve gotten, one of the most notable is where to aim when shooting from a tree stand.
This is what we’ll be focusing on answering in today’s article!
The Secret to Shooting from a Tree Stand: The Confidence Factor
This may sound incredibly cliché, but shooting from a tree stand demands just as much confidence from you as technique. Most hunters are used to making straight and level shots. Rarely does anybody (especially beginners) practice shooting from the top down.
Additionally, you don’t have the luxury of mobility while you’re shooting from a tree stand. A tiny seat perching atop a tree is all you get. Depending on where your target pops up, you may have to do a lot of acrobatics to gain a targeting solution.
For example, when the target is obstructed by a tree trunk, you would have to twist your body left and right to peer around it. Raise or lower your rifle this way and that to get a clearer sight picture between the branches. You would probably even have to stand upright on your tippy toes to shoot over a short tree!
So, if you haven’t shot from a tree stand before or have very little experience at this, it’s going to be very awkward at first. You will be making shots at angles and in positions no one has ever told you about.
This is the reason why confidence is so important if you’re going to shoot from a tree stand. Trust your sighting eye and your trigger finger. If you don’t, you’ll never be comfortable enough to make a shot.
Be Quiet and Still
Deers and similar hunts are a lot more sensitive than most people give them credits for.
Although a deer’s eyesight clarity is rather poor (20/100), its eyes excel at spotting movements. When a deer approaches, stay as still as you possibly can. If you move too much, you’ll spook it and miss your chance at bagging a shot.
Another ability that a white-tail has is directional hearing. Its hearing isn’t exactly the best, but its ears function like antennas. The moment it hears something, the ears can swivel to pinpoint exactly where the sound comes from.
That’s why you have to stay very quiet when a white-tail nears your tree stand. Too much noise and it’ll run before you can even raise your rifle.
Good Rifle Placement and Posture Is Key
Remember how we said minimal movement is crucial while hunting a white-tail? This detail is very important.
Well before the deer shows up in your sight, you have to set up your rifle placement and posture so that you can zero in on the target right away without moving too much.
Think strategically: from where and in which direction will a deer be most likely to show up? Turn your whole body towards that direction and set up your rifle so that it points that way, too.
We have found that coming to the hunt armed with best rated shooting tripods or rifle holders helps immensely with setting up the rifle. These extra accessories create a stable platform while also minimizing body movement when you eventually have to take the shot.
If you have to cover a wide area, set up your rifle so that you can swivel it in an arc without having to move a lot of your body (once again, a tripod or rifle holder can help).
Now to the meat of the article: where to land your shot when the stars align and you got a hapless deer in your scope.
Before we speak any further, though, it’s worth putting out a PSA: if you aren’t familiar with a deer’s anatomy yet, we highly recommend you to study an anatomy chart. Even if you have the best shot angle, if you don’t know where the vitals are, you will end up with a messy kill.
Best Shot Angles to Take
Of course, from a tree stand, the only way to shoot is downward. The weird angle changes the shooting equation drastically no matter which way the deer is standing. But, like always, the most optimal shot placement will depend on which direction the deer is facing relative to you.
If it’s standing with its head towards you (head-on/straight on), the high angle typically makes for a very bad shot. Its head and neck will obscure the body and the angle will disallow you from making a good chest shot.
Always wait for a better shot if this is the case.
In this scenario, the deer stands with its face towards you and its body slants at an angle. This is a passable shot angle, but will require skill and experience.
Pull the trigger when the shot angle is shallow. Aim at the nearside front leg, right above the elbow joint. You should wait until the deer takes a step forward with its front leg, which will expose the vital organs within. Such a shot, when properly taken, will power through one of the lungs and the liver. That will be an instant light-out.
However, if the angle is too sharp, the bullet won’t be able to travel through enough vitals to make for a clean, ethical kill.
The exact opposite of quartering-toward: the deer faces away from you, its body slants at an angle. This is a very good and simple shot to take. Aim so that the exit hole is through the offside front leg, which will go right through the lungs and heart.
Another very good shot, but you will need to make compensation for the higher angle compared to a level shot. Visualize the bullet path so that it passes through the chest cavity of the deer and aim your rifle accordingly. Typically, this will require that you aim higher on the deer than normal.
If you have camouflaged yourself so well that the deer walks directly underneath your tree stand without noticing you perching over head, you will have a great shot at hand.
For a shallow-angle shot, aim higher on the animal so that the bullet will go through the chest cavity and through the heart and lungs. If the angle is sharp, shoot through the center of the back and in-between the shoulder blades. Such a shot will go through vitals and snap the spinal cord all at the same time.
To be successful as a tree stand shooter, aside from being a sharpshooter, you will also have to be very fluent in anatomy. Practice your shooting and study the charts. In time, you will be able to instinctively calculate for the most optimum firing solution for a quick, humane kill.
Hope this guide has satisfied your question (“where to aim when shooting from a tree stand”)!