Beginners Guide to Archery

Archery For Beginners in 3 Easy Steps

In Archery, Archery Tips, Compound Bows, Longbows, Recurve Bows, Traditional Archery by Vineet Jain25 Comments

Archery is for all ages and comes in various forms!

Archery is a very diverse activity with many different uses, forms, and ways you can go about it. 3 steps to doing archery for beginners will help you figure all of those out.

This article is for all the uninitiated people of archery. It’s for those who want to get a feel and gist of it, and to understand and figure out what may be the best route for them.

3 steps to doing archery for beginners

  1. What styles of archery you can chose from
  2. Proper way to learn archery
  3. Shooting your first bow

So, let’s dive into it.

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Step 1: Figuring out your STYLE OF ARCHERY

People have different perspective of what archery is. Some people think of hunters. Others think of the Olympic games. There are in fact, many different kinds of archery that are practiced around the world. And there are clubs and organizations, that focus on these different types.

Below are 7 different activities divided into two major categories for you to gauge your interest level.

Read: Different Styles and Types of Archery

1. Archery as an Activity

i. Traditional archery:

Traditional archery is evergreen

Trad Archery can be categorized in both the categories – Activity and Sports.

This is the style of archery you know from popular period and fiction movies. From Robin-hood to Lord of the Rings, the archers were using traditional archery.

Traditional archery is one of the simplest forms of the archery. That’s why Traditional archery is also sometimes called barebow archery because there are no fancy gadgets or materials required to get into it.

Many people get into this style of archery by buying a basic recurve or longbow and get straight into shooting.

Some people do this as a casual hobby. Others will go further, and craft their own bows and accessories.

Traditional English longbows, Korean archery, Japanese Kyudo, Horse archery can also be considered as traditional archery. Of course, these different cultures have their own practices and equipment though.

This is a freestyle form of archery and you can practice it in archery ranges, woods, or even more formal settings like clubs.

This is a minimalistic style of archery and you focus mainly on honing your archery and instinctive shooting skills then relying on superior equipment or aids.

Read: Reasons to try Traditional Archery

ii. Bow Hunting & Bow Fishing

Bow Fishing

Another very popular way people like to use archery is hunting. The reason for this is two-fold.

Firstly, it gives a direction and goal to the archery. They get to use their skills for something in real life, and in an activity they enjoy.

Secondly, it is one of the oldest and historically very popular use of archery. The use of bow developed as a weapon and tool. Thus, using it as such is going back to the grassroots of the archery itself. Some people find pride in tradition of archery this way as well. 

Hunting is bow agnostic. As in, you can use compound, traditional or recurve bow for it.

While firearms are also used for hunting, but the skills and closer range of bow hunting gives a completely different feel to the game hunting.

So if you are and outdoorsy person, bow hunting might be the way to go for you.

I have used the word hunting to refer to game hunting as well as fishing.

Read: The Basics – Bow Hunting for Beginners

iii. Field Archery

Field archery course and obstacles can vary making it a lot more fun

It can be closely related to Paintball or Airsoft. The difference is that instead of shooting other team players, you are targeting inanimate objects to clear a course.

Depending on how you pursue it, it can be a very fun activity.

Field archery takes the action away from the range, and places it in a more rugged terrain. Archers progress through the course with targets placed at different places and different elevations.

Field courses may also contain natural obstacles such as branches or slopes to put an archer in less than ideal shooting position.

iv. 3D Archery

3D archery is close cousin of Field Archery.

Instead of shooting at target faces, the targets are 3-dimensional models of various animals. 3D targets are marked with hit boxes with different score values.

3D archery is versatile and can be mixed with various disciplines

Both field and 3D are great for the people who like to be out and about with an additional challenge to shooting at varying distances and varying terrain.

You can use 3D targets for field archery as well to spice things up. Or you can shoot standalone 3D targets as target shooting.

3D archery can be used as a mock practice for hunting as well.

Basically, you can get creating with your activities with 3D archery in the mix.

Read: What is 3D Archery?

v. Clout Archery

Clout Archery

It was one of the oldest way archery competitions developed. It measured skills, but different kind of skills.

While modern archery tests your accuracy, clout archery tests accuracy at great distances.

Archers stand on the line and lob arrows at high angles to hit a target marked on the ground.

There are 2 ways to go about clout archery.

The main form is to hit a ground target at great distance. This is a test of accuracy but at great distance.

