Nothing beats the old way of hunting. The adrenalin rush you get whenever you enter the wilderness is so uplifting that you want to do it again and again.
And now you have come to the point where you want to make things more seriously; hunting the old-fashioned way – by bow and arrow. If not, you are most-likely fascinated by this activity as a ‘precision sport’ for sporting reasons and personal achievements.
Regardless of your reasons, this ultimate guide will teach you how to shoot a bow and arrow the right way!
Aside from that, more relevant information will be tackled which are quite useful in this field. Shooting bow and arrow may look simple but it’s not. Most movies and TV series delude us by making us watch that shooting an arrow is merely done by pulling and releasing it.
It’s much more than that. It takes more dedication and a little ‘passion’ because unlike shooting a gun (where bullets fly in a blink of an eye), the arrow needs more aim adjustments considering the remoteness of your target.
Aside from shooting, more helpful tips assist you in searching for the proper equipment that ensures accuracy in hitting goals and developing your aim. This is quite a comprehensive article that tackles step by step process of bow and arrow so be prepared for the long read.
I guarantee you’ll have a superb time reading, and surely you’ll be more excited to endeavor this activity.
Determining Your Dominant Eye
Before starting to train, you must first define your dominant eye; also called ocular dominance.
In archery, determining your dominant eye means more precision in judging distances and aiming at marks. In fact, this is more important than hand dominance.
You read it right; your eye is more vital because it’s the one that governs your target and your hands can only depend on it. There are multiple ways on how to determine your dominant eye.
Point either of your fingers at a distant object with both eyes open. Close your right eye, then open it, and then close your left eye.
Observe as to which of your eyes is ‘open’ when your finger seems to ‘move away’ or ‘move off’ from the distant object you pointed. The eye that is open when your finger does not look to go away from the target object is your dominant eye.
Stretch your arms forward and make a triangular-shaped hole by attaching thumb-to-thumb and forefinger-to-forefinger.
The forefinger is the finger next to your thumb. With both eyes open, select a distant object and point your ‘triangle’ to it. Without moving, close your right eye, then open it, and then close your left eye.
There must be an instant where the object appears to move away from the triangle. When this happened, the eye that is open at that time is your non-dominant eye.
In simple words, your dominant eye is your open eye wherein the object seems to stay in place (at the center of your triangle).
Visit a Doctor
The simple tests are guaranteed effective; however, if you are not satisfied enough, you can always visit your doctor. Your ophthalmologist can conduct a series of tests to determine which of your eyes the dominant one is.
Once you have found out your dominant eye, you can now filter the type of archery equipment you’re going to utilize. There are two classifications of archery tools – labeled as left-handed or right-handed (this refers to the particular hand you use in pulling back the bowstring).
In most cases, the dominant eye is akin to the dominant hand. For instance, you are right-handed when your dominant eye is the right one and vice versa.
There are also some cases where the dominant hand is opposite to the dominant eye. In this case, you should get equipment for your ‘weak hand.’ Unlike your eyes, using hands is interchangeable; this means your arms and hands can adapt and so are adept at being right or left handed, or both depending on the usage of either.
On the flipside, your dominant eye is not substitutable; therefore, the hands can adjust to it.
- Dominant left eye: Get a left-handed bow and use your right hand when holding it and your left hand when pulling the bowstring back.
- Dominant right eye: Get a right-handed bow and use your left hand when holding it and your right hand when pulling the bowstring back.
Obtaining Appropriate Gear
Even when your purpose is only for fun, safety must be your number one priority when doing archery. With that in mind, you must get pieces of equipment that promotes safety to your beloved activity.
By avoiding danger, what’s left for you to indulge is the fun and thrilling experience of this sport. Here are some of the recommended items that you should get.
Usually made of flexible plastic, a chest protector is a defense to your, well, chest. This is highly suggested especially for women. Chest protectors guard you against string burn and at the same time keep your clothes from hindering your aims.
Also known as bracer or ‘vambrace,’ an arm guard must be worn on your bow arm – the side holding the bow.
The primary purpose of an arm guard is to defend your bow arm from getting “slapped” by the bowstring. Getting hit by the bowstring without any shield may end you up skinning your forearm.
During the release, you need your hand to stay on the grip; this is where bowling is useful. This is also to hold your other hand against the grip.
Not wearing one will reduce friction between your hand and the bow, consequently increasing the risk of slippage. So increase your grip by wearing a bowling.
