Whether you’ve been inspired by shows like the CW’s Arrow or the excitement of last year’s Olympic Games, now is the time to try shooting a bow! The weather’s warmer, the days are longer, and archery is the perfect summer activity. Here are 5 things you need to know, whether you’re shooting a recurve bow for the first time – or the 100th:
1. Pick a bow that fits you.
This is very important. Just like a pair of hiking shoes or a set of golf clubs, your bow needs to be the right size for your height, and the right draw (pull) weight for your ability level. The good news is that your local archery store can help you select a bow that’s right for you based on your budget, body type and skill level. Even better, the limbs on a recurve bow – the elongated, curved end pieces – can be swapped out for better quality and/or heavier ones as you progress. In other words, the folks at the archery store can help you select a bow that fits your needs and future ambitions.
2. Focus on proper stance.
It seems pretty basic – you just stand there and shoot, right? Sort of. Your feet need to be in the same place every time, and your lower body supports your upper body and all the work you’re doing. Thus, it’s important that your stance – the way you stand – is consistent and helpful to your shots. There are options for the proper stance; you can use a square stance, which means you’re standing square to your target; an open stance, in which your feet and hips are turned slightly toward your target; or a less commonly used closed stance, in which you’re turned slightly away from your target. We offer some great tips on stance in this article for compound archery, but the lesson is basically the same. The most important thing is to be consistent in the way you stand, lining up the same way on every shot. This is the first step to shooting your arrows in the same spot in the target, called “grouping!”
3. Align your upper body.
When you shoot a recurve bow, it’s important to have your shoulders in a straight line to allow your bone structure to support the weight of the bow. You don’t want to over-extend or under-extend your front shoulder, and your back shoulder should be in alignment with the front. Ideally, your upper body should form a nice, straight “T” when you’ve drawn back your recurve bow. Good posture will help you achieve this alignment; be sure your head is over your neck, your ribcage over your hips, and your shoulders are low, relaxed and straight. Want some exercises to help with posture and alignment? Try yoga, which is wonderful for improved body awareness and flexibility.
4. Find a good anchor point.
One of the most fundamental pieces of recurve archery is finding your anchor point. This is the place that your draw hand rests when it draws the bowstring back to your face. For beginners, the ideal anchor point is usually when the index finger of the draw hand meets the corner of the mouth. This point of contact should be firm but not forceful, and should always come to rest in the same spot. For more experienced archers, the draw hand may come back to rest with the index finger firmly anchored under the jaw. The most important characteristic of an anchor point is that it rests in the same place every time, both in terms of height on the face/jaw, and distance forward or back. If the anchor point moves, it can cause high and low arrows in the target – and potentially left and right ones, as well. If the anchor point is solid and consistent, you’re much more likely to group your arrows in the target.
5. Smoothly release the arrow.
One of the best parts of the shot is the moment when you release the arrow. It’s fun, freeing and a test of your skill! Before releasing your arrow, think about how to accomplish a “clean” release, meaning a release technique that minimizes the back-and-forth movement of the bowstring that happens on each shot. You can accomplish this by “pulling” through the release versus just opening your fingers. This is also referred to as a “dynamic shot.” To get a great release, think about the bowstring pushing your fingers out of the way as you relax your fingers and pull your draw elbow back. Keep your draw hand close to your face, and it should come to rest just behind your ear when finished. Maintain eye focus through your release, keeping your eye on the target rather than following the arrow. Try to keep your posture and alignment straight, your back strong, and your stance steady until the arrow has come to rest in the target.
Whether you’re brand new to archery, or even a new competitor, these five steps will help you find success with the recurve bow. In fact, if you watch the Olympic Games, you’ll notice the world’s best archers use these five basic steps. To improve your own success in the target, practice regularly at an archery shop or in your backyard. Be sure to take a lesson or two from the certified instructors at your archery store. You’ll be arrowing the bull’s-eye in no time!