Author Crystal Gauvin is a top U.S. compound archer, and ranked fourth in the world. She is a World Cup gold medalist and World Championships silver medalist. This is the first article in a series teaching the basics on how to shoot a compound bow.
If you’re a little intimidated by the idea of trying a compound, don’t be – shooting a compound is lots of fun, and it’s easy to do! Each article in this series will address some how-tos for the compound bow that will teach you the basics. Follow along and, before you know it, you’ll be flinging arrows successfully.
An archer’s stance – the way you align your feet and body before beginning the shot – is overlooked by many beginners. Everyone just wants to get their hands on the bow and shoot arrows, but a proper stance makes that process easier. In fact, because your stance sets the foundation, it’s a vital part of your shot and can’t be overlooked. It becomes even more important if you decide to try different kinds of archery, like field or 3-D, where you’re going to be on uneven ground – or bowhunting, where you may need to adapt for a tree stand.
Remember: if you need help determining the right stance for you, pay a visit to your local archery store, where you can find an instructor to help you out, and a bow to rent to see your efforts pay off!
The easiest way to learn a proper stance is to start without a bow. Decide where you’re going to practice, and tape the floor or lay a broom, measuring stick or taut rope in a straight line. This is your “shooting line.” Second, imagine a line running straight from the middle of your target back to where you are standing. This imaginary line is called the “target line.” Both of these lines are helpful reference points when learning how to stand.
There are a couple of options when determining how to stand, in terms of how open your body is to the target. Some archers find success when their feet are facing forward, while other archers find that opening their lower body slightly to the target gives them added stability.
Whichever option you choose, it’s all about personal preference, so try both and give it a shot!
Option One: The Square Stance
Start by placing a foot on each side of your shooting line. Next, space your feet between shoulder-width to hip-width apart. This provides more stability than keeping your feet close together. Next, imagine a straight line from your toes to the target, following the target line. The toes of both feet should align with this target line. This alignment is considered a straight, or “square” stance, because your feet are square to the target.
The advantage of this stance is that it’s really simple for new archers to learn and remember, and is easy to duplicate whether you’re indoors, outdoors or on mixed terrain outside. A square stance gives you flexibility and ease of use.
Option Two: Try the Open Stance
Ready to try something different? Starting from the square stance above, bring your rear foot (the right side for a right handed archer) forward so that the ball of your foot bisects the target line. Next, bring your front foot back so it’s about 2” behind the target line. Your feet should look as though your rear foot is ahead of your front foot. Now, pivot toward the target about twenty degrees, so that your feet and hips are slightly open to the target, while your shoulders remain facing forward, or “square” to the target.
This open stance keeps your waist open and aligns your shoulders with the target. This provides more stability and control when making your shot. For added stability, you can bring your weight slightly forward, so that your weight is approximately 60% on the balls of your feet and 40% on your heels. To ensure you’re properly balanced, see if you can lift your toes without losing your balance. If you feel unstable, you have too much weight on your heels. It also helps to wear fairly flat shoes that keep you from wanting to rock on your heels or the balls of your feet.
Congrats! You’re ready to shoot.
Whichever stance you choose, it’s important to finish by making sure your body is aligned properly, with your head over your spine. To complete your stance, simply stand up tall with your head looking at the target. That’s it! You’ve officially learned two good stance options for shooting a compound bow. Next step: get out there and practice your stance until it’s second nature. The more consistent your foot position is, the more consistently your arrows will come together (group) in the target.