8 Steps To Learn How To Shoot A Bow

Looking to learn how to shoot a bow? This guide will teach you step by step on shooting a bow, getting the basics right is essential on being able to master the art of archery

The skill of archery is something that takes time and practice, many archers have spent countless hours staring down the shaft of an arrow aiming at their target. The great thing with archery is even as a beginner you can quickly hit the bullseye of the target. It is this which makes it such an accessible sport and so addictive and appealing.

The key to learning how to shoot a bow is understanding that it’s not just about firing an arrow. Your stance, how you hold the bow and your aim are very important steps. However this is pointless if you are trying to fire from the wrong bow.

How To Shoot A Bow – 8 Steps

Learning archery is great fun, even though at first it can be a little daunting. As mentioned above, it’s a great sport for anyone to get into as it doesn’t require you to be specifically skilled. The skill of archery can be learnt and improved over time with practice, the below steps are aimed to help give you a quick intro and a helping hand to getting started.

The Stance

Shooting A Bow - The stance is essential

Your stance is incredibly important, if you get this wrong then you will find you are not able to draw the bow as well, or even struggle to keep your balance.

When you come up to a target you will find a shooting line, this is a line that is so many yards away from the target. You should appear side facing the target, with a leg either side of the shooting line. Your legs should be shoulder width apart from each other. Keep your back straight yet remain in a comfort position. This position is important as it allows you to keep you whole body open, allowing you to fully draw the bow.

Gripping The Bow

One of the biggest mistakes that many people make is gripping the bow to tight, as this can tense up your arm and impact on your accuracy. The bow should be gripped with a closed hand that is also relaxed. Some people do struggle to hold the bow with a loose grip, which is why you may see some people use a wrist sling and holding the bow open handed.

Slings do impact on speed but make up in accuracy, allowing you to get better shots and ensuring you have more chance of hitting your target.

Nocking The Arrow

Shooting Recurve - Position The Arrow

On each arrow you will often find a nock, which is plastic and this is used to connect to the bowstring. Point the bow to the ground and place the arrow onto the arrow rest of the bow, ensure the odd coloured fletching is pointing towards the sky/away from the bow.

The bow string will often have a nock bead or two nock locators, connect the nocking point on the arrow onto the bowstring and you should hear a click. Once you have, the arrow will be correctly nocked

Drawing The Bow

Shooting recurve - The Draw

In order to fully draw a bow you need to make sure you can handle the weight, depending on the bow would depend on the amount of weight you need to draw back. If its too heavy and you are not able to properly draw the bow then you will find your accuracy is reduced, harder to get the power behind the bow and can also cause injury.

Archery does use up a lot of upper body strength and this will increase over time, so you may start off with a lighter bow but need to move on to a heavier one. This is one of the reasons why I like takedown recurve bows, as you can often upgrade the limbs so you don’t need to buy a whole new bow. (Check out my guide on these types of bows here…)

To draw the bow you need to point the bow towards the target and with the hand not holding the bow, pull back on the bowstring. There are many different ways to draw the bowstring, including using a mechanical release. The two most commons ways are;

  • ​Placing your index finger above the arrow and then two fingers below the arrow. This is a common method as it does help to keep the arrow a little more steady.
  • ​The next method is by placing your index, middle and ring finger below the arrow and pulling back.

Both are great methods but I would recommend the first method if you are starting out, as mentioned it does help keep the arrow steady and this will help improve accuracy.

Pull the bowstring back smoothly towards your face but make sure the actual bow does not dip or move as you draw the bowstring back. The bowstring should be fully drawn to the anchor point.

The Anchor Point

It’s important to “anchor” the fully drawn bow before releasing the arrow. The anchor point is the side of your face, with your index finger touching the side of your mouth. This will help ensure that your aiming eye will be aligned with the bowstring, helping to improve accuracy within the shot.

To begin with you might find it more comfortable putting your thumb up against the side of your face, helping you pull the bowstring in closer. If you do this then you know that each shot will be fired from the same position, helping you to adjust your aim to hit the target.

Aiming At Your Target

Recurve Shooting - Aim

Once you have the bow drawn you can now aim at your intended target. Depending on your bow does depend on how easy this is, recurve bows you will generally just be using your eye however many compound bows use sights that help improve aiming.

To aim properly you want to look down the arrow towards your target and move the arrow so that it meets your intended shot. If its a further away shot then you will want to aim a little higher. If when shooting you find that your arrows seem to move to a specific point, simply adjust your aim to go in the opposite direction. As an example you shoot 3 arrows and all 3 are a little to the left of your target, when shooting the 4th arrow aim a little further to the right.

Releasing The Arrow

Shooting recurve

Now is the time to let that arrow fly through the sky BUT the release is actually more important than many people think. Releasing the arrow incorrectly could make you completely miss your target, to hit it you need to release it smoothly.

If there is the slightest movement such as a flinch or jerk when you release the bowstring, it can cause your arrow to flight slight away from your intended target. As a beginner it can be hard not to pluck the string when you release it.

The key is to gradually relax your fingers and due to the tension built up from the draw it will send the arrow flying. Some people use gloves which can help but as these wear they do cause the release to be less smooth. An alternative would be to use a tab, these will help protect the fingers and also help with a smooth and consistent release.

Don’t worry, after a couple of hours you will soon get used to the release.

The Follow Through

Like the release, the follow through is something that many beginners don’t give much thought. The following through is actually very important when it comes to shooting a bow. The slightest movement after you have fired the arrow and the motion could knock the arrow of its intended course and miss your target.

There is a lot, in fact more to think about when shooting a bow than people think. However It’s not as complicated as it sounds, it really does just take time and practice. By following the above 8 steps, it should hopefully make it easier to understand and give you a good starting point in learning the great sport that is archery. Whether your goals are target archery or bow hunting, or if you want to use a recurve bow or compound bow – these 8 steps will help you!

Other Archery 101 Guides

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Adam has been enjoying the sport of archery since 2010, intially getting the bug for it whilst on holiday and trying it out in an activity center. Since his very first eperiance of holding a bow and arrow, he fell in love with it and can now be found at the range or in the great outdoors as often as possible.

His main go to bow type is a recurve but he loves shooting from compounds as well. Adam created The Archery Guide as a way to help others get into this great activity and to share his knowledge/experiences.

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