Hawkeye is a very cool superhero. What makes him cool, you ask? His awesome archery shooting style. All archers must follow a regimen of shooting that has been tried and tested to help them hit the target. Beginners just getting the hang of their bows need to follow proper techniques to establish mastery over their art. Let’s talk about all the things you need to learn to shoot a compound bow.
Before we dive into the details, let’s introduce the exact gear we are talking about. A compound bow is a modern take on the simple bow and is considerably different from its predecessor. For the purpose of this write-up, we are discussing reasonably modern bows that have a few amenities like a peep, a D-loop, and a rest and sight. Such bows cost approximately USD 400 for an entry-level model and can go up to USD 1000 for top-tier ones. It does not matter what model the bow is, as long as you are comfortable with its size and weight. We also assume in this article that you are using the right contingent gear with your bow, i.e., arrows, release aids, etc. Lastly, tuning your bow and setting the height for your peephole is an essential part of getting your bow ready.
So, let’s get down to it and learn about how to use a compound bow.
Proper archery form
‘Form’ is a word that archers (and shooters) commonly throw around in everyday conversations. The form that they talk about refers to the position of the body while shooting an arrow. The optimum stance and position gets you adequate energy and perfect aim. While having an ideal form sounds easy in a checklist, keeping the form up for every shot is challenging. So, what exactly constitutes perfect form?
Stand steady to determine your archery stance. Stand up straight with your feet perpendicular to the target, shoulder-width apart. You can point your toes outward for a more comfortable position and added stability. Experts suggest that you trace your feet on a piece of cardboard when you find your most comfortable stance and then use that cardboard every time you stand up to shoot. As you get used to the stance gradually, you won’t need the cardboard for long. And there you have it, your perfect posture.
Define your anchors
When you draw the string to the full and go through with the shot, you must create a regimen that brings out the most accurate shot. The process of generating the regimen is a mental one – it involves setting landmarks and milestones for every shot you take. For example, most archers would try to touch the same part of their face at every full draw. You might have seen archers look the same during each shot. That is because they have a fixed signature routine that they follow on every shot. Some experts say that having a regimen for the release of each shot is the difference between a good archer and a great one. These milestones in your regimen are the anchors for your shot.
Straighten your grip
Do not hold the bow too tight. Your bow hand must be relaxed; only push the bow ahead towards the target. You can keep it against the bony part between your thumb and index finger so that the grip is not influenced away from the target.
The most important part of the grip is to form a straight line between your release point and the grip hand – from the tip of the arrow to the end of your folded hand on release. The hand governing the release is an integral part of the straight line because it is the easiest to break the line there.
Shot and follow-through
While many would recommend the push-and-pull method for the release of the shot, the new approach in vogue involves less tension. The original way to release an arrow was to pull the string towards the body as much as possible and push the bow towards the target. However, today most archery experts would ask beginners to focus on aiming straight rather than focusing their energies on the tensile strength of the bow.
As for the follow-through, the best way is to let it happen on its own. The bow topples over in your hand naturally after the release. Here, you have to keep your body in position as long as possible so that the shot’s trajectory is not altered in the follow-through.
Shoot your shot
There are some prescribed ways to shoot an arrow using a compound bow. All of them have their pros and cons, and it all comes down to the archer choosing the most comfortable method for them. Let’s look at some ways that archers across the globe commonly follow.
The command-style method, also known as the ‘punching the trigger’ method, is used commonly by everyday bowhunters. There has been considerable discussion about the authenticity of the command-style way, but it has some very aggressive proponents, too. The deliberation around this method is generally about where it is used – while it is used rarely in 3D archery competitions, nobody can perform the subtle art of bowhunting without it.
There are a couple of steps in shooting an arrow using the command-style method. The first involves slowing your focus down. When you are shooting at a target, draw your arrow and then aim. Then, focus on slowing your aiming pin down to the target. Once you have control of your aim, gently fondle the trigger. As the pin passes over the center of the target, hit the trigger. Here, you have a wide window to shoot and release the arrow because you are slowing your aim down. Controlling the aiming pin comes with the control over the hand controlling the release. The tension in the release hand allows you to create better lines, all towards the target.
