Last-modified: 15 April 1996
This FAQ section is not intended to be a final word on how to shoot or how to stand, draw, sight, release, or any other element of style. It is intended, rather, to provide the beginner with a view as to how some of the frequenters of the archery newsgroup shoot. It is made up entirely of personal observations, and is intended to be taken as such.
On a related note, I have seen excerpts of a presumably very good book (at least the excerpts were) on shooting technique. Rick McKinney has been involved in it and it has been published in Japan. The text is bilingual, one part is in Japanese and the English translation (or was it vice versa ? ;-) is on the other side. Unfortunately I have not been able to find out the title (the ISBN would be even nicer) or anything else. So if someone knows more about this I would really appreciate to know.
Another source for shooting technique is the instructors manual I mention in the target archery section of the FAQ. For the more advanced competetive archer there is always the "classic" book from Al Henderson (also mentionend there).
And well here is a first try on one of the main issues, many instructors do not recognize as being important:
Archery begins with the feet!
More precisely a very stable stance is the foundation for a good shot. It helps to get into the exactly same position for every shot and the archer is less susceptible for being pushed away by a gust of wind. Also it is much easier to go consistently into full draw, and so on ...
Now what is considered to be the first step to a "perfect" stance: First you put your feet parallel (although too many people prefer the rather duck like position of opening the angle between the feet, it turns out that having the feet parallel to each other is more stable in most cases) about one length of your foot apart - this is about as wide as most peoples' shoulders are.
Then one should stand straight, knees not bent, the weight uniformly distributed between both feet and also uniformly distributed within the feet - don't stand on your heels or toes.
When actually shooting, try to keep this state as much as possible...
And how about the one thing that seems to confuse a lot of beginners: What is the angle to the target?????? I learned to stand with it to my left (I'm right-handed). Thus I had the full draw length across my body for drawing the bow. I agree on the technique of the feet being straight, for exactly that reason given: a more stable platform from which to shoot. Even in karate they emphasize this. So, for me, the way to stand is in a comfortable stance, facing perpendicular to the target, feet parallel and pointed in the direction I am facing. Then I look to my left at the target.
Now a word of warning. My style of shooting is considered illegal in FITA meets and apparently in Europe in general, due to the possibility of early releases and the resulting insurance concerns. That said, here is my style.
Now for my shooting style. This is how I learned, and I find it comfortable. I raise my bow to about 45 degrees above the horizon, arm straight. I grasp the string with my three fingers (tab, glove, or bare), one above, two under the arrow. I do not grasp the arrow and hold it, I just let it sit between the fingers, making no conscious attempt to hold it on the string. Keeping my bow arm straight, I bring that down to horizontal while at the same time drawing the string back to my anchor point. As I come onto my target I focus more and more onto the target, until I am on target. At this time, my bow hand has relaxed and is not gripping the bow so much as providing a saddle between the thumb and the palm for the bow to press against. As my sight comes onto the target, I steady my aim and release. I remain in that position for a second or so, arm out, string hand still at my anchor point, and let the inertia of the bow keep it in place against my bow hand. By that time, the arrow has left the bow completely, and as the bow begins to fall forward, I close my hand around the handle and bring my arms down. When I use a release, the actions are the same, but I attach the release just below the arrow so that going down the string I have a rubber bead, the nock of the arrow, the release. Not tight up, just against each other. Draw, aim, release, follow-thru are all the same.
For confidence until you learn that you will NOT drop the bow doing this, you might want to attach a wrist strap to the bow. The important thing here is not to grasp the bow and HOLD it in place. Let it hold itself in place by the tension of your draw. Actively holding the bow will tend to twist it to one side or the other when you release and remove the tension that was holding the bow straight. This twisting motion will come into play before your arrow has left the bow, thus throwing the flight off.
Qualifications: I have been shooting archery, for almst 10 years, and about 8 or 9 of those, competitively. I have shot with some of the best in the world, including Michelle Ragsdale, and one of the up and coming Olympic Archers (she made alternate last time, i believe). I have been all over the US shooting, and over to Australia, for the 1990 IFAA tournament (5th place BHFS). (I have a bunch more awards, but that is the best I've done internationally.
