Do you want to learn how to shoot a recurve bow?
The good news is…
It’s not nearly as hard as you might think, and I am going to show you everything you need to know to get started.
Here are the 4 major sections in this article:
Stringing a Recurve
Recurve Bow Accessories
What to Work On First
The Best Shot Cycle for shooting a Recurve Bow
Getting Started In Archery
One of the fastest ways to get started in archery is shooting a recurve bow. Unlike compound bows that have a pulley system of cables on wheels and cams, the traditional recurve bow is quite simple; the bow and the string.
But don’t let that fool you.
Shooting a recurve bow accurately is a challenge and it takes practice. The awesome thing is anyone can learn how to shoot a recurve bow and by following the steps in this article, you will be shooting accurately in no time.
The Common Denominator for Good Recurve Archers
If archery were incredibly easy, there would be a lot fewer archers. Yes, your read that correctly. Archery is a challenging sport and that is what makes it so great. But don’t let that scare you because another reason archery is great is that anyone can be a good archer if they are willing to practice.
A part of what makes archery challenging is the changing variables, like shooting conditions and equipment. Despite the changing variables you can be a good archer with consistent form. Consistent form helps you shoot tight groups (a close grouping of arrows). Even if a variable like wind causes your grouping to be left of center, you are able to make a slight adjustment and be shooting center in no time.
Consistency is Key
While consistency is key in archery, this does not mean that every archer has the same technique. If you’ve ever watched an Olympic or Championship archery competitions, you’ve noticed that every archer is different. While there are similarities in how they shoot and the equipment they use, every archer is unique and utilizes both equipment and technique that best helps them to be accurate.
The common denominator you will find among the best archers in the world is that they are always consistent.Becoming a consistant archery starts when you CORRECTLY learn how to shoot a recurve bow. This means learning and practicing good shooting form. This is what sets apart the good archer.
Here is a short video of me testing out Southwest Archery’s Spyder XL
1. Stringing A Recurve
If you want to learn how to shoot a recurve bow, you first must learn how to string your bow. A recurve bow needs to be strung correctly to avoid incorrectly torquing the limbs. If a bow is not strung correctly, that stress on the limbs can ruin the bow permanently or even causes serious injury.
If you have never strung a bow before, it is a good idea to have someone experienced give you a demonstration and help your first time. You also need to set a nocking point on bowstring. This is not very difficult and you can read my step by step article on how to tie a nocking point on a recurve bow to help you.
There are several methods that can be used to string a recurve bow. The easiest and safest method is to use a bowstringer when you first learn how to shoot a recurve bow. A bowstringer attaches is a cord that attaches to both ends of the bow limbs. Then, by stepping on the cord and pulling up on bow, you bend the limbs down which enables you to safely hook on the bowstring.
These vary somewhat in design but all essentially function the same way. One bowstringer is a cord or rope with a leather pocket on each end. This type actually works better for longbows. A better-designed bowstringer for recurves will have the same cord with a pocket only on one end and saddle or flat piece with a loop on the other end.
How To String A Bow With A Bowstringer
1. Slide the larger loop OVER the upper limb and slide the smaller loop into the string groove on the lower limb. You will want to take care on this step to make sure the bowstring loop is correctly seated in the groove.
2. Next, slide the bowstringer pocket over the lower limb and slide the saddle or flat end of the bowstringer over the upper limb just behind the bowstring loop (still around the limb, not in the groove).
–You need to be standing with the bow horizontal at waist level (string side of the bow facing the ground.)
Beforehand you should also decide which hand you want to pull up on the bow with and which hand you feel more comfortable using to slide the bowstring into place.
This is not strenuous and most likely can use either hand.
3. While holding the bow, step on the bowstringer with one foot, then the other foot, shoulder- width apart. Take care at this point not to also step on the actual bowstring. You also want to make sure that the bowstringer is not twisted around the limbs or bowstring.
4. Hold the grip with the hand on the lower limb side of the bow and pull upward. Since you are standing on the stringer, this will compress the limbs downward.
