Archery is one of the most rewarding and thrilling hobbies you can pick up. Yet, it is unfortunately very common for people to be too intimidated to even begin. Although there are countless articles about the nuances of the latest crossbow, a beginner doesn’t need to know the technical details about TenPoint’s latest offerings.
Rather, a beginner needs a basic guide to understanding the vocabulary, the process, and the safety aspects. This is just such a guide.
Is all archery equal?
If you’re just getting started, you might not be aware of the different forms of archery. There are four main types: target, field, hunting, and 3D. Although there is a lot of overlap between these, certain styles of archery require different types of equipment, so the differences are worth knowing.
Target archery is exactly what it sounds like. Whether indoor or outdoor, target archery is a great way to hone your skills in a controlled and safe environment. Once you become more adept, archery competitions are also a wonderful way to become part of the community and advance your skill.
Field archery can best be described as a more complex evolution of target archery. Field archery is always outdoors, and you shoot at multiple targets. Further, they won’t simply be in a straight line down a range. Rather, field archery targets will often be at varying elevations or even behind obstacles. It is still a controlled environment but does a much better job at recreating the challenges of hunting.
Hunting archery is, well, you know what hunting is. Archery hunting can involve a huge array of animals depending on your interests, bow, and location. Compared to firearm hunting, archery is a wonderful way to be more in tune with nature. Further, many hunters consider it a much more humane and sportsmanlike method.
3D archery combines all of these into one activity with an almost video game-like result. In 3D archery, you walk through a path in the woods with full-size animal targets. Whether done for fun or in a competition, this is a fun way to have the hunting experience for those that may be squeamish about gutting a deer.
Types of Bows
Bows have advanced a huge amount since the days of Robinhood, and there is no shortage of styles. Although you will develop preferences over time, it is helpful to have a brief overview of the various types.
Modern Recurve Bows
Modern recurve bows are similar in form-factor to a traditional bow but are typically made using more modern materials. Thus, they have the classic “one arch” design that you expect from a bow, but typically have fiberglass or carbon limbs (the component that curves under tension.) Tradition still plays a role here, as the riser (where you hold the bow) is generally still wood.
Recurve bows are exceptionally versatile, having a place in essentially every variety of archery. Given their simplicity and classic design, they are a favorite among target shooters. The one caveat is that recurve bows are not the ideal choice for hunting large game. Recurve bows lack the mechanical advantage of other designs, so if the bow is strong enough to take down a deer, it will likely be very difficult for a beginner to draw safely. However, they are still a fantastic way of learning archery.
Compound bows are the most modern approach to archery and often look more akin to a sci-fi weapon than a traditional bow. Rather than simply using a bent piece of wood or fiberglass for their tension, compound bows use a series of cams and pulleys to assist in pulling the arms back. The advantage here is two-fold. First, they allow higher draw weights, resulting in a more powerful weapon.
Second, they require significantly less effort to hold in tension, meaning you can spend more time aiming without fatigue. While these are generally used as hunting weapons, they certainly have a place on the target range as well. These elegant weapons have become significantly more common over the years, and an archery basics compound bow is no longer an exceptionally expensive proposition.
Longbows and Wooden Recurve Bows
Wooden bows are simply the older version of a recurve bow. Because they lack the power and ease of a modern bow, they are not typically used for hunting anything much bigger than a squirrel. That said, they can still be a fun and rewarding bow in the right context.
Archery Basics for Beginners
Knowing the basic styles of bows is great, but this information will mean very little if you don’t know how to properly use the weapon. Thus, a beginners guide to archery must include a basic overview of the process.
The order of operations is extremely important in archery. Certain steps must be done in a specific order, and wavering from this pattern can result in poor habits or injury. For archery basics, here is what you need to know.
Stance is surprisingly important when firing a bow. If you’re right-handed, hold the bow in your left hand with your body 90 degrees from the target. If you are properly oriented, the outside of your left shoe will be facing the target squarely. Of course, reverse this if you are left-handed.
Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with a firmly planted stance akin to a golf swing. Keep your shoulders relaxed, and always keep both eyes on the target from the moment you aim until the moment the arrow contacts the board.
Nocking The Arrow
The “nock” is the technical term for the notch in the arrow that hooks onto the string. Slide the arrow under the nocking point and press until you hear a “click.” When loading, make sure the index feather (which will be a different color typically) is facing away from the bow.
Gripping the String
When gripping the string, never make contact with the arrow. Firmly grasp the string with your middle, ring, and index fingers. Avoid using your fingertips here. Rather, grip it past the first knuckle to ensure a strong grip. It actually doesn’t matter which finger goes where. Some shooters prefer having two fingers under the arrow (called “split-finger”) while some prefer having all three fingers beneath (called “three under.) Use whichever feels more natural.
Drawing the Bow
Pull the string back with your left arm (if right-handed.) Keep your hand in a straight line back towards your nose. You want to be steady but relaxed here. Rather than focusing on your arms, concentrate on the muscles in your core and back. You should feel your shoulder blades coming together.
Sight your target and maintain a calm breathing pattern. Slowly loosen the grip on the strip until you feel it release naturally. Avoid sudden movements or forcing the motion. Although it feels natural to immediately relax, always follow through with the show. Maintain your sightline on the target until contact is made.
It is surprisingly easy to learn archery basics, and there are countless archery for beginners resources available if you need additional help. Further, archery equipment for beginners can be extremely affordable, so the barrier to beginning archery should never be a limitation. It’s a wonderful hobby with a tantalizingly approachable learning curve, so there’s no reason to delay learning your next passion.