I am a Level 1 Instructor, for the NAA, meaning i have been trained to teach basic archery. (If you can find several people willing to pay for the training, contact the NAA about getting someone to come train you, it's a great class). I would like to throw some of the basics that I have learned from the class, and from experience...
stance: for beginners, the easiest way to start is standing with your bow-arm (the one you hold the bow with) towards the target, with your feet parallel to each other, shoulder width, and 90 degrees from the target. Adjust this as necessary, to present the most comfortable, stable stance for each individual. If you are comfortable standing there, you will be more comfortable with the shot. (I think all of this has been said, and is pretty standard)
draw: there are 2 schools on how to draw a bow....
You can start, and draw with the bow pointed up, above the target, and bring the bow down to aim. This is generally NOT a good idea, for beginners, as you tend to release early, at times, and we don't want any arrows going over the target and into the wild blue :) )
However, if you can start your draw with your aim slightly above the bull, and keep it on the target, this tends to be the best method, as you don't have to work against gravity, to get the bow higher. (I do this :) ) The other method is starting with the bow aimed downwards, and bring it up to aim (this is how I used to do it). The problem with this method is getting the bow up enough to consistently aim.
The best method is to continually aim at the target through the draw, preferably just a bit high, which you can easily correct by lowering the bow, much easier than raising it.
The problem with both the really high pulling and the really low pulling, is that they tend to be the pulls someone with an over-powered bow(for them) uses. If you can't easily pull your bow back, aimed more-or-less at the target, then the bow is too strong for you. Drop the weight, or get some practice in pulling that kind of weight, without trying to shoot...it will only lead to bad shooting habits, which are hard to break, if you don't.
aiming: this depends too much on what style you are shooting. i.e. compound/recurve/sights/no-sights/pins/scope/barebow/release...etc.etc.etc.. At this point in time, I have successfully shot in all 7 NFAA classes at tournaments (FS, FSL, BB, BH, BHFS, BHFSL, Recurve) and I know of at least 10 different ways and techniques to successfully aim a bow at, and hit a target. This whole section depends on the individual, and how they want to shoot, so I will digress...maybe in a later post, I can cover a few of the methods, if you want me to.
follow through: THIS IS REAL IMPORTANT :) If you want to shoot at targets or animals, you must have a good follow through to hit what you are aiming at. One of the biggest problems with shooting archery, is 'dropping your arm'. Basically: DON'T. After you have made a shot, you should stay 'aimed' for at least another second or more (generally on a medium range shot (20+ yds) until long after the arrow has hit the target). This will prevent you from shooting low, and will also remove a lot of inconsistency from your shooting. Holding the bow tends to also throw the arrows off somewhat, so Bill B.'s technique sounds pretty good to me. (Note: in NFAA FS and BHFS, most of the top shooters use wrist-straps, and do not actively 'hold' the bow, during draw/shot/followthrough).
well, I think I've been long-winded enough...I have enough material on these subjects to write a small book (like I have the time) but I won't overdo it here...or maybe I have :)
I'll leave the rest up to requests by email, and such...
(Editor's Note: This was in reply to a request elsewhere by me for an explanation of what gap shooting was.)
To gap shoot, first, you have to find your 'point-on' distance, or what disatnce you will be at, when the tip of your arrow, at full draw, just covers the bulls-eye. (I usually try to set mine at 60 yards by playing with the poundage of my compound a bit). From there, you have to work out any other distances by learning what gap to use to aim. For 20 yards, I place my arrow tip on the bull, look down at where my arrow first touches my riser (in my sight window) and find a leaf, a rock, or something on the ground at that point. Then, I bring the tip of the arrow down to that point, make sure I'm lined up with the target, and let it fly. I usually have no problems shooting 20's on NFAA targets at 15,20,25,30 yards, at all...the intermediate distances from 30+ to about 50 yards kind of get to me.
Now, the problem with this method is, until you get used to it and find an accurate 'gap', you have to hold the bow at full draw for extended periods of time. This isn't a problem with my 65% let off Martin Firecat, but does present some problems with other bows (notably recurves and longbows).
I have used a similar technique, with a recurve, but, worked out all of my gaps with my bow arm at full extension and ready to draw. The gaps worked out the same way as finding the 'point-on' distance, and working from there. Now, once I am familiar with a bow and it's gaps, I can generally shoot an arrow in the order of 3-5 seconds from drawing, but when starting on a new one I can expect to spend as much as 1 full minute at full draw. Needless to say, when I was shooting a bow at 103 pounds, I tended to get a very large right shoulder. :)
Hope this clears up 'gap-shooting' for you a little bit, but you have to understand that for me to 'teach' someone to use it, I tell them to expect to spend at least 6 months figuring it out before they can reliably hit what they are aiming at anytime they pick up a bow without sights.
