Tag Archives: archery form

How to Conquer Buck Fever


What is Buck Fever?

Buck fever is a state of panic brought on by an intense hunting situation, followed by a huge adrenaline surge. It’s basically your body’s fight-or-flight reaction. If you’ve never experienced buck fever, then you either haven’t seen a 200-inch buck up close or you’re just one cool customer.

For the rest of us, buck fever is a very real and formidable foe. It still haunts me today! When that long-awaited moment of truth comes, when that giant buck finally steps into the open, I feel like a little kid trembling in my boots. This intense excitement is why I love bowhunting so much. Unfortunately it’s also the reason I still miss shots on big bucks.

On my second archery hunt back in the nineties, I had a true monsterbuck step out broadside at 35 yards. Sure enough I came completely unglued and proceeded to send my arrow into the dirt at his feet.

Today’s bows are consistent tack drivers. Unfortunately we let ourselves get in it the way of their performance. The ultimate goal in archery is to eliminate yourself as a variable, and the best way to do that is through diligent practice.

How to Practice for Buck Fever

  • The most effective way I’ve found to practice for buck fever is by getting your heart rate up during practice sessions. You can do this by sprinting to and from your target. Start by shooting one arrow and then sprint to the target, pull the arrow, and sprint back. Shoot again and repeat. This will quickly get you’re your heart rate and breathing up. Do this exercise repeatedly until you are a huffing, puffing wreck. I’ll admit, this kind of practice isn’t very fun, but it’s the best way to prepare for buck fever.
  • Shooting competitively is another way to practice for buck fever. Every major city in the country has archery clubs and regular competitions. Shooting competitively and publicly puts the pressure on and ups the excitement level, especially when competing for money and prizes. Just like other adverse conditions practice, learning to shoot well under pressure is a valuable skill.
  • While hunting there are a few ways to cope with buck fever. First, try to slow your breathing. If you have time before the shot, take a few deep breaths and exhale slowly. Second, avoid getting tunnel vision. Tunnel vision is basically where you lose situational awareness because you’re hyper-focused on one thing, like the deer’s incredible rack. Instead, take a second to expand your view. Look around for any other deer that you might have missed. Whatever you do, don’t rush the shot. Most bowhunting scenarios play out slowly, and rushing things just causes mistakes.
  • When the shot finally comes together, put all your focus into following through. Hunters under pressure usually miss low because they “drop the bow” on the shot. Instead, focus on keeping your sight pin on target until the arrow hits. Keeping equal palm pressure across the bow’s grip also helps with follow through.
  • One more tip:  When a buck suddenly appears at close range, it’s common to misjudge the buck’s size amidst all the excitement. This can lead to shooting a buck you aren’t happy with. For this reason I refuse to pull an arrow until I’ve judged the buck and I’m sure he’s a shooter. Pulling an arrow creates momentum, and when you combine momentum with excitement it leads to smaller bucks, or worse, missing the big one.


These are the best methods I’ve found to practice and prepare for buck fever situations. Buck fever might be an incurable affliction, but it also means you’re passionate about hunting, and that’s a good thing.

Good luck out there!

Advanced Archery Technique: The Relaxed State

The Advanced Archery Technique

All suffering is caused by desire.  -Buddha

Over the past several years I’ve taught hundreds of people basic archery. Of all these students, only a handful are what you might call “naturals.” They follow instructions carefully, excel quickly, and break through to the next level at an astonishing pace.

But even these “naturals” eventually hit a wall: their accuracy plateaus, they fatigue out, and eventually falter. At this point they often turn to me and ask, “What now? I’ve mastered the basics, but how can I hit closer to the bullseye?”

As their intrepid instructor, it’s my duty to guide these students to the next level. The problem I had early on–and what my students didn’t know–was that I too was wondering the same thing! When you’ve mastered the basics–that is, when you’re executing the shot sequence flawlessly and still coming up short–how do you increase accuracy?

For the first time in my career I had no choice but to break down my shot sequence and see where potential weaknesses could set in. Here’s what I discovered.

The Problem

The thing that gets between the bow and the target isn’t the arrow,  it’s you! Every archer, no matter how advanced, goes through slumps. A few missed shots quickly erodes confidence by allowing negative factors such as fatigue, discouragement, and desperation into the shot. It’s a vicious cycle: the harder you try, the worse you do.

