Shooting bows and arrows at my great-grandpa’s house was one of my favorite pastimes as a child. There are few things as satisfying as seeing your arrow hit its mark! On the one hand, shooting a bow and arrow feels quite natural and can be somewhat self-explanatory. On the other hand, there are many things you can do to improve your accuracy. Here are the basics for proper form.
How to Shoot a Bow and Arrow—the Basics
Archery is a fun hobby and competitive sport, but it also has a much more practical side in terms of emergency preparedness: the ability to take game to feed yourself and your family. Your shooting form and accuracy play a large role in helping you get food, so it’s important to learn proper form and to practice it now before an emergency hits.
Stance: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Angle yourself so that once you draw the bow, you will be able to aim comfortably at the target. If you are right handed and right eye dominant, you will be holding the bow in your left hand and the arrow/string with your right hand (and vice versa for lefties/left eye dominant; those who are cross dominant typically choose to use the hand that will allow their dominant eye to aim).
Nock the arrow: Attach the arrow to the string by placing the indentation in the back of the arrow over the string. Hold the arrow on the string between your index finger and the 2 or 3 lower fingers of your hand according to preference.
Draw and Aim: Hold the bow at the handle and raise it to shoulder level, looking over your front shoulder at the target. Your bow arm should be straight, but don’t lock your elbow. Hold your forearm so that if you were to bend your elbow, it would bend to the side, rather than up or down. Holding the bow in this manner will help keep the string from zapping your forearm when you release the arrow (you may also want to invest in an arm guard, which will give you extra protection—even the pros use them).
While lifting the bow, draw the string back fluidly. You should “anchor” your aim each time by touching the string to the same part of your face, usually the side of your chin, just before the corner of the mouth, on the same side of your face as your hand drawing the string (or draw hand). Aim the arrow at the target by focusing your eyes on the target as you look down the shaft of the arrow (most bows will come with devices that will help you aim).
Release and follow through: Tighten your back muscles to pull back a bit more on the string and then relax the draw hand to release the string. Your elbow should pull backwards naturally as you do so. During this process, keep your bow arm up and your head looking at the target. Your draw hand will ultimately end up over your rear shoulder.
And hopefully you’ve hit your target. Now go have some fun and get some practice!
Check out our article “DIY Bow and Arrow” for tips and tricks for crafting a bow and arrow for a survival situation.
Have you shot a bow and arrow? What was your first experience like?
Archery: The Ultimate Resource for Recurve and Compound Archers, USA Archery, Editor, 2013.
Archery-Second Edition: Steps to Success, by Kathleen M. Haywood and Catherine F. Lewis, 1997.