Archery is best done while shooting on flat, even surfaces. But this isn’t always possible and with archery angle compensation can shoot at all angles. You can use multiple methods to compensate for angles, and it’s essential to understand how angles can affect your shots. So whether you are a beginner archer just starting out or a veteran shooter who wants to improve your skills, let’s dive into archery angle compensation!
Line of Sight Vs Horizontal Distance
The first step towards shooting at all angles is understanding the difference between a line of sight and horizontal distance. Horizontal distance is simple to understand and is simply the distance between you and your target when you are on the same plane. So shooting at a target or animal on level ground will mean that your actual distance and horizontal distance are the same. But sometimes your target that is 50 yards away isn’t really 50 yards away. This is where the line of sight comes into play.
When you shoot from an elevated position at extreme uphill or downhill angles, your actual distance and horizontal distance will no longer be the same. This is referred to as the “line of sight” distance, or the distance between you and your target if you were to draw a straight line between the two of you. From elevated positions, these two distances will be different. So which one do you use to shoot with?
When shooting at angles, you will always want to use horizontal distance and not the actual, line of sight distance. This may seem counter-intuitive, but physics will keep your arrow hitting where it needs to when you use horizontal distance to aim. While an arrow is traveling through the air, gravity will only affect it over the true horizontal distance. As it pulls the arrow toward the ground, it does so based on the overall horizontal travel.
Knowing your yardage ensures you can make the most accurate shot possible. This is why rangefinders have become so popular in recent years, as they provide a quick and accurate yardage reading with the push of a button. Rangefinders do this by shooting out a laser to your intended target and measuring the time it takes to return to calculate yardage.
These days, most rangefinders also have angle compensation built into them. By using the angle at which you are using it, they can calculate the horizontal distance that you need to be shooting for at extreme angles. This takes all of the guesswork out of it and tells you exactly what yardage you need to shoot when shooting down out of a tree stand or cliff face.
If your rangefinder doesn’t have angle compensation, you can also use an inclinometer and cut chart. The inclinometer will tell you the exact degree of the angle of the shot. You will then take this degree and refer to your cut chart for the yardage that you need to aim for. Cut charts will tell you how much to take off of the line of sight yardage (based on the angle). As a last resort, you can also learn to judge angles and distances through trial and error. This is the hardest and least reliable method for shooting angles, but sometimes it might be all you have when you don’t have quick access to a rangefinder or inclinometer.
Archery Angle Compensation Tools
To help you properly calculate angles, there are simple tools that you can use to get started. Even the most basic and simple rangefinders these days will have angle compensation tools built into them. For example, the Vortex Crossfire HD 1400 Laser Rangefinder is an extremely affordable rangefinder that features angle compensation in the form of their HCD (horizontal component distance) mode. It also has a line-of-sight mode if that interests you, but for the price tag, it is hard to beat the power of an instant angle compensation tool in the palm of your hand.
If an angle-compensating rangefinder isn’t your style or is out of your budget, a simple inclinometer might be a great option. One of the best (and most affordable) is the AOFAR Military Compass and Inclinometer. Not only do you get other tools along with the compass, but it can give you quick and accurate angle readings. Once you get a reading on your angle, you can plug it into your own cut chart.
Another option can be to use your smartphone to measure and calculate shooting angles. Smartphones have an accurate gyroscope built into them, and with archery apps such as Inclinometer Pro on the app store, you can take quick and easy angle measurements. Since most everyone has a smartphone, this is a great way to play around with angle compensations without spending all of the money on a rangefinder.
Bow Canting, Torquing, and the Third Axis
Of course, calculating the angle and distance to aim for is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to shooting accurately at extreme angles. Shooting at angles leaves you open to other potential problems such as bow canting, torquing, or third-axis issues.
Bow canting is when your bow is canting (or leaning) to the left or right when you shoot. Thankfully most bow sights these days include a bubble level to help ensure you are perfectly leveled and not canting the bow before the shot. Canting a bow to the left or right will cause you to miss to the left or right, especially at longer distances. Your arrow will travel in the direction of the cant, so it is critical to use the bubble level to avoid bow canting. When shooting uphill or downhill, many archers are more prone to canting a bow to compensate for the irregular shooting angles.
Torquing a bow is another shooting problem that seems to be more common when angles come into play. Bow torque happens when you place pressure on the bow’s grip. This unnecessary pressure can twist the bow when you execute a shot, which can cause the arrow to fly to the left or right. As with bow cant, torque can be easily remedied by taking your time during a shot and ensuring your form is correct. This also applies to your third axis.
If your bow sight includes third-axis calibration, you can use your bubble level on various shooting angles. Even with perfect shooting form, there is still a certain amount of torque that is placed onto the bow. This can be manifested in your bubble level at extreme angles, making it difficult to keep everything level when shooting.
By calibrating your third axis, you can avoid heartbreaking misses and stay as accurate as possible even when shooting at extreme angles. But it is important to note that not all bow sights will come with a 3rd axis adjustment. If you believe that you will be shooting at extreme angles, you may want to spend the extra money on one of these sights when making a new purchase.
Shooting with Consistency
In addition to maintaining the best form possible when shooting, there are a few simple tips and tricks that you can use to maintain the highest level of consistency when shooting at angles. For example, maintaining the same anchor points no matter the angle or distance is essential. Many archers use the same anchor points such as the bowstring on the tip of the nose or a kisser button at the corner of the mouth to achieve the same shot every time.
Another way of shooting consistently at angles is to bend your body properly. To do this, draw a horizontal plane and then bend at your waist up or down to ensure you maintain the same anchor points and form at the shot. Just imagine you are shooting on a level plane and finding your anchor points. Bend at your waist while maintaining the same upper body position. By doing this, you should avoid any problems with bow cant or torque as well.
Practicing At All Angles
The final step in being able to shoot at all angles is to get out there and practice. By going out and finding a steep cliff, hill, or treestand, you can find the elevation necessary to practice archery angle compensation. The more situations you can simulate at angles, the better. Find every uphill, downhill, and sidehill variation that you can find and shoot a few arrows. The more you do this, the more comfortable you will be in any situation that may arise. This is especially important for bowhunters who may find themselves shooting in a large variety of different situations and angles.
Shooting at various angles might seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Thanks to modern technology, you can quickly have all of your angles compensated for you and make the most accurate shots possible. Archery angle compensation, whether through a rangefinder, inclinometer, or your own tuition, is an essential part of hitting your target every time!