The Fatigue Factor

Physical fatigue is the greatest negative factor, especially for the beginner who hasn’t yet developed his back muscles. Just as he begins hitting close to the bullseye, he fatigues. But there’s also mental fatigue, caused by trying to over-aim the arrow into the bullseye again and again.  Finally there’s spiritual fatigue, the byproduct of chronic misses. In the end, all this fatigue erodes confidence and creates a downward spiral.

Zen in Archery

From the Zen perspective, all suffering comes from desire. Desire, of course, is healthy and even necessary for any activity. But when desire turns into obsession, that’s when we suffer.

In archery you suffer from your very first shot. You strain physically under the weight of bow while your mind strains to aim the arrow. And when your arrow falls short of the bullseye, your spirit strains from the pangs of failure, resulting in desperation.  In short order, your whole being–mind, body, and spirit–is strained!

I see this all the time. The student grasps another arrow, and another, faster and faster while simultaneously grasping for the bullseye which is rapidly becoming an impossible target. Very quickly he creates the bad habit of high-stress archery, which can take a long time to fix.

So, what’s the fix? It’s simple.

Instead of drawing the bow to a state of high tension, we need to learn how to draw to a relaxed state. Drawing to a relaxed state removes your self from the shot by eliminating negative influences over the arrow. Hence, your bow shoots itself. In Zen archery, eliminating your “self” removes desire, which in turn removes stress and suffering.

The Relaxed State Exercise

  1. Bring only one arrow with you on this exercise.
  2. Set up five paces from a large, blank target.
  3. Load the arrow.
  4. Stand up straight and spread your weight evenly between your feet.
  5. Grasp the string firmly and draw to your face while taking a deep, deep breath.
  6. At full draw, look up and away from the bow. Look at the sky and the clouds and the trees. Breathe out, and back in again. Feel the strength of your body as it overpowers the scrawny bow. Forget the bullseye; no one cares if you hit it anyway! Say to yourself, “I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been in my life.”
  7. Now let down the draw smoothly; don’t shoot the arrow.
  8. Catch your breath.
  9. Repeat the process, only this time, when you’ve reached your highest  state of relaxation, release the arrow. Don’t aim at the target. Just relax your shooting hand until the shot goes off. This is what a relaxed arrow feels like.
  10. Maintain this relaxed state as you walk to the target and pull your arrow. Repeat this process over and over until it becomes habit.

That’s all there is to it. You are now drawing the bow to a state of high relaxation rather than a state of high stress. You’ve turned a bad habit into a good habit.

Real Life Example

One day I approached a talented young student who was literally drawing a circle around the bullseye with errant arrows. Wide-eyed and desperate, he turned to me and pleaded, “What am I doing wrong?!” I watched him fling yet another arrow just outside of the bullseye. I told him, “You’re trying to hard.” I went on to explain that missing the target wasn’t the end of the world; that his passion for archery–the whole meditative process–was far more important than a single bullseye. I had him breathe deeply and look around at the beautiful mountains. A moment later he calmly drew his bow and sank the next arrow into the bullseye. His face lit up and he hugged me. Years later he still talks about his enlightening experience.


Your bow is designed to shoot a perfect arrow every time. The arrow only misses if you let yourself get in the way.

For every student that asks, How can I shoot more accurately?, there are a few others who comment on how meditative archery is; how it relaxes and focuses the mind. These students typically aren’t the best archers at first, because to them the process outweighs the result. I view these students as the real naturals, and they even prove it when, eventually, their arrow finds the bullseye with seemingly little effort.

Shooting in a relaxed state is the secret to Zen archery. On a grander scale, you might say that living in a relaxed state is the secret to a Zen life!

Top 3 Tips to Improve Your Archery NOW!


Top 3 Tips to Improve Your Archery

Now that spring is here, you’ve probably taken your bow out, dusted it off, and sent some arrows downrange. Maybe some were bulls-eyes while some were errant, but it’s early yet and there’s always room for improvement.

In the last ten years I’ve worked tirelessly at becoming a better hunter. But at the same time, I’ve also developed some bad habits. These habits are common to most archers and include punching the release and lack of follow-through. What you do at the end of your release has the greatest effect on accuracy. So in today’s lesson we’re going to relearn how to shoot.

