Archery is the art of shooting with a bow and arrow. This unique sport has been around for centuries and has been used in both warfare and harmless pastimes. Learning to use a bow and arrow is relatively easy, but takes a lifetime to master. In this extensive guide for first-time archers, you will learn about the different bow types, materials needed for archery, and how to shoot properly.
Different Bow Types
Before you decide which bow you want to use, you need to determine what your main purpose for shooting is. Do you want to try archery as a hunting technique? Do you want to simply learn how to shoot a bow and arrow and only use it for target practice? Once you find out how you want to use it, it should be much easier to determine what type of bow you want to use.
There are three types of bows and each of them is explained in more detail below:
• Recurve – A recurve bow is a bow made from either wood or other sturdy material such as fiberglass. These bows are made for shooting shorter distances and have a lot of power. However, these are arguably one of the hardest bows to shoot because of the endurance needed to hold the string back.
• Longbow – Much like a recurve, these bows are made from a sturdy material and for shooting longer distances. These may not be the best for hunting since most longbows are shot at an upward angle, but they are great for those who want to master long-distance target practice.
• Compound – Compound bows are made from metal or other material, but not wood. These are best for hunting and are used in competitions because you can add various tools to help with aiming. These bows take some of the pressure from holding the string back for long periods from the wheels they have on the top and bottom of the bow.
Other Archery Materials
You are going to need other things when learning to shoot, including the following:
• Arrows – To find the right arrows for your arm length, take one and pull it back as if you were going to shoot it. Assuming you are right-handed, use the space between the thumb and index finger of your left hand (outstretched) to place the arrow into and pull the arrow back with your right to your cheek. An arrow of proper length should not fall from that space on your left hand or be any longer than an inch or so from that space. Purchase about five to ten arrows to start.
• Protection – You are going to, at the very least, need a finger guard. This protection is a glove that fits on the hand you will shoot with, protecting your fingers from getting calloused as the bow will scrape across your fingers when you let go when shooting. You may also want an arm-guard for your non-dominant arm to protect it from the fletching (feathers) of the arrow as it flies from the bow. If you have a larger chest, you may also want to consider a chest guard, which is a thick bit of leather which will protect your chest from the bowstring as well.
• Target – When you buy your first target, make sure it is large and colorful so you can train your eyes to aim. Having a large target is great for first-timers because you will have a larger target to hit and you can see your progress as you continue to practice.
• Bow stringer – If you have a recurve or longbow, you will want a bow stringer. This is a long piece of yarn with one leather cup at each end to help you string your bow properly. There is a way to string your bow without it, but this is not recommended for first-time archers.
Buying the necessary equipment for archery is not cheap. However, once you buy everything you need, you shouldn’t need to replace the materials for a lifetime since most archery materials are made to last. Once you’ve decided on the type of bow and have the necessary gear, then you can start learning how to shoot.
Find a safe place to target practice
Even if you intend to hunt with a bow, you still need to practice to ensure get used to using a bow and arrow. A safe place will be outdoors with an area that is level and has hardly anyone around. If someone is with you, make sure they are behind you at all times when you are practicing. Finding an archery range in your hometown is an advantage and it may be worth investing some time learning from other archers.
Take a proper stance
When shooting a bow, you will want to stand perpendicular to the target, meaning you will be standing sideways and you will turn your head at your aim. Keep your knees slightly bent and remember to take deep breaths. Load the arrow into the notch on the stem of the bow (which is a small flap sticking out from the middle of the bow). Place the arrow in the notch. You may turn the bow just slightly if you are having trouble keeping the arrow on the notch.
If you are right-handed, you will take the stem of the bow in your left hand and hold it even with your face, extending your left arm fully. Keep your elbows slightly bent, especially if you are not wearing an arm guard.
Conduct proper shooting form
Once you are ready to aim and shoot, pull the bowstring back toward your face. Most experts will recommend pulling the string to either the corner of your mouth or back toward your ear. When you pull the string back, be sure to use the pads of three fingers: the index, middle, and ring fingers. Do not curl your fingers in to hold the bowstring with your knuckle because this can affect your aim and strain your fingers. It will take practice to keep the bow steady as you pull the string back, but it is very important to help you with the next part.
Aiming is arguably the most difficult part of archery because there is no set formula for getting a bullseye every time, even if you are using an attachment to help. It will take some time to realize where the arrow tip in relation to where you are aiming, and it is likely that your first round of archery will not go as well as you hope. The aim is all about practice, trusting your instincts, and trying different things to see what works and what doesn’t.
At the end of each archery session, expect sore fingers and tight muscles, but understand that you are getting better each time without you not realizing it! There will be good and bad days when practicing, but in the end, you will be mastering a skill that has been around for thousands of years and you should be proud of what you are accomplishing each time you take the time to practice.