5. As you pull upward, use your other hand to slide the top bowstring loop up the limb into the string groove. Continue to hold the loop in place in the groove while you slowly lower the bow. Step off the stringer and immediately face the bow away from you and anyone else nearby. Remove the stringer from each end and check the string loops to make sure they are securely seated in the limb grooves.
If you notice one of the loops is not correctly seated in the limb groove, keep the bow facing away from you and others. Place the bowstringer back on each end and slowly turn the bow over.
Step on the stringer again and compress the limbs by pulling upward. Reseat the string loop into the limb groove and repeat the process of removing the stringer and checking that the bowstring is secure.
CAUTION: Any time you are compressing limbs and holding them under tension with the bowstring, caution needs to be taken. If either bowstring loop is improperly placed on the limb, there is a risk of it coming off.
With the tension involved this can cause the limbs to whip forward. I’ve never been hit with limb under tension, so I can’t speak from experience but I would guess it doesn’t feel awesome.
Other Methods for Stringing a Recurve Bow
The push-pull and step through method are two other ways to string a recurve bow that do not require a tool. The push-pull method of stringing a recurve bow is easiest with lower weight bows since their limbs are easier to flex. The step through method can be used for heavier weight bows if you do not have a bow stringer.
1. Seat the smaller loop end in the limb grooves and slide the larger loop over the upper limb.
2. While standing, put the bottom limb on the inside of your foot.
3. Place one hand on the grip of the bow and one hand on the upper limb.
4. Bend the upper limb away from you pulling the grip toward you.
5. While bending the upper limb, slide the bowstring loop into the limb groove and slowly release the tension.
Step Through Method
1. Seat the smaller loop of the bowstring in the bottom limb grooves and slide the larger loop over the upper limb.
2. With the bottom limb on the ground, step one leg through the bowstring.
3. Raise the bottom limb so that it crosses the front of your other leg.
4. Bend the upper leg around toward the front of your body while sliding the bowstring into the limb grove.
5. Slowly release the tension, making sure the bowstring remains in place.
2. Recurve Bow Accessories
There are quite a few recurve bow accessories but here are some of the most important. As you learn how to shoot a recurve bow, it’s smart to use an arm guard The arm guard is attached to the inside of your forearm on bow arm, which holds the bow.
This protects your forearm against “string slap”. This is when the bowstring makes contact with your forearm when you shooting.
I would describe string slap as a sudden stinging sensation, topped with a robust burning and some mellow after notes of welts and possible bleeding and/or bruising.
While not life-threatening, it sure as hell smarts and all you need to prevent it is an arm guard.
Arm guards are made from different materials like leather, plastic, and reinforced synthetic clothes. There are a lot of different styles as well. Some of the more traditional styles are a leather sleeve with ties to secure it to the forearm. Some archers also use a thin plastic strip with ties to secure it in place.
Whatever style you choose, make sure to secure it snugly on the forearm, halfway between your elbow and wrist. You also want to make sure there are no ties or straps that hang loose, as these can get caught on the bowstring when shooting. Only one arm guard is needed for your bow arm.
Finger Tabs and Shooting Gloves
The finger tab protects your fingers and makes drawing more comfortable. Finger tabs are traditionally made from a soft leather, but they can also be made from synthetic materials.
They may have multiple layers to provide extra padding and help protect the fingers from the bowstring.
The finger tab is worn on the draw hand and usually has a hole cut into the material which you can slide your middle finger through. The hole should slide all the way back on your finger but you may need to move the tab until it feels most comfortable in your hand. If the finger tab has a separator it will go between your middle and index finger.
Another option for finger protection is a shooting glove. This is actually what I prefer to use. For me, the shooting glove offers a more natural feel when releasing.
The downside of a shooting glove is that having three fingers independently on the bowstring means there is more opportunity for interference, and it may make it more difficult to get a clean release
You can try out both of these options and see what works best for you.
3. What To Work on First
As you learn how to shoot a recurve bow for the first time, it is a good idea to work on some fundamental aspects of form before even picking your bow up. It’s also helpful to stand in front of a mirror so you can watch yourself while practicing. (Yes, you might look a little goofy but it’s worth it.)