Finger tab is highly useful for your string hand. The purpose is similar to arm guard only that you are protecting your fingers that draw the bowstring.
By wearing a finger tab, your fingers will be protected once you release the bowstring. This piece of equipment is made of heavy fabric or a small piece of leather.
Quiver is worn around your waist or more commonly at the back. This is where your arrows are held.
Learning Correct Stance
Now you are set for the real deal! After getting the right equipment, a fundamental archery skill is to know how to stand well.
A Proper stance will aid with having a good aim, as well as promote support and comfort to your back. Note that there’s no self-taught way of doing it.
How to Stand The Right Way
Your feet must be parallel about 18 – 24 inches apart (or shoulder width) while you face your target at about 45 degrees angle.
Most beginners mistakenly point their toes at 90 degrees from the target; you shouldn’t make this mistake. Your toes, together with your body must be perpendicular to the shooting line and also to the target.
You can project an imaginary line from the middle of your feet and a 90-degree angle that makes this line perpendicular to the target. Your two feet must form a straight line that goes directly to the target and parallel to your shooting line.
This type of feet arrangement is called the “open stance.” By doing that, you’re able to face your target more directly and even if your target moves, you are still in the perfect position to follow that particular movement and precisely aim.
Another advantage of this post is it transfers the bowstring away from your chest and bow arm, consequently eliminating or minimizing brushing off the bow string against your clothes. This position allows your arrow to turn to one side.
Most importantly, open stance makes you capable of tracking your target’s movement while not moving as much. It allows you to have a stealth-like presence making your target unaware that you are there.
You must stand in a proper posture to maximize the power of your bow and arrow. Without tension, stand upright and be comfortable yet firm enough.
You, as the archer, must have his back muscles pull the arrow to anchor point while you are standing erect similar to the form of the capital “T”. Furthermore, you should also bring your pelvis forward to pinch your buttocks.
Note: I will discuss anchor point later in this article.
Gripping Your Bow
Holding The Bow
Now that you know how to have the proper stance, what’s next is appropriately gripping your bow. Hold the grip part of your bow with a comfortable and close hand (not a single finger detached).
Be at ease when gripping your bow so as not to tense the bow arm. Otherwise, you will lose a terrible amount of accuracy so just hold it tight enough.
You can use a wrist sling when trying an open bow hand; do this when having a hard time keeping a loose grip. The wrist sling maintains the attachment of the bow ties to your hand so it won’t loosen up after each shot.
However, there are times when these slings can hamper your ability to make quick shots. On the bright side, accuracy and precision are more important than the quantity of shot you make at a given period.
Holding The Arrow
You can’t just hold the arrow the way you want it to as there is a proper way to do that. Use three (3) fingers and lightly hold the arrow while it’s already on the string.
The same three fingers are used when putting the arrow on its nest and ‘nocking’ it in place.
Here are the most common ways on how to hold your arrow
- Generally, “split finger” style or the Mediterranean draw is followed – the ring and middle fingers are held below while the index finger above. This method maintains a steady aim and arrow.
- A fitting way of gripping the arrow, which is useful when shooting without a sight, is placing all the three fingers below the arrow. That way, the arrow will be drawn closer to your dominant eye.
- The eastern tradition also has its way of holding the bowstring – hold the bow with the thumb, and a ring of bone or a ring of metal is used to protect your thumb.
Nocking The Arrow
Once you hold your bow in place, and you already know how to hold the arrow correctly, it’s time to ‘nock’ it. The nock is a grooved plastic component.
First, you must point the bow to the ground. Now attach the arrow shaft on the bow’s arrow nest. Next, attach the arrow’s back part to the bow string with the said nock.
If your arrow has fletching feathers or three vanes, place the arrow in such a way that one vane points away from your bow. Also, if there are two nock locators, orient the arrow between them. And if there’s a single nock bead, just place the arrow below it.
Raising and drawing your arrow
Raising and drawing your arrow must be done in one smooth motion. However, you can’t do this immediately especially if you are a beginner.
With that in mind, this involves a lot of repeated practice for you to perfectly control your movement and be able to focus despite distractions and even when tired.
- First, hold the bow in an outward manner and towards the target. The bow must always stay vertical while your inner elbow always parallels the ground. An excellent way to ensure such position is when you’re able to see straight down your arrow’s spine.
- Now draw the string hand to your anchor point. I will discuss anchoring below.
