Whether you have shot a bow a few times in your life and now you want to get into archery seriously or you are a total beginner, there are so many things you need to learn.
Hopefully, you are not looking to just shoot arrows aimlessly but to become a great archer and have tons of fun. You should know, archery is one of the best outdoor activities you can ever take up. You can participate alone, with a group of friends or better still, with your family (your kids will most likely enjoy this one).
Here, you will learn everything about archery; the type of equipment and accessories you need to have, how to handle the equipment, your archery form and pretty much everything else. Whatever questions you have, be sure that they will all be answered.
The Different Types Of Archery
There are several types of archery. They include target archery, field archery, clout archery, flight archery, 3-D archery, kyudo, bowhunting/bowfishing and traditional archery.
Some people may argue that there are more—and it is true because new variations come up every day such as ski archery, mounted archery, archery tag and crossbow archery.
The following five are the most common.
Target archery is widely practiced. It involves shooting arrows at a stationary target placed at a specified distance. The surface is usually flat with this one and it can be practiced indoors or outdoors. People usually learn archery using target archery.
Field archery is just like target archery, except it is practiced on rough terrain. There may be different targets at different distances. People shoot downhill, uphill and under various conditions.
3-D archery is a form of field archery but using 3-D targets. They usually look like real life animals and are life-sized. People looking to get into bowhunting/bowfishing use 3-D target archery to learn the basic skills.
Bowhunting/bowfishing is one of the most interesting types of archery, perfect for people that love adventure. It basically involves hunting animals using your bow and arrow. Bowfishing is hunting fish. It may be a little tricky to learn bowfishing but once you do you will never get enough of it.
Traditional archery is just as it sounds. It is shooting without using modern accessories such as sights and stabilizers. This is like going back to the ancient times. It is considered the “authentic” form of archery.
Choosing Your Archery Gear
Just as with any sport, there are basic items and others might be considered optional.
Choosing a bow is a delicate process that you cannot afford to do carelessly. First, understand the different types of bows. There is the recurve bow, the crossbow, the compound bow and the traditional bow. The recurve and the traditional bows are a little bit simpler than the rest. All of them can be used in all the major types of archery.
Assuming you are on a budget, you need to consider the price. The cheaper bows are mostly made of fiberglass or plastic and they may not last long. They are bound to break and are not that powerful. Wood bows are great and many people opt for them. They are reliable. If you want to go big, you can get a metal bow. They are super durable and powerful.
Bows are hand orientation-specific. This means that if you are left-handed you need to buy a left-handed bow. Being a left-handed shooter means that you hold the bow with your right hand and draw the bowstring with your left one (more on that later).
Finally, bows come in different draw weights. To put it simply, the draw weight of a bow is the amount of energy it takes to pull its string all the way back. A bow with a very high draw weight is best suited for experienced archers; beginners should choose a lower draw weight. Gender and age also play a part in this. Generally, the recommended draw weight for women is lower than that of men. An even lower draw weight is recommended for teens and kids.
Be sure to try the bow you are interested in before you buy.
Arrows, like bows, are made from different materials. They are made from fiberglass, wood, aluminum, and carbon. Wood arrows are the cheaper option and quieter but maintaining them requires a lot of work. They are not that durable too. Carbon arrows last longer than wood arrows and are easy to maintain. Aluminum arrows are heavier and penetrate the target deeper than wood and carbon. They are totally reliable and durable. Fiberglass arrows are the heaviest of them all. They are also super durable.
Another important option to consider while buying arrows is the bow you have. A stiffer arrow is needed if you are using a bow that has a high draw weight. If your bow is a beginner bow with a low draw weight, you will do fine with a weaker arrow.
The other factor to have in mind is the length of your arrow. You choose the length of your arrow according to your draw length. To know your draw length, straighten out your arms and measure (or have someone do it for you) the length from your longest finger’s tip on one hand to the longest finger’s tip on your other hand. Divide the number you get by 2.5; the result is your draw length. Add 2 inches to your draw length to get the length of your arrows. It is that simple.
The bow and arrows are the main essentials. You can start your archery journey if they are all you have. However, the following accessories are useful too.
A bow case is a special container for storing your bow and arrow. It keeps them secure, clean and dry as they should be. When you have a case, especially a compact one, airlines will not give you trouble when you are traveling with your archery equipment. The bow case helps you carry all your equipment by hand from one point to another. A bonus benefit of a case is that people will not know what you are carrying—remember this is a weapon so it is only appropriate.