Take a relaxed stance with feet shoulder-width apart. Raise your bow arm to shooting level and mimic drawing to your anchor point. Note your shoulders as you go through the motions of drawing your bow. They should be back and relaxed with your chest expanded.
Next, you can add your bow with no arrow for this process. You don’t always have to practice form in front of the mirror but it is very helpful for seeing how you are doing. It can be difficult to judge your form on feel alone when you are starting out. Once you add the bow for your form practice, you can actually draw the bowstring back to your anchor point.
Pay attention to how this looks and feels. NEVER dry fire the bow. Always keep hooked on the bowstring while you draw and slowly let it off.
New archers have a tendency to slouch their shoulders and shoot with their body cramped up rather than expanded. Often this is caused by not knowing what good form is and secondly, it comes from being uncomfortable and nervous holding and shooting a bow.
This causes an archery to tense up and push the bow out and draw short or away from their face. This may be in part from being afraid of the bowstring and arrow.
You need to actually anchor on your face and with proper form, neither the bowstring or arrow will cause injury. You should always pay attention to how you feel when you are shooting a bow as a new archer.
If you are nervous and tensed up from fear of the bow, you will not shoot well. While bows must always be respected, it’s important to understand that with good shooting form, there is little risk of the bow ever causing you injury.
Anchor points can vary slightly, but you should start by anchoring at the corner of your mouth. Once you’ve been shooting for a while you can experiment with different anchor points if you choose.
You may prefer slightly lower on your chin or further back on the jawline. The most import thing is that once you find the anchor point placement that works best for you, keep it the same every time you shoot.
Once you feel ready to add the arrows, it’s time to take some shots outside. You will need a field point target for this. It’s never a good idea to practice shooting at anything other than an actual archery target. Don’t shoot at the ground, trees,cardboard boxes, or wooden fences (as one guy I know did).
Saving money is nice but you’re serious about archery, just buy a real field point target. It will make your practice experience much better, and will save you money on replacing destroyed and lost arrows.
For your first time shooting, set the target on the ground, 5 yards out. This is too close for regular archery practice but the idea is just to stick your first couple of arrows to get your confidence up. Many new archers are nervous if they’ve never fired a bow before.
Once you see that you’re able to hit the target it will help calm any first-time nerves and you can relax.
Next you can move the target to shoot at a distance of 10 yards. At this point you will still be getting a feel for the bow and where the arrows are hitting. With the target at 10 yards, you will begin to work on your shooting sequence and form.
——Beginner’s Tip: Aim Low——
As you first learn how to shoot a recurve bow, aim lower than it feels like you should. New archers have a tendency to shoot high. It will take some time to line up your site picture and the trajectory of the arrow. Shoot low while you are figuring this out and save yourself some lost arrows.
4. The Best Shot Cycle For Shooting A Recurve Bow
You don’t need to worry about shooting bullseyes at this stage. Once you are at least comfortable that you can hit the target, it’s time to work on your shooting sequence. This is a very important process that will begin to separate you from the casual archer. Countless people buy a bow and head out to shoot. Some think it will be really easy but then they find out it takes practice to be a good archer.
The biggest error at this point, is when new archers don’t work on their shooting sequence and form. They continue to shoot with incorrect stance, grip, anchor point, etc., and wonder why they don’t improve. So, once your first few arrow are anywhere on the target, start working on your form and the shooting sequence below, and it won’t be long before you are shooting great.
The KSL Shot Cycle
KiSik Lee is the most successful USA Archery coach in history. He has developed the KSL Shot Cycle which is used the best archers worldwide. The incredible thing about the Lee’s sequence is the simplicity. This is especially nice for new archers as they first learn how to shoot a recurve bow.
By breaking down the entire shot process into small stages, not only are you are able to learn and practice them easier, you will also be able to identify problems in your shooting sequence easier. This is what makes the KSL Shot Cycle the best shooting method to follow for beginners and pro’s alike.
2. Nocking the arrow
3. Hooking the string and gripping the bow
4. Set position and mindset
6. Drawing and loading
8. Transferring and holding
9. Aiming and expansion
10. Releasing and follow through
Your stance is the first important thing to figure out and work on when you learn how to shoot a recurve bow. It may seem trivial, but I assure you, it is not.
