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How to Shoot a Bow | Shooting Tips and Techniques

(Feature- Team Radical)

Anything can throw an arrow off the mark. Bad grip, rushed breathing, poor form, a bad stance, or even just a slight twitch in your arm are all among leading causes of missed shots. These in the hunting industry are usually blamed on buck fever…coincidence not likely! Practice makes perfect, but ensuring you practice correctly is the first step in learning how to shoot a bow perfectly. Understanding different methods to improve breathing, stance, and grip are essential to building better archery shooting habits.

The Off-Season Grind

In the coming weeks, you will likely visit an archery technician shop to have your bow tuned up for the coming season.  Then, after picking up the freshly tuned compound bow, the struggle of regaining mechanics from months of inactivity shows on paper.  Arrows fly everywhere as you try to regain the confidence you had in the fall and work backwards to your maximum distances. This happens with many hunters, especially in snow heavy states where months of that terrible cold white stuff keeps shooters indoors. While not everyone can take the time to join a winter archery league practice does not always happen every day as one would like. Through the struggle of regaining confidence and mechanics it is important to remember major influencing factors determining the consistency of accuracy. Breathing and the way you grip your bow make up big reasons bow hunters struggle with being consistently accurate. Working on these micro-mechanics can be the difference between full freezers and fully intact tags.

Archery Stance

If inconsistency is an issue for you consider if your stance is the same shot after shot. Is it? Probably not. If you think of the foundation of a building which shifted every day the structure would look much different after a year, leading to all sorts of problems. The way you stand is the foundation of your shot and practicing a stance consistently will lead to better shooting in the field. Think about if you feel balanced with a solid center of gravity when shooting. Do you feel tipsy when you step up to the line? Many shooters were taught the square stance to keep their feet perfectly aligned when shooting. But like a tree sways in the wind, you too will find a hard time keeping steady. Many hunters are adopting the open stance in order to gain additional stability and as a way to help the body naturally center itself while aiming.

An open stance is like creating a tripod with your own body to keep from moving. Achieving an open stance is simple. Square up to the line that points directly to your target. Move your front foot back a few inches to make sure your body is turned slightly opened towards the target. Now, don’t over exaggerate this motion to a point where your arm is now fighting your torso to be centered. This takes time and practice to find the space and distance that works for you and your gear.

Breathing

How often do you focus on your breathing when shooting a bow and arrows?  Everyone knows the classic methods but fail to be able to use them during crunch time since they are not practiced. Most of the time you are just flinging arrows down range to try and get on target. In order to fine-tune your shooting, understanding and practicing breathing techniques should be one of your top priorities this season. Trying several different methods helps find what works with your body before making a conscious effort to improve breathing techniques to make it a part of your shooting habits.

1st Method – “Classic”

Classic breathing refers to the ways in which you breathe to shoot a gun. This involves taking a deep breath, exhaling completely, then taking half a breath and letting it out slowly while aiming and shooting.  While this method works, it can force one to rush a shot while anchoring and setting the pins on your target.  While letting air slowly escape from your lungs it is like trying to beat the clock in getting the arrow down range before completely running out of breath and having to gasp for air. This forces one to have to re-aim.  Rushed shots with a bow don’t end well causing one to miss or worse, hitting an animal poorly.

2nd Method – “Super Saturate”

Supersaturating your body with oxygen is one of the best ways to take a relaxed shot and fight target panic. We fail to think about the amount of oxygen being carried in our blood as we shoot. Supersaturating your body with oxygen does a couple of things. First, take one deep breath before the draw, take a second while drawing and a third as you settle the pins, exhaling a quarter of your air.  This not only gives your muscles plenty of oxygen but helps keep your chest expanded, back slightly arched and your scapula’s taught and steady for the shot.  Because of the saturation of oxygen to your muscles and using filled lungs to help steady your upper body, you will find increased consistency. Forming a habit of this routine fairly quickly is not difficult and helps you feel focused and relaxed while settling your pins and sending arrows down range.

There are various different breathing methods to learn.  Finding what works best for your body is important, but making the conscious choice to work on this simple step might be the difference between food in November and tag soup.

Grip

The way you grip your bow, is an essential piece to figuring out how to shoot a bow effectively. Grip will have incredible influence on how accurate your shots are from left to right. A poor grip will cant your bow thus pushing an arrow left or right and in bow hunting inches are the difference between quick kills, bad shots, or misses. Perfecting a proper grip is fairly simple with a bit of practice.

Extend you bow arm out like you would to stiff-arm someone in a game of football. You will then rotate your hand until your pointer finger and thumb create a rough V or U letter shape. Some may even see a Nike symbol. An improper grip would be to simply grab the bow and squashing the grip tightly in your clenched grasp. If you can move your wrist in a 360-degree motion you are going to be prone to letting the bow lean one way or the other. A proper grip will split your upright hand and rest on the outer half of your thumb muscle and palm bone. Relax your fingers and you should know if you are doing this properly if your knuckles are angling downward slightly less than a 50-degree angle. If your knuckles are perpendicular to the bow grip, adjust again. If you are afraid of losing grip of the bow spend a few extra dollars on a wrist sling. This gives you the metal freedom to make a proper shot knowing your investment of equipment will stay safe in your hand as it pushes an arrow towards the target. Practicing proper grip might take the time to perfect to be able to do it unconsciously as your stare down the point on your target you wish to hit. Consciously making sure your grip is lined up will help create a habit you will be thankful for on that cold morning in your deer stand or after several long days of living out of a backpack in the mountains.

The Release

Watch Prime Pro Paul Tedford talk about the release hand when learning how to shoot a bow.

Conclusion

Even with the mid-summer burgers dripping with sauce and sweat collecting under the brim of your ball cap while kids splash in the pool, every hunter knows hunting season is just around the corner. Taking the months of off time during the summer to learn how to shoot a bow to the best of your abilities will increase your odds come hunting season. Don’t forego practice season by just day dreaming of hunting season. Focus on these micro-mechanics to increase success this fall.