Leveling Your Sights On Success
It's mid November and you are settled in your tree stand for an all day hunt. There is a crisp frost on the ground and the wind is perfect. You just pour a cup of coffee from your thermos and the steam from your coffee cup wraps around your face while you sip on it as you watch a heavily traveled funnel in hopes of a love sick buck might travel by your stand. Mid morning comes around and you hear the steady cadence of leaves crunching as one of the bucks you have on your trail camera approaches your stand. The buck makes his way to your shooting lane and offers you a 25 yard shot as if he read the script. You come to full draw, level your bow with your sight level and settle the pin right on the boiler room of the deer. You pull through the shot and your release has a clean break from your loop nock sending the arrow to the unsuspecting buck. Everything feels good on the release only to find that your arrow misses the mark a few inches wide left (or right). Frustrated from making a bad shot you go back to the range to find your equipment is hitting spot on. Now your confidence is down because you think your mental game is off or there is a problem with your shot execution and it haunts you. It is something we will all face at one time or another during our hunting careers. However, for some of these left and right misses from elevated positions could be simply due to your 3rd axis on your level is out of adjustment or your sights simply does not have the option for this adjustment.
Choosing a sight that fits your style
If you are a bow hunter that relies on your sight level as another anchor point like myself having a sight with a 3rd axis adjustment is a must. Especially if you are a tree stand hunter or if you are going to be making uphill or downhill shots. Just about all sights on the market today have a level of some sort and most will do fine as long as your shots are going to be somewhat level. To gain the full benefit from a level I look for the sights that offer a 2nd and 3rd axis adjustment so I can completely tune it to my form and setup.
What are these axis?
The first and second axis are pretty straight forward and they are directly tuned to the bow while it is at static. To set them you put your bow in a vise and get your string perfectly vertical. You can get levels that clip to your string for nearly nothing to help you level your bow. Once you have got everything level with your bow you adjust the level on your sights so it is level with the bow. Now your bow and sights are in tune together. To set your third axis things get a little more tricky and is overlooked by many. It is a critical adjustment if you are going to be shooting uphill or downhill shots. The best way to adjust the third axis is at full draw by the shooter. As we settle into full draw we add dynamics to the bow with torque. This torque will be different between shooters as well as bow designs. So the third axis is how you tune the shooter to the sights and ultimately to the bow. Once at full draw the pins and the arrow become in line vertically with each other and this is what we want to maintain no matter what angle we are shooting.
Adjusting the 3rd Axis
When I make this adjustment I start by finding something I know is a perfectly vertical line. I like to use a string with a weight. I come to full draw and I align my all my pins on this line. While keeping all the pins on the line I start to lower my bow as if I'm making a shot from a tree stand. As I track the line all the way down to the ground I watch my sight level while at full draw as it tracks the line. I adjust my 3rd axis by slightly twisting my level left or right until my pins track the line all the way down and my level stays level the whole way as well.
How does this affect my shot from my tree stand?
Now that we understand what the 3rd axis is, how does it being out of adjustment affect me while I'm in a tree stand? Imagine the same scenario as above with your 3rd axis out of adjustment. The deer steps into your shooting lane at 25 yards and you come to full draw. As you lower your bow to settle the pin on the deer your bubble gradually moves to the left. You start to chase your bubble by canting your bow to the left to bring it back to level as you go through your shot sequence. What you don't see here is when you start canting your bow you essentially are moving your pins and your arrow out of vertical alignment. As you settle your pin on the spot your arrow is slightly pointing in this case wide right allowing it to strike the deer in the liver or directly in the shoulder causing the poor hit.
We owe it to ourselves and the game we hunt to be the best we can be when we take to the field. Bow hunting is a game of inches when it comes to shot placement. It would be sad to think that a little time and a small micro movement on a level bubble in our backyard could make a difference in recovering our game. Let's face it, we spend countless hours and thousands of practice shots preparing ourselves for only a few shots we get while hunting. Not to mention the countless days daydreaming about when we can get back in our stands to do what we cherish so much. As an avid bow hunter I feel it is a small price to pay to find a set of sights that has these extra features just so I can stack the odds a little more in my favor when the opportunity presents itself.