How to Shoot a Compound Bow

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One thing that bow shooting has over shooting firearms is the level of tactility.

You physically pull the string back. You handle every projectile.

It just feels more like you’re working a whole mechanism with your body.

With this comes a lot of needed skill, but with a bit of advice, you should be off to a good start.

Read on to learn how to shoot a compound bow.

Posture and Stance

Having the correct posture is incredibly important in many disciplines.

Taekwondo fighters use a side on stance for quick in and out movement. Muay Thai fighters use a more squared stance to allow for kick defense and the ability to sit down on shots.

When shooting, the stance is just as important.

Body mechanics are something that can’t be overlooked.

Unlike with kickboxing, you aren’t driving forward with your feet to generate power.

You want them firmly planted to allow your back, shoulder, and arm muscles to do their thing[1]. Stand with your feet no more than shoulder width apart.

You want your body turned at roughly a 90 degree angle. Stand up straight, and let your shoulders relax. You don’t want them tensed up.

Keep in mind that there are some variations on the “right” way to do things.

Start off learning how to do things correctly, and develop your own style later on.

How to shoot a compound bow proper stance right angles

Nocking the Arrow

Nocking is just a technical term for placing the nook of the arrow on the string.

You’ll most likely have a quiver attached to your bow or slung around your back.

Grab the arrow, and bring it to the string. In general, arrows have three feathers, forming something of a triangle[2].

You want to line it up so that two of them are pointing off to the side, and one of the feathers is in line with, but pointing away from, the string.

This “middle” feather will often be colored differently.

While traditional bows just have a string, compound bows tend to have a D-loop in the middle of the string. This is the part of the string that you nock the arrow on.

The D-loop actually makes things easier when starting out, as there is no process of finding the right place to nock the arrow.

Let the “body” of the arrow rest on the arrow rest, which will be above where your lead hand grips the bow.

How to hold a compound bow grip nock the arrow on the string

Shooting the Bow

Okay, we’re getting to the fun part.

Release aids (like these) have become the common way to shoot compound bows, so I’ll assume that you are using one.

You start by hooking the release aid to the D-Loop. Every release lock is not the same, but it should lock on.

With your lead hand, you should position the bow in between the meat of your thumb and your index finger. The bow should almost be resting on top of your hand while being pushed forward simultaneously.

If you are holding it correctly, your knuckles will most likely be at a roughly 45 degree angle with the bow.

Try to work on relaxing your hand. If it is tensed up, your aim will end up being shaky and it will be harder to develop consistent shooting.

If you’re out in the woods aiming at a buck, stress and body tension can ruin a shot.

Have confidence in the fact that sharp technique and relaxation are more than enough to land your shots. It may take time to get there, but just work on keeping everything as relaxed feeling as possible.

Now to drawing and releasing the bow.

When pulling the string back, you want to bring it back to its maximum draw distance.

The draw length on compound bows involves some calculation, so make sure you have that figured out before you’re on the range[3]. Shop workers can likely help you with that.

Many modern compound bows have sights with range indicators. Aiming is fairly straight forward here.

If your bow does not, there will be a little trial and error. You want to have a focal point in relation to the arrow and the parts of the bow.

Over time, this is something that will become second nature and a “feel” for the aiming point will develop.

Keep your breathing steady, and release on the exhale.

Once again, you want to stay relaxed.

When you pull the release trigger, keep everything else stable.

If your lead hand moves when you release, it will affect the arrow, so keep everything relaxed and stationary until the arrow has flown.

How to shoot a compound bow for hunting tips tricks practice basics

Tips

Before you start shooting, make sure you have an arm guard (like this one) on your lead arm.

It is common for beginners to have their arms lingering in the path of the string, and it is not going to be a fun experience if your arm gets clipped.

It can be easy to overlook this, but it is easier to have happen than you might imagine.

Another common problem is drawing the bow and holding for too long.

It is obvious why this happens. Everyone wants to land perfect shots.

When you’re a beginner, you want to line up the shot correctly.

However, when you’re a beginner, this likely means holding it drawn back for an extended period of time as you waver around the target. When you do this, you’re going to burn out your muscles.

When you’re new, even if you’re in shape, the specific muscles used in bow shooting are not yet up to par. Every time you hold the bow drawn for extended period of time, you’ll get tired quicker the next time you draw it back.

It may seem counter intuitive, but try to release fairly soon after drawing it back.

You may not land a bullseye, but that’s ok because you’re a beginner and you aren’t supposed to. You’ll get better at releasing at the right time as you improve.

Also, you may want to get a lighter bow.

Did you know that you can get both a light and a heavy draw weight in one compound bow? The Infinite Edge Pro by Diamond Archery can be adjusted from 5 to 70 pounds!

Lighter bows are not as accurate as the heavier ones.

However, until you’re at a level where you’re in competitions or bow hunting, you don’t necessarily need the extra half an inch of MOA at 75 yards.

A lighter bow will be easier to handle and draw back which may help your early development.

As a final tip, try to focus on form over results.

Standing correctly and operating the bow correctly are more important than landing shots. If you focus on developing technique, you will find yourself having better results. Taking shortcuts when starting out can lead to the development of bad habits and tendencies.

Besides, a beginner shouldn’t stress too much about accuracy anyway.

Practice

If getting good with compound bows was as simple as learning the techniques, there wouldn’t be competitions.

You’re going to need to practice.

There are tons of instructors that can help you develop your aim. If you have a friend that knows how to shoot, this can be a fun way to learn as well.

Whether with help or by yourself, just make sure you are practicing. Don’t expect yourself to be amazing right out of the gate.

Be patient, and allow your progress to flow. It will in time.

Resources

  1. https://www.pioneerarchers.com/Member%20Portal/Info/Biomechanics.pdf
  2. https://www.archerxusa.com/anatomy-of-an-arrow/
  3. https://www.archerydirect.co.nz/draw-length-calculator

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