Have you always wanted to learn how to shoot a compound bow?

This is your chance to get started right. I’ve put together a simple but informative article to give you all the essential information you need.

Here’s what we will cover
  • Beginner’s Compound Bow Checklist– Find out what equipment you need.
  • Knowledge Overview A few important basics you need to learn as a new archer.
  • First Time Shooting- What to expect your first time shooting a compound bow.
  • First Practice Routine– A short routine you can follow your first time practicing.
  • The KLS Shot Cycle- An overview of the best shot cycle for archers.

can the draw length on a bow be adjustedThe compound bow is the most popular bow type in archery today. The fast speeds and large percentage of let off make compound bows ideal for both bowhunting and target archery. Although there is necessary set up process, in many ways it is the easiest bow to shoot accurately.

Still, the bow does not shoot itself. Accuracy, with any bow type, takes an archer with good form. The good news is that anyone can develop good form and learn how to shoot a compound bow. This article will tell you everything you need to know to get started.

If you want to learn how to shoot a compound bow, there are several things you need to take care of before you actually start shooting. Here is a quick checklist of all the gear you need.

Beginner’s Compound Bow Checklist

  • Compound Bow (Set-up)

    • Rest
    • Sight
    • Release Aid
  • Accessories

    • Target (field point)
    • Arrows
    • Arm guard

Getting Started

Knowledge Overview

It’s imperative that you get a compound bow set up for you before you start shooting. Unlike traditional bows, compound bows have a draw stop which means that it needs to be adjusted for your exact draw length.

A compound bow also has to have the draw weight set for your drawing strength. Have your bow set up is necessary for you to shoot with correct form. Your local archery shop can set up your bow or (depending on your specific bow) you can do it yourself. You can read more about the set up process here.

Most compound archers utilize a rest, bow sight, and a release aid. I would highly recommend that you use all three of these as you learn to shoot a compound bow. Some bows are sold with a rest and sight already attached to them but the majority of them don’t come with these.

The reason for this is that there are a lot of different compound bow sights and arrow rests available and most arches want to choose what works best for their shooting needs. When you first learn how to shoot a compound bow, you may be unsure about what sight and rest to choose. Don’t worry too much about this as there are many affordable options for the beginner and you will likely upgrade as you gain experience.

Along with the many different kinds of compound bows and accessories, there are many different styles of shooting one. A compound bow must be set up for your unique physical characteristics, i.e., strength and arm length, and there will be unique aspects of your shooting form. There are, however, methods for shooting form that you should practice.

Good form, such as the T-Form, is the best way for your body to draw and release a bow. It will help you prevent injury and become more accurate over time.


Along with your stance, your upper body form is crucial for stability and accuracy. Learning correct form and keeping it the same when you are shooting will help you in grouping arrows and making necessary sight or rest adjustments.

The T-Form is the best practice for maintaining correct upper body alignment. If you imagine the vertical line of a T running up the inside of your back foot to your collarbone. That line should connect to your anchor point. The horizontal top of the T is the proper alignment for your bow arm and draw arm.

While keeping your upper body straight, you stand firm on the ground with a straight back. You also want to expand your chest while shooting. Although there should not be a lot of turning movement with the upper body, slight twisting can be OK. This needs to be done with the upper body as much as possible, keeping the hips aligned with your feet.

Why Using Your Back Is Important.

One of the import matter of form is learning to use your back correctly. Transferring your holding energy to your back muscles is vital to your accuracy and longevity in archery. There are several reasons for this. First, while much of your form involves your arms, transferring your hold to the back muscles releases some of the tension on your arm muscles.

This is very important because the more tired your arm muscles become when shooting, the more your form will suffer. The rest of your body will try to compensate for the fatigued muscles, and you will start shooting arrows all over the place.

When you learn to transfer your holding energy to your back muscles, this gives your arm muscles a little break, and this will keep your arms from getting fatigued as quickly.

Secondly, since archery is a precision sport, and every tiny movement made while releasing your arrow affects accuracy. When your hold is transferred to your back, the back muscles assist your arms in keeping the bow steady. Additionally, this frees your arms to make lighter movements when releasing the arrow. This is crucial for aiming and releasing.

This transferring form is needed in both compound and recurve archery. Although a compound bow has let off which assist with the issues just discussed, it is still necessary that you learn to transfer you hold while shooting. This form will also serve you well if you end up shooting both types of bow.

Below is a helpful video for understanding back tension.

Proper Equipment

It must also be noted again at this point, that proper form is possible for every archer. It really breaks down to two main factors. First, you must learn what proper form is and practice it. Secondly, you must have the proper equipment.