Bad shooting habits develop because we’re too focused on hitting the bullseye. Everyone knows that humans can only focus on one thing at a time. Ironically, if we focus too hard on the bullseye, we’ll actually miss it!

Here’s the fix

  1. RELAX!:  A famous target archer once said, “A relaxed mind cannot exist in a tense body, and a tense mind cannot exist in a relaxed body.” More than anything else, the bow and arrow fights relaxation. First, there’s the mental stress of hitting the bullseye, especially in a hunting or competition. Second, when you draw your bow, your whole body becomes physically tense as it struggles to crank back and hold all that weight. So, now your mind and body are under duress. Your fight and flight response takes over and all that matters in the world is getting rid of that arrow. Now STOP! Tell yourself you will not release until you calm down. Breathe in and out a couple times. Put your sight pin on the bullseye, then take it off, and put it back on again. Who cares if you miss? Refuse to shoot until you are completely calm. Eventually this will become habit and will have the greatest effect on your accuracy.
  2. The Open Grip:  By now you probably know how to grip your bow, but it’s worth another look. First, your bow’s grip should begin at U-shape between your thumb and index finger. Second, your grip should contact your hand along your life line (the line that separates the fleshy part of your thumb and middle of your palm. Third, the grip should end at the center of your palm where your wrist begins. If you do this correctly, the middle knuckles of your bow hand will form a 45-degree angle slanted away from your grip. NOW, this is only the beginning. When you draw your bow, your fingers should be relaxed and open away from the bow’s grip. Your fingers should remain relaxed throughout the entire shot. The best way to do this is to make an “okay” sign with your index finger and thumb lightly touching. Your hand must remain like this throughout the entire shot.
  3. Follow-Through: Seems simple, right?! It’s not. Again, you can only focus on one thing, so if you’re still aiming at this point, then you’re not following through.  Aiming should go as far as letting the pin float tiny circles around the bullseye. At that point, your only focus should be on pushing the bow forward with your bow arm, and steadily pulling the string back with your release hand. The pin floats almost subconsciously while your focus floats freely and relaxedly between back tension, breathing, and oblivion. Oblivion is where you are free of all anticipation, free of all tension, and free of all distraction. All the technicalities of archery have become one simple action (form) and relegated to your subconscious mind. With nothing left to distract you, you are free; you are in the moment, perfectly centered between the future and the past.

The goal of archery is to relax: relax your grip, relax your body, and relax your mind. At this point, the bow is loosed on its own terms. The bow-and-arrow is accurate every time, subject only to the laws of nature which are fixed. The only variable is the shooter. The greatest obstacle YOU and how you influence the shot. When can master yourself, you will experience perfect archery with every shot.

Note:  I’ve included a video in my next blog post that demonstrates the 3 steps to better archery. Here’s the Video Link.

How to Aim Traditional and Compound Bows


How to Aim Traditional & Compound Bows

In this short article I’m going to explain the proper way to aim both traditional bows and compound bows.

Aiming Traditional Bows

Traditional bows (recurves and longbows) are aimed in the following sequence of steps:

  1. Nock the arrow onto your string. Grasp the string with three fingers. You can place three fingers beneath the arrow, or two under and one over. Either way is fine, however, placing all three fingers beneath the arrow will bring it closer to your eye and increase accuracy.
  2. Pull the string towards your face so the arrow is directly beneath your right eye (or left eye if you’re left-handed).
  3. Find your anchor points. Anchor points are spots on your face where your string and hand touches. You must touch the same points with every shot. The best anchor points are a) the string touching the side or tip of your nose, and b) a fingertip (usually the middle finger) touching the corner of your mouth.
  4. Look though the string, or just to the side of it, while aiming down the arrow shaft at the target. Some archers literally look through the string, while others pull the string slightly to the outside of the eye. It’s a matter of personal preference. The important thing is that the string is close to your eye and pulled to the same spot every time.
  5.  Point the tip of the arrow at the target and release. Your bow’s draw weight and distance to the target will dictate where the tip of the arrow is in relation to the the target. The farther you get away from the target, the higher you must hold the tip of the arrow to account for the arrow’s arc. The distance at which the arrow tip is on the bull’s-eye is called “point-on.” Point-on is the best reference for aiming. At distances further than point-on, you’ll hold the arrow tip higher. At closer range, hold the tip lower on the bullseye.
The distance at which the arrow tip is on the bulls-eye is called "point-on."
The distance at which the arrow tip is on the bulls-eye is called “point-on.”