There also exist a few Jedi mind tricks to help you use the command-style method over longer distances. When you are aiming for longer distances, it would be best to train your mind to visualize the pin moving over the center of the target. Since it is a mental image, you can imagine the pin moving slower and slower towards the center of the target, and then – bam! Mastering the command-style method is a difficult task, but it is definitely a skill to be proud of.
A few things to remember in the command-style method is that the release hand – the hand away from the target – is the hand that decides the direction of the shot. The grip hand cannot be the primary aiming hand as it would bother your straight lines a lot.
Surprise release method
Many professional archers across the globe use the surprise release method to shoot. The ideal mental part of this method involves focusing intensely on the target. The archer focuses so much that they are surprised when the shot is completed. We find the philosophical aspect of this method very interesting – forget about the release.
There are a handful of steps that follow the surprise release method. This method involves sheer concentration and willpower. When you draw your arrow and float the pin on the target, it is clearly impossible to keep it still and on the bullseye. As it hovers over the target, you need to focus on the bullseye through the pin. Pro archers argue that simply thinking about the middle of the target can make quite a difference in your shot.
Once you begin thinking hard about the bullseye, the next step needs you to relax. Archers argue that they cannot concentrate fully on two things simultaneously. Therefore, there is no point in focusing on the release. Archers who follow the surprise release technique train their minds and bodies to release the arrow subconsciously. The release is supposed to take the archer by surprise because they are not thinking about it at all.
Many archers use different techniques to release the arrow. A few commonly used methods are hinge releases, squeezing triggers, or index releases. These might be different, but they all follow the pattern of gradual releases, which allow the archer to be surprised.
We applaud the philosophy behind the surprise release method. It enables the beginners to practice their concentration skills. Focusing all their energies on the bullseye is an essential facet of being an archer, and the surprise release method aids beginners in honing their skills.
Back tension method
The back tension method of shooting arrows is one of the most commonly used methods in modern archery. As the name suggests, the back release method involves flexing the back muscles to an extent where the release fires. The technique has seen the greatest glories in history – most podium takers have used it – but it slowly descended into darkness. However, the fact that many archers have hit bullseye using the back tension method illustrates its success.
The very crux of the back tension method involves the archer using the back muscles to pull the bow apart. Since the technique has been used historically, both hands pressure the bow to pull it apart. Moreover, to fire the release, the archer commonly uses the fingertips. In this method, it is the back muscles that fire the release. You can use a variety of releases for the back tension method – index releases, thumb releases, or special back tension releases.
The back tension method is of no use in hunting endeavors. It is and has been used extensively for competitive archery. You can master this method with lots of practice. Here’s how you can do it.
For starters, stand only a few feet away from your target. Then, focus on clearing up your release. Draw an arrow and stretch your bow using your back muscles. It would be best if you extended your rear elbow to the fullest. The motion of stretching should automatically trigger the release in the bow. It will seem alien to you at first, but you will grow into the feeling in time.
The next step in mastering the back tension release is to start aiming. Once you have a good grip on the back tension release, you can increase the target distance and try shooting at it. The trick is to gradually increase the target distance and try putting the arrow through it. Whenever you cannot pierce the target, you can go back closer to the mark and practice the back flex drill. Once you start getting the hang of the same, go back to perfecting the back tension release technique on smaller distances.
Choosing the correct method for yourself is an integral part of becoming an archer. Every archer needs to find their comfort in the technique they use. Therefore, if you want to rule the world of competitive archery, get down to practicing the back release method. If you’re going to do some local bowhunting and participate in a few competitions here and there, you can aim to master the surprise release or the command-style method.
You may hear contemporary archers dissing the command-style method for being “wrong,” but you can learn both ways and then choose for yourself. All the shooting methods that we talked about are used by professional archers everywhere, and choosing a technique is ultimately up to your comfort in your bow.
Archery is a sport that has been blazed into history, and practicing it is nothing short of an honor. It takes time to master the dynamics of a bow and an arrow. However, with modern bows making archery easier for laypersons, you can easily learn archery with the right type of practice, determination, and hard work. Ultimately, if you focus on the bullseye, you often hit the bullseye.