Do you want to learn how to shoot a compound bow?

You can easily learn to shoot a compound bow with the right information and a little practice.This article will will be a part of a series that breaks down different aspects of shooting compound bows. It can be overwhelming to try and learn everything all at once.

In this article we will cover some basics on finding the right bow and then look at the grip you need to use when holding the bow as well as using a release aid when shooting.

The compound bow was a revolutionary design in archery. Since the time it was patented in 1969, it has increased in popularity to become the most used type of bow today. Whether you are coming from a recurve bow or new to archery all together, you can learn how to shoot a compound bow.

Introduction to the Compound Bowbow hunting tips

Like recurve bows, the compound stores energy in the limbs, but the genius of the design comes from mechanical advantage. The compound bow makes use of wheel, cams, and cables to give you what is known as “let off.” Let off enables you to hold a full draw at a small percentage of the actual draw weight.

Since receive bows do not have these wheels and cams, you must hold the full draw weight when you are anchored. With a heavy draw weight, this is difficult to do for a long time. Compound bows are very popular for bowhunting and competitive shooting because the archer can hold at full draw for a long time which can help shooting accuracy.

Getting Started -Finding the Right Bow for You

There are many different styles of compound bows made for both target archery and bowhunting. Most bow models are made in different sizes. Most compound bows are also highly adjustable, and it is critical that every archer has their bow set up specifically for them. You can have this done at an archery shop but it is not hard to learn to set a compound bow yourself.

The let-off is possible because of the use of cams which turn while you are drawing back the bowstring. The design of these cams also enables them to turn over during the draw (which provides the let-off), and when they do, the bowstring hits a stopping point or “wall.” With this type of bow design, the stopping point must match your draw length exactly.

In addition to the draw length range, most bows will also have draw weight range. Often, the range for a model size will be around 10 pounds. That bow is adjustable within that 10-pound range, and if you need a weight outside of that, there will be a different size model to use (also with a 10 -pound range.) Some bows made, especially youth models will have a much larger adjustable range.

Choosing the correct bow is important and can have a big impact on your enjoyment and success in the sport. The correct bow doesn’t mean the most expensive, but you need to find the correct bow for your size and ability as well as shooting needs.It’s crucial that you have your compound bow set up for your specific measurements. Shooting with a bow not adjusted for you can cause injury and make accurate shooting very difficult.

Coming from a Recurve Bow

There are similarities between the compound and recurve bow. If you have experience with a recurve bow and are now learning how to shoot a compound bow, you have a head start. The compound still has upper and lower limbs, though the limbs are a great deal shorter than on a recurve.

Recurve bows are often as tall as the archer, while a compound can be half that length. The limbs on a recurve must be longer to achieve a greater draw length, while the pulley system on a compound enables a longer draw length with shorter limbs.

Both bows have similar risers and sight windows, as well as handles which may have a grip. Because of these similar features, the principles for shooting and holding the bow are much the same.


Holding the Bow

When you are learning how to shoot a compound bow, it’s helpful to breakdown each aspect of your shooting since all of them affect your accuracy. How you hold the bow is extremely important. You hold the compound bow by the handle which is just under the riser. Most bows will come with a grip on the handle which may also be changeable. Some archers prefer no grip at all, or just to tape the handle. It will take time for the beginning archer to figure out what works well for them. By that, I mean what will help you be a consistently accurate archer.

The way you “grip” or hold the bow while shooting is a big component of your accuracy. Even the slightest movement of your bow hand while you are shooting will affect the flight of the arrow. One of the most common mistake archers make when they are learning how to shoot a compound bow is over gripping the bow. You would think that tightly gripping the bow would help steady it for an accurate shot. In archery, the opposite is actually the case.

If you’ve watched Olympic archers before you may have noticed after they shoot, their bow spins forward. This is the follow through that comes from a correct grip. You want to have a light grip with the handle in the web of your hand between your thumb and index finger as seen in the first picture below.

The Correct Grip


With back tension from your draw, your hand can be completely opened. Some archers do shoot with their hands open. If you are learning how to shoot a compound bow, I would advise you not to do this, especially if you are considering bowhunting. Bowhunters have badly cut their fingers shooting broadheads with an open grip. I will discuss this issue in depth in another article.

When you are learning to shoot a compound bow, a correct grip on the bow handle will allow you to open your fingers and also lightly close them as seen in the second picture.

All of the bow handles tension is still in the web of your thumb and index finger. Non of your fingers are actually contributing to the grip. The the third picture shows what it looks like when all of your fingers are gripping the bow tightly, which is also “over-gripping.”


