Far from being a sport, archery is a skill and art that takes time and patience to cultivate. The game is an enjoyable activity in itself that you can enjoy at any time of the day or year, since it’s both an indoor and outdoor sport.
If you ask archery coaches about how to improve your aim, their answers will point out one overriding aspect – practice. Instead of just focusing on the number of arrows you shoot, practice is also critical. But how do you make sure practice sessions are worth your time and effort?
Below are some tried and tested ways to improve your aim in archery:
1. Bow Grip
Poor bow grip is something that happens often, especially with 90% of beginners. They tend to focus on buying the best and latest gear, different brands of arrows available on the market, and on hitting the target, but still end up with a bad aim.
In order to help improve your aim, you need to relax the bow grip. You may not notice it, but your non-dominant arm hugely influences your shot accuracy. Always remember that your bow hand should have little contact with the bow.
Your bow should appear as if it’s softly reclined on your hand as it acts as the anchor point. Begin to be aware of your grip as you aim. As you loosen the grip, you will notice that your aim will get more accurate with time.
2. Breathe And Relax
Humans subconsciously hold their breath when they are overthinking, particularly when they experience heightened anxiety and nervousness. Next time you’re tense or anxious, observe your body. You will notice that you are not breathing.
This happens every time new archers are aiming. They are focused on the target and on making sure they’re in the correct form and posture while keeping the draw held, but once they let go, the arrow misses the mark. All this time, they fail to breathe because they become too focused on the target.
We’ve all seen movies where a shooter takes a deep breath before shooting and hits the mark. This is precisely the reason why you need to breathe.
You don’t necessarily have to take a deep breath every time you shoot. Just make sure that when you take your aim, you’re not so focused on it that you hold your breath. Try to breathe naturally.
3. Watch Your Posture
Posture in archery has always been emphasized. You’ll never hear enough of it, even though most archers downplay it.
Your posture and stance directly affect every part of your shot. Focus on your posture to work on your shot accuracy. You already know how you should stand and the stance you should take while aiming. But is it correct?
To help you with this, stand facing a mirror that is big enough to show your entire posture. Don’t look at yourself just yet. Take your bow and draw it as you usually do. When you have the bow drawn, you can now look in the mirror. In archery, proper posture should include:
- A straight torso and an arrow parallel to the collar bone.
- Hips which sit strongly in line with your torso is an important factor. Your hips need to avoid bending backwards or forwards.
- Avoid twisting your torso left or right.
Perfect this procedure by looking in the mirror, and notice whether there are areas in your posture you need to correct.
When out hunting, using the best gear can make all the difference. If you use a ground blind, a climbing, or a hang-on tree stand, ensure you buy the best ones that have ample space to stand, rotate, and assume the correct posture.
4. Observe The Right Distance
Here’s another simple rule in archery: The further you move from the target, the more mistakes you’ll make.
As a new archer, it’s good to ask experienced archers and coaches what distance to start shooting at. You’ll get many answers that will be both right and wrong.
Many archers are told to start practicing at five yards, and they end up following that advice. The correct thing to do is to practice at a distance you’re most capable of shooting accurately at.
Don’t feel bad if you’re unable to shoot accurately, even from a short distance. It takes time. Once you put in the time to practice, you’ll get more comfortable and start moving further away. You can start at between three to five yards, even if you’re still not shooting accurately. The main focus is on practicing.
Once you start aiming accurately, you can move back one more yard. Repeat the same process until you’re consistently accurate at a further distance.
The way archers are supposed to plant their feet on the ground is another aspect that’s often overlooked. Most people say it, but few do it the right way. Those who do it the wrong way are usually self-taught. Most of the time they generally forget about the feet.
One secret about your footing is that the more your feet are apart from each other, the more stable you’ll be when shooting.
Make sure you’re facing the target at about 45-degrees. Many beginners make the mistake of facing the target at 90-degrees. Your toes should be pointing well towards the target. This is mainly for two reasons.
- You face the target more directly.
- This angle moves the bowstring away from your chest and bow arm. If the arrow brushes against your clothing even slightly when shooting, it will veer off to one side.
An additional tip can help you in this aspect. When preparing to take a shot, settle your feet on the ground first before drawing your arrow. You can then concentrate on posture and aiming.
6. Feel The Release
Many archers only focus on the visual aspects of the game and end up making a mistake. This lowers your accuracy. While it’s essential to focus on your shot, it’s also equally important to train your body to aim and shoot accurately. This is where muscle memory comes in.
