Archery began as a form of war and hunting for food but it is now a sport and hobby for many. Life in the current era confines people to tight schedules. Therefore, any outdoor activity is more than welcome to help people take a break and just breathe. Different individuals have different preferences when it comes to outdoor activities and some are crazy about archery. Who would have guessed that it would become a sport in the Olympics? Well, today it is an activity enjoyed all over the world both for competition and recreation.
Just like in every other sport, there are different types of equipment meant to suit different sizes, personalities among other factors. For example, there are different types of bows, the most common one being the recurve bow. It is also the only type of bow used in the Olympics competitions (a few exceptions are made for the compound bow). Some people would argue that its popularity is due to the fact that it is used in The Hunger Games. A more logical argument would be that its distinct shape enhances performance (shoots arrows faster than the rest) and it requires less effort to use.
Shooting any bow requires practice. Be patient with yourself even as you learn. You do not have to be a pro but there are a few things you ought to familiarize yourself with. First, know the different parts of a recurve bow. This will make it easier for you to get the instructions and techniques outlined in the article.
Parts of A Recurve Bow
The riser: this is the main part of the Recurve bow—the heart if you like. It is the middle part between the limbs. Most other essential components of the bow are found on the riser, making it a very important part. Most risers are made of aluminum but you might see others made carbon fiber.
Limbs: usually made of fiberglass, wood or carbon fiber, they are the planks at the two ends of the bow and are connected to either ends of the riser. Just like the riser, the limbs are an essential part of the recurve bow. They store the kinetic energy created when the bowstring is drawn back and release it when the arrow is being launched.
Riser grip: otherwise known as the handle, it is the part held by the archer while shooting. When choosing a recurve bow, test to see that the grip is comfortable because its comfort (or lack thereof) will affect how you shoot. The riser grip is replaceable.
Bowstring: this is a cord tied to the limb tips and is used to launch the arrow.
Arrow rest: as the name suggests, it is where the arrow rests as you draw the bowstring. It is found on the riser and could be made of plastic or metal.
Sight: this is a device attached to the riser. Its job is to help you aim accurately.
Stabilizer: simply put, it is an optional rod that dampens the noise and vibration and makes your shots steadier. It is placed below the grip.
Clicker: it is a device hooked to the riser that makes a “click” sound to notify you that the draw length is perfect and you can release the arrow.
Plunger: this is a pressure button meant to enhance an arrow’s precision by adjusting the horizontal variation when it is released.
Nock: this is the plastic end of an arrow that helps in attaching it to the bowstring.
These are the basic parts of a recurve bow. You will learn more as you advance.
Basic Guide To Shooting A Recurve Bow
Find the right stance: ensure that the distance between your feet is just about the width of your shoulders. The side of your body should be facing the target, that is, your head, torso, hips and the rest of the body should be perpendicular to the target. You want to avoid drawing the bowstring across your chest. If you are left-handed, let your right hip face your target. Keep your feet firm on the ground and stand straight.
Firm, comfortable grip: since recurve bows have a riser grip, you will have no trouble finding a place to hold. If your right hand is dominant, your left hand should hold the bow. Hold the bow firmly but not as if your life depends on it. Holding it too tightly will make you shoot inaccurately.
Prepare to take a shot: load an arrow and lift the recurve bow before you draw the string. This is known as nocking an arrow. Next, lift your bow to shoulder height, making sure that your arm is straight as it can be. Your elbow should not be bent even a little.
Draw the bow: with your head turned towards the target, pull the bowstring far back until your string hand is resting under your jawbone. Let the string touch the corner of your mouth. That is the anchor point. Do not worry about the string touching your face, it is only dangerous if you allow it behind your ear (and why would anyone do that?).
Aim and release: use your dominant eye to aim; the other one can remain closed. When you are ready and sure that your aim is accurate, gently let the string slide from your fingers—doing it abruptly or jerking the bowstring will mess up your accuracy. Remember not to put too much thought into shooting perfectly.
After releasing the string, do not move. Wait for your arrow to hit its target. This trains you to be motionless when shooting as opposed to jerking your body once you have released the bowstring so as not to interfere with arrow trajectory. Learn to relax and remain in position.