Gripping the bow too tightly often causes torque. If the torque were always the same, you could perhaps adjust and learn to shoot accurately this way. The problem is that tightly gripping the bow will fatigue your arm faster which will change the tight grip, which in turn changes the torque.If all of that is confusing, just accept the advice of pros who have been shooting for a long time. Don’t grip the bow tightly.

One of the reasons archers may grip the bow tightly is because the bow is too heavy or their arm isn’t conditioned to holding weight with the arm extended. This is something you can change by shooting frequently or doing workouts designed to help with archery.

While compound bows are heavier than recurve bows, it seems that compound bows are getting lighter every year.  Still, when you are learning how to shoot a compound bow, it will take a while to develop the muscles you use for shooting.

If you are not used to holding any weight with your arm extended, your muscles will fatigue faster. It’s important to shoot frequently and/or do exercises geared toward archery, especially when you are just starting out.

Accuracy in archery is a test in using good form. Good form is grounded in balance. When something is off, like your bow or even draw weight that is too heavy, it causes you to compensate. Any compensation throws off your balance, which messes up your form. I know it sounds redundant, but this is archery. It’s truly helpful to understand this in the beginning, if possible. It will save you time and frustration.

Using a Release

While some archers draw their compound bow with their fingers, most compound archers utilize some form of mechanical release. These are popular because they help in holding the bowstring and assist with a smooth release.

Since compound bows are much shorter than recurves, when the bowstring is fully drawn, it is at a sharper angle. This can make drawing with the fingers uncomfortable and difficult around the nock of the arrow. Archers who want to use their hands to draw often use longer compound bows, so that there is less of an angle.


Types of Mechanical Releases

There are different types of mechanical releases available for use on compound bows. These devices typically have calipers or a hook which is attached to the bowstring.

Once drawn, the device is activated by a trigger or tension which releases the bowstring. Mechanical releases work on compound bows because of their designed “wall” or set distance when the draw stops.

Though it is possible to use this type of release with a recurve, it would be much more difficult without let off, and the majority of recurve archers do not use it.

Releases can be clipped on the serving under the nock indicator. A more popular option is to use a D-loop which is a small piece of string wrapped above and below the nock, making a small loop to hook onto when drawing. F

or years I clipped a trigger release directly onto the serving but stopped because the calipers wear through the serving too quickly. I switched to a D-loop because it’s much easier to change and it does not seem to wear out as fast.

Releases for Beginners

A quick word of caution about mechanical releases. New archers should start with a trigger style release as tension release aids are harder to set up and use. A tension release is not activated when drawing if the safety is engaged, but many an archer has accidentally fired their arrow by drawing without the safety on.

Caution must also be used with trigger releases. Most have extremely light triggers to aid with an effortless release. There is a downside to that. I still remember the way two deer looked at me when I effortlessly shot my arrow into the ground from a tree stand after I bumped the trigger while drawing.

Using a Practice Release Aid

Most archers shooting a compound bow use a mechanical release. While these affect the bowstring much less than using your fingers, the slightest movements when activating the release can affect your accuracy. Whether a trigger or tension release, it will take practice to activate it with little movement.

One issue involved is that when you are going through your actual shot routine, there is a lot to think about. It is easy to think about aiming so much that you forget your form. Because of this, it’s good to practice individual aspects of your shooting steps especially when you are learning how to shoot a compound bow.

Different types of practice drawing and release aids are sold. The Bow Traineris a basic archery trainer that uses resistance bands attached to a pole to help keep you in shooting shape. Two other archery trainers, the AccuBow Trainer and the Dry Guy Fire Proare two nicer archery trainers that better simulate how to shoot with a compound bow. They also use resistance bands but the bands are attached to devices that resemble the compound bow handle and riser. Even more beneficial is that you can practice with your release. With these two trainers you can keep in shooting shape, work on your grip, and practice with your release.

Practice Release Aid Alternative

Another cheaper alternative is to make a cord loop at home, and there are a few options for this. If you have a cord near the diameter of you’re the length of your draw length, you can tie the ends together making a loop. This will need to be near the diameter of your D-loop. Another option is to use a thicker rope which more comfortable to hold and tie a smaller cord to that for attaching your release. It’s not necessary to cut the rope or cord you are using, but you need to tie a knot in it to make the loop. When it is pulled tight, it should be about an inch shorter than your draw length.

After attaching your release, you can pull tight on the cord in full draw. You want to hold the loop with the same T-Form you would use with your bow. You can adjust your release so that you can activate it with back tension. It may need further adjustment when you switch to your bow. This is a good way to get comfortable with your release when you are learning how to shoot a compound bow, and you can practice in the house.


Published: Marcher 25, 2018

Category: Compound Bow