Having the correct equipment does not mean that have to buy the most expensive equipment. It does mean that you MUST have a bow set up for YOU. This point cannot be overstated. Using or buying someone’s bow who is a similar build and not having it set up for you, will not work.

Buying a new bow and not having it set up for you, will not work. You must have your bow set up for you specifically. This means getting measured and adjusting draw length. It means setting the bow with the correct draw weight for you. It means having your nocking point, d-loop, and peep sight correctly tuned for you.

Make sure you have this done before you beginning shooting your bow. I say this because a bow not set up for you will instantly mess up your form. I’m cheap, and I’ve purchased used bows before. I’ve tried to cut corners with this stuff, but it can’t be done. Not if you want to be an accurate archer anyway.

Wicked Slow Motion String Slap (Watch his Forearm)

This video is a public safety announcement for using an arm guard even while you are learning to shoot a compound bow. My brother-in-law came to visit me. He had never shot a compound bow before and asked if he could shoot mine. I gave him a 30 second lesson and shot a few so he could see how it was done.

I thought it would be good to capture his first shot on film. I was concentrating so hard on the video that I didn’t stop to think about his form. It’s way off. The bigger issue is that my bow is not set up for him. (This is why you can’t just “try out” other people’s compound bows.) Anyway, I should have payed more attention and maybe he wouldn’t have ended up with such a brutal string slap.

What To Expect Your First Time Shooting A Compound Bow

If you’re going out to shoot your compound bow and you have never fired an arrow before, it will be helpful to know a little about what you can expect to happen.

First, it’s normal to be nervous. Most people are the first time they shoot a bow. The nervousness isn’t itself a bad thing, but what it can do to your shooting form can be bad.

Many new archers are nervous and possibly even afraid of the bow or of shooting the bow. This can be detrimental to your shooting form. Many new archers who are nervous hold the bow incorrectly, draw the bow too far away from their body (possibly fearing the bowstring), shoot with a cramped form, and rush their shots.

So, What Should You Do If You Are Nervous?

Often the nervousness will subside after you’ve shot a few arrows and you can see that nothing crazy happened to you. But, if you continue to be nervous, the best thing to do is acknowledge it and move on. Bows need to be respected, and safety is always paramount. But it’s essential that you know that if you use good form, most likely the worst thing that will happen to you is a string slap. (when the bowstring comes into contact with your forearm while shooting)

I’ve been fortunate enough to experience string slap several times and it doesn’t feel good, but it won’t make you cry. Even better, if you wear an arm guard, you won’t need to worry about it. So, wear an arm guard. Acknowledge that you’re nervous, remind your self that you are going to be safe, and focus on the steps of your shooting cycle. If you do this, it won’t be long before you’re shooting great and the nervousness is gone.

Learn How To Shoot A Compound Bow

First Shooting Practice Routine

While compound bows can be easier to shoot than recurves, there is a steep learning curve especially if you are want to learn how to shoot a compound bow on your own. (Don’t let this discourage you. I did the same thing and if I can do it, so can you). The 1st day of shooting needs to start up close and personal.

First Day Shooting Practice

  • Shoot at 5 yards
    • Make small left/right sights adjustments if needed.
  • Shoot at 10 yards
    • Begin working on form and shot cycle
    • Continue making sight adjustments as needed.


Shoot at 5 yards.

Shoot your first few arrows at a target 5 yards out on the ground. You don’t need to worry about form just yet. The goal for this first round of arrows is just to get on the target.This method of 1st time shooting is also the same for sighting in a bow. If you are shooting a new bow or have just put a new sight on your bow, you will need to sight it in. Read this article and follow the first steps to help you get centered on the target.

Why Start at 5 yards? There are several reasons you need to start out this close. First, at such a close range, you should hit the target even if your site is off. Secondly, if you are trying to learn how to shoot a compound bow for the first time, you need build confidence hitting the target.

The downside of shooting this close is that is going to feel a little unusual and will make it harder to work on your form at such a close, low distance. It’s going to seem like you are shooting right at the ground. Don’t worry about form for your first round of arrows. Just nock an arrow, draw, put your sight on the target and release.

Make small left/right adjustments to your sight if needed.

You don’t have to shoot a lot of arrow at 5 yards, but shoot enough to calm your nerves and to get an idea of where the arrows are hitting. Your arrows should be on the target somewhere at such a close distance. If you shoot at least 6 arrows and they all hit close together far left or right, you can make a small adjustment. It’s best to wait to make up/down adjustments until your target is further out.

