You may have in your mind a vision of how you think your day of hunting will play out, where you’ll go, what you’ll do, and what you’re likely to see. That is all good, the power of positive thinking and all that. But even the best-laid plans can go off track at the whim of nature.
In short, hunting presents an ever-changing series of variables, and you do your best to be prepared as best you can. You dress for weather, you pack along rain gear in case it rains; lunch and water for when you get hungry and thirsty; a first-aid kit for mishaps.
But when it comes to encountering your game animal, let’s say a white-tailed deer in this case, you can only control one end of the hunting equation—where you are. Where the deer shows up is entirely up to the deer.
Of course, you can prepare for such encounters and envision your shot by where you set your treestand or blind and make educated guesses how, when, and where a deer is likely to approach along a well-used trail. In those cases, you can have a bit of head start on determining how and where you are likely to aim when it comes time to shoot.
Spot-and-stalk hunters, on the other hand, typically find it harder to predict when and where shooting opportunities will arise during their cat-and-mouse hunt.
In either case—stand or spot-and-stalk—hunting is rarely on level ground, with you shooting from Point A to Point B, where the deer is. Often, the deer may be uphill or downhill. If you’re in a treestand, you’re likely to be shooting at a downward angle, the exception being if the deer shows up in range on a hillside or other elevation the same height as you.
And that brings us back to the point of this article—shooting uphill or downhill.
We’ve covered some of this before at huntershandbook.com, but it is important enough to repeat. Shooting uphill or downhill is complicated. Gravity affects a bullet fired at extreme angles, up or down, differently than it does a bullet fired parallel to the ground, said Vic Ziliani, Bushnell’s communications coordinator. Essentially, because of the angle in relationship with the earth, gravity has less effect on uphill and downhill shots as it does on flat horizontal shots. In other words, flat, horizontal shots are subject to more gravitational pull so bullets fired at an angle will hit higher because of less gravitational pull.
Sorry, there’s not a hard-and-fast rule on the effect because it is determined by the sharpness of the angle. “At slight angles, this effect is minimal,” Ziliani said. “As the angle increases, so does the compensation.”
So aim higher on uphill or downhill shots, right? But how do you calculate how much higher to aim, that’s the real question.
There’s a way to mathematically calculate it, based on the angle and distance involved or, and we could probably have made this much simpler by stating this upfront, most laser rangefinders automatically compensate for uphill or downhill angles, giving you the correct range to consider as you aim.
Look for a laser rangefinder with angle range compensation, often abbreviated as ARC.
“Most modern LRFs can give you true distance to the target or angled compensated distance up or down in the mountains or out of an elevated stand,” Ziliani said. “It calculates the true horizontal distance into adjusted angled distance.”
And, as with most modern technology that’s been around, the cost for a good ARC-capable laser rangefinder is reasonable. For instance, a good place to start is Bushnell’s Prime 1300 (meaning it will effectively range out to 1,300 yards on reflective targets), it costs only $165.99; the Prime 1700 with extra range capability jumping up only to $199.99. The next step up is Bushnell’s Engage 1300 at $256.95 and Engage 1700 at $298.95. Top of the line is the Nitro 1800 a $349.99. Check them out at bushnell.com.
A journalist by profession and hunter by inherent inclination, Joe Arterburn has more than 35 years of experience as a writer and in the outdoor industry. He is a freelance writer for major outdoor publications, including Petersen’s Hunting, Outdoor Life, Hunter’s Handbook, Gun Digest and Gun Dog, as well as online publications.
This article was originally published for the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA). Bushnell is a proud sponsor of the IHEA and continuing the heritage of hunting worldwide by developing safe, responsible, knowledgeable and involved hunters.