Archery is a game of skill that requires training and practice with specialized equipment to produce consistent results. Like similar games, there are common pitfalls that trip up most archers as they climb the ladder to consistent accuracy.
If you can identify these issues quickly and overcome them, you’ll be within reach of your archery goals much sooner. Here are five of the most common archery mistakes you should be looking for as you develop your skills.
YOUR DRAW WEIGHT’S TOO HEAVY
Drawing a bowstring uses muscles in your shoulders, arms, chest and back in a coordinated movement that is not imitated in many other actions besides archery. Being able to pull back the string requires as much coordination as it does physical strength. Often, new archers have the strength to pull back a bow set at a particular weight, but not the coordination.
Many new archers have a set draw weight in mind they feel they need to pull. And if they struggle with that draw weight, they often try to push through rather than back off. That leads to bad habits, like wanting to let the string go as quickly as possible because it’s not comfortable to hold at full draw.
Start out with a draw weight that is easy for you to draw and hold once you’re at full draw. The actual weight is irrelevant. It just needs to be comfortable. As you shoot more and more, your coordination will develop, and you’ll be able to increase your draw weight.
YOUR DRAW LENGTH IS TOO SHORT OR TOO LONG
Shooting a bow with a draw length that’s too short or too long for you is a lot like trying to use a golf club that doesn’t fit. Yes, you might be able to hit a ball with that club, but probably not very well.
Go to a reputable pro shop or find a certified archery coach to figure out the right draw length for you. You can always tweak things a little bit to get comfortable, but if you have a 29-inch draw length and you’re trying to shoot a bow with a 28- or 30-inch draw, you’re going to struggle with consistency.
YOU’RE HOLDING THE BOW WRONG
If you don’t hold the bow properly during the shot, everything about the shot sequence will be a struggle. Proper hand position on the bow grip is the foundation of a good archery shot.
A bow’s grip looks much like a pistol grip, and so many first-timers grip a bow like they’d grip a handgun. But that gripping style can lead to hand torque – twisting the bow left or right due to the pressure from your grip. A key to consistency in archery is being able to reproduce a set of motions over and over. Hand torque is very difficult to replicate from shot to shot.
Try this grip instead: Hold your bow hand out in front of you as if you’re motioning to someone to “stop.” Now rotate it outward so your thumb and forefinger form the letter V. Set the bow grip in the center of that V.
When you draw back the string, the bow’s grip will push into the meaty part of your thumb. It’s a nice, flat, neutral spot that you can find time and again. Don’t exert any pressure on the grip with any of your fingers. Just let them fall limp. You won’t need them to hold up the bow. The tension of you pulling back on the string will keep the bow from falling.
YOU’RE LOOKING FOR THE SHOT
One of the hardest things for new archers to do is to not look to see where the arrow hits upon releasing the string. An archery shot isn’t finished the instant the arrow leaves the bow. There’s the continued movement of your bow arm toward the target and your release arm away from it that must be completed for the shot to be consistently accurate.
A pitcher throwing a baseball doesn’t stop moving as soon as the ball leaves his hand. There’s a follow-through that’s critical to accurate delivery of a strike.
New archers looking for the arrow as soon as the string is loosed often pitch their heads left or right to see around the riser. This interrupts the follow-through, which adversely affects the shot.
Stay focused when you release the bowstring and complete your follow-through. Have faith the arrow will hit where you were aiming and eventually, it will.
YOU’RE PUNCHING THE RELEASE OR PLUCKING THE STRING
Compound archers using a release aid and recurve archers drawing with their fingers are both often guilty of shooting on command. They make the bow fire when they want by slamming the release trigger or by opening their fingers to let go of the string.
For new archers, this often results in an inaccurate flinch. The archer’s sight pin dances around, and as soon as it gets close to the aiming spot, the archer sharply releases the string. There are muscles in both the release arm and the bow arm that will flex instantly in anticipation of the shot. That coordination is almost impossible to repeat, and so it breeds inconsistency.
A more repeatable shot sequence is to come to anchor at full draw, then slowly expand your body by pushing out with your bow arm while pulling back with your release arm. That expansion will cause your release finger to activate the trigger or your drawing fingers to slide off the bowstring. The shot is much more relaxed and repeatable.