How To Shoot A Recurve Bow Instinctively
As you already know, bows and arrows have been around for a very long time. They were there before modern technology. Back then there were no devices like sights to make your aim more perfect. In ancient archery, archers aimed without the help of sights. (Even if they had the devices, they would not have been of much use because what are the odds of a deer or an enemy in war giving you a little more time to aim?). They relied solely on intuition or instinct, shooting without thinking, hence the name of the skill, instinctive shooting. Everything was so simple and the skill required patience, practice, and consistency.
With consistent training, your mind and body learn to shoot intuitively without aiming. Over time, you will be able to shoot accurately regardless of the shooting distance. Think of someone throwing a baseball. They do not stop and think before they throw, they just do it. The human mind can do more than you think. With training, it learns to work with the muscles and calculate the force and angle required to hit your target.
Seeing as traditional archery shooting depends on intuition, it is better to train your body to be in the right posture from the beginning than to try and do it when you have already cultivated poor shooting habits. A few people might be naturally great instinctive shooters but others have to practice hard and consistently to match the skills of the ancient forefathers.
The following technique will help you get started as a skilled instinctive shooter but they cannot make you perfect—only relentless practice can.
Perfecting Your Form
The way you stand and your overall body posture is an important aspect of instinctive bow shooting. As already pointed out, your feet should be shoulder-width apart. You can place your feet in any one of two positions. The first one is with your feet parallel to the imaginary shooting line. This is called a squared stance. The second option is the oblique or open stance, where your non-dominant leg is slightly pointing to the target.
Although the first option is the easier one and suited for beginners, the second one is best for instinctive shooting. It would be better, therefore, if you go with the oblique stance for traditional shooting. The open stance will allow you the freedom to bend the waist and knees and lean forward slightly just like the ancient archers. It will also help you remain firm on uneven surfaces.
Your Hand Position
How you hold your bow can impact your shooting wither negatively or positively. Forget everything you think you know or need to do and just hold the bow by the handle. Use even pressure across your palm. At first, you will have the urge to grasp the bow tightly—which is wrong. Be delicate and balance it nicely. When you use too much energy, the pressure will be uneven and torque the bow as you release the bowstring, interfering with the precision of your arrow. Relax, be gentle but do not open your hand such that the bow could slip when you release the string as that is not safe (and bows cost money).
Next is positioning your dominant hand which is your string-hand. This one is little more tricky. There are two main ways to grip your string. None is better than the other and you can go with whichever is comfortable for you.
Split-Finger grip: The first grip is called the Split-Finger; it is the most common and comes naturally for most people. It uses the ring, middle and index fingers. It involves having one finger (the index finger) holding the bowstring above the arrow and the other two holding it below the arrow. The main advantage of this grip is the even distribution of energy on the limbs of your recurve bow and you will also be pulling the string closer to the center. The grip may seem perfect but it is not without disadvantages. You have probably heard of arrow pinch. As you draw the arrow, your fingers are likely to pinch the nock bending the arrow and distorting its flight.
The Three Under Draw: this second grip involves having all your three drawing fingers (the index, middle and ring fingers) under the arrow. Do not worry about the arrow slipping; just ensure it is nocked snugly, not too tight and not too loose. The main advantage of this grip is that you are less likely to twist the arrow shaft. The disadvantage is that, while the split-finger grip puts equal pressure on the two limbs, this one exerts more pressure on the lower limb.
Whichever grip you decide to adopt, use your fingertips to grip your string. Let it be just above the first joint (knuckle). Use your judgment here. Too much near the tips and it could slip when you are not ready, inside the joint and you will not be able to release it smoothly—so somewhere in the middle.
Finding Your Anchor Point
If you have seen someone shooting a bow or have shot one yourself, you notice that as you draw the string far back, it (or your drawing fingers) touches your face. The spot on your face where the bowstring or your drawing fingers touch is your anchor point. Different archers have different anchor points like the corner of the mouth, chin or any other spot. This point is very crucial for an instinctive shooter. Knowing yours ensures that the draw length is the same all the time. This will help you when shooting subconsciously.
First, nock your arrow. Make sure that it is facing downwards; do not forget that you are holding a weapon. When ready lift your bow, relax, draw back to your anchor point and release the arrow following the detailed instructions pointed out above. Confidence and accuracy make a big part of instinctive bow shooting. Start with close range, a small target, and a large backstop to build your confidence (and save your arrows).
When you are starting out, place emphasis on consistency in your stance, string and bow grip and how you draw your recurve bow. There are two common methods of drawing a bow. The first one is by pointing your bow arm at your target while it is stretched straight. The other method, known as the push-pull method, involves having both arms in front of your body; when you draw, they move in opposite directions.
