I Got Archery for Christmas.
Now What? I Got Archery for Christmas. Now What?

With “Mockingjay” still in theaters, archery is fresh in everyone’s minds … and possibly under many Christmas trees! Whether your present is a bow, gift card or accessories, our step-by-step guide takes you from opening your gift to shooting your first arrows.

First, take inventory. Did you receive a bow?

If so, search the box for the owner’s guide, and start reading. Does your bow have cams and/or wheels on both ends? If so, it’s a compound bow, the choice of bowhunters and world champions alike. What if it has no cams or wheels, but curved, elongated limbs? If so, it’s a recurve bow, which is used by Olympians, world champions and traditional bowhunters.

What if you received a bow but no arrows – or arrows but no bow?

Arrows are archery’s most vital accessory, but don’t be alarmed if they’re missing. Many archery retailers tell gift-givers to return with the archer so they can custom-fit their arrows. Many variables go into selecting arrows, including price, material, length, diameter and spine (how much the arrow flexes when shot). If you received arrows but no bow, that’s OK, too. Many archery stores rent equipment, and you can use your custom-fitted arrows with their rental bows.


Photo: recurve bow, set up and placed in a bow stand.

Strings and other things: What else is installed?

The arrow rest guides and holds the arrow when it’s snapped onto the bowstring. If you don’t have a rest on your bow, you must get one when visiting an archery retailer. Speaking of which, your bow should have a string. If it’s a compound bow, it’s already strung. If it’s a recurve, the string is likely in the box or on the bow. If your recurve is not strung, please wait before stringing it. You’ll need a bow-stringer device and a quick how-to on safe stringing techniques.

Success is in sight.

Your bow might not have a sight, an aiming accessory that’s optional for some archers, especially recurve shooters. If you received one for your bow, that’s a great gift! Get it installed at an archery store, whose technicians will teach you how to adjust it. If you received a bow but no sight, that’s OK, too. A sight isn’t required, especially when you’re getting started in archery.

Safety first: armguards and finger tabs.

Every recurve archer has two necessities. The first is an armguard, a piece of leather, fabric or plastic that protects the arm holding your bow. The other is a finger tab, usually a piece of leather that protects the fingers drawing the bowstring.

If your box didn’t include a finger tab, you might have received a shooting glove. If you found neither, your bowstring might have a rubber piece reinforcing its center. If you have a compound bow, you’ll need a release aid. You can’t shoot a compound bow without it. But that’s probably OK. You’re heading to the archery store for a lesson with your new bow, right? (Right!)

Photo: compound bow, custom painted by SoCalCustoms.com

Photo: compound bow, custom painted by SoCalCustoms.com

Which other items did you receive?

A quiver holds your arrows, and usually hooks to a belt worn over your hips. (You can use any belt for this purpose, but some archers prefer fancy belts. That’s an option, too.)

A stabilizer is a long rod made of carbon or other materials. It sticks out in front of the bow for added stability. Stabilizers are good options once you’ve been shooting awhile and are comfortable with your bow.

If you received a target, you’re in great shape. You’ll have a convenient way to practice, even at home.

The human touch

Before setting up your bow and taking a few shots, it’s important to visit an archery store. Ask its technician to show you how to set up your bow. This includes stringing it safely if it’s a recurve bow, and custom-fitting the bow to you if it’s a compound. You’ll need to select arrows if they weren’t included. If they were included, ask the technician to confirm they fit you.

One vital “accessory” for every archer: a lesson or two from a certified Instructor or coach. Lessons in archery fundamentals help prevent injury and teach correct shooting steps from the start. Lessons also ensure success by quickly building your confidence.

Once you start shooting, you’ll find many ways to enjoy archery by yourself or with friends and family. Leagues, clubs and tournaments are just a few ways to feed the addiction. You can join a national association, and participate on the local, national or even international level! Wherever archery takes you, your journey begins with that first visit to the archery store.

Find a store near you.