Secondary form is to shoot at no particular target, and find who shoots farthest. This is sometimes also called Flight Archery.

This is a fun activity you can do with your friends together.

2. Archery as a sport:

Archery women outdoors tournament

When it comes to archery as a sport, there are several forms that you can shoot in. These are governed by World Archery, formerly known as FETA, and regulated by regional governing bodies.

Target Archery is the most widespread. This is the style of archery you might be familiar from Olympic competitions. But other national and regional competitions have different formats that allow easier participation.

There is a lot of variety in target shooting based on style of archery to equipment used in the archery. But majorly it can be majorly divided into indoor and outdoor archery.

Some allow use of accessories like peeps, sights and stabilizers. Others are barebow. And of course, there is a room for every type of bow. Separate clubs and events are there for traditional, recurve and compound bows.

This form of archery is geared towards shooting a stationary target at a certain distance. Hence the name target archery.

Read: Archery

vi. Indoor Archery

Indoor rounds are often done at 18 or 25 meters, with a smaller target face. It focuses on precise shot placement, or accuracy.

vii. Outdoor Archery

Outdoor events take place at long distance, usually up to 70 meters. These rounds are more about consistency.

Why is deciding on my style of archery important?

There are lot ways you can get into archery, and they can all be fun. It is important to have an idea of the different types of archery for several reasons.

  1. It plays a huge role in deciding what kind of equipment you get
  2. The bows you use for target archery for example, aren’t the bows you can use for hunting
  3. Another consideration is that different governing bodies will regulate each different discipline
  4. Likewise, clubs are affiliated with specific organizations. For example, if you join a bow hunting club, it will not affiliate you with World Archery and you may not be allowed to participate in events hosted by target club
  5. It’s also worth looking out what clubs around you offer as well. For example, some clubs are strictly 3d, or hunting or target. Some clubs may offer indoor, clout, and field, but some wont.
  6. If you are looking at the competition scene, there are championships for each of these disciplines, and they may have different selection policies.

To sum up. There isn’t single 1 type of archery. And archery isn’t just about shooting at a target. There’s a large range of disciplines and activities that you could do.

However, keep in mind choosing one will not lock you out from other disciplines. Many archers master many paths, equipment and even styles of archery.

Step 2: How to correctly start with Archery

Now that you have made your mind on what kind of archery you want to practice, let’s look at how to PROPERLY start with archery:

1. Join a club/range

Archery range

The best thing you can do is to find a local archery club and ask about their programs. You can search online, you can ask around in local community centers, you can check a sports center nearby, or you can even check with some archery stores in your locality.

Archery club will almost always have some sort of a beginner’s program to get you started. It is designed to introduce you to archery the right way, and eliminate some of the very common rookie mistakes you can make (like dry firing – I have been guilty of that).

These are one off sessions with no mid-term or long-term commitment required. Different clubs have different structured programs. Some will have a prescribed program which they will teach you from (generally this happens when your archery club is a part of a big chain). Others will let you shoot and learn on a casual basis.

Why join a club

Taking lessons from the club is a good way to learn archery for the following reasons:

  1. You will learn the fundamentals of the archery the right way. This includes the know-how of equipment, technique, and safety.
  2. All the equipment is provided for you.
  3. Training is provided to you by qualified instructors or experts.
  4. You get to feel archery and get to decide whether you like it or not at a minimal cost.
  5. You’ll get to meet other people with same interest and at around your level.
  6. And you’ll be able to solicit advise of more experienced archers for buying equipment in terms of what to get and where to go.

So, if you don’t know much about archery, and you just want to give it a go, this is the place to do so.

Read: Archery for Beginners: How to Get Started

2. Self-learning

If you don’t have that luxury of learning archery the formal way, you can still learn archery with proper form. There are lot of resources online that you can follow, but there is a problem with only have online video as source of information.

You don’t know that you don’t know and is certain that when you will first start with learning archery yourself you will have lots of form issues to say the least.

Grasping proper form while self-learning

You need lots of trial and error to get rid of those issues. But still there is a risk that you may adopt a form fault that may stick with you throughout your archery journey. These form faults can be very problematic; they limit your archery in many ways and there is a risk of getting injured because of them as well.

The way to go about that is to find someone who can help you with your form faults – online or offline. Preferably offline because they can see you live demonstrate your routine and point out many mistakes that a camera may not be able to capture due to its 2-dimensional video or certain angles.