There’s a method you can add to your routine at the end of every practice session. This involves getting closer to your target – at least five yards – and aiming at your target. With your eyes shut, release the arrow while concentrating on that feeling. Do this with a couple of arrows each time you end your practice.
This routine allows you to concentrate on how the body is supposed to act and feel when shooting. You’ll train your muscle memory to shoot accurately and also improve your average reaction time.
You should be careful with this method, though. Make sure that you are alone and you are observing archery safety rules. Safety is the top priority in this game.
7. Shoot The Appropriate Draw Length
In archery, if you shoot the wrong draw length, the shots will be inaccurate.
Most archers have their bows set by archery shops or they set them up themselves. Most of these bows are not 100% accurate. So how do you know the appropriate draw length?
Stand up stretching both arms out to the sides, such that you form the letter T. Then open your arms and twist them forward so they face the direction in which you’re looking. Someone else can measure the length from the point of your left middle finger to the end of your right finger. Jot this figure down and divide it by 2.5.
The figure you get is your draw length. Try shooting using that draw length and notice the difference in accuracy from your previous shots.
8. Only Use The Same Arrows
Most archers who lament their aim accuracy are victims of this. You see them using mismatched arrows all the time, as archery arrows come in different types.
Getting good arrows can be hard at times, especially the quality ones. But when you shoot different and mismatched arrows, it can be hard to boost your precision.
If you want to improve your aim, shoot only the finest arrows you can afford even when that means shooting six of them each time. There’s no point in mixing different brands, styles, and sizes. Try and find more arrows of the same style.
9. Aiming Techniques
There are two aiming techniques that an archer can decide to use:
- Instinctive – This is the traditional method of aiming. Here an archer doesn’t use any form of assistance, and it can be challenging to master because it requires a lot of time and patience. Just like the word implies, the archer draws their arrow, focuses on the target, and releases the arrow once they feel confident enough that the arrow will certainly hit the target. It might sound easy, but it is not. Most archers, especially beginners, don’t hit the target. However, after a long process of trial and error, the archer gets more comfortable and begins hitting the target and trusting their instinct.
- Assisted Aiming – This is where it involves using an assisted sight that comes with most modern bows. This helps make your aim more accurate as you fix your sight on the bow, focus through the sight, and then release. Using a sight significantly increases your chances of hitting the target rather than just trusting your instincts. Make sure that even when you’re using a sight, the position of the string when you draw the bow is exactly the same.
Whichever technique you choose to master, make sure you practice it enough, so you can get more comfortable and accurate with time. When using an aiming sight, you should bring the sight pin on target. If aiming by instinct, aim by feel. Many archers raise the bow towards the target because this makes it easier to see the bull’s eye. Others drop the bow on target or swing it from left or right.
Be consistent. The key here is to learn how to swing on the target every time.
10. Only Draw Weight You Can Support
Many brag about how heavy they can shoot a draw weight. However, you’ll notice that these people don’t win tournaments. Why? Because a core foundation of becoming a better archer is always being in the right form.
Some archers can draw a 50-pound bow and shoot accurately. Others may outshoot them with a 25-pound bow. Also, just because you can draw a heavy bow doesn’t prove that you will be able to shoot the arrow accurately. Always choose a draw weight that’s suitable for your individual needs.
11. Start Numbering Your Arrows
As silly as it might sound, it’s always important to number your arrows. You can get a marker and mark 6 to 12 arrows one after the other.
Shoot them normally from a distance you are confident with. Once you’ve shot them all, get a paper and pen then write down those arrows that were worst and best. Go through this process again, and continue writing down your best and worst shots. You can practice this for the following ten shooting exercises.
This exercise is going to help you establish one thing – whether certain arrows are always missing shots. If this is the case, you should get rid of these arrows. Sometimes even the best of arrows can be affected by moisture or heat even while in the shop.
Disposing of some arrows might hurt, but this will help improve your shot accuracy.
Archery is an enjoyable game that requires skills and precision. These two, however, are earned over a long period and with patience. There are many techniques you can apply to refine your aim. Here’s a recap of the most important things:
- Breathe and relax so you can focus.
- Lessen your grip on the bow and make sure you’re standing in the right posture. Also, watch your stance because this will improve your stability.
- Make sure you’re shooting from the right distance and feel the release as you shoot.
- Ensure you’re using the same arrows every time.
- Mark your arrows, so you can note those that miss their mark all the time and dispose of them.
- Make sure that you’re shooting the right draw length and the draw weight that you can support.
Hopefully, this article will not only help you improve your aim, but also enable you to notice some of the things you might have been overlooking. Try the given suggestions and watch as your aim improves.