Archery’s huge growth in recent years generated bow-and-arrow influences in movies, fashion, advertisements, TV shows, after-school programs and more. But mainstream influences don’t always hit the nail on the head. Or, in this case, put the arrow in the bull’s-eye.
This piece isn’t intended to ridicule or discourage anyone. After all, we were all newbies at one point. Few of us achieved perfect form and nailed a bull’s-eye on the first try. Some us got whacked with the bowstring or missed the target altogether. And that’s OK! Archery mistakes happen, and they’re part of growing and improving. Use the examples below as an opportunity to test your archery knowledge. Can you spot the mistakes?
Katniss Everdeen, The Barebow Archer
There’s no denying Katniss is a skilled archer. With each “Hunger Games” installment, she delivers shots more powerful than the ones before. But her hook – the hand that draws her bowstring – and grip placement on her traditional bow need tweaking.
In this photo, Katniss’ knuckles curl tightly around the bowstring, which is incorrect. The string should be closer to the first joint of her index, middle and ring fingers; and the back of her hand should be flat and relaxed. She also curled one finger on her grip hand over the arrow, which is unsafe.
Shooting barebow archery like Katniss isn’t easy. Check out this barebow archery how-to and try it yourself!
Hawkeye, The Mid-Air Archer
Hawkeye achieved popularity with the first “Avengers” movie, prompting some to critique his archery technique. But let’s review his most famous shot. There’s no denying his sideways, midair shot is cool. But it’s also inaccurate.
Wired.com unpacks the science behind the shot.
The writer first notes the string is digging into Hawkeye’s chest, preventing him from reaching full draw. “Let’s assume for the moment the Hoyt Buffalo bow he’s shooting is about a 40-pound draw,” Jim MacQuarrie said. “That’s 40 pounds at 28 inches, but he’s only drawing the bow about 20 inches, at best, which means he’s losing a significant amount of power, about 2 pounds per inch. He’s firing that 40-pound bow at about 24 pounds.”
Lower poundage means less power and, therefore, shorter effective shooting distances.
“All the physics phenomena are reoriented,” MacQuarrie continued. “The arrow will hit farther to the side and a whole lot lower than intended. Not to mention, smacking the arm is an inevitable result.”
Yeah, Hawkeye looks pretty cool, but be prepared to chase after arrows in the woods if you try his side-shooting technique.
Merida, The Not-So Graceful Archer
ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” added Merida to its Season 5 roster. She stuns Storybrooke with her “Robin Hood” shots and determined attitude, but her form is far from graceful. In the video above, she jerks the bow upward rather than using her back muscles to smoothly draw the bowstring to her anchor point. Want to see Merida, minus the archery mistakes? Check out the movie “Brave,” which got all of the archery just right.
The Closed Stance Archer
Two things are going on with this model: her stance and her draw. First, she is facing the target straight on, which is a no-no. She should use an open stance, with her feet angled toward the target at 45 degrees, as in the photo below.
Because her body is completely open to the target, she can’t use her back muscles to draw the bow. This means she’s using her biceps to draw the bowstring straight to her chest. This method decreases the draw length and, therefore, the bow’s power, much like the problems with Hawkeye’s sideways shot. It also causes tension in arm and shoulder muscles, and could lead to injury.
The Broken Plane Archer
Where do we begin? This model also has a “way too open” stance, forcing the bowstring’s draw weight onto her shoulder muscles. Also look closely at her grip on the bow. Her finger is holding the arrow, which is super unsafe.
Further, her draw side elbow is in a *really* scary position. The model is holding the bowstring with what appears to be the correct fingers, but her elbow is pointed straight down, while her wrist is bent at what could be a dangerous angle. To actually draw the bow like this could result in serious injury to the wrist and shoulders.
The Floating Anchor Archer
Never underestimate your anchor point’s importance! This model is holding the bow far away from her face and way past her chin, which causes a “floating anchor.” This – in addition to being super unsafe – makes it difficult to aim and hold the bow at full draw for long. Bonus points for noticing her incorrect (and unsafe) hook and grip.
Diane Sawyer, “Horrible” Archer?
Jennifer Lawrence said it first: Diane Sawyer’s archery form is “just horrible.” Watch the video above. You’ll see the arrow fall to the ground instead of hitting the target. Why? Sawyer didn’t manage to draw the bow back to her anchor point, which means the arrow simply didn’t have enough force behind it to propel it to the target. Additionally, when Sawyer released, she “let go” of the string, opening her hand instead of allowing the string to gently roll off the fingertips.
Fernando Rodney, Air Archer
Look at pitcher Fernando Rodney. He’s known for shooting #airarchery after game-ending strikeouts. He looks cool, but he’s a little (okay, a lot) off-balance. In this photo, he puts most of his weight on his back leg. To draw a real bow, his feet should be about shoulder-width apart with his weight evenly distributed between them.
The Shoulder Shrug Archer
See how this archer raises her front shoulder? This increases tension on her neck and shoulder muscles. From the very beginning of the shot, your shoulders should be low and relaxed – and should remain that way through the release of the arrow. This transfers the bow’s weight and bowstring to the strongest muscles in your back, which are designed to bear heavier loads. By using your back muscles, you can control your shot and follow-through. You’ll also be able to shoot for longer periods because your back muscles are stronger and do not tire as quickly as arm and shoulder muscles.
The Brute Strength Archer
This dude is fierce, but a couple of things are going on. First, he’s pulling a right-handed bow back using his left hand, without an arrow on the string – a big safety no-no. If the bowstring were to slip from his fingers, he’d likely damage the bow, and could also hurt himself. Form-wise, his bow-hand’s grip is too tight. His hand placement will torque the bow side to side, causing bad arrow flight. The bow should be balanced in the meaty pocket between his thumb and index finger, his thumb should point toward the target, and his other fingers should be relaxed, at a 45 degree angle to the bow, and barely touching the riser’s front.
Now let’s focus on his bowstring hand. He has a death grip on that string! First, it’s customary to draw the bowstring with three fingers, not two. Second, the string should rest near the first joint of the fingers, not deep into the knuckles. By placing the string in front of the first joint, it will roll off the fingers more evenly for more accurate, consistent shots.
Last, he should use a mechanical release aid – WITH an arrow on the string. But good for him for being able to draw that compound bow with nothing but brute strength!
To summarize, we all make archery mistakes – lots of them! And while we’re always excited to see archery in magazines, on TV and in movies, we hope pointing out a few of these issues can help you perfect your own shooting. If you’re ready to try your own archery moves, check out our shop locator to find an archery store near you.