Whether you are just learning to shoot a compound bow or you have been shooting them since they were invented, there are going to be times your shooting is off. A bad shooting day isn’t necessarily a problem but sometimes the “day” becomes “days” and we need to stop and figure out what we are doing wrong. Here are 7 easy compound bow shooting tips to help you get back on track.
I thought about doing a countdown because I know how people love suspense with it comes to archery tips. But since several other shooting tips are related to this, I’ll get it out of the way first.
My most important compound bow shooting tip is to RELAX when you are shooting.
This point has worked it’s way up over the years, not only from my own practice but also watching beginners.
You can tell the level an archer is at before they ever release the arrow. Experienced archers are relaxed, expanded, and methodical. This culminates in their follow through at which time the bow spins forward.
On the flip side, it is very common for beginners and archers with poor form to be very tense, compressed, and jerky (which comes from being tense).
Relaxing in archery takes practice. It is natural when using motor skills (aiming, holding and firing a bow) for our bodies to tense up. It even makes sense if you think about it. Hold the bow still and tight when you aim, and the arrow will go where you want it.
Start monitoring yourself every time you shoot. Notice if you are tense and compressed. Mentally stop when you are holding in full draw and begin trying to relax.
This will take a lot of work, but it is a part of good form and several others things we’ll cover on this list.
2. Make Sure Your Bow Is Set-Up
Stay with me on this one.
It sounds like a lame tip, but I assure you it isn’t.
Do you know how many archers shoot compound bows that aren’t correctly adjusted for them? A LOT!
Here a few questions to illustrate.
What is your draw length? When was it last measured? What draw length is the bow set to?
What size peep site are you using? What draw weight is your bow set to?
Every archer is different. You might have a new compound bow that was set up last month. OR you may have inherited your cousin Jim Bob’s old 1975 Allen Black Hunter and you don’t even know if you can draw the bowstring on it.
Wherever stage your at, this is the first stop for accurate shooting. The design of a compound bow means that it’s not a “one size fits all.” Instead, it’s “the correct size bow can be adjusted to your specific measurements.”
This may be the best compound bow shooting tip on the list. Set up your phone and record video of yourself shooting.
Why would you do this? To look at your form.
There seems to be a misconception today that the compound bow shoots itself accurately.
It is true that the modern compound bow is better designed and faster than ever. It is also true that poor form screws your shots up just as much as it always has.
I am thinking of my fellow bowhunters as I write this article. I frequently say that bowhunters need to be target archers. What I mean is that they need to practice. Too many hunters are guilty of heading out to their tree stand with only a few practice shots the day before, (a few shots for the whole year.) As long as they are on the target somewhere, that’s good enough.
I’m guilty of this too. But this isn’t responsible hunting. Shorting yourself on archery practice leads to inaccurate shots and worst of all, wounded animals.
But enough of my ranting, back to the improvement!
Take a video of your practice session and take a look at your form. You may also need to refresh yourself on what good archery form looks like.
Make sure you get your entire body in the frame.
Since you most likely can’t see the target when you are filming yourself, it’s helpful to call out after the shot where you hit. High and left. You get the picture. When your shots are poor, you can back up the video and observe your form. Doing this might teach you a lot more than you think.
I speak from experience on this tip. My brother handed me his compound bow and strapped on the trigger release for me. I didn’t know anything about form, or even aiming for that matter, but somehow I managed to hit the target. That bow eventually became mine, and I kept hitting the target most of the time with it, but I never learned anything about form.
What I didn’t know about correct shooting form was making me a much worse archer and hunter.
I shot decent groups a lot of days. But there were also a lot of days I shot terribly and most of the time I had no idea why.
I have encountered a lot of similar archers since then. You must learn about proper form if you are want to be an accurate archer. You don’t need to memorize a complex algorithm. You simply need to know a few basic things about correct form and begin practicing
Here are three basic aspects of shooting form.
They are also some of the most common mistakes that archers make.