A different style of aiming is known as intinctive shooting. With instinctive shooting your focus is solely on the target rather than the arrow tip. After dozens and dozens of arrows, you will gradually fall into a natural shooting rhythm in which aiming is unnecessary, similar to throwing a baseball.

Either aiming technique is fine. In time you’ll figure out which works best for you.

Aiming Compound Bows

Modern compound bows generally use a round front sight and a round, rear peep sight built into the string. As you draw the string to your aiming eye, the small peep sight becomes a larger, dark, blurry circle approximately the same size as the round sight on the front of your bow. The bow is aimed by bringing the circles together, similar to a rifle scope.

Inside the front sight there are fiber-optic, glowing pins (anywhere from one to seven). The pins are set at measured distances from top to bottom. The top pin is usually set at 20 yards and each lower pin is set at ten yard increments. So at 30 yards you would use the second pin down, at 40 yards you’d use the third pin, and so on.

It’s important to remember that you are aligning the two circles into one circle, and then placing the sight pin on target. Beginner archers sometimes make the mistake of aligning the rear sight with the front pin instead of aligning both sights together (see examples below).

CORRECT sight picture.
CORRECT sight picture.
INCORRECT sight picture. Align both circles BEFORE placing the pin on target.
INCORRECT sight picture. Align both circles BEFORE placing the pin on target.


For the beginner archer, compound bows can be more difficult to shoot than traditional bows (recurves and longbows) because of all the extra parts. But once you get accustom to the extra step of aligning the two circles,  you’ll quickly learn to shoot compound bows just as accurately or more.

All you have to do is align the front and rear sights, put the pin on the  bullseye and touch the trigger release (or let go if you’re using your fingers). The bow really does all the work for you.

The basic fundamentals of archery apply to both traditional and modern bows. The main difference is how they are aimed. In my beginner classes I always start my students with traditional bows and work up to modern compounds. After that, it’s up to the student to decide which weapon he/she feels most comfortable with.

7 Tips for Better Archery Accuracy

7 Tips for Better Accuracy

Advanced archers make shooting look effortless, but it’s only because they’ve put in countless hours mastering the basics. Over time the many components of form become one single subconscious step that happens in the background of the mind. Here are some key tips for improving your shot.

#1:  Keep both eyes open

Keeping both eyes open gives you a better sight picture. This is especially important with traditional bows. Because there aren’t any sights on a traditional bow, your focus is on the target. To acquire a more accurate target, keep both eyes open. I still do this with the compound bow, especially if I’m unsure of the distance.

Keeping both eyes open gives me more dimensionality to the target. Everything I do all day requires me to keep both eyes open, so why would I close one when shooting?

Try shooting with both eyes open.
Try shooting with both eyes open.

If you close one eye, you are viewing the world in 2D, not 3D. This is not how your brain sees the world. Because I don’t view the world in two dimensions, I don’t aim in two dimensions either.

#2: Don’t Aim

Proper form begins from the ground up:  feet placement, proper grip, and drawing the string to your anchor point. It ends with aiming, releasing, and following through. Of all these steps, aiming is really the easiest and least important.

In traditional archery, aiming is accomplished by simply pointing the arrow at the target. In the time it takes to master the other fundamentals, aiming will become “instinctive.” Therefore, your focus should be on consistent form and follow through, not aiming. If your form is correct, the arrow will find the bull’s-eye on its own.

Note: Correct aiming happens by aligning the string with your eye. This is done by touching the string to the side or tip of your nose. I won’t even loose the arrow until I feel the string on my nose.

#3: Touch your ear

What does your ear have to do with shooting? After each shot, your release hand should brush past your face and end up touching your ear. If you make this a habit, I guarantee your accuracy will improve.

Follow-through means your release hand continues back as your bow arm goes forward. If you allow your release hand to move forward on the shot, or up or down, then the string will be pulled–or plucked–out of alignment, causing the  arrow to wobble or drift side to side.

