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Make the Shot: Steeply Angled Arrows

Executing a sharply angled shot is one of the toughest assignments in bowhunting. Here is how to ace it.

Make the Shot: Steeply Angled Arrows

Stay sharp on angled shots — and have a high level of confidence every time you climb into a stand — by taking a practice shot or two before each hunt when possible. (Photo by Tony J. Peterson)

Steeply angled shots are the bane of all archers. But rest assured, with some practice you can master these shots if you follow these guidelines.


The first thing you’ll need to do is find a place to practice. In most areas there are walk-through 3-D courses that offer elevated shots allowing you to work on your acute angles.

Alternatively, you can hang a stand and shoot from there. If you choose this route, remember to wear your full-body fall-arrest harness and use a lifeline as gravity doesn’t take a break and you can’t fly—so don’t risk it.


What shots should you be practicing? The best answer is anything within range. Start close, within 10 yards or so, and make a mental list of what you need to do. The first thing is to use a rangefinder with a built-in inclinometer so you know exactly what distance to aim for.

This is important, because it tells you what pin to use and where to hold it for the true downhill shot distance, and it kicks off the steep-angle shot process. It’s step one, and it’s important.

Secondly, force yourself to bend at the waist to preserve proper upper body form. You’ve probably read this many times, but few remember when in the field. But, knowing that you should bend at the waist when a 130-incher is standing downhill at 18 yards is different than actually doing it. The best archers in the business practice often, allowing themselves to shift into a sort of “autopilot mode” in competition and while hunting. They do this because they understand they lose a bit of their mental edge from the pressure and adrenaline when they are in the field.

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You will too, and if you’ve practiced all summer long shooting at crazy angles and bending at the waist, you’ll probably do just that when a buck walks in. It’s no different than checking your bubble level during every shot. In practice, this is part of the process and is a great way to green-light your form. When a solid buck walks in, it’s much harder to remember to peek at your level but if you’ve got hundreds of shots in the rearview mirror, you’ll probably naturally hold your bow level. That type of muscle memory can happen with bending at the waist too, it just takes plenty of practice.


Most of us shoot more bag/block targets than 3-D targets for a couple of reasons. Primarily, bag or block-style targets are cheaper and more portable than deer targets.

There’s nothing wrong with shooting circles and diamonds, but if you want to get good at steep angles you’ll want at least one 3-D target.

Practice often on a 3-D target from an elevated platform. If that platform is a treestand, use a fall-arrest system during the sessions.(Photo by Tony J. Peterson)

These life-like targets force you to think about the point of arrow impact and pass-through with each of your shots, which is what you’ll have to do in the field. It’s great to shoot a tight group on a bulls-eye, but a better real-world skill is the ability to shoot a tight group in a foam deer’s lungs at various angles.

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I like to take my 3-D targets and move them into various positions from week to week to force myself to rethink my point of impact while I’m working on steep shots. This is the best way to get close to the real thing, and it’s something you can work on not only in the pre-season, but throughout the season.

In fact, the best way to stay sharp on angled shots and have a high level of confidence every time you climb into a stand is to take a practice shot or two before each hunt when possible. This is a small time commitment that will allow you to get in the right mindset before each journey into the woods. When coupled with the muscle-memory of countless steep practice shots, it ensures those once-per-season encounters end in short blood trails.

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