Shoot at 10 yards. Begin working on form  and shot cycle

Once you are shooting at 10 yards you should begin working on your form. This is where you will really learn to shoot a compound bow. Your should continue shooting at this distance while you practice your form. Once you are comfortable with your form and feel like you are shooting accurately, you can move out another 5 yards, then another 5 yards until you are shooting at 20 yards.

Don’t be in a rush as you work out to your first 20 yards. Take the time to concentrate on your form and accuracy. Also, keep in mind that as your shooting distance increases, it magnifies how much your sight is off. In other words, if your sight is a little off to the left at 10 yards, it will be even more off at 15 yards. You may need to continue to adjust your sight as you increase your yardage when you are first learn to shoot a compound bow.

The KLS Shot Cycle

The KLS Shot Cycle was developed by Kisik Lee who is one of the most successful archery coaches of all time. This shot cycle has 12 steps and is used by many of the most successful recurve and compound archers in the world.

Breaking your shot cycle down into simple steps works incredibly for beginner’s and pros because it not only makes it easier to learn and work on, but it also enables you to isolate the steps later on to work on problems you might have in your sequence. This is the most valuable training tool I have ever learned in archery and if you will take the time to work on this shot cycle, you will be amazed at how much it improves your accuracy.

This is an adaptation of the KLS from Archery Fundamentals 2nd Ed. It contains all 12 of the steps but combines several.

1. Stance
2. Nocking the Arrow
3. Hooking and Gripping
4. Setup and Drawing
5. Anchoring
6. Transferring and Holding
7. Aiming and Expansion
8. Release and Follow through

1. Stancearchery open stance

Sadly, many compound archer’s do not give much thought to their stance. There are several options available for stance, and you need to figure out what works best for you, but once you have decided on a stance, it’s important to be consistent with that.

This is the base for everything you are doing with your upper body and changes in your stance call alter your form.

The three options used for stance in archery are straight, open, and closed stance. In every stance, your body is mostly perpendicular to the target. A straight stance is standing with both feet equally at a shoulders width.

If there were a line coming straight out from your target, you would place both feet equally on this line. Many use this stance especially because of the alignment it gives, though some feel that it offers less stability than other stances.

The closed stance is probably used the least in archery. In this stance, your back foot is on the target line, but your front foot is a little over the line. This slightly turns your body away from the target. This stance may help some with stability but is not good for alignment.

The Most Used Stance

The open stance is the most used stance in archery. In this stance, the back foot moved slightly over the target line and your front foot is slightly behind the line. This opens up your body to the target.

An open stance gives the most stability and doesn’t detract from alignment very much if your form is correct. It requires a slight turning of the upper body to fully align with the target, but many find this beneficial for drawing.

Proper form must be used especially in an open stance as it can lead to too much left/right movement when shooting. Another major benefit of this stance is that helps keep your bow arm away from the string when shooting.

You can try out these different stances and see what feels best to you. It’s essential that you are relaxed and stable. You also want your weight to be forward slightly, around 60 percent, and bend your knees slightly.

The Foundation of Good Form

If you are just begining archery, it is also important that you learn more about proper shooting form for the rest of your body. If you run out at this point and try out the stances with bad form, you won’t know which actually feels and works best with correct alignment.

Once you are practicing proper form, you need to choose your stance and try to keep it the same every time you shoot. It may be helpful to use markers for foot placement. Even a stick or extra arrow on the ground can assist in keeping your stance consistent. Another tool available is stability discs.

These are round discs filled with air that a several inches thick. They are designed to help learn proper weight distribution and stability when shooting. With one foot on each disc, you are forced to tighten your core muscles to remain still, and this will help you in learning to reduce movement when shooting.

2. Nocking the Arrownocking the arrow

It may seem unusual that a whole step would be devoted to nocking the arrow but it is a crucial part of your shot. Hopefully, your bow has been setup and your nocking point set.

With a compound bow, the correct nocking point will need to be set in relation to your rest. This is done with a bow square and the nocking point is marked with a nock set or D-loop.

Most compound bows use a D-loop, a small string looped around the bowstring, to mark the nocking point. This is beneficial because the metal parts of a mechanical release can quickly wear out material and D-loop is much easier to replace than a bowstring.

This step in your shooting cycle will become second nature but as you learn to shoot a compound bow you will need to think about what needs to be done. Your arrow will need to be placed on or in your rest and then nocked with the odd color fletching facing upward. You will need to check the nocks on your arrows frequently to make sure they are orientated correctly.

3. Hooking and Gripping

hooking the bowstring

The hook is the point you attach your release and the grip where you hold the bow with your bow hand. This is an extremely important step in your shot sequence as these are your two main points of contact with the bow.

