Archery is a sport of accuracy. Although compound bows made accurate shooting easier in many ways, the bow doesn’t shoot itself. Many new archers head out with their compound bow, eager to let the arrows fly, only to find they can’t hit the spot they are aiming at. That can be frustrating and discouraging. But a little knowledge and a lot of practice can turn things around. Here are the 10 biggest archery mistakes beginner’s make.
1. Not Using Good Shooting Form
Whether you are shooting a compound or recurve bow, using good shooting form is vital to your accuracy. Because archery is a mix of your equipment and your movement, you need to work on making your movement the same every time you shoot.
If you always shoot with the same good form, and your arrows are constantly hitting left of center, you know you need to adjust the equipment. If your form is all over the place, your arrows will be too.
First, you need to learn about what good shooting form is. I recommend learning and practicing Kisik Lee’s KLS shot cycle. This is the most natural shooting cycle. It’s easy to learn and to practice. Begin practicing each step of the shot cycle, even if it feels awkward at first. Eventually if will become habit for you and you will be a much better archer because of it.
2. Not Setting Up Bow Correctly
Compound bows MUST be set up correctly before you ever shoot them. There isn’t any way around this if you want to be an accurate archer. The basic set up for a compound bow is adjusting the draw weight and length to your specs, setting the correct nocking point, and installing the peep sight at your eye level.
Many compound bows sold today fit a huge adjustment range. Some could even work for a kid all the way up to a grown man. Still, the bow isn’t “ready to shoot” out of the box.
A common mistake new archers make is not setting up their compound bow correctly. When you buy a compound bow from a local archery shop, they usually set up your bow. Since compound bows can be purchased from many different place and even online, they are often bought and used without being set up.
If you’ve read this far in the article, there is a good chance you already have a compound bow. If your bow hasn’t been set up, make it a priority before you shoot it again. You can take it to an archery shop and they can easily help you. Or if you are the DIY type, read this article and start learning about the measurements you need and how to make the adjustments.
3. Being Afraid of The Bow
A common mistake for beginners is being afraid of the bow and in particular the bowstring. This is actually a natural reaction to any objects with movable parts that store up tension. Take a mouse trap for instance. Even a big burly dude gets a little skittish when trying to set one of those.
Still, it’s necessary for new archers to overcome any fear they have of the bow or bowstring. Accurately shooting a bow requires the archer to be calm and comfortable when shooting. If you observe a new archer who is scared of the bowstring, they will hold and shoot the bow in unnatural ways. Often the bow is held as far away from the body as possible and bowstring will be draw and release far away from the face. It is impossible to shoot accurately like this.
Most archers quickly overcome their fear of the bow by continuing to shoot it. It may also help you to think logically about what can injuries can actually happen to you when shooting a bow.
In reality the most common self sustained injuries from shooting a bow are shoulder and muscle injuries from pulling too much draw weight or not stretching. This is easily avoidable by being smart about draw weight and warming your shoulder and arm muscles up when practicing.
The most common string injury would be string slap which is when the string grazes your forearm when it is released. String slap can indeed be quite painful and may even cause bleeding or bruising on the forearm. This injury is easily avoidable by wearing an arm guard when you practice. You can buy these online or even make one at home. I’m not proud of it, but in my early days I cut the end of a sock so I could slide it over my forearm and stuffed a piece of cardboard in it. It’s not a great arm guard but it did work. Seriously, just buy one. They’re not that expensive.
4. Not Picking A Stance
Many new archers give little to no thought about their stance. I have even seen new archers move their around during the shooting cycle. A good, set stance is the foundation of your form when shooting which is critical for accuracy.
It’s easy to see why moving your feet while you are shooting can mess your shot up. But many archers are not aware that they stand differently every time they shoot.
Learn about the three main stances for archery, the straight, closed, and open stances. The open stance is the most used, followed by the straight stance. Try out each stance with your feet comfortably apart, making sure your weight is slightly forward.
Once you find the stance that seems most comfortable, mark the spots your feet should be every time you shoot. You can use old arrows, sticks, rocks…anything, you can use whatever you want to mark the spots.
Continue practicing making sure your feet are always in the same spot. After you do it enough, it should become natural for you.
5. Over Aiming
Another very common mistake for new archers is over aiming when shooting. It makes sense, especially if you are using a bowsight, that you would want to line up the sight as perfectly as possible before releasing the arrow.
The problem is, the longer you take in full draw trying to line up the sight, the more your muscles are tensing up trying to hold the sight in place. This fatigues your muscles quickly. Then, even when you think your are line up on the target perfectly, you are likely to drop the bow when releasing the arrow. Fatigued muscles also cause you to torque the bow in different ways that throw off your shot.
