The basics of archery: Part I of II

The basics of archery: Part I of II

Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2008 9:04 pm
By: Rob Somerville

The American tradition of taking wild game with bow and arrow dates back to the days when Native American Indians populated what is now the United States. These primitive tribes cut, soaked, and formed their own bows from tree limbs. Their arrows were whittled from stout branches, fletched with bird feathers and had a business end, consisting of a sharpened stone broadhead affixed with a rawhide thong. They became adept at taking animals with a bow, because their tribes depended on the meat for sustenance. Modern archery has come a long way since then. Today’s bow hunters have compound bows and carbon arrows, which far exceed speeds of 300 feet per second. What hasn’t changed is the fact that woodsmanship, practice, and stealth are all necessary components for successfully harvesting game with the old “stick and string.” Most modern deer hunters took their first whitetail with a rifle. They then probably graduated to a slug shooting shotgun, then a muzzleloader, and eventually archery gear. The reason for most of these hunters diversifying their hunting weapons was to take advantage of a longer hunting season. But, many of these hunters found the satisfaction of possessing the skill to consistently take deer with a bow, the ultimate aphrodisiac in their love of the pursuit of the wary whitetail. In this article I will highlight some tips for success in basic archery skills. The Three “P’s” — Practice, Perseverance and Patience Few people are natural born archers. However, it is a skill that can be attained. Believe it or not, in regards to novice archers, women fare better than men. The first step is to purchase a bow that is comfortable for you, fits your draw length {span of arms}, has an adjustable poundage (how hard it is to pull back and hold steadily), and finding one that you can afford. It is necessary to either visit a pro shop, or if you are lucky enough, have an experienced bowman to tutor you. Next you want to match your bow to a proper arrow selection. Pick up a dozen field target points that match the weight of the broadheads you will be shooting, for practice also. I recommend starting with a basic string-attached peep sight, a two-pin bow sight, a finger release that attaches around your wrist, an economical arrow rest and a “box-style”, foam or pressed rubber target. Pull the bow back until it “breaks” or lets up on initial pressure. Now is when you find one of the most important marks of a consistent shooter … your anchor point. I recommend bringing the string of the bow to the tip of your nose every time you pull it back to full draw. If you are inconsistent with this “anchor point,” your shot placement will vary. Step off 10 paces from your target, ensuring that you have a safe backdrop behind it. A large hay bale works well. Draw the bow back, and align your top pin through your peep sight on the bull’s eye. If you are right-handed, your right foot should be at a 90 degree angle from your target, with your left foot spread about shoulder’s width apart and angling toward the target. Your weight should be balanced slightly back on your right foot. This will be reversed if you are a “south paw.” Release your arrow. Never move your bow arm until the arrow hits the target. This is called “follow through.” Any movement of the bow during arrow release will vary the shot placement. These rules of form are important in being consistently on target. Practice shooting with correctly disciplined form until it becomes second nature. If your arrow hits anywhere on the target, shoot two more arrows, aiming exactly at the same spot and using the correct form. If these arrows hit in a fairly tight group {at least within two inches together} note whether they are upwards, downwards, to the left, or to the right of your aiming point. The rule of thumb is this: chase the arrow. In other words, if the arrow group is to the right, move the pin slightly to the right. If they are above the aiming point, adjust the pin up — and so on. Shoot another group of three arrows and continue adjusting your pin until your groups are consistently hitting close to the bull’s-eye. When your groups begin getting less and less tightly shot together, put the bow up for the day. You are using muscles that you ordinarily do not use on a day to day basis and will tire easily at first. Practice every day. If your arm shakes too much from pulling the bow back after about a week of this regiment, you may have to adjust the bows poundage down. This is done by turning the two “Allen head” screws, located on the front of the bow’s top and bottom limbs, counter clockwise, exactly the same amount, in small increments. Step back and admire your work. After a week of shooting consistent patterns from a distance of ten yards, move back to 20 yards. You should only have to adjust your top pin up or down to compensate for distance. Remember to maintain your proper form and anchor point. After a week of this distance, move back to thirty yards and use your bottom pin. Adjust this pin accordingly as you did with the top one. You now have a bow set up for target shooting at zero to twenty yards with the top pin, and thirty to forty yards with the bottom pin. Practice shooting from various distances, to know if you have to aim a little high or low to hit your mark, and with what pin to aim. Now, you want to start practicing from unknown distances to become accustomed to guessing how far you are from your target. A good method I utilize when teaching novice archers to do this is to throw sticks out at various locations and have them shoot from them. To make it more enjoyable, shoot with a group of friends and tie small balloons to your target to burst. But remember: never be critical of sub-par shooters. This may discourage a future bow hunter. Elevate your expectations After you feel comfortable when shooting from the ground, and can consistently hit your aiming point, it is time to shoot from an elevated platform to simulate hunting from a treestand. If you are shooting a “high-speed” bow, this will have little effect on your shots. I have found that when using a “pendulum” style sight, it will shoot a consistently tight and accurate pattern. These sights automatically compensate for distance, angle and elevation. They are ideal for hunting situations. Remember to wear a safety harness when shooting from an elevated stand. It is also a good idea to have a partner that can pull out your arrows and tie them to a pull-up rope, so you don’t have to climb up and down constantly. By now, you should be able to shoot arrows for about one-half hour without tiring. To simulate actual hunting situations, shoot in varying weather conditions and wear your actual hunting clothes. This will help prepare you for all situations and allow you to ensure that your clothes do not hamper the mechanics of your shooting. I also recommend substituting your box-style target with a high-density, foam deer target. This gets you used to proper shot placement and angles that will ethically harvest a deer. Familiarize yourself with the vital areas on a deer’s body for humane harvests in the actual field. Summary In part two of this series, we will move from the target range to the deer woods. I will also list the equipment I personally use and recommend. Archery is a sport that the entire family can participate in and enjoy, and if you love to deer hunt, there is no prouder hunting moment in the outdoors than your first archery harvest. Published in The Messenger 7.10.08

Leave a Comment