A master makes shooting with a bow look fluid, graceful and simple. If you develop the correct stance, draw, sight and release -- and practice until you can hit the target almost automatically -- you can reach the point when the sport becomes an art form. Learn the correct way to shoot your compound or traditional bow, and your bulls-eyes will appear as effortless as a Zen archer's.
Things You'll Need
- Arm guard for bow arm (optional)
- Finger tab (optional)
- Quiver (optional)
Long and Recurve Bows
Stand at the mark or shooting line with your body perpendicular to the target. Assume a comfortable stance -- usually feet are shoulder-width apart, in a straight line from the target, facing the way your body is facing. An open stance angles your feet as much as 45 degrees toward the target, opening your body in the direction of the target as well.
Grip the bow handle lightly with the hand on the side of your non-dominant eye -- archery is never about clutching -- resting the bow against the fleshy pad of your thumb, between the thumb and forefinger. Touch your thumb to your curved middle finger, and point your index finger at the target.
Nock the arrow by placing the shaft of the arrow in the arrow rest and the cleft at the end on the string. When your arrow has three fletching feathers, find the one that's different -- lighter or brighter than the other two -- and make sure it's uppermost when you nock the arrow.
Grip the string, holding the arrow in place, but use "lightly" as your mantra. Use a split-finger grip -- your index finger is above the arrow, your middle and ring fingers are below. The string rests in the indentation closest to your fingertips or on the pads of your fingertips.
Raise your bow to vertical, extend your bow arm fully but not stiffly, sight down the arrow shaft and draw back the string. Pull the string back smoothly, using your back muscles. Try to keep your elbow at the height of the arrow. At full draw, your hand will find its anchor point.
Draw the string back until it touches your face. When your dominant eye can sight down the length of the arrow to the target, your middle finger may be near the corner of your mouth and your thumb can rest against your jawbone or just under your chin. This is your anchor point -- the position that locks the drawn string in place so you can align the arrow with the target without wobbling. Experiment to find your optimal anchor point, and make it a habit.
Focus on the target; sight down the arrow with your dominant eye, and relax the back of your hand, opening your fingers and releasing the arrow. At first, you will think through each of these steps, but your objective is to draw the string back to anchor point and release the arrow in one fluid move. It takes practice.
Remain poised to shoot until the arrow reaches its target. By holding position, you won't risk moving or relaxing too early and throwing the arrow off course. You can also check your position to see if you reached the anchor point, gripped the bow correctly and maintained a balanced stance.
Attach the release to your dominant -- string -- hand by wrapping the Velcro straps around your wrist so the release mechanism lays against the palm of your hand. The release reduces the abrasion of the string against your fingers and prevents accidental early release of the arrow.
Nock the arrow as you would for any bow, placing it on the rest and pushing the nock onto the bowstring until it clicks into place. Grip the hand grip cleanly from behind with your non-dominant hand. Straighten your elbow -- don't lock it -- to extend the bow from your body.
Clip the release mechanism to the small string loop just behind the arrow nock. Pull the string back cleanly, using the release mechanism and allowing the nock to find its anchor point against your face.
Look through the peep sight on the bowstring and the forward sight on the bow. Find the pin on the forward sight that corresponds to your distance from the target -- pins are graduated from shortest distance at the top to longest distance at the bottom. Tilt your head slightly or adjust your anchor point so you can see the pin through the peep sight with your dominant eye open and your non-dominant eye shut.
Align your sights with the target so the bubble is in the middle of the forward sight level, and release the string. The release mechanism works like a trigger. Pull it back gently, without twisting or jerking, so the arrow will fly true.
Tips & Warnings
- If your draw is wobbly, jerky or too strenuous, you need to reduce the weight of the bow or the string tension to make it easier. As you gain muscle and skill, you can increase the draw weight and still hit the target.
- A finger tab protects your fingers from abrasion when the string is released; these are better for accuracy than a full glove. Over time, an archery glove will wear into a groove that will hold the string and prevent a clean release.
- Check all equipment for wear, nicks, cracks, twists or tangles before use.
- Don't hold your breath. Doing so reduces oxygen to your brain and will cause you to wobble or lose focus. Practice breathing normally and evenly throughout the draw and release.
- Never point a bow at anything but a target. Never draw an arrow unless you are aimed at the target. Never carry a bow with a nocked arrow.
- Use a proper safety target for practice -- one that will catch and hold a powerfully moving, sharp-tipped arrow and absorb its energy so it cannot shatter.
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