Ask yourself these questions to help you make a choice. Are you using a takedown bow or a one-piece bow? A takedown is one that you can assemble and disassemble. You cannot do that with a one-piece. There are cases meant for takedowns and others meant for both.
What do you need the case for? If you live near the shooting range and you are sure you will not be taking your bow anywhere else, a simple case will do the job and you will not have to spend that much money. If you have kids in the house, you might want to look into a lockable case for safety reasons.
This is an accessory that holds the arrow against the grip until it is launched. Buying one is not that complicated; make sure it matches your hand orientation, is easy to set up, lightweight and adjusts easily.
It is not advisable for beginners to get a sight. Before you get one, perfect your basic skills. Ensure that you can accurately shoot targets over short distances. Otherwise, the sight will cover up the real problem. There are three types of sights; an open ring, pin sight, and a target sight. The target sight is arguably the most expensive.
The quiver is for storing and carrying your arrows. This is something that you actually need to buy; because how are you going to hold your arrows while shooting? Quivers come in different designs, each with its own pros and cons.
The back quiver is probably the one you have seen. It is made of leather and has a strap so you can carry it on your back. It is amazing and suitable for both right and left-handed archers. The downside is that when you are at the shooting range, getting arrows from your back can be tricky.
The bow quiver is attached to your bow. It is ideal if you are using a compound bow or a recurve bow. If you are using a longbow, you might have to look at another option. This quiver is best for hunting because you can access your arrows quickly and quietly. Its disadvantage is that it cannot hold many arrows.
The ground quiver is a stationary one and is placed on the ground. As you can imagine, it is only good for practice or any archery activity that does not involve a lot of moving.
The hip or belt quiver is the smallest and easiest to carry around. It comes with either a belt or hook that allows you to attach it to your side.
Its purpose is to protect your arm from the bowstring. Buying an arm guard is not complicated. The main factors to consider include the type, size, look, and material. Except for the size and maybe materials, the other factors are not really that important. It depends on your personal preference.
A beginner may not really need a glove or tab because their bow’s draw weight is probably low. Their fingers do not suffer much pressure. (However, If you are a beginner and notice your finger is getting sore you will need to get one). As you begin to advance and take on bows with higher draw weights, you may not have a choice but to get either a tab or a glove. Besides protection, a tab or glove facilitates a smooth release. They also offer warmth when the weather is too cold. The factors that archers consider when choosing a glove or tab include comfort, design, price, quality, and material.
If you want your work to be easier, buy a complete package. Some bows come with all the accessories you need in one package, saving you time and sometimes even money. Now that you have an idea of the necessary equipment, it is time to learn about shooting.
Archery Shooting Tips
Are You A Left Or Right-Handed Shooter?
This is one is not hard to determine. The hand you use for most tasks such as writing is probably the one you will use for shooting. Left-handed shooters grip the bow with their right hand and draw the string with their left hand. Right-handed archers grip the bow with their left hand and draw the string with the right hand. Some people can shoot with both hands. You have to know your hand orientation before you buy you bow because most modern bows are hand orientation-specific.
Which Is Your Dominant Eye?
Many people have no idea which of their eyes is dominant—not many activities require you to know anyway. When it comes to archery, you have to know, if you want to attain accuracy. The test is easy. Stretch out your hand in front of you with the backs of the hands facing you. With your hands, make a triangular hole and choose a small object, directly in front of you, to focus on through the hole. Stare straight. With your focus still on the object, close one eye and observe what happens. Open it and close the other one. Observe what happens.
You will notice that with one of the eyes open, the object remained in place (this is your dominant eye) while with the other eye open, the object “moved” or “disappeared”. If the object did not move with either of the eyes open, then you have central vision. That is very rare.
Learn And Perfect Your Form
The posture of your entire body matters a lot. Starting with your feet, they should be shoulder width apart for maximum stability. Some people would put one foot slightly ahead of the other (the open stance) or have both feet level (square stance). With the open stance, if you are right-handed, the left foot is the one that should be ahead and vice versa.
Your body is supposed to be perpendicular to the target. This basically means that, if you are left-handed, your right side of the body should be facing the target and if you are right-handed, your left side should face the target. Remain in an upright position and relax your muscles.
With your bow in hand, turn your head and face the target. The rest of the body should remain in position, lest you distort your form.
