I’ve been an archer and marksman for as long as I can remember. You name it, I’ve probably fired it and I’ve always loved doing so. Bow hunting has been around for thousands of years as a means of survival, and today is primarily a sport. Good shooting with a bow demands proper form if you expect to hit the target on a regular basis. Even the slightest inconsistencies in your shooting form can cause a shot to miss. Here are a few tips on basic form to keep in mind that should help to improve your groupings on the range and your success rate in the wild.
Pay Attention to Shooting Stance
The position of your feet control the position of your hips and the position of your hips have a direct bearing on the position of your shoulders. What stance do you take when you shoot? As a hunter you’re likely to encounter some windy conditions and one of the best positions for your feet is going to be in a slightly open or ready stance.
As well as an ‘open’ stance, I’ve heard this called a ‘ready’ or ‘neutral’ stance. It’s the position your feet end up taking naturally when you’re making ready for something. In this position you have your center of gravity well balanced between your feet and you should be able to resist the pressure of the wind. Having a slightly open stance also helps with string clearance past your forearm and engages the back muscles more in the shot than a closed or square stance. Here is a full guide to archery form that covers all the different stances and their benefits.
Your Bow Arm & Grip
You should know that you don’t a bow like an axe or a hammer. The grip should rest on the flesh between your thumb and index finger and your knuckles should make a 40 to 45 degree line to the floor. If you have your hand in this position and you’re gripping the bow correctly you’ll find that your elbow is turned out slightly. This slight turn helps with ensuring that your elbow and forearm don’t get in the way! If you’ve been hit by the bowstring before you’ll know this hurts. If you’re hit consistently, the position of your hand and knuckles may be the reason.
You don’t need to lock out your bow arm either. It shouldn’t be bent, but it shouldn’t be locked. There is a nice little position right at the end of extension where your muscles are at their most powerful and they will naturally rest. This is where your arm should fixate.
Find and Keep Good Anchor Points
An anchor isn’t or shouldn’t be just one place. You should have several anchor points when you draw the string to your face. Why? Well, think about triangulating an object, you can only do that easily with three points of reference. Any less and one of the axis of position becomes guesswork. The more points of reference (anchor points) you have with the string on your face the more consistently you’ll be drawing that string in exactly the same way.
If you’re a hunter you’re probably using a compound so I’m going to cover that type here. A compound bow is generally smaller than a recurve and the angle of the string is steeper. This means that you can’t anchor against your chin and nose like a recurve archer.
Do you have a ‘kisser’ on your string? A kisser is a small node on the string that you can use to anchor the string against the corner of your mouth. Just the string itself isn’t enough as you don’t know whereabouts on the string you are anchoring. Adding a kisser helps to ensure you’re in the same place every time.
If you’re using a bow release you’ll find that when the kisser is on your mouth your hand is back along your jawline. Use your fingers or thumb on your jawline to give you another anchor point. Some people like to find the place that their thumb rests against their neck, or at the back of their jaw.
Consistency is key with anchoring. You need to find places that you always use and you can easily feel when things are correct. The idea is that anchor points give you a feel so that you know your body is aligned correctly with your aim.
You Don’t Need Laser Precision – Just Breathe
One of the keys to better accuracy is to not try so hard. If you’re using a pin sight, it can be tempting, once the pin lands on the intended target, to try to keep it completely still until you’re ready to loose the arrow. However, if you just let the pin settle and gently float around the intended target, it enables you to relax. Once the pin floats over the target then you release. The more you try to force your body to fix the pin on the target the more muscles you are engaging and the more inconsistency you are introducing into your shot.
If you want the ultimate in repeatable form a good tip here is to try to release at exactly the same point in your breathing cycle. This ensures that your torso is in exactly the same position each time.
Shoot Quickly, Shoot Surely
You should be able to complete a shot from draw to follow-through within six seconds. This is about the length of time an average human mind can focus completely on something without being distracted in some way. It helps to allow your eye to naturally find the spot where you want the arrow to go and to remain fixated on that point throughout the draw cycle. Yes, with a compound you’re able to hold more draw weight for longer because of the let off. Still, a shorter draw, aim release cycle will help improve your groupings. You want a shot to be natural, smooth and quick. Trying to stand like a rock waiting for something to happen isn’t natural and isn’t going to make you consistently accurate.
You Have to Follow Through
The shot doesn’t end when you release the string. Even though it’s only an instant, there is still time that the arrow is in contact with the bow string and it’s path can be altered with ill-timed movements. After releasing the arrow, don’t let your bow arm drop. The pushing action from your bow arm will move the bow farther out because the string is relaxed, but you should not let it drop yet. If you are gripping correctly the bow will jump forwards out of your hand and this is where a bow sling comes into play. Your tab hand or string hand should naturally end up behind your neck as you continue the motion of opening your shoulders that you used to draw the string.
Fundamentals are essential to everything in sports, especially archery. As long as you focus on developing proper form, everything else will come naturally in time. If you’re a recurve shooter remember to make sure you’re using the best bow for you. Always pay attention to form, relax, and follow through your shots. If you liked this article and found it helpful, don’t hesitate to leave a comment or add tips of your own for fellow archers, or share on your favorite social media outlet.
Bio / About Me
I’ve been a lover of bowsports from a very young age. I’m a regular at my local archery range where I’m always competitive. I enjoy getting people interested in the sport and its various disciplines and passing on my knowledge, you can read more about archery over at my site targetcrazy.com.