The best way to avoid errant arrows is to follow through straight back. Touching your ear means you’ve released correctly.

Follow through by touching your ear after each shot.
Follow through by touching your ear after each shot.

#4: Don’t flinch

Where the bow goes, the arrow goes.

Flinching is a major no-no. The two biggest indicators of flinching are a) dropping or raising your bow arm at the shot, or b) lifting your head to see where the arrow hits.

Neither your head nor your bow arm should move until the arrow hits the target. It’s normal for the bow to rock forward or back on release, but your bow arm should remain up and pointed at the target until the arrow hits. Your head—which is slightly cocked to the side—should also remain in frozen in position as well.

The best way to avoid flinching is to have a surprise release. A common mistake is anticipating the shot by focusing on the release rather than follow-through.

Instead, all your focus should be on form. As you reach your anchor point, the arrow and string will simply pull free as you relax your release hand. If you concentrate the release hand, the string will jerk out of your hand causing the arrow to miss.

#5: Use your back

All the power to draw the bow comes from your back muscles, not your arms. I refer to the arms as “deadposts” or “anchors” because they simply serve to hold the bow. The real power comes from your back muscles.

Your back is much stronger than your arms, and that power is transferred to the bow through your arms. Think of you arms as electric power lines which hang loosely in the air. The lines don’t create the tremendous power that surges through them, the power plant does.

The best way to tap into your back power is to stand up straight and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Upon release, your shoulder blades will continue pulling together—almost touching—while your arms pull the bow apart in opposite directions.

Harnessing the power of your back is the only way to load the bow with enough power to execute the shot properly.

#6: Don’t pinch the string

The most common problem I see in beginner archery is simply keeping the arrow from falling off the bow. At least half my beginner students have a hard time keeping the arrow on the bow long enough to shoot. This is caused by pinching the nock.

Leave a slight gap between your fingers.
Leave a slight gap between your fingers.

The string is gripped with three fingers: index, middle, and ring. As you draw the bow back, the fingers tend to bunch up and put pressure on the nock, which ends up pulling the arrow off the shelf.

To keep this from happening, simply leave a slight gap between your fingers as you draw. If the problem persists, try tilting the bow farther to the side and letting gravity hold the arrow for you.

As frustrating as this might be, the problem usually fixes itself over time.

#7: Loosen your grip on the bow

Frequent left and right misses are caused by torquing, or over-gripping, the bow. I call it the “death grip.” People death-grip the bow because they feel like they need to control the tremendous energy they’ve loaded into to the bow at full draw.

Heavy bows have so much power that we think they might fly back into our face if we don’t grip them tightly. In reality, all that energy simply leaves with the arrow and the bow falls limp in your hand. If you grip too tight, you’ll force the bow left or right. Remember, where the bow goes, the arrow goes.

Use a loose grip on the bow to avoid torque.
Use a loose grip on the bow to avoid torque.

To avoid torque, simply allow the bow sit loosely in your palm while resting your fingertips lightly on the front of the grip. This allows the bow to settle into its natural alignment.

The best way I’ve found to avoid over-gripping the bow is to simply touch your thumb and index finger together and let your other fingers float in front of the bow (see photo).


With enough practice, anyone can master the art of archery. Just remember that hitting the bulls-eye is a long-term goal. Your short-term goal should to master the basic fundamentals. I promise you, hitting the bullseye will come naturally given enough time.

Enjoy the process and don’t get discouraged. If you have any questions at all, please leave a comment.

Happy Shooting!

Step #3: The Release Arm

Proper Arrow Release

The release arm, (aka the string arm or shooting arm), is the arm/hand that holds the string while drawing the bow. If you are right handed, then it’s your right hand.

In traditional archery you have the option of wearing a shooting glove or finger tab to protect your shooting fingers (index, middle, and ring finger).

Although it is perfectly fine to shoot with bare fingers on a light-poundage bow, it can be very painful with a heavier-poundage bow. A release “aid” or glove also allows the string to slide off the fingers evenly and with less friction.

Glove-style release aid.
Finger tab release aid.

All newer-model compound bows should be shot with a mechanical release aid. Unlike traditional bows (longbows and recurves), compound bows are designed to be shot in-line with the arrow, string, and rest.