The straight-arm method is the recommended one because it does not cause a lot of motion. It allows you to maintain your shooting posture and you can even aim before drawing. It is also more likely to come to you naturally compared to the push-pull technique.
As an instinctive archer, you should start aiming even before you draw your string fully. Remember instinctive archery does not give you time to make the necessary calculations. Instead, focus on your target and direct your eyes and muscles to it.
A question that is bound to arise from anyone who is new to instinctive archery is the time you should take to draw and release. As you gain more experience, you will be able to draw and shoot immediately—sometimes you will not even reach your anchor point. If you are a beginner, however, consider pausing for a second or two before you release your arrow. Use those few seconds to set everything right. Do not delay for too long. It will not help your arrow precision.
Releasing the bowstring properly means letting it go smoothly, while your fingers are relaxed. You know you have done it well if your dominant hand jerks back a little; failure to which you know you did not use the right back tension. As already mentioned, do not move after releasing the string. Stay firmly in place, fixing your eyes on the target until the arrow hits it.
Note: instinctive shooting is about your mind. As you practice, learn to get into a specific rhythm and consistently that your mind can follow subconsciously when you are supposed to shoot without thinking. Once you have familiarized yourself with this skill and grow your confidence, you will not get enough of it.
How To Aim Your Recurve Bow Using Sights
Sometimes using your plain eyes to aim can be a pain especially for beginners. If you are tired of having your arrows flying aimlessly, do not worry. There is a device to help you aim and improve your accuracy, a sight. The most common bow sights use a lens, circle, pin, or any other marker to help you hit accurately.
Before going off to buy yourself a bow sight, understand that its job is to help you aim, not improve your techniques. The best thing to do is perfect your stance and have a little skill before you bring a sight into the picture. If you start using sights before learning a few techniques, you will take even longer to learn.
Using a sight is very simple. With your dominant eye on the target, point your bow directly in such a way that the pin on the sight is on the target—and that is it. If your shots are a little inaccurate (which is not uncommon) adjust your sight based on where your arrows are hitting. If they are hitting a little to the left of your target, shift your scope slightly to the left. If they are hitting below, lower your scope slightly. If you have a problem remembering how to adjust your scope, use “chase the arrows” to remember. You move your scope to the direction that your arrows are landing.
A Few Important Tips To Note
Dry firing means firing without an arrow; never do that. This may be fun to do as you practice on your stance, drawing and finding your anchor point but can cause irreversible damage on your bow. Fire using arrows—it makes more sense, perfects your shots and protects your bow from breaking.
When your bow is too heavy you will have a hard time drawing with your fingertips. Learn using a lighter bow. If you want to buy one as a beginner, it is wise to ask the store assistants to help you get one that you will be comfortable with.
Archery is fun and once you start, it will be hard to stop; seriously. It is, therefore, not unusual to get sore fingertips when you have been practicing a little too hard. Invest in a finger tab or archery glove to protect your fingers.
If your left eye is dominant but you are right-handed, you may find yourself confused as to which handed recurve bow is perfect for you. Experts recommend using a right-handed Recurve bow to make use of your stronger arm. Nonetheless, experiment with rental equipment to be sure before you commit your money.
Have confidence. In the beginning, the arrows may seem as though they are not even trying to hit the target. Do not let that hurt your confidence. Keep practicing, keep working and you will see the improvement.
Start shooting shorter distances, 10-15 yards. Increase distance as you get better. With the shorter distance, it is easier to hit your target and your confidence will not be hurt—hopefully.
Archery is an amazing way to utilize your leisure time. Besides helping you stay healthy, it increases your focus and helps you reconnect with nature. Take your time to understand what constitutes a recurve bow. Knowing the different parts and what their purposes are will give you more insight and make the process easier. When you talk to any archer, they will tell you that your form is crucial and will determine how you shoot. Take note of how you stand, hold your bow and pretty much the posture of your entire body because it matters a lot.
In the initial stages you may use sights to help you aim but as you will later realize, aiming instinctively is even more thrilling. Remember to relax your muscles—this has been emphasized a lot throughout the article. An archer is supposed to be composed and focused. Finally, make sure to join a club of archers or just fellow archers in your area to gain more tricks and learn techniques that no book can teach you.