What is it about archery that appeals to you the most? Do you like the idea of testing your skill and learning how to improve with this ancient tool, so you can use it for hunting? Maybe you prefer target shooting and becoming the best shot out of your friends and family. You might have always been a fan of some of the famous fictional archers out there like Green Arrow, Hawkeye, or Robin Hood.
Whatever the reason, you are drawn to the bow, and you want to learn how to shoot. Of course, as with everything else in life, you need to learn how to walk before you run. This article will go over the basics of how to shoot a bow, so you can get started on the right path no matter where your archery journey will ultimately take you.
It Takes Time, Practice, and Patience
Very few people are going to be naturals as soon as they pick up a bow and grab an arrow. It will take plenty of time and practice before you can get truly great with a bow, but the good news is that the basic skills are easy to pick up. You should be able to see some marked improvements in just a short time. As long as you continue to work on your skills, you can keep on improving. Be willing to put in the effort, and you will be able to start hitting those bullseyes from further and further away.
Of course, in addition to knowing that you need to practice, you also need to make sure that you know what you will need to practice. Let’s start with the basics.
Safety Is Essential
Sure, everyone wants to get out and start firing arrows at targets right away. However, you will need to make sure that you consider your safety and the safety of those around you first.
Keep the following in mind:
- Never point the bow at anyone, even if you do not have an arrow drawn. This helps you get into proper shooting habits.
- Do not draw the arrow if there are people between you and the target, even if you are not going to shoot the target at that moment.
- Know where your target is and what is located behind the target in the event that you miss.
- Do not fire an arrow high into the air or straight up, as you can’t predict where it will land.
- While you are nocking the arrow, keep it pointed toward the ground.
- Wear an arm guard to keep your arm safe from the bowstring.
- If you are shooting wooden arrows, always inspect your arrows first to make sure that they are not cracked or splintered at all.
- String the bow using a bow stringer.
- Wax the string regularly to keep it in good shape.
- Check the string for signs of wear, so you know when it needs to be replaced. You do not want the string to snap on you when you are shooting.
- Do not “dry fire” the bow.
Know Your Dominant Eye
Just like some people are left-handed, and other people are right-handed, some people will have a dominant left eye, and others will have a dominant right eye. You will need to determine which of your eyes is dominant. A simple way to determine which eye is dominant is to use the wink test.
You will put both of your hands in front of you with your palms facing forward and your thumbs touching one another. Angle your hands so that the pointer fingers touch, which should then create a triangle shape with your hands that you can see through. Now, focus on something that is about 45 feet away from you and place the triangle over it, so that it appears in the center of the triangle.
Next, you will close your left eye. Switch and close the right eye. One of the eyes will still keep the object in the center of that triangle you make with your hands. If you can see that object with your right eye, it would mean that you are right-eye dominant. This means that you are going to want to use the dominant eye when you are lining up your target, as your shot will be more accurate. If you are cross-dominant, meaning your dominant hand and eye are not the same, you might want to learn how to shoot with your off-hand, as this can be easier than trying to shoot with the nondominant eye.
Learn to Grip the Bow
Many people who are just starting out in archery take a death grip on the bow, which is a mistake. This will cause your arm to be tense, and you will not be as accurate. You want to grip the bow with a closed hand, and you want to make sure that you maintain a relaxed grip.
Get Into the Right Stance
Having a proper stance is very important when it comes to learning how to shoot a bow. This is true whether you are going to be out hunting or you are shooting at targets in the backyard or a competition.
If you are shooting right-handed, it means that your left foot will be forward and if you are shooting left-handed, it means that your right foot would be forward. The knees should have a slight bend in them, so they are not locked. Your hips should be facing forward, and your lower back should be flat rather than arched. The torso should be perpendicular to the shooting line. Keep the shoulders relaxed and look toward your target.
The vast majority of bowhunters will stand to shoot, but that is not the case with all of them. Some will sit for one reason or another, and this means that shooting the bow will feel much different from when someone is standing. If you are going to be hunting from a tree stand, for example, and you will be sitting in the stand rather than standing up to take your shots, you need to practice this method. Ideally, you will be able to practice both methods, so you can be ready to take the shot.
Some may have physical impairments, which means they will only be able to shoot while they are sitting, such as in a wheelchair. Proper positioning and practice will mean that they are still just as effective as archers. They will learn some different techniques.
Nocking the Arrow
The nock on the arrow connects with the bowstring, and you need to practice being able to nock an arrow quickly and eventually without looking. Before long, it will become second nature. Always make sure that you point the bow toward the ground when nocking the arrow. Some bows will be equipped with nock indicators, which can be quite helpful.
Drawing the Bow
There are many different methods for drawing the bow, and you will end up finding the one that suits you the best eventually. When you are starting out, you will likely want to try the most common way to draw the bow. It uses three fingers and it is called the Mediterranean Draw. It works extremely well for beginners.
You will create a hook with your hand and place the first joint of your fingers on the bowstring. This includes the pointer finger, which goes above the nocked arrow, as well as the middle and ring fingers, which will go below the nocked arrow. The thumb should be relaxed and down, and the pinky finger is just kept out of the way.
Anchor, Aim, and Release
When you draw the bow, make sure that you draw it fully to the anchor point, which is at the side of your face. Typically, your index finger will touch the side of your mouth. Get accustomed to coming back to the same anchor point time and again, and the arrow will go to the same spot, giving you more confidence in your shots.
Aim at your target and then cleanly release the arrow by gradually relaxing the fingers. The arrow will then fly forward toward its target. You must learn to release the arrow smoothly, as any small, jerky motions at this stage will send the arrow flying off target.
Above are just the basics for the beginner who wants to learn how to choose a bow. The more you practice, the more you will learn and the more changes you will make to ensure that the stance, the grip, and the draw work well for how you shoot. By continuing to learn, you will continue to improve accuracy as a hunter and target shooter. If you do not have success at first, make sure you are using the proper type of bow and weight for your size and strength and keep practicing. You will get better.