I mention that you must figure out your stance because there are a few options for shooting stance. Once you figure out which one feels best and works best for your shooting accuracy, you must stand the same way forever shot.
(I will list all shooting instructions for the point of view of a right-handed archer. Simply reverse them if you are left-handed.)
Starting out, you will be perpendicular to your target. You can imagine a straight line running from the center of your target to you. If you have a spare arrow, it’s help at this early stage to set it on the ground pointing at the target. This can be your reference line.
The three shooting stances are open, straight, and closed, which you can see in the pictures. The majority of archers shoot with an open stance or straight stance. You can try each of these while shooting and see not only which stance feels best but also figure out the best width for you to stand. At least shoulder-width would be preferred.
Many new archers don’t work on their form while they learn how to shoot a recurve bow. Often their stance is wrong and they also move their feet around during the shooting sequence. This is guaranteed to give you poor accuracy. Work on your foot placement and keep your feet still throughout your shot.
You want to put 60 percent of your weight on the balls of your feet. Pay attention to this part of your stance because many new archers tend to put most of their weight on the heels. Finally, you will keep your hips in line with your feet, regardless of the stance you choose.
2. Knocking Your Arrow
Once your stance is set you need to nock one of your arrows. You can first position the arrow on the rest of your bow. This will enable you to turn the arrow so that the index vane is facing upward.
You might have noticed that all your arrows have 3 vanes and one of them will be a different color. Sometimes your nock can get turned in the arrow shaft so make sure to adjust it so that the index vane is alloy facing straight up.
Your bowstring will have a small nock locator, and you will nock the arrow just below the indicator.
The nock needs to snap into place on the string. Since nocks are made of plastic, the can crack reasonably quickly. Make sure it fits tightly on your bowstring and replace the nock if it is cracked or broken.
3. Hooking and Gripping
The way you grip your bow and how you hold or hook the bowstring are fundamental aspects of your shot setup. If either of these things is done incorrectly, it will negatively impact your accuracy.
It’s important to hook the bowstring and to grip the bow correctly and be able to do this on every shot continually. This is step in your shot sequence to focus on while you learn how to shoot a recurve bow.
For hooking, you will use the index, middle and ring finger of your drawing hand. You can see the proper string placement across all three fingers in the picture. If you stick your fingers straight out together, you will notice your index and ring finger are nearly equal length, and both are shorter than the middle finger.
The archer’s groove is where you hook the bowstring, just behind the knuckle groove on your middle finger. This places the string in front of the knuckle groove on both your index and ring finger.
Your thumb and pinkie should be curved inward slightly, toward the palm of the hand. The back of the hand needs to be relaxed, and the wrist should be in a comfortable straight position or bent slightly outward (from the hand curled inward).
A common mistake for new archers when they learn how to shoot a recurve bow is incorrectly gripping the bow or gripping the bow too tightly.
It’s natural to think that tightly gripping the bow would help you steady it for an accurate shot, but in fact, tightly gripping the bow causes torque which causes inaccuracy.
The bow handle should be placed in the web of your hand between your thumb and pointer finger. These two fingers almost form a shelf for the riser to rest on. Your palm should rest lightly on the grip.
The other fingers on your bow hand should exert little to no pressure if any. You can allow them to point forward or gently wrap them around the grip naturally. Some archers prefer to curl the remaining fingers on the side of the grip.
——Beginner’s Tip: Use a finger sling.——
As you learn how to shoot a recurve you may have the tendency to over-grip the bow. This can come from feeling like the bow will fall out of your hand after you shoot. A finger sling will secure the bow to your hand and help you in developing a good grip for shooting.
Gripping the bow properly can be a challenge for new archers while they learn how to shoot a recurve bow. You may feel the need to grip tightly when you shoot because the bow may feel like it’s going to fall out of your hand. A finger sling will be a big help with this. A finger sling is wrapped around your thumb and index finger on the front side of the bow.
If you’ve ever watched Olympic recurve shooters, almost all of them use a sling. This is how they are able to let their bow fall “spin” forward after shooting. Slings are inexpensive, and you could also make one if you wanted to.
