Let’s be clear: There is no such thing as a “perfect” stand height. The ideal stand height for any given hunting scenario is dictated by a number of variables, including the best available cover, terrain features, and a hunter’s own comfort level. But concealment and comfort aren’t the only factors to consider when choosing the ideal height from which to hunt. You also need to think about how your stand height impacts the trajectory of your arrow or bullet.
First, we have to acknowledge the fact that gravity will cause an arrow or bullet to lose height as it travels. When you sight in on flat ground, the force of gravity is consistent throughout the duration of the shot because the projectile’s flight is more or less parallel to the ground.
When shooting at a downward angle — i.e. from a treestand — your point of impact at a chosen distance will be slightly higher. Why? Because the effects of gravity are somewhat negated when firing downward.
Thus, the higher your stand, the higher the point of impact in comparison to the point of impact when firing from level ground.
This is where “true” and “linear” distances come into play. “True” distance is measured from the base of the tree to the target. When shooting at a downward angle, however, you must account for the linear distance — the distance from the end of your bow or gun to the target measured along that angle. And that’s where devices like angle-compensating rangefinders prove their worth. —Tony Hansen
About the Author: Tony Hansen manages for and hunts mature whitetails in his home state of Michigan, where sweating the details is the only way to succeed. When not hunting his own properties, he can be found pursuing deer on public land throughout the whitetail’s range. Tony’s writings have appeared in Outdoor Life, Traditional Bowhunter, North American Whitetail, and Bowhunter.