How you ever found yourself shooting arrows everywhere but the bullseye?

I’ve been there too many times to count. It’s frustrating. Usually, I’ll blame the sight first, then the arrow rest; then the weather, if its hot, or cold, or sunny.  But when it comes to accuracy in archery, often it’s just simple archery mistakes and if you know what to look for, they aren’t that hard to fix. This article will show you how.

When you become serious about archery, you will begin to analyze your accuracy. This is true not only for competitive archers but bowhunters as well. Both types of archers may have to shoot in stressful situations with variable conditions, and both need to be able to hit the mark.

But…before working on your accuracy, take a minute and watch Lars Andersen in this archery video. It’s hilarious!


We may not shoot like that guy, but accuracy is still important to most archers. The truth is that we all get into slumps at times and aren’t quite sure what we need to fix.  Sometimes it can even get into your head.

It’s no good to go into these situations unprepared and unsure of oneself. This leads to more archery mistakes and missed shots, and nobody enjoys shooting poorly.

But many recreational archers are also interested in working on accuracy. Heck, no one likes going out and shooting terribly!

Whether you are a target archer or bowhunter, if your accuracy is off and you are aren’t sure why, this is article will help you to diagnose and fix the problem. You will be splitting arrows in no time.

Before determining what simple archery mistakes you might be making, you have to make sure you’re not making BIG mistakes. The big mistakes are the things that will sink your accuracy before you even release an arrow. Here is a check list for the big stuff. Make sure these things are in order before moving on to the simple archery mistakes.

First, The Big Archery Mistakes

1. A Negative Attitude

It may sound cheesy and (frankly a little hard to write this), but it’s true. I’ve read the studies and they’ve tested it a lot in sports. People who have a positive attitude, believe they will perform well and envision themselves succeeding in what they are doing, perform as well or better than those who just practice without this.

Those who have a negative attitude always perform worse. Know that you can be a good archer and practice having that positive attitude. I’ve come to believe a negative attitude is the biggest mistake you can make, which is why I am making this number one.

2. Using the Wrong Equipment

Having proper archery equipment is a must.  I find myself saying this a lot, but proper equipment does not mean it has to be the most expensive, but your equipment must be correctly set up for your size and shooting needs. If you are shooting with your brother’s bow and he is twice your size, it’s just not going to work. You need to have a bow in your size range and have it set up for your draw length and weight.

Check out this article if you want to know more about setting up a compound bow.

Along with using the correct bow and having it set up for you, every piece of equipment used in shooting factors in your accuracy. Your sight should be one that works well for your vision and aiming method, i.e. aiming with one eye, or both eyes. The peep sight is also important if you use one. Your arrow rest should function well and you need to be comfortable using it.

The same is true of your release aid if you are using one. There are different types of releases and it’s an important part of your accuracy. Make sure you are using a quality release that functions correctly, and that you are able to use it the way it’s designed.

Finally, your arrows are also important, especially when working on accuracy. Your arrow groupings will be the basis for figuring out what mistakes you are making. The important things here is that you have a set of identical arrows and that they are in good condition. Grabbing a handful of different arrows won’t help you determine accuracy because they will not shoot the same.

3. Poor Formsimple archery mistakes

Correct form is needed for accuracy and will help you to shoot the same way every time. This is necessary for tuning your bow and is the only real way you can identify simple mistakes and correct them. If your form is poor, you need to work on that before moving on to fine tune the simple archery mistakes.


4. Not Tuning Your Bow

Even with the correct equipment, tuning will be essential for accuracy. Tuning involves adjusting your bow, and it’s accessories to the flexibility of your arrows. If you’ve ever watched arrows in slow motion, you know that they don’t really fly straight.

They flex and spin while they are in flight. In slow motion, you almost wonder how anyone can be accurate shooting something so floppy. As you shoot groups of arrows, you may also notice that they don’t all hit the target at the same angle. This can seem odd since you are shooting them from the same spot every time.

The movement of an arrow in flight is in part due to their flexibility or lack of flexibility. In archery, this is referred to as the arrow’s “stiffness” or spine.

Tuning involves not only finding the correct arrow spine for your bow but also making the small adjustments to your bow needed to achieve the best possible arrow flight.

Ideally, you want the arrow leaving the bow as straight as possible and hitting the target straight on.

Analyze and Adjustsimple archery mistakes

Before working on simple archery mistakes, make sure you aren’t making any of the four big mistakes. It won’t do you any good to work on little adjustments if any of the big stuff is off. If your goal is really to improve as an archer, you must learn to analyze and adjust. Big things and small things, yourself and your bow. Accuracy in archery is a process.

Setup For Finding the Simple Archery Mistakes

Your accuracy can be measured by shooting groups. This means you aim and shoot multiple arrows at the same spot. When your arrows all hit close, it’s an indicator of good form. If the arrows are all over the target, checking your form should be the first stop.

If you don’t have a shooting coach or someone experienced who can observe your form while you practice, a good alternative is filming yourself shooting. After you shoot, call out where each arrow hits in relation to where you were aiming. As you go back and watch the video, you may be able to identify what you are doing wrong.

If you are shooting a tight group of arrows, but they are not hitting where you are aiming, it indicates your form is good, but your bow needs adjusting.

A Quick Word About Equipment

If you are shooting a compound or recurve bow with sights and an arrow rest or plunger, this adds another dimension to accuracy. This extra equipment can help with your accuracy but it can also make it much more difficult to diagnose shooting mistakes, like those coming from your form.

The example target pictures are from shooting barebow which makes diagnosing simple archery mistakes much easier. If you are using a sight and rest, make sure your bow is tuned and sighted in before moving on to your form.

