It seems that customers are always asking “how can I shoot better” or “how can I tighten my groups”. Sometimes it can be linked back to equipment that is improperly setup, but more times than not the cause is bad form. I have compiled a list of some basic form checks that could help you make a few tweaks to get your arrows in the middle.
Make sure your bow fits you. This sounds simple but I would hate to know the percentage of archers that are shooting bows either too heavy in poundage or too long in draw length. You want to make sure you can smoothly draw you bow back and comfortably hold it at full draw for 20-30 seconds. If you have to do the ‘sky draw’ to get it back or can only hold steady for a few seconds then you are more than likely shooting too many pounds.
- Grip – You want to make sure you have a relaxed grip. A lot of shooters will confuse an open hand for a relaxed grip when this is not the case. Many shooters will use a tense open hand. A good relaxed bow hand will ‘cradle’ the bow and allow it to jump forward into the bow sling during the shot. You want to make sure the grip on the bow is comfortable and you can repeat it the exact same way on every shot. The first thing I do when testing a new bow is grab it and see how the grip feels. If you don’t like the grip you probably won’t shoot the bow very well.
- Stance – Ideally you want to be straight up with your feet shoulder width apart. Your core should make a T shape at full draw. A little test is to stand with your feet very close together and have someone give you a little push. You will notice that you are very wobbly like this. Now spread your feet further apart and do the same thing. You will now notice that you are more ridged. I personally prefer a little bit of an open stance but it’s always best to experiment to see what works best for you. By open stance I mean my body is turned slightly towards the target instead of being exactly 90 degrees to the target.
- Anchor point – It’s always best to have as many reference points for your anchor as possible. The string can touch the corner of your mouth and the tip of your nose. Your knuckle can rest against your jawbone. Using a kisser button or peep sight are also great little additions to help make sure everything is lined up the same every time.
- Back tension – While this could be a whole article on it’s own I will try to keep it short and simple. When you draw your bow you are using back tension. Without this the bow would stay at static. Once you get your bow to full draw you want to keep a steady and constant tension opposing the force of the bow. Don’t just draw the bow back and hold it there. This is a very important part of the shot sequence and when done properly will let many other parts fall into line almost automatically.
- Aiming – There is a misconception that your pin should just set in the middle for several seconds. While there are a few top professionals who can seemingly hold rock solid forever, the rest of us are human and have some movement in our sight picture. It’s important to concentrate on the bullseye while letting the pin float, and not try too hard to make the pin stop. The problem with concentrating on stopping your pin dead center is once it gets there the archer tends to punch the trigger real quick before it moves. Punching the trigger usually throws your form off and causes errant shots.
- Execution – If your aim and back tension are working properly the execution side of the shot sequence should take care of itself. You do not want to know when the release is going to go off. By having an unanticipated or ‘surprise’ release is possibly the largest factor to improving accuracy. By eliminating punching the trigger you will no longer flinch or jerk to throw your arrows off target.In a perfect scenario you just draw, aim and let the release go off on it’s own.
- Breathing – I’m sure this can be debated heavily. I’ve had people tell me it best to hold your breath while you shoot while others just breath normally. For me I’ve always found that if I take a deep breath while drawing the bow and slowly exhale while aiming I perform at my best. I picked this up while reading a sniper guide at some point. Now I’m not sure how good I do when Mr. big buck is under my tree but I’m sure this is where my practice pays off and everything is automatic.
- Follow through – If anyone is a golfer I’m sure you have heard follow through more times then you like to admit. Shooting a bow is no different. Much like execution, your follow through should be automatic if everything in your shot sequence is place. Follow through is nothing more than the reaction to the bow going off. When the shot goes off your bow arm and bow should go straight toward the target while your release hand should come straight back.
- Confidence – This is key to being able to shoot at a high level. If you draw back on a target with doubts about your ability to hit it, chances are good that you will miss your mark. When you practice it’s to become a better archer.. right? So only practice executing good shots with good form, and confidence will be your reward.
Accuracy with a bow does not happen overnight, it takes a lot of patience and practice.I’ve learned over the years is not every great archer will have the same exact form or stance as the next. However the one thing that they all have in common is they choose a shooting style that is repeatable every time they draw their bow. Archery is a game of repetition and if you can do the same exact thing every time, every arrow will hit the same spot. For more helpful how to articles and product reviews please check out our newsletter.