Ah, face contact.
That easily overlooked variable in shooting form can wreck an otherwise perfect compound bow shot — maybe without your even knowing it.
One of the keys to any good archery shot is a solid, repeatable anchor, the position where you lock your draw hand against your face at full draw. For most archers, that anchor also includes some contact between the face and the bowstring.
Face-to-string contact is a great way to create a second reference point that ensures you are looking through your peep sight the same way for every shot. In archery, consistency from shot to shot is critical.
But the problem with face-to-string contact is that the pressure your face exerts onto the string can vary subtly. And if you don’t realize it, you can end up with left-right fliers — especially when you’re shooting long-range.
The best way to combat face-contact problems is to minimize it. Your anchor should be a spot on your face that’s easy to find shot after shot. For handheld releases — hinges, thumb buttons and resistance activated — a good anchor point puts the back of your index finger on one side of your jawbone and the back of your middle finger on the other. For a wrist-strap, index-finger release, a good spot has the index-finger knuckle at the back of your jawbone, just below your ear.
To minimize face contact against your bowstring when you achieve anchor, it’s a good idea to keep your head upright while looking at the target. Bring the bow and the string to your face instead of moving your head to the string.
When your head is upright, it’s easy to get everything lined up — bow hand, bow shoulder, back shoulder, peep and anchor — with minimal face contact. When you move your head to find the peep, it’s hard to repeat that exact lean from shot to shot, so you might have more face-to-string contact on one shot than you do on the next.
Touch the tip or side of your nose to the string when you look through your peep at full draw. If you feel the string on your nose in the same spot for every shot, you should have consistent alignment. A relatively new product that helps with this is the Bowmar Nose Button. It’s a small rubber tube you tie onto your string that you touch with your nose at anchor. Many professional archers who have started using the nose button have said they didn’t realize how inconsistent their positioning was until they used it.
Another popular anchor reference is the kisser button. It’s a soft-plastic button or a brass Nok Set placed on the string so that it touches the corner of your mouth. You set it up to work in conjunction with your proper anchor and peep alignment.
A kisser can be a great way to gauge face pressure on the string. Because it protrudes off the string, you’ll feel digging into your mouth if your face is applying too much pressure.
Whatever you do to orient your nose position, it’s best to have it rest lightly on the string. Don’t mash your nose down or sideways into the string. That creates string torque, which leads to shot inconsistency.
At the shot, your release hand should move straight backward. Sometimes — especially if your draw length is too long — archers pull at an inward angle toward their back shoulder blade. That’s going to increase face pressure just as the shot is firing.
Have someone video your anchor up close, and pay attention to making a good shot. Look at your string-to-face contact to see what it’s like throughout that good shot. If you’re having unexplained left-right arrow impacts one day, video your face again to see if you spot new or deeper creases caused by the string pressing into your face.
When right-handed archers increase face pressure against the string, the most common result is an arrow impacting to the left of the aiming point. Lefties usually end up with right-side impacts. That can be a signal that your face pressure is off.
If you pay attention to face pressure while you’re training, and work to minimize it while still achieving a solid anchor, you’ll begin to recognize what feels right and what feels excessive. After several hundred arrows, applying the proper amount of face pressure to your shot will become second nature.