Nocking Your Arrow
If you are a complete newbie, be careful with this step and remember that you are holding a weapon. Nocking an arrow is snapping the arrow’s nock onto the string. The bowstring has locators so you will know where the arrow should go. If there is only one locator, the arrow goes beneath the bead. If there are two locators, the arrow goes between them. Mark the place you nock your arrow and make sure to nock it at the same place always.
Gripping Your Bow
It is not uncommon for a new archer to grip the bow with a “death grip”; after all, you do not want it to slip, right? Regardless of what your mind tells you, that is wrong. Too firm a grip will make the bow torque inwards, messing up with your accuracy. Hold the bow with your non-dominant hand. The grip should be relaxed but not too light. Find a balance between too firm and too loose.
Gripping The Bowstring
Most archers grip the bowstring using either of two ways; the split-finger grip and the three-under draw. With both of these methods, only three fingers are used; the index finger, the middle finger and the ring finger.
The split-finger is the one that is commonly used. A good number of archers find themselves using it naturally. With this grip, you place your index finger above the arrow while the other two are below the arrow. It ensures equal distribution of energy on the bow limbs. Even so, this grip is not perfect as it causes arrow pinch—where your fingers pinch the nock, bend the arrow and affect its flight.
The other grip is known as the three-under draw. All three fingers go under the arrow. You may be wondering about the possibility of the arrow slipping. However, as long you properly nock it, that will not be a problem. Unlike with the split-finger grip, it is difficult to twist the arrow shaft with this one. Its downside is that the lower limb will receive more pressure than the upper limb.
Find Your Anchor Point
Every great archer has a specific anchor point. It helps you remain consistent in how you shoot and when you are hunting, you will be able to easily shoot instinctively. To find yours, draw your bowstring as far back as possible until your middle finger comes into contact with your face (usually the corner of your mouth, your nose or your chin).
Aiming And Releasing The Arrow
Nock your arrow and draw the string to your anchor point. Point your arrow to the target. Use your dominant eye to align your arrow with the target. Do not give much thought to aiming. If you try too hard you will miss your target; so the less you try, the better.
With every muscle in your body relaxed but firm, release the arrow by letting your shooting fingers gently slip backward. Once you have launched the arrow, remain in position and watch it hit the target, this is known as following through. In fact, do not drop your bow hand after you have let the bowstring go, allow it to continue moving back. This ensures a smooth transfer of energy to the arrow.
Tips On Becoming A Great Archer
Practice every chance you get. In archery, it is not just practice that makes perfect but perfect practice. Your efforts will most likely be futile if you are always practicing without following the simple advice given above. This applies especially to your form, anchor point, gripping, aiming and releasing. More than anything else, these are the things you need to consider.
Consistency is key. If you wish to take up bowhunting at some point, consistency has to be a priority. Be consistent from the way you stand to the way you aim and release your arrow. After some time, your brain will have mastered this and you will be able to shoot instinctively and accurately in a split second.
Have a solid anchor point. Your anchor point should not be a part that can move like the lips. The cheek, nose, and jawbones make a good consistent anchor point. When you have been releasing from the same anchor point for a while, you will be able to do it without even thinking twice.
Do not over-think your aim. As long as you have aligned your arrow with the target, let it go. You do not help your case by analyzing too much.
Archery Safety Rules
- Whether you have an arrow nocked on your bow or not, do not point it at anything or anyone. This is a safety habit you need to nurture earlier on.
- Check what is behind and near your target. In case the arrow goes all the way through or you miss, you want to make sure that you cause no accidents.
- Avoid firing your arrow into the air. Unless it is flight archery, you have no idea where it will land. Imagine what could happen.
- Never string your bow without using a stringer tool.
- Check to see that your equipment is in good condition before you start shooting.
- Do not overdraw your bowstring. You could get hurt, damage your weapon or both.
- Wax your string on a regular basis.
- Do not dry fire your bow.
Archery is a fantastic activity, suitable for people of all sizes and ages.
This makes a perfect family activity. If you are looking for something to get your kids outside the house, archery could do it. There are so many types of archery and it will never get boring. Check our guide for introducing your kids to archery.
Be sure to begin with target archery and learn the basics first. Archery gear is not cheap but it is also not that expensive. You can start by renting equipment as you save up for what you want.
Take all factors outlined above into consideration so you can choose the equipment that perfectly suits you. Determine your dominant hand and eye before you buy anything and start shooting.
As you start shooting, stand correctly and maintain the right overall posture. Cultivate good habits because you might not be able to shed them off. Finally, be very responsible and make safety your first priority.
Have an awesome archery experience.