The IQ MICRO BOWSIGHT is one of the only bowsights designed to help you work on your form and accuracy. You can read my in depth review here.


Identifying 27 Simple Archery Mistakes

If you observe your arrow groupings, their characteristics can help you identify the adjustments you need to make for better accuracy. These characteristics may show a pattern over time that indicates a problem with your shooting or setup.

This is something that you need to observe over time with a lot of groupings. A few arrows away from a grouping doesn’t necessarily indicate a problem that needs adjusting. However, if most of the arrows from 10 groups are high and left, that is a pattern indicating something you need to adjust.

Error Indicators from Arrow groups- Off Center

High or Low Arrows

1. Inconsistent anchor point
2. Incorrect nocking point
3. Holding bow handle too high or low

High Arrows

4. Heeling bow, tipping bow up. Possibly pushing too much with heel of hand.
5.  Raising bow arm while releasing
6. Drawing too far; past anchor point
7. Lowering draw hand during release. (Pulling bowstring down)
8. Anchor point too low
9. Pushing up on arrow while hooking bowstring
10. Pushing upward with bow arm during release. (Not using correct muscles)

Low Arrows
simple archery mistakes

Arrows consistently hitting left of center.

11. Dropping bow during release
12. Draw length too short; Possibly from pushing head forward to the bowstring.
13. Not holding back tension; collapsing.
14. Leaning forward while shooting
15.  Pushing down on arrow while hooking.

Left of Right Arrows

16. Tilting bow left or right. Canting
17. Gripping bow handle too tight. This can cause torque.
18. Incorrect string alignment
19. Pulling bowstring sideway against bow arm.

Left Arrows

(Right-handed archers)

20. Aiming with the left eye

(Left-handed archers)

21. Plucking the bowstring; pulling the string out from your face when releasing. Can also when you open hand to release string instead of pulling through.
22. Collapsing; letting bow arm fall left when releasing
23. Gripping bow handle too tight

Right Arrows

(Right-handed archers)

 24. Plucking the bowstring; pulling the string out from your face when releasing. Can also when you open hand to release string instead of pulling through.
25. Collapsing; letting bow arm fall right when releasing
26. Gripping bow handle too tightly

(Left-handed archers)

27. Aiming with right eye

Making Adjustments

In order to know what adjustments need to be made, you need to shoot several groups in order to see the actual pattern of your arrows. It’s best to shoot 2-4 groups with 12 arrows in each group. The arrows should also be an identical set. Arrows from different manufacturers, those with different spine rating, or made from different materials will all shoot differently.

Shooting an assortment of different arrows will not help with observing the true characteristics of the arrow flight in relation to your bow set up. It’s also helpful to number each of your arrows. If one or two arrows consistently shoot outside your groups, it’s possible the arrow needs to be replaced.

Tips for shooting– make sure to wear shirts that will not interfere with the bowstring while shooting. It’s a good practice to wear an arm guard to avoid injury and to keep your sleeve out of the way.

Check arrow knocks before shooting to make sure they are in correct position for the index fletching (the one off-color fletching). The index fletching must always be point straight up for consistent shooting.

Inconsistency in Arrow Flight

When you watch an arrow flying through the air, it usually looks like it flying straight through the air because it is moving so fast. If you focus on the nock of the arrow you may be able to see it moving back and forth while it is flying.

In addition to moving toward the target, arrows can spin and flex in every direction. This movement is considered irregular to the arrows actual flight path and it adversely affects your accuracy. This movement can be corrected with a few adjustments to your bow.

Porpoising is the up and down movement of an arrow in flight. Fishtailing is the arrows left and right movement. These are unusual names but if you watch a video of an arrow flying in slow motion, the irregular movement can resemble a fish and porpoise swimming.

Archery Tip: Putting on a lighted nock is an easy way to check your arrow flight.


While seeing porpoising and fishtailing in your arrows is difficult to see while they are in the air, you can observe irregular movements in arrow flight by looking at how the arrows hit the target.

Arrows that are porpoising will often have their nock end sticking up or down in the target. This can happen when the nock point on your bowstring is too high or too low. This can be fixed by adjusting the nock height. To do this, you’ll need nockset pliers and also a bow square.

Start by measuring the current nocking locator position. It may be helpful to mark the starting position with a piece of floss or a permanent marker. After clipping the bow square to the bowstring and placing the end on the rest, your nock should be 3/8 inch above level.

Loosen the nock locator with the pliers and move it to the correct position. If it is near the 3/8 mark already, you can make 1/8 inch adjustments to counter the porpoising. Move your nock locator in the same direction the arrow ends stick up.

IN other words, if your nock end sticks up when the arrow hits the target, move your nock slightly up to counter this. Small adjustments have large impacts on arrow flight, so make the adjustment and shoot a group before making further adjustments.


Fishtailing, like the name suggests, is the side to side flexing of the arrow. You may notice this movement while the arrow is flying or in the nock end sticking out to the side of the target.

This side to side movement is usually the result of incorrect bow tuning. This means that the arrow spine (flexibility) is wrong for your bow. The arrows flex too much or too little.

It is important to have the correct nock height before making adjustments for fishtailing. A good rule with all bow adjustments is that less is more. Make small adjustments and shoot more groups to see where you are. It’s important to maintain good form when making adjustments and to keep track of every adjustment you make.

Center Shot Adjustment

If you find that your groups are consistently hitting left or right, it’s important to check the center alignment. This step is a part of setting up a new bow but this also needs to be done any time you are grouping to the left or right.

Author: Kasey Jones

Published: May 17, 2018

Category: Archery Mistakes