You want to get a good hold on your release and attach it to the bowstring or D-loop. If your release has a trigger you want to make sure your finger is behind the trigger when you draw so you do not accidentally release. Here is an article on some of the best release aids available.

Most archers shooting a recurve bow use their fingers with a finger tab which is a small piece of leather or other animal skin. The finger tab simply provides protection for your fingers when shooting.

Most compound archers use a release. The three common types of release are trigger, thumb, and back tension. A release is very beneficial because it does not interfere with the bowstring when it is released. Using your fingers actually pushes the bowstring slightly to the side when it is released.

Mechanical Release Aids

When using a release, you want to hold it as lightly as possible, keeping your hand flat and concentrate on keeping tension in your draw elbow. This will allow you to keep a light grip on the release. Many trigger releases are attached to a wrist strap. This assists with keeping your draw tension but frees your hand up completely. This allows you to lightly connect your finger with the trigger when shooting. gripping the bow

There are different opinions on actually pulling the trigger, and you can experiment to figure out what you shoot best with if are using this type of release.

The main issue is triggering the release with the least amount of hand and finger movement, as this will interfere with your shot. Additionally, giving too much focus to pulling the trigger will take your focus away from the target and sights.

Using a Release

Some archers follow the firearm adage, don’t pull the trigger, squeeze. Pulling the trigger with a firearm pulls the weapon and messes up your accuracy. Although release trigger is not the same, but this method can be helpful. It is also said that you don’t want to shoot, you want to let the shot happen.

This comes from a natural process of correct form and shooting using back tension. Back tension can even be used with a light trigger release. The thumb release is similar to the trigger release, but it requires engaging all of you bow arm. This release is held with your fingers and requires constant tension. You then activate the release with your thumb.

If your bow has a wrist sling, you will slip your hand through it to hold the bow grip. Using the correct grip is extremely important to your accuracy. Over-gripping the bow is the most common mistake for beginners.

Though there can be some variation to how you grip the bow, it is important that you lightly grip the bow in the web of your hand between your thumb and index finger. The area highlighted in the picture is the main point of pressure while your fingers are placed on the sides of the grip or lightly wrap around the front. Here is an in-depth article on correctly gripping the bow.

4. Setup and Drawingdrawing compound bow

Your light grip can be maintained as you apply tension with the start of your draw. When the drawing starts you can raise your bow arm to shooting level. In full draw, your draw arm elbow needs to be at the same level or above your wrist.

Drawing your compound bow should be a smooth action. It is important that you are shooting the appropriate draw weight. Shooting with too much draw weight will fatigue your muscles and lead to poor form.

In the last part of your draw, you should be transferring the holding tension to your back. Utilizing back tension is crucial for good form and this will take time and practice to do properly. You want to maintain your draw tension with your back and also slight forward pressure with your bow arm.


anchoring compound bow

In order to anchor correctly with a compound bow, the bow must be set up specifically for you. The means that the draw length is adjusted for you and the peep sight is installed at the correct level.

Although a compound bow has a draw stop and the distance will always be the same, it is crucial that you anchor at the same spot on your face every time.

A number of factors can determine the exact anchor point on your face but after it is established, the bowstring should be very near or touching your nose. This allows you to have multiple reference points when shooting.


6. Transferring and Holdingtransfering compound bow

At this shooting cycle stage, you need to transfer your draw weight to your back. Compound bows will have a large percentage of let off, but you still need to make use of back tension holding.

This allows almost a lightness in your draw arm which enables you to release using that back tension, even if you have a trigger release. Your draw arm also needs to stay in line with your target.


7. Aiming and Expansion

Finally, at this stage, you will begin aiming. Your bow will most likely make use of a peep sight which should already be lined up in your view. You then need to center your aperture in that peep sight and float the pin center target.

Many archers make a mistake at this point in their cycle as they tense up, tighten their grip, and try to force the pin on target. Consciously avoid doing this and instead let the pin float center target.  Next, you will level your bow as you expand through your chest and back.

8. Release and Follow through

compound follow through

Finally, your expansion should lead to activating your release with the continued back tension. This is true even of a trigger release. You want your trigger finger or thumb to be a part of your back tension. You also need to avoid pulling or jerking the trigger of the release.

While the arrow is in flight you should maintain the final form of your shot cycle and stay focused on your target. If you have a correct grip on the bow, it should begin to fall forward. With a wrist or finger sling you can allow the bow to fall slightly while maintaining your form.

Author: Kasey Jones

Published: June 26, 2018

Category: Compound bow