I can take almost anyone's bow, shoot 30-50 arrows and the proceed to shoot a fairly decent round in NFAA competition, and I can teach almost anyone to do the same, after 6 months to a year of training. :)
Having started several friends on the straight and twanging road, I find that this is the most frustrating part for complete beginners because they can't concentrate on form when the arrow keeps falling off the bow. So, for the FAQ...
How to keep the arrow on the rest: For finger shooters (usually the case for first-timers), the secret is to start the draw with your fingers curled fairly deeply. Start by placing the string across the first joint of the first three fingers with the arrow between the index and middle finger. When the draw is begun, the fingers should be curled as far around the string as you can and still keep the string in the groove of the joint. (Later you will want to back off on this a bit, but for now we're trying to get the first arrow in the bale, build confidence, and have fun.) As you draw, let the fingers uncurl with the pull of the string so that by the time you are at full draw the fingers and hand are in-line with the arrow and only the first joint of the fingers is bent around the string. If you do this, the arrow will stay on the arrow rest, pressed against the bow by the twist of the string and the friction of the first two fingers on the top and bottom of the nock. There is no need to use a finger of the bow hand to keep the arrow on the rest; this should be actively discouraged because it fouls the bow hand position and because loose fletching can become lodged under the skin if the arrow is shot this way. Also, hunters will slice fingers on broadheads if they get them near the business end of the arrow while hunting. I think the Native Americans in the old west movies we watched as kids must have shot with their fingers on the arrow because every beginner I've ever seen thinks that this is the way to do it. I've also had two arrow rests broken by beginners pulling down on the arrow to hold the arrow in place as they drew the bow.
For release shooters (a class I finally joined a few weeks ago) the biggest problem is keeping the arrow on the string. First of all, it helps if the string is thick enough that the nocks lightly snap on. Second, I added a nockset 1/16" below the arrow nock on the string so that when the string is angled at full draw the arrow nock is caught between the upper and lower nocksets and won't fall off. This small gap also serves to show if the nockset is slipping on the string due to the pressure put on it by the release. (Boy, did that give me fits until I noticed that my arrow was no longer 90 deg from the string but more like 80...) Again, it is important not to get in the habit of drawing the arrow with a bowhand finger on the arrow.
(Editor's note: This is NOT a Beginner's tip, but might be useful to know.)
Just thought I might throw in a shooting form tip that helped me. This is *not* a tip for beginners. As a fingers shooter on a short axle (41") bow, I used to have trouble with consistantly tight groups. I was shooting 4" groups @ 20 yds. I changed my draw from the traditional 1-over/2-under grip to only 2 under. I rest the index finger just barely touching the nock. (No pressure to mess with travel). I also moved the string closer to the end of my fingers.
These changes allowed me to shoot 2" groups @ 20yds. I just changed equipment to a Mathews Vapor and have no trouble pulling the 67# as described above.
With this release, I can get the arrow away *almost* as clean as a mechanical release.
>: One way to test for this is to get into your position, draw the string >: and aim at the target, then close your eyes. Your brain no longer has >: the bull as a reference point and you will then relax into the natural >: aiming position for you body at that point. After 5-10 seconds, open >: your eyes and see where you are now aiming. If you are no longer on >: target, adjust your body position accordingly. I'm not sure if this >: will work for archery, but I'll try it out tonight and let you know >: how I get on.
The method described above is a training device used by pistol and rifle shooters to find out where your natural point of aim is based on body position. I used it extensively when I was in the marines. This method provides the best position of you body in relation to the target so you are not fighting your body position while trying to get rounds on target. As you face a target, your body position must face the target in such a way that your weapon "naturally" is aligned with the target. This way you are not fighting muscles trying to return to their normal position, but all are working together. When I was in karate, I would have someone close their eyes and punch and hold their arm out after a punch. After a few seconds, they could open their eyes and see really where the punch would naturally go. Shifting the feet then would place the hand in the right position naturally and provide the most powerful and quicker reaction/punch.
I have done the same thing with my daughters with gun and bow. Vertical movement is not really solved by this as you are changing the placement of your body to put it in line with the target. I would think that this would have limited effectiveness in hunting as you may be confined to certain positions due to stand size, location, or foliage. It would work in static target shooting.
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Terry Trier firstname.lastname@example.org