With traditional bows, the string naturally oscillates from side to side as it comes off your fingers. This is normal, and the arrow will straighten itself out in flight.

With compound bows, the arrow leaves the bow at a much higher speeds, and therefore, oscillation will cause the arrow to wobble and shed energy as it tries to re-adjust itself in flight. Therefore, the arrow should be shot with perfect alignment to avoid any oscillation.

Compound Bow Release

In order to accomplish this, the arrow attaches to the bowstring inside of a D-loop that’s tied to the bowstring. Next, a mechanical release aid attaches to the D-loop to draw the bow back. This keeps the shooters arm aligned perfectly with the arrow.

Compound bow D-Loop.
Mechanical release aid for compound bows.

As an aside, my person favorite release is the Fletcher .44 Caliper Release. This is the smoothest, most reliable, and least expensive release I’ve used.

Traditional Archery Release

With traditional archery, you have two options for grasping the string: 1) One finger above and two below the arrow nock, or 2) Three fingers below the nock.

The advantage of having three fingers below is that it brings the arrow closer to your eye. This helps with aiming. I’ve personally found that three fingers below dramatically increases my accuracy. Try it both ways and see which method works best for you.

One finger above and two below.
Three fingers below. This brings the string closer to your eye.


Click here for the next lesson: Step #4: Releasing an Arrow

Part 1: Overcoming Adversity

Part 1 of a 4 part series on life, hunting, and overcoming adversity.


Adverse Conditions = Success

In teaching advanced archery, one of my lessons revolves around “adverse conditions.” What I mean by adverse conditions is that when you’re shooting arrows in your backyard, you are generally shooting at a large target, on a flat surface, at a known yardage, and in fair weather.

Practice for Adverse Conditions

Big bucks are tough and can take an arrow when hit poorly. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than injuring or losing buck following a bad hit. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. It’s been said that there are two kinds of motorcycle riders: those who’ve gone down and those who will. The same thing applies to bowhunters. Every situation is different and nothing is ever perfect. Success often depends on how fast you can load, draw, and shoot under tremendous pressure inside a buck’s 60-yard security bubble.

Fortunately we can put off the inevitable doing what I call “adverse conditions” practice. Adverse conditions practice means shooting from random distances, from various body positions, around objects, and in less-than-ideal conditions like wind or low light.

To optimize each shooting session—and to add some fun—try the following routine when shooting with a partner. Have him or her pick a random spot to shoot from. Shoot one arrow each without ranging. Then range the distance and shoot a second arrow. Take turns selecting different spots to shoot from while making each shot as difficult as possible by placing mental and physical obstacles between you and the target. Shoot from behind objects like trees, or through light brush or grass.

In the woods you will deal with all kinds of physical distractions, like shaking from the cold or buck fever, or maybe sweat dripping in your eyes and flies landing on your face. You can prepare for these situations by having your shooting partner yell or poke you right before the shot. Don’t let your partner shoot until after you yell, “There’s a deer! He’s coming right for us!” You can further add intensity to these sessions by keeping score, or better yet, putting money on each shot. In the old days we would pin a dollar bills to the target, and whoever hit a bill got to keep it.

In real life hunting scenarios, animals move around a lot. Yet archers rarely practice shooting at moving targets. Instead we get accustom to settling the pin on stationary block targets. Shooting at running animals isn’t really practical or ethical. Even when an animal is walking slowly it’s a good idea to try and stop it. That being said, animals are unpredictable. Sometimes they take a step during a shot. Other times you won’t be able to stop them no matter what you do. Consequently, a hunter who only shoots at stationary targets will likely hit the animal too far back. Fortunately you can prepare for these situations by shooting moving targets.

Shooting at slow-moving targets will mimic real-life hunting situations. Your best bet is to find (or build) a round target and roll it down a gently-sloping hill. If you don’t have a rolling target you can always put a square target in a wagon and have someone pull it with a rope. Another option is to dangle a small balloon from a string in front of a large target or backstop. You might be surprised at how difficult it is to hit a balloon dancing in the wind.

