Traditional Bow Shooting Technique

Aug 10, 2022

Traditional Archery Series Part 2: Bow Shooting Technique

There are several different ways of shooting a traditional bow accurately and finding the one that suits you best will take a little time. But there are a few steps that can help save you time.

First you have to pick a place to start. Do you want to be an instinctive archer or more of a gap shooter? Instinctive means you focus only on the spot you want to hit and ignore the arrow in your vision. Gap shooting means you use the point of your arrow as a sight or reference point. A simple way to think about it is instinctive shooting is like shooting a shotgun at a fast flying dove and gap shooting is like aiming a rifle at a standing deer.

Here’s a link to a good article on that gets into a more detailed explanation of traditional bow shooting techniques. I’d suggest staying away from string walking or the fixed crawl for now if your goal is to be a hunter more than a target archer.

Pick the shooting technique you like best, keeping in mind that all take shooting plenty of arrows and consistent form to find accuracy. You goal should be to find an acceptable level of accuracy for yourself and then you can tweak your method looking for the best accuracy possible.

Consistency is the real secret. Basically, if you do everything the same way each shot you will find accuracy. Adding in a basic sense of good form makes consistency easier to obtain. Here is a video (start at 9:37) from Clay Hayes that shows what good form should like from above. The whole video is worth a watch as well.

Everyone wants to start slinging arrows but force yourself to think and work on your form every shot. And start close to the target until you are consistent in your form and groupings. Here’s a process that works for me. While pointing your left shoulder (reverse this for left handed shooters) at your target, draw the string to your face (don’t move your head to the string), keep your shoulders down, find your anchor and make sure your drawing arm elbow, your drawing arm wrist, and your shoulders are all pointing towards the target. Pull thru the shot by using back tension more than muscles in your arms.  You’re pushing with the bow arm towards the target while continuing to pull thru the shot using back tension.

Sometimes it’s a struggle to understand what back tension means or feels like. One of the easiest ways to experience it is to hold an arrow in front of you with one hand near the nock end and the other near the point. Pull as if you were trying to pull the arrow apart in the middle all while trying to make your shoulder blades touch. That feeling in your back is you applying back tension.

I find when I begin to miss to the side it is usually because I have gotten careless and my left shoulder is not pointed at the target. Some people shoot with their bow arm elbow pointed down but I find having it pointed more to the side helps me. As mentioned above always bring the string to your face never move your face to the string. And work really hard on finding a repeatable anchor point. That anchor point is basically your rear site.

Shooting a traditional bow always looks simple and easy but it takes a lot of arrows to build your form and program you mind. Set realistic expectations and stop shooting when you get tired. Rarely can you power thru bad shooting by simply shooting more. It usually makes the problem worse. Most people benefit from a lot of shorter shooting sessions instead of a few long ones.  In a few weeks you should be able to keep your arrows in an 8-inch group at 15-20 yards. Once you achieve that start looking at the small things in your form and shoot to find more improvement.

If after a few weeks you are still struggling to find consistency don’t be ashamed to look for help. It’s a lot easier to never start a bad habit than to get rid of one and a good coach will help with proper traditional bow shooting technique. Start at your local archery shop or google archery coaches, specifically traditional coaches. And of course, there are also some online courses you can try as well. The big three points to remember should be to concentrate on good form, focus more on the shot than the result and stop when you get tired.

Our next blog will focus on translating all this into becoming an effective traditional hunter.

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