If you are just getting into the hobby, you would be forgiven for thinking that aiming a compound bow is an easy task. After all, you simply line up the sights and pull the trigger, right? The reality is not quite as simple. Learning how to aim a compound bow does not need to be arduous, but there is a process that should be followed for the best results. Here’s what you need to know.
Don’t Learn Bad Habits
A common mistake when learning how to aim compound bow technique is to assume you can perfect the method later. Countless individuals get into the hobby thinking that they can experiment at first and circle back to the proper process later. While this may work, it risks setting yourself up for failure.
Once you have started learning how to shoot, it can be extremely difficult to break a bad habit. Thus, learning how to aim a bow requires focusing on the fundamentals from the start.
Tension is the Enemy
When you’re first learning the basics of aiming a bow, excessive tension is a key inhibitor of success. Even if you don’t feel stressed or tense, likely, you are inadvertently tensing your back and shoulders. This can make aiming difficult and following through impossible.
You may not think of archery as a physically demanding pastime, but the sport requires a surprising amount of strength and endurance. A few basic stretching exercises can go a long way towards preventing muscle fatigue and ensuring consistent shots. Further, always be in tune with the state of your body. Before you make a shot, evaluate your tension. Relax your forearms, un-tension your shoulders, and straighten your back. If your body is aligned your shots will be too.
Mind your Toes!
Like many other sports, your stance is exceedingly important when learning how to aim a bow and arrow. Your feet are the root of your entire posture, and posture is key to bow aiming. To achieve your perfect stance, identify your target and stand 90 degrees from it. Place your feet at shoulder-width. Now, rotate your dominant root (typically the same as your dominant hand) slightly towards the target.
Find your balance and make sure you aren’t putting too much weight on one foot. The goal is to be stable, even, and comfortable.
Time to Grasp the Bow
It’s finally time to learn how your bow arm is held. There isn’t a “right” way to grasp your bow. Rather, you should experiment and see what feels the most natural. If you attempt to replicate someone else’s grip, you are more apt to have an unstable grasp that leads to fatigue.
The one consistency in terms of bow grip is the need to avoid gripping the bow too tightly. As previously mentioned, tension is the enemy here. Use a loose but confident grip without putting too much pressure on your fingers.
Locate your Anchor Points
Anchor points refer to the locations on your face where the bow makes contact. Every archer is likely to have different anchor points, but it is useful to know the various areas.
This one is fairly self explanatory. The hand to face point is the location on your face that your hand touches when pulling back the arrow. Your hand to face point will vary based on your style, arm-length, bow design, and numerous other factors.
It may be along your jawline, on your cheek, or even closer to your ear. Regardless of where it is, consistency is important. It can be nearly impossible to refine your technique without a consistent anchor point.
For some shooters, the string will actually make slight contact with your nose. This is considered an ideal form by many archers. Thus, if you achieve this technique, make a mental note of your position so you can utilize it moving forward.
Despite its weird name, the kisser button is a common tool with a fairly simple purpose. This is a small object that is mounted on your string. When your bow is fully drawn, this button should be making contact with your lips. The geometry of the bow will ensure that the bow is fairly well aligned if this point is in place.
Eyes on the Prize
Although it may sound obvious, proper aiming requires looking at the target. It is surprisingly common for people learning how to aim an arrow to close their eyes or avert their focus while lining up a shot. Many bows are equipped with sights that can be used to align a shot, but you can also learn to work without one.
If you are having trouble with focusing on the target, there is a device known as a “peep sight” that can make the process much more consistent and intuitive. A peep sight typically looks like a ring in the string which you look through to align the shot. Fitment and size is important, so ask a local shop for help if you are unsure of the specifics.
Don’t Feel Like You Must Close an Eye
It’s very common for archers to close one eye when aiming with a bow. If this works for you, it is absolutely fine. However, do not feel obligated to do so. Many archers find that they can shoot more consistently with both eyes open. There will be a lot of trial and error when you first start learning aiming bow techniques. Play around. See which eye is dominant, and try shooting with both eyes open. You may be surprised what works best for you.
Set Up Your Distance
Understanding how to aim with a bow isn’t just a matter of left and right. Rather, accounting for the distance and trajectory is a crucial step. Although practice will be the most important tool, there are likely tricks of your bow that make the process easier.
The front-most sight of your bow will most likely have a series of pins. These correspond to various shooting distances, typically in 20-yard increments. Set up a target at 20-yards and try line up the relevant pin with the rearward sight. Fire a shot or two and see if you’re averaging too high or too low. Eventually you will develop a feel for your bow and be able to compensate for varying distances.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when learning how to aim a compound bow is to follow through. Beginners often lose focus as soon as the arrow has left the bow, but this is a key error. Your body should remain aligned, and your eyes should remain focused, until the arrow is firmly within the target. Many archers find a countdown from five after shooting is a helpful reminder.
The most important archery aiming tips are to relax and have fun. Although this is an approachable sport, there is still a learning curve. Don’t expect to be an expert from the first shot. Simply take a deep breath, remember the fundamentals, and strive to do a little better each time.