But if you are going for online consultation, you can find there are lots of groups that have lots of helpful people who will provide genuine advice. A word of caution over here – do check the validity of advice you are receiving because the person may not be an expert or misguided himself/herself.

It will be more tiresome and painful to really master proper form by self-learning, but it is not impossible. If you are starting archery just as an interest or hobby you pursue, it is alright if you don’t have the “perfect” form to enjoy it. But having some form faults that can lead to injuries is still an issue and you should definitely inform yourself very well so that you don’t have those at the very least.

5 Archery Shooting Form Tips

3. Bow and equipment

Archery equipment can last for a long time

Many people believe that you need to get a bow in order to do archery. And it makes sense. How do you do archery without a bow.

I advise to hold on to your purchase at the beginning if you are taking lessons from a club. The club will provide the equipment for you.

Even if you are going self-learning route, hold on to impulse purchase and really research into what style of archery you do want to get into, and what equipment will be most suitable for you. Again, there is lots of help on forums out there and people are surprisingly helpful.

Reasons you can hold off your bow purchase

You could buy your own bow, but the entry level stuff you can buy, is already provided to you by the club. It is the same as how you don’t have to buy your own golf clubs or bowling balls in order to try out golf or bowling. Nor you have to own a gun to go to a shooting range.

So, it is kind of a waste or money, to buy equipment that you can already use.

Another reason why you should hold off on getting a bow, is that you probably won’t know if you will take up archery as a pursuit until you’ve had a few sessions of archery.

Many people will invest in a bow, but they’ll find they lack the time, passion, or commitment to continue archery.

Plus, you also haven’t decided on what style of archery you want to go for at this point of time. There are many flavors and types of archery out there. After a few sessions and talking to some other experienced archers, you’ll be able to get a better feel of why and what kind of archery is most suited to you.

For example, you may take up archery as a recreational activity, or a sport, or to go hunting. You might develop a preference for a compound, a recurve, or a longbow. Once you figure that out, you’ll be able to make a better decision about what you want.

Essentially, don’t rush into buying a bow early. You can save a bit of stress, and perhaps a bit of money, if you take the time, get a feel for archery, before you invest in equipment.

If you can’t wait to hold your own first bow in your hands

But if you just want a bow. Maybe you want something to mess around in your backyard, maybe you can’t find a club, or you might want something for your partner or for your kids, to see if they are interested in archery.

If you really want to give someone a good taste or archery and getting a decent gear, I recommend getting a takedown wooden recurve bow. These cost around 100-200 bucks. Popular examples include Semick Sage, Fuse-Focus, SF-optima, and PSE Razorback. But there are dozens of these, and they are all very similar.

You can find some decent stores online for archery in case you don’t find the right equipment on Amazon. Archery stores have much wider range of options for the beginners, and advanced archers. They often have kits or packages to get someone started.

If you have an actual physical archery store, it solves a lot of your problems. Stores deal with new archers all the time, and they’ll be happy to walk you through the things you need. So, getting their help in the beginning is a good option in case you don’t have any clue.

Read: Basic Guide to Equipment

Step 3: Shooting your first bow

Now that you have figured out how you can start with archery, let’s look at how you can PROPERLY shoot your first bow:

WARNING: before we delve into it, I want to bring your attention to one the most important precaution in archery. NEVER, EVER dry fire (that is, shoot a bow without an arrow – just pulling the string and releasing it). A lot of people when they first pick up a bow, will try to get a feel of it by doing a mock shot. If you shoot a bow without an arrow, you will damage the bow.

This article will give you a few tips so that you are not entirely clueless and have a sense what you need to do. Or at least will give you a right direction to step into in the realm of archery.

Read: How to Shoot a Bow and Arrow: A Step-by-Step Guide

1. Stance

Consistence stance is key to good archery

Position yourself so that you are in-line with the target. If a straight line is coming out of the bullseye, then it shall cut your feet (as in, your feet shall be perpendicular to the that line). Keep your feet at comfortable shoulder width. Some people like to not keep it perpendicular to the target, that is called open stance. There is nothing wrong with open stance as long as you are fairly certain that every time you shoot an arrow, you are in the same exact open stance in reference to the target. That is, a consistent stance each time you shoot a new arrow.

Keep your weight evenly distributed, and your legs straight throughout the shot.

