If archery is your hobby, then you know quite well the struggle of shooting in windy conditions. It’s definitely not impossible to maintain accuracy in these conditions however, you’ll just have to modify your shooting patterns a little bit and understand the physics of what happens to an arrow in flight.
A Word About Equipment
Your equipment can have some serious effects, in addition to the wind. If you know you’re going to be shooting on a heavier day there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Heavier arrows will always tend to fly better in the wind. This might seem counterintuitive since they’ll fly at a lower speed and thus are exposed to the wind’s effect for longer but they’ll maintain a truer course in windy situations. You can plan ahead for this if you’re target shooting on a windy day.
Thinner arrows will naturally be less effected by the wind as well. This makes a heavy, thin arrow the easiest to shoot in the wind.
Your bow’s profile can also play an effect, particularly in heavier crosswinds. You’ll have to compensate in the direction of the wind in order to stay on target. This can mean removing some accessories depending on your shooting style, but just keep in mind that a bigger bow will require more compensation at slower wind speeds.
Lastly, your bow sights can make things quite a bit easier on you. Chances are you’ve already invested in some good sights already if you’re shooting any kind of serious distance. Some people prefer peep sights. These don’t offer much for you when you’re trying to adjust for wind differentials.
How The Wind Affects Your Arrows
While it might seem obvious to gauge, there are a ton of different factors which go into shooting in the wind as far as your arrows ballistics are concerned.
Headwinds will increase the drag on your arrow, even a relatively slow moving 15mph wind can increase drag by an impressive 20% or so. The effect on your accuracy is pretty clear: your arrow is going to drop quicker. The heavier the headwind, the more drop you’ll be experiencing.
Tailwinds, on the other hand, will result in less drag on the arrow. This means that you’re going to end up shooting high.
There’s a fortunate ending to this: the effect is almost negligible in any “normal” wind unless you’re using extremely light arrows. If wind speeds are extremely high, then you’ll have a fairly pronounced effect, however. This is because a direct head or tailwind will only affect the small end of the arrow.
Crosswinds are where things get tricky for the most part. A 90° angled wind can knock you off target by a huge amount. The effect is more pronounced the farther you’re shooting, and the effect can be fairly unpredictable.
Of course, a direct tailwind, headwind, or crosswind is a pretty rare find in nature. The effect of an angled wind is quite difficult to gauge accurately until you’re used to it. Picture a giant clock when you’re gauging the effect.
Now, things don’t move linearly in relation to the way the wind is blowing. Instead, you’ll have an exponential effect for how far off you’re shooting.
One “hour” off from a direct headwind and you’ll experience roughly 50% of the drift you’d see from a direct headwind or tailwind. At two “hours” you’ll experience 90% of the drift. For example:
- A wind blowing from 12 o’clock will not cause sideways drift.
- A wind blowing 1 o’clock will cause 50% of the drift you’d expect from a direct crosswind
- At 2 o’clock you’ll be experiencing 90% of the drift you’d get at a full crosswind.
- At 3 o’clock you’re at a direct crosswind and will experience 100%
- At 4 o’clock you’ll see roughly 90%
- At 5 o’clock you’ll see roughly 50%
- At 6 o’clock you’ll be at a tailwind
As you can see, this can make things extremely tricky to judge while shooting.
On top of this, winds are rarely static and often incorporate gusts. As long as you don’t release during a gust, however, most arrows will be in the target before another gust can throw them off.
Techniques to Compensate
The obvious measure to take would be to aim “off” like one does with a rifle. This means aiming to one side or the other and raising or lowering the bow depending on your perception of the wind. This works quite well if you’re shooting a recurve bow, just remember to gauge the wind before you do it.
However, those who use compound bows most often use a technique called “bubbling off” with using the leveling of their bow. In reality, this is just canting the bow and it takes a lot of practice to make sure that you’re not off by too much.
The most important thing is to make sure that you don’t allow yourself to lose technique. You still want to release a strong, clean shot in order to maintain accuracy regardless of what you do. Don’t let things slide off the arrow rest without being sure of your shot. Misses happen, just make sure to learn from them.
Finally, you need to practice in windy conditions. Go out in mild winds and strong ones, learn which techniques work for you. There’s really no replacement for good practice, and this is one of the most important components of any sort of archery.
One part of practicing in the wind to learn that isn’t obvious, though: how to gauge the wind. It takes time out there to get you on the way to shooting straight on windy days. Even something as intuitive as direction can be hard to judge, and sticking a windsock on your target can help you learn quite a bit.
While adjusting for different wind conditions can seem like a real chore, most archers soon come to find a thrill in the extra level of skill it to takes to accurately bullseye a target. With a little bit of practice, you’ll soon find it just a bit more difficult than shooting in absolute calm.
So get out there on a less than ideal day, and let ‘em fly!
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