The next time your practice shooting, practice staying relaxed when you are in full draw. Notice what the sight wants to do while you are aiming. It sways and moves all around on the target. This isn’t a bad thing so you don’t need to tense up.
Instead, let the sight sway and try to release at the moment it drifts over the spot you are aiming for.
6. Not Relaxing
Many of the mistakes on this list are tied together. In other words, one mistake causes you to make another. Many new archers are way too tense when they are trying to shoot. The reasons for this diff, but whatever the cause, it will effect your accuracy.
Some can be tense from fear of the bow, others are trying to muscle the bow to death, perhaps hoping to shoot more accurately. If you are tense when shooting, you might be able to land a few arrows accurately, but this will not last long.
Staying tense while shooting fatigues the muscles you are using, which will cause other muscle groups to compensate. When this happens, your accuracy is shot.
Luckily, this is one of the easier fixes on the list. Most of all, it requires you be intentional about relaxing when you are shooting. Next time you practice, consciously think about staying relaxed at every stage of your shot. It may even be helpful to say it aloud. Continue to do this until your body begins to do it on it’s own.
Start working on a good T-Form before you pick up your bow again. Pretend you are holding a bow and go through the shot cycle in front of the mirror. See how your body is lined up and what needs adjusting.
Then, if you are able, take some video of yourself shooting and then watch it. What you see may be surprising. It will give you a good idea of what adjustments you need to make.
7. Over-griping The Bow
Over griping the bow is very common among new archers. It’s often one of the last things they think about. It’s natural and also makes sense that you should tightly grip the bow as you are holding out in front and trying to keep it still.
If you could over grip the bow every time you shot, it might not affect your accuracy. The problem is that no can do that. Over griping the bow causes you to torque the bow, which is essentially twisting the bow in any direction. When you torque the bow, you send arrows off the rest in different directions making it impossible to be accurate.
The correct is actually with a relaxed hand. Bow grips are designed to rest in the web of your hand between the thumb and index finger. When you do this, you are actually able to hold the bow in full draw and open all of your fingers, or lightly wrap them around the grip.
8. Not Using Release Aid Correctly
Most compound bow archers make use of a release aid. A release aid is helpful when drawing and releasing a compound bowstring because the short limbs put the bowstring at a sharper angle when fully drawn. This means that using 3 fingers to draw, like with a recurve bow, can be uncomfortable for your fingers on a compound. Release aids also allow for a smooth release without any interference from the fingers.
The issue arises with index finger trigger release which are the most commonly used type of release for new archers. These release can work really well and many archers use them successfully.
But often, new archers activate the release incorrectly by pulling or even jerking the trigger. They may not even realize it but this also jerks the bow when this happens. The movement can be very slight and still have a big impact on the arrow flight.
Learn about back tension. Learning to release your bowstring with back tension is connected to using good form. It will take some time to learn how to shoot this way but it is well worth the investment. Thumb trigger and tension releases are easier to activate with back tension but an index finger trigger release can be activated this way also.
9. Shooting Too Heavy A Draw Weight
The next two archery mistakes are made by beginners and seasoned archers alike. Shooting too heavy a draw weight is one of the more serious mistakes because it can also cause physical injury. Many bowhunters want to pull the heaviest weight possible to increase arrow speed an impact. I understand this, but also believe it isn’t as necessary as some bowhunters believe.
A well placed arrow in the animals vitals is worlds better than a faster arrow that misses the mark. I know bowhunters pulling 80 pounds and they can do it because they shoot year round and remain in peak physical shape. I also know bowhunters pulling 70 pounds who don’t get their bow out until archery season starts.
This is a mistake. Shooting such a heavy draw weight when you haven’t been training can cause injury, it makes training less enjoyable and in turn makes the archer less likely to practice.
For compound bow target archers, there is really never a reason to pull such heavy weight. Shooting 40-50 pounds is usually more than adequate for target settings.
If you are bowhunting and feel the need to shoot max draw weight on your bow, work your way up to it. Drop your bows draw weight 10-20 pounds early in the year and slowly increase the weight as you practice. This will lead to easier practice and your shoulder will be very grateful.
10. Not Practicing Enough
I debated putting this in the top 10 archery mistakes. But the truth is that it is one the biggest mistakes made by archers. I’m guilty of this one too. Life is busy and getting in practice time can be challenging. But whether you are a target archer or bowhunter, practice is a necessity if you want to be an accurate archer.
Set reminders for yourself to get out an practice. Never pack your bow away, even in the winter. Keep it handy in place where you will see it often. Another thing I try to do is occasional purchase some new gear, even something small. This can help keep you motivated to practice more.