Tip: Keep your feet still when loading and shooting. Don’t shuffle around, or else you will forget your stance.

2. Grip the bow

Grip the bow lightly

Gently grip the bow. Keep the hand relaxed, so that it sits comfortably.

Tip: avoid choking the life out of the bow, also known as death grip. When you hold the bow too tightly, it shakes and wavers making every shot inconsistent.

3. Nock the arrow

Nocking the arrow

That is, put the arrow on the bow. Clip it on the string. It should stay on the string by itself even if you don’t support it or hold it.

Tip: some people don’t maintain their bows. The strings may not have thick sinewy material on which bow nocks onto, or the nocks might be split. If the arrow does not stay on the string and you need to use fingers to keep it stable, then it might not be particularly safe. It is definitely not consistent if the arrow does not nocks onto the string properly.

Finger tab or plastic guard:

Finger tab helps protect the fingers from extended use of the bow

It is likely you won’t go for any finger protection at all. It is alright if you don’t use it. If you are using low draw weight bows then even if you don’t use it, you won’t usually hurt yourself.

However, if you shoot for long period of time, or use a heavier draw, your fingers may get sore.

4. Hook onto the string

Use 3 fingers (exclude pinky and thumb) to hook onto the string. Standard method is index finger above the arrow, and the other 2 fingers below the arrow. Some places tell you to use all three fingers below the arrow (which makes it slightly easier for newbies to aim).

Tip: don’t pinch the knock. Keep the back of the hand flat. Don’t curl your hand and don’t close your knuckles.

5. Rotate your bow elbow outwards

Think of it as elbowing out a person standing next to your bow arm. Among other things, it will prevent the string from slapping your arms. It won’t be a fun experience especially if you are not using an armguard.

6. Draw

A proper form and draw are the key to good archery

Proper draw means using the correct muscles for archery.

Raise the bow before you pull the string back. Don’t pull from the ground up, and do not point the bow skyward. Keep your drawing elbow up and use your back muscles.

Do not be scared of the bow. It won’t release the arrow backwards.

Keep your front shoulder down and don’t let it pop-up. You should have a T-shape with your body.

Resist the urge to adjust your head to aim on to the target.

Pull the arrow

Pull all the way to your face. If you won’t do the full draw, you’ll use unnecessary energy because your muscles won’t lock properly, and your arrow will fall a few feet in front of you.

7. Set your anchor

Anchors help you stay consistent with your archery

This is usually your jaw, but the cheek is also alright. The idea of anchor is most important in archery.

Remember, the most important aspect or archery is consistency. You want to be consistent every time. That is, you should be able to replicate a similar shot every time you shoot. Aim can be adjusted with a few minor tweaks, but if there is unaccounted variance due to your posture, draw, feet, or back tension, then your shooting will be inconsistent.

That’s what anchor helps you avoid. By fixing some spots on your face (like jaw, cheek, ear, lips, nose etc), you ensure maximum consistency between your shots.

8. Aim

Aim below the target

You don’t aim in archery. Archery is an instinctive action. You need practice and you need to feel where the shot will go. So, don’t try too hard to get a beat on the target.

Tip: when you are first starting out, aim lower then you think you would. This is because arrow is naturally angled upwards from your perspective. There is a gap between the arrow and your line of sight. It is common to shoot your first arrow way above the target.

9. Shoot/Release/Loose the arrow

When you are ready, release the arrow by relaxing your fingers (that is, open up your fingers).

10. Follow through

Follow through is the natural and integral part of your shot process

It means continue the motion of your body.

When you are pulling the arrow during full draw, your hand wants to fly back. When you release the arrow the tension in your hand gets released as well and your hand automatically goes back.

This should happen naturally but many times beginners don’t follow through ,unconsciously, to check their shot.

Following through and continuing your action will give the direction to your arrow.

Archery | Stance

CONCLUSION

These points are the beginner instructions. Your first experience may vary, depending on who you are getting instructions from. They may stress on one thing or the other, but the points mentioned in this article is the gist of it all.

Of course, these tips will not make you an expert archer. They will point you in the right direction and things to keep in mind when you are ready to pick up your bow for the first time.

References:

Comments

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  22. Hy Vineet,
    Such a helpful and instructive one. Truly, the way you describe, it’ll help a beginner to be an expert.
    Thanks for an impressive article.

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