See to it that your bow looks to the target and that your bow grip is low. You must not point the bow to the air as you draw. It is also highly important to extend the bow fully first before you pull the string back. It is not advisable to draw by pushing the bow forward.
Also, if you find it hard to draw because of too much bow ‘poundage’, you can start by a much lighter bow so that you can pull smoothly. Develop your arm muscles eventually until such time that you’re able to handle heavier bows.
Do not push yourself to use bows beyond your capacity. You’ll end up affecting your precision, and you’ll miss targets more often. So start low and work your way to the top.
In continuation to the step above, slowly and smoothly pull the string back to your face. Your bow string has been fully drawn. Now it’s time to anchor it – lock the string hand against your face’s side.
Anchor point is your ‘reference point’ that is usually somewhere around your mouth’s corner, cheek, or chin. This point must be kept consistent from shot after shot.
Once you reach your anchor point, you should be careful enough not to pull back excessively or be too relaxed when pulling back. This opens the possibility of losing power or risking ill-targeted shots.
For instance, if you’re a left-handed shooter, you must anchor to the left side of your face with your left eye just behind the bow string. And if you’re a right-handed shooter, anchor, to the right side of your face with your right eye just behind the bow string.
You figure out your anchor point – the most comfortable spot where you align your aiming eye with the string. Most commonly, a lot of archers choose to have their thumb beneath their chin and their index finger pressed to their mouth’s corner.
It’s also beneficial to utilize a bowstring peep – it aligns your eyes through the hole and allows you to have a reliable anchor point for every shoot.
Depending on your confidence and accuracy skill, it may be recommended to use a bow sight to help you with your aim. Bow sights are undeniably a big help; matter of fact, it is more precise than aiming with your hands.
It is only an optional choice for you but highly advisable especially if you are a beginner. You might leave this add-on behind, once you get to the expert level (where you can aim by feel).
Types of Aiming
There are two types of aiming: shooting with a sight or instinctive shooting.
- Shooting with a sight is the recommended type for beginners or those who lack sufficient experience. This type includes pin adjustments on the side of some target recurves or a compound bow. This type easier than the next.
- Instinctive shooting, on the other hand, involves bow arm and eye coordination that allows your subconscious and experience to guide your movement. This is focusing only at the center of the target and nothing else. Before you can achieve this, you need first to have tons of practice and concentration.
How to Aim
It is recommended to develop arm strength because drawing needs a lot of arm power. Here are the steps on how to aim your bow.
- With the string gripped in either the mechanical release aid or your fingers, extend the bow arm towards the target.
- The most common way to hold the arrow is by “split finger” style (discussed just above).
- Point the bow at your target and check whether your bow grip is low or not.
This is your awaited moment – releasing your arrow. This is the part that determines whether you have managed to follow the steps above properly or not.
The release must be as smooth as possible. Otherwise, you’ll miss your target. So you should repeatedly practice not to flinch because it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Slowly relax your fingers after you’ve properly aimed. Since you’ve already established tension within the bow string to launch your arrow, it will take care of the rest for you.
You have two add-on options: a glove or a tab. The former creates grooves in it, producing a deterrent for a smooth release while the latter is more consistent and easier. With this in mind, it is more recommended to use a tab.
However, most shooters find it weird to wear at first, but you’ll eventually adapt to it.
If you’re looking for an easier approach, a mechanical release is always available to be of service. With it, you almost don’t have to do anything at all. What you have to do is to draw simply, anchor, aim, and squeeze to release the arrow.
This is the most important step in shooting using bow and arrow yet most archers make the mistake of not following through. This is the act of maintaining your aim and keeping on shooting (using that particular aim) until such time you finally hit your target.
You’ve probably noticed this in movies – good archers do not lose their sight to the target, and most importantly, they keep their bow always in place even when they reload an arrow. And you should do the same thing.
Make it a practice that every time you failed to hit a mark, like beginners always do, keep your bow up and do not lose sight of your target while you are reaching behind for a new arrow.
By doing so, you are already in the position to hit more marks or try a better aim without repeating the whole steps again from the start.
Just maintain this position, no matter how many repetitions you get, for as long as you always try. Your body will be trained to understand how to shoot a bow and arrow properly.
Once you’ve incorporated these, you won’t have to think about the steps in the future and you’ll just shoot with grace.
There you have it; you have come to the end part of the ultimate guide on how to shoot a bow and arrow. I hope you had fun reading this as much as I had fun writing it.
I am confident we share the same passion for this precision sport and it’s my utmost pleasure to have helped you in this field.