Practicing for real-life hunting scenarios also means shooting form different body positions. Shooting from a standing position might be fine for sighting in your bow, but pretty soon you’d better get on your knees. Not only are deer more likely to identify you as a person when you are standing, but most stalks and shots take place on your knees. Most of my bucks were taken from a kneeling position. They were also taken while wearing a backpack, a ball cap, and a camouflage glove on my bow hand. So that’s how I practice. During every practice sessions, purposely contort, twist, or lean your body like you would in a real-life hunting situation. It’s also a good idea to practice shooting steep up and down angles.

Bowhunters are lucky to get one or two shots at deer each season, so it’s imperative that we practice for real-life hunting scenarios. Rarely will you find a buck standing perfectly broadside on flat ground at a known distance. Unless the buck is bedded, he will likely be moving, and possibly in heavy cover. Anything you can do to make archery practice more challenging will translate into better success in the field.

Remember, overcoming adversity is how we grow stronger in life and bowhunting. Anticipate it–even welcome it–and you’ll be better for it.

Click here for Part 2:  The Steely Claws

Step #2: Gripping the Bow

How to Grip the Bow

The bow arm (or bow hand) is the arm that holds the bow up. It is sometimes referred to as a dead-post because it doesn’t really do anything special, other than hold the bow. That being said, your bow arm has a great effect on accuracy. This applies to both traditional and modern bows.

Bow arm grip.

Steps to Properly Grip the Bow

1.  If you are right-handed, grip the bow with your left hand. First off, you’re not really “gripping” the bow, you’re simply holding the bow and pushing it forward as you draw back. If you grip the bow too tightly you’ll torque it from side to side, causing you to miss left or right.

The best way to avoid torque is to lightly touch the tips of your thumb and index finger together and allow your other fingers to remain relaxed.

Use a loose grip on the bow to avoid torque.

2.  The bow’s grip should settle in the “throat” or “V” of your hand (between your thumb and index finger.) The grip should also line up just to the thumb side of your “life line.” In other words, the bow is supported by the big, fleshy part of your lower thumb.

For maximum support, keep your wrist straight and in-line with your forearm bones (as seen in the photo above). If you allow your wrist to bend outward it will cause the bow to settle at the base of your thumb, which causes movement. As you relax your grip on the bow, you will feel the bow settle at a balanced fulcrum point in the throat of your hand.

Correct wrist alignment.
Incorrect wrist alignment.

3. The most common mistake for beginner archers is to allow the elbow to bend downward. This increases the chance of slapping your arm with the string. Therefore, you must draw with your elbow up and bent slightly outward.

Elbow up and bent slightly outward (CORRECT).
Elbow pointed downward (INCORRECT).

4. As you draw the bow back, your bow arm pushes the bow forward. Remember, your back muscles are doing all the work. As you squeeze your shoulder blades together, your bow arm and your shooting arm apply pressure in opposite directions. This is called “pulling the bow apart.”

On the shot, both arms continue in opposite directions. This is called “follow through” and will be covered in a future post.

Click here for Step #3: The Release Arm

Step #1: Proper Archery Shooting Stance

Archery Shooting Stance

Proper archery shooting form is the foundation for accuracy. Over the next few weeks we will cover proper archery shooting form, literally from the ground up.

Believe it or not, proper form has more influence on accuracy than aiming! Therefore, we will start with your feet and end with your eyes. Always remember, archery is executed by drawing the bow string across your chest and not towards it. Therefore, your body must face 90-degrees away from the target. This is accomplished with proper foot placement.

Feet Placement Steps:

  1. Place an arrow on the ground, pointed at the target.
  2. Line up your feet perpendicular to the arrow so your toes are almost touching it. You are now standing at a 90-degree angle to the target. (see photo below)


3.  Space your feet shoulder-width apart.

4. If you are right-handed, move your left foot (foot closest to the target) back 3 or 4 inches from the arrow and pointed halfway–or 45 degrees–towards the target. (see photo below)stance002

5.  You are now in the proper archery shooting stance. It’s that easy!

Before you even nock an arrow be sure your feet are set properly. A proper shooting stance provides a stable body position for shooting any kind of bow. It also opens up the space in front of your chest to draw the bowstring.

Any deviation from this stance will put you off balance and adversely affect shot accuracy.  This will quickly become a good habit.

For the next lesson, click here: Step #2: Gripping the Bow