One of the most expensive yet satisfying sounds on the archery practice range comes from one arrow slamming into another in the target. That’s the sound of tight arrow grouping. That’s the sound of success.
Shrinking your arrow groups to the point where arrows are hitting one another is not difficult. It just takes the right gear tuned the right way, time behind the bow and some specialized practice. Here’s how you can start down the path to packing your arrows tight in the target.
Tune Your Bow
As soon as you take a bow out of its box, you can nock an arrow, pull back the string and send the arrow downrange. But that doesn’t mean it’s flying straight. The straighter your bow shoots, the tighter your groups will be.
You need to tune your gear to get your bow to shoot arrows perfectly straight. This starts with making sure your arrows match your bow.
Every arrow manufacturer provides a chart with the correct arrow spines for various draw weights and arrow lengths. Match your arrow length to your draw weight to select the proper spine. Arrows that are too stiff or too limber for your bow won’t fly consistently.
Once you have the proper arrow for your bow, you want to shoot it through paper at close range. The tears in the paper will tell you how to adjust your arrow rest and/or nocking point to achieve proper alignment. Here’s a great video on paper tuning.
Check Your Grip
Achieving a consistent grip is critical to shrinking your arrow groups. The most consistent grip is a neutral one – that is, a grip where your hand affects the bow as little as possible. Basically, you want to push the bow straight toward the target. If you squeeze the grip like you’re holding a pistol, for example, you’re certainly adding left-right influence that is nearly impossible to replicate shot after shot.
So hold out your bow hand like you’re motioning for someone to stop. Then rotate your hand outward until your thumb and forefinger form a V. Set the bow in your hand on the meaty part of your thumb and relax your fingers. That’s a flat, neutral spot, and when you pull back on the bowstring, the bow should simply sit still. At the shot, it should move only straight forward.
Reduce Your Target Size
In “The Patriot,” Mel Gibson’s character tells his son to “aim small, miss small” to be precise with his shooting. If you’re used to shooting at a pie plate while practicing with your bow, shrink the target to something the diameter of a coffee cup. Once you can stack your arrows in that, shrink the target to the size of a 50-cent piece, then a quarter, then a dime.
Small targets force you to aim small, which means you should miss small. The end result is tighter arrow grouping. Your brain will learn to recognize and correct pin movement to keep it as still as possible. The less your pin moves, the more accurate you’ll be.
Extend Your Practice Distance
The farther you shoot, the more the flaws in your shooting form will be exposed. If you make subtle errors at 20 yards, your arrows won’t stray much from your aiming point, so you won’t notice the mistakes. But if you make those same errors while shooting at 60 yards, your arrow could end up several inches off target.
Practicing at distances longer than you normally shoot will force you to focus on aiming and releasing with greater precision. You’ll know if you make a mistake, because the feedback is instantaneous.
If you’ve never shot over 20 yards, back up incrementally. Start out at 30 yards. Once you get comfortable and consistent there, go to 40, 50 and then 60. When you are consistent at 50 and 60 yards, go back to 20. You’ll be amazed at how comfortable and precise you’ve become at the shorter distance.
Practice a Lot
The more familiar you are with your archery gear and with producing good shots, the more confident you’ll be. Your mind and body will learn to work together to shoot well. And when you feel a shot going awry, you’ll instinctively work to correct the situation before releasing the arrow.
The feeling that comes from making a well-executed shot that hits right where you were aiming is unmistakable. The more you experience that, the easier it becomes for your body and mind to replicate it. And that will go a long way toward shrinking your arrow groupings to the point where you start breaking nocks and slicing off vanes. It’s an expensive — but satisfying — problem to have.