By B.B. Pelletier

This is another post on using a scope. Let’s talk about shots that are angled up or down from the shooter’s perspective.

On the level
When shooting with a scope, you have to know the pellet’s trajectory so you can hit targets at different ranges. I addressed this in the June 1 posting – At what range should you zero your scope? In that discussion, all shooting was done on level ground, with the target at the same elevation as the shooter. That kept the barrel parallel to the ground, which is the only way we could discuss trajectory without confusion. A lot of shooting is done that way, but there are exceptions.

What if you’re hunting squirrels that are high up in trees, or sniping rabbits in your garden from a second-story window or deck? In both cases your barrel won’t be parallel to the ground and gravity will act differently on the pellet in flight. To hit your target, you’ll have to compensate for this.

Up or down – they’re both the same
Whether you shoot up or down, the effect on the pellet is the same. The actual drop of the pellet from the effect of gravity is reduced. Another way to say this is that the trajectory will be flatter.

The easy way to picture it
Think of it this way. If you were shooting straight down, there would be NO arc to the trajectory. The pellet would travel in the same direction as gravity’s influence, which would be a straight line.

If you were shooting straight up, the effect would be the same. The pellet would travel in a straight line, as long as it was not influenced by wind or anything else. Eventually, gravity slows the pellet to a complete stop and it reverses direction, falling back toward the pull of gravity. It gains velocity again until it reaches a speed where it can’t go any faster because its wind resistance holds it back.

These two illustrations are to help you understand the dynamics of the situation. When you shoot up (at a high target) or down (at a target below you), the same thing happens to the pellet, though not to such an extreme. The slant angle of the shot determines the amount of the effect.

If you’re confused, here it is in a nutshell
Imagine your target is NOT up in the tree but on the ground and level with you. That distance is the one you should be sighting for! To hit a bird that’s 50 yards up – but the tree is only 15 yards away from you – aim the same as if the bird is JUST 15 YARDS AWAY! Gravity acts on the pellet as though it is only 15 yards away because of the extreme slant angle of your shot. That explains why hunters often shoot OVER their targets when they are high in a tree!