4. Set position and Mindset
At this point, you want to take a deep breath, relax, and double check the steps you have gone over thus far. This is really a critical step while you learn how to shoot a recurve bow.
Check that your body is aligned correctly, with your head up and shoulders back and relaxed while looking at the target. You want to keep your stance and posture throughout the shot. It’s also important to have a focused and positive mindset.
As you raise the bow up to shooting level, you will keep some holding tension with your draw hand since it is already hooked on the bowstring. Some archers like to draw as they are raising their bow partially. You can try this out to see what works best for you. The motion of lifting your bow is a hinge motion.
As you raise your bow and draw arm together while the shoulders stay low and straight. Your drawing arm elbow should be slightly above your draw hand.
Your bow hand should be raised until it is near the height of your nose and your drawing hand should be on your anchor point which will be near your mouth. If you are using a sight, just allow it to move near your target; you don’t need to concentrate on aiming yet.
6.Drawing and Loading
Your back is a critical aspect of your shooting form while you learn how to shoot a recurve bow . You can exert a lot more strength drawing with your back muscles, rather than just your arms. A common mistake for new archers is only using their arms to draw.
Beginner tip: practice drawing and releasing with back tension with a release aid.
As you draw, rotate your drawing arm elbow around your shoulder rather than just pulling with your arm. In practice, think of engaging your draw side shoulder blade back and around toward your target. You also want your draw hand to be relaxed. Using back tension will help you accomplish this.
The seventh step to help you learn how to shoot a recurve bow is anchoring. Every archer needs to establish their anchor point. This is the spot you will draw back to every time you shoot. Usually, the anchor point is near the edge of your mouth or somewhere along your jawline. You will need to experiment with this as you begin to practice to figure out what works best for you.
The purpose of this anchor point is consistency. If your hand is always on the edge of your mouth when you release, it means the bowstring will be exerting nearly the same force on the arrow every time you shoot. This will help you immensely with accuracy.
8.Transferring and Holding
This stage of your shooting cycle will take practice as you learn how to shoot a recurve bow, but it will pay off in the long run. After you hit your anchor point, you need to transfer more of your holding energy to the back muscles.
This step can be accomplished by moving your elbow back slightly after anchoring. Once this is done, you have started the holding stage in proper alignment.
9.Aiming and Expansion
The next step to help you learn how to shoot a recurve bow is aiming and expansion. It might be hard to believe that aiming is this far in the shooting cycle.
It also might surprise you to know that another common mistake beginners make is over-aiming. Taking too long to aim not only tires your muscles out, but the distraction can also cause you to lose your form.
As you aim, you will focus on the center of your target. Your bow should already have the bowstring centered with your sight. At this point, you must remember not to over-grip the bow, and you should not try to hold the aperture still. You should aim while focusing on your back tension. When holding with proper back tension, you should feel your chest stretching which is called expansion.
10.Release and Follow Through
The shooting cycle step to help you learn how to shoot a recurve bow is release and follow through. The release is a critical part of your shot and poorly releasing the bowstring can cause your shots to miss.
A good release allows the bowstring to return to it’s starting position without interference from anything except the arrow. This can be a challenge when releasing with your fingers, as it’s easy to push the bowstring to the side.
An ideal release allows the bowstring to move your fingers out of the way. This is best accomplished with back tension.
You are continuing the motion you started doing when in the drawing and loading stage. This is also called pulling through your shot.
As you pull through with back tension, the motion for your drawing elbow is back and around, just like when you were loading.
You must relax your hand, while the movement of your elbow and shoulder pull your hand toward your ear.
Follow through is your final stage because you are releasing the string by relaxing your hand as you pull through your shot.
Take Your Time and Practice
There is a ton of information in this article to help you learn how to shoot a recurve bow. It’s too much information to process in one sitting. Print it off or book mark this page and come back to it as you practice. It’s important to stay positive and be realistic.
You won’t be perfect overnight. It’s going to take time, patience, and practice. But you will get there. If you practice the steps laid out in this article for a month while you learn how to shoot a recurve bow, you are going to be amazed at how well you are shooting.
Author: Kasey Jones
Published: June 7, 2018
Category: recurve bow