You might call this day 1 training for beginner’s, but it’s amazing how many archers don’t pay attention to their stance. As a result, their feet are all over the place. This causes incorrect body alignment and shooting off balance.
You need to pick a stance, correctly balance your weight, and stick with that ever shot.
You can usually tell how accurate an archer is by their grip on the bow. Over gripping the bow is a common beginner mistake because its very natural and you have to train yourself to hold it differently.
Logically it makes sense that tighter you grip the bow the less it will move and the more accurately you can shoot. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A death grip on the bow ends up torquing the bow in random ways that will have your arrows hitting all over the place.
This is a more advanced aspect of form but it is worth every bit of time you spend working on it. Shooting with back tension is an aspect of correct body alignment when your are in full draw.
It leads to and is a product of, a relaxed form which will really help your accuracy. This is also the best way to activate your release, even if it is a trigger release.
That may be confusing. Let me explain. The majority of compound bow shooters use a release aid as they are much easier to draw and release the bowstring with. Release aids can be a benefit to your shooting accuracy but they could also be messing up your accuracy more than you realize.
The most common type of release aid used, especially for beginners, is the index finger trigger release aid. I don’t know all the reasons it’s the most commonly used. Maybe because they are typically sold with a wrist strap and may look like the easiest to work.
The index finger trigger release is ALSO THE MOST OFTEN MISUSED RELEASE AID.
Archers often don’t know the correct way to activate the release when they are shooting. All release aids, including the index trigger, should be activated through back tension. Instead, many archers “punch” the trigger on this release which can interfere with your accuracy.
The common saying about using any release aid, is that it should surprise you when it goes off. (This happens when activating with back tension.) Taking your attention off aiming and thinking about pulling the trigger on this type of release needs to be eliminated.
So, should you not use a index trigger release?
Not necessarily. The index trigger release can be used well but it is also the hardest type of release to activate with back tension. Here is the best index trigger release on the market but you must still learn to use it correctly.
You can try out a thumb trigger release and see how you shoot with it. You can also use a tension release but I would not recommend this style for beginners.
I’m fascinated by the difference in instinctive aiming and aiming when using bow sights. When I shoot a recurve, I am only looking at the spot I want to hit on the target. This takes practice of course, but eventually your body and eyes begin to coordinate to help you shoot accurately.
So why not shoot a compound bow instinctively? You could. Some do, but most don’t. The reason is that a bowsight CAN be a big advantage when aiming especially at longer distances.
But there is also a downside to bow sights
First, the bowsight is meant to support your instinctive aiming. This requires good form and having your bow and bow sights set up correctly. Many archers don’t have their bow or bow sights set up correctly (this includes the peep sight if you are using one). So instead of the bowsight coming into your instinctive aiming window, you adjust your window to aim through the bowsight.
This may sound confusing, but you can observe this when you aim. Are you relaxed and expanded with your head in comfortably looking at the target? Or is your neck slightly forward? Do you have to compress your shoulders or bow arm to try and see the bowsight?
All these things indicate your bow and bowsight are not set up correctly.
Secondly, a bowsight commonly leads to over-aiming. Again, this is somewhat natural and another aspect of tense shooting. As you look through the bowsight to your target, what are you fighting against?
Here is a teeny tiny pin that you need to line up on a small distant target. Your pin is moving all over the place. What do you do? Tense up, grip tight, pin lined up, hold your breath, move pin back on point, freeze, keep holding breath, freeze, jam the release.
The result? Anybodies guess. You might hit center. You might hit 2 inches left. It’s always different.
Stop fighting the sway. This is also called floating your sight. For your next practice session, don’t stop your bow from swaying. Instead, let your sight float and try to activate your release when your pin is lined up. But here is the catch. Don’t take forever to aim.
Don’t try and correct too many things at once. Archery already has a lot to focus on when shooting and working on too much can be frustrating. Instead, pick one issue and concentrate on improving that. Once aspect is improved in your form you can begin working on something else. It’s also helpful to write down what you are working on and keep track of your practice.