Where to aim when shooting from a tree stand

Where to aim when shooting from a tree stand is a tricky question. The answer depends on whether you’re using an open box or subsonic ammunition. If you’re using subsonic ammunition, try to hold about 2 inches high in your target’s heart and lungs area with the crosshairs on their shoulder. If you’re using an open box, come down at least 4 inches from your target’s shoulder and aim just above their belt buckle.

So, where does this difference in aiming point come from? It comes from the speed of the bullet. When you’re using subsonic ammunition, you’re using a bullet that’s traveling slower than the speed of sound. As a result, you don’t have to make corrections for muzzle blast and wind drift.

On the other hand, when you use an open box, you’re using a fast-moving bullet that has to be adjusted because it’s moving faster than the speed of sound. In the past, most open boxes were calibrated to proper bullet weights. However, thanks to advances in metrology which allow us to use really tiny bullets at these really high velocities, we can now calibrate them for open box velocity with a couple of clicks.

You want to dial your crosshairs in so that they look about 3 inches lower than the top of the target’s shoulder. Don’t be afraid to tweak these settings as you get more comfortable shooting from a tree stand.

Compensate for shooting angle

You want to compensate for the shooting angle as you’re aiming. This is easy enough to figure out. Let the target be your reference point, and align the bottom of your crosshairs to where you think it might hit the ground if you were to shoot it straight on. That’s where your bullet will land when you shoot from a downward angle.

Stay conscious of your breathing.

If you’re using subsonic ammunition, don’t let your breath affect your shot. You want to stay as calm as possible. As you breathe in, concentrate on relaxing your muscles. When you breathe out, get ready to shoot. When you shoot, try to hold your breath or exhale very slowly. Ensure that it’s not too fast so that it affects the rest of the gun’s stock and impacts you in any way.

Treat it like a bullseye.

If you’re using subsonic ammunition, try to treat your shots as if you were trying to hit the bullseye. If you’re having trouble zeroing in on your target when you shoot from a tree stand, try to employ some of the same skills used in archery. Take your time and aim carefully. You want to make sure that you hit your target right where you want it.

Tree stand shooting angle

Most tree stands are pitched at about 30 degrees, but there are exceptions. For example, the Tres Hombres Scout Stand is pitched at 52.5 degrees. If you’re shooting from a tree stand and your sights aren’t exactly horizontal, you can still use your crosshairs and see if they’ll give you a pretty decent idea of where your bullets will land. This technique is used by archers who are shooting at targets that are at different angles.

Bullseye shooting at a tree stand isn’t exactly like a bullseye but bear with me. If you want to shoot from a tree stand and aren’t sure which way the target is tilted, take it down and shoot it. If it’s pitched at 30 degrees, you’ll see that your bullet will hit somewhere in the middle of the target if you’re using subsonic ammo.

Shooting downhill

Don’t be afraid to shoot downhill. If you’re using subsonic ammunition, the bullet will still get up to speed before it reaches your target. The only difference is that it’ll travel slower than sound, which means that you won’t have problems with wind drift or muzzle blast. The real trick is whether or not your crosshairs will stay on target as you’re shooting downhill, so take some time and practice before you ever face an actual game animal.

Deer shot angles

If you’re using an open box, aim for the chest. If you’re using subsonic ammunition, aim for the shoulder. Be sure to consider that your bullet will be moving slower than the speed of sound for longer distances, and you’ll have to compensate for this as well. You might have to hold on a bit longer or adjust your aim slightly.


One trick to the tag game is to shoot at the ground behind the animal. It may be hard to see, but you might see a little halo of grass or dirt, depending on the bullet’s angle and speed. This gives you a pretty good idea of where your bullet might have landed when it hit leather. You could even see a sweet trail that took it straight back into the woods. If you take this approach, then you’ll always know where you made your kill.

Arc shot effect

Consider how much difference the angle of your shot makes. When you shoot up at the animal, the bullet may pass straight through and slide along all the way down to the ground. The bullet might even pass through with minimal impact. But if you shoot down at the animal, such as with a 40gr load from a deer rifle at 100 yards, then you’ll often see that it’s enough to penetrate and will give you a good idea of how far your bullet has passed through.

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