What Do I Need to Start Practicing Archery? The Best Gear and Great Techniques to Keep You on Target

 

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There is something just so appealing about archery. One of the oldest art forms, sports and hunting techniques in history with roots that lead back at least 5,000 years ago to ancient Egypt and stretch through China and Japan. Archery has also developed roots with our legends and mythology. Classic stories such as Robin Hood and Lord of the Rings feature prominent archers and pop culture  over the last century has highlighted several awesome archers like Green Arrow and Hawkeye in  both the Marvel  and DC universe and most recently the Hunger Games revolves around a kick-ass female archer Katniss Everdeen.

With all that history, the information can be a bit overwhelming. I am going to try to  bring it back to  the basics and answer your question “What Do I Need to Start Practicing Archery?”

The most important suggestion that I can give to anyone starting archery is to Just Do It! Looking for the right equipment and the perfect time is a road to never starting.

For this post I am going to assume you are a complete beginner and I recommend that you start with Target Archery. It’s simple to either set up in your backyard or find an archery range nearby. Archery360.com is a great resource for finding your local range. I would recommend taking your first bow to a shooting range and asking for help stringing it and setting it up. And also taking a few lessons to get you started on the right path.

Also, Wikipedia provides a great list of archery  terms you can refer too if you can’t figure out what a Mongolian Draw is!  

I’ve got several Tips and Techniques from the experts listed below, but if you’re just looking for which items I recommend here’s a few items that I suggest to a beginner when starting to practice archery.

What type of Bow Should I Use?

There is really no “best” bow to start with. It really depends on your preference and what your long term objective is.  Each type is slightly different but there are common principles that span across all types. However, the recurve bow seems to have the ability to bridge the gap between the different types and where i would recommend starting at. The type of bow not mentioned in this post is the long bow or traditional bow. Unless you are really striving to be a Master Archer and increase your knowledge and understand the history of archery this is not the place to begin.

I don’t recommend and overly expensive bow to start with. Nor should you start with one that has to heavy a draw weight. Your technique is very important and will be much easier to build good habits in the beginning rather than changing bad habits later.

Recurve Bow

This is the only type of bow you’ll see in the Olympics. It’s a simple design compared to the compound bow but it is a little more complex than the long bow. The only real difference between a long and recurve bow is the shape of the limbs. On the recurve they are angled back a bit more to offer more power.

They  don’t offer as much power and are a bit harder to handle than a compound which make it  a lot easier to move from recurve to compound than the other way around. This will also provide opportunity to perfect your technique.

Samick Sage Takedown Recurve Bow

This is the perfect beginner’s bow. I recommend starting with  35lb  limbs. With this model you can upgrade as you develop strength and skill.

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Excellent bow at a great price, if you want to get into instinctive shooting–Great power, very accurate.” – Joe

“The bow is beautiful, truly a work of art, and it was easy to assemble and string. The 30lb weight was perfect for me (a beginner) and allowed me to shoot for an hour without getting tired or struggling to maintain my draw.”

Compound Bow

Currently the most popular among the 3 types, a compound bow is the most modern version of a bow and it is also the most complex. Using several pulleys to allow for a more powerful release. Because of the structural design it is also much more accurate and the temperature and weather have less of an effect. If hunting is your goal, eventually you’ll want to become familiar with a compound bow.

Genesis Pro Bow

This is a good, medium priced compound bow. Genesis brings it’s  high quality construction and design but still offers a reasonable price for someone just starting to explore the world of archery.

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Genesis Pro is an engineering masterpiece. It is simple, reliable, and an incredible performer. It provides more arrow speed at each draw weight than any other bow on the market.” -Gordon

“This is a GREAT beginner bow. I consider myself a weakling, and started on low pounds and within a short time, I can now pull 25 pounds, which is a great accomplishment for me! The beauty of this bow is that it fits anybody and everybody” – John

Must Have Accessories for Beginner Archers

 

Arrow Rest

Just like the name implies,, this is what your arrow will rest on when it’s drawn and ready to shoot. Some models come with an arrow rest out of the box and others you’ll need to purchase separate. The  Samsick Sage Takedown Recurve Bow recommended above domes with one but the Genesis Pro Bow does not.

Tabiger Arrow Rest for Compound Bow Hunting

This a great arrow rest to use for your compound bow with  a Composite-encased biscuit that’s strong as they come. It is also right hand/left hand compatible.  

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I did not think it would hold up to my standards but it is perfect for what I want and need on my bow. Easy to install” – Stephanie

“The things that I enjoy most about this rest is the full containment feature. I always worried about the arrow falling of the rest while my son was drawing back with possibilities of injury. This rest keeps the arrow fully contained so that the arrow will never come off of the rest.” – Brent

 

Bow sights

This seems pretty self explanatory. You can compare this to a scope on a rifle. You’ll just nbe more accurate with it.

Truglo Brite-Site Xtreme 5-Pin .029″ Sight

This bow sight has a lightweight composite pin guard with Glow-in-the-dark shooter’s ring that helps align peep sight. It is also adjustable for left and right handed shooters.

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“ The fiber optics are clear, and I like having 5 pins. The light that comes with it helps a ton!”  -Stephen

“I have put five of these on five bows I have tuned for me and my family! Easy and fast to zero in, with great accuracy and consistency…at a reasonable price! The built in level is a surefire benefit.” – Joel

Quiver

While you don’t really “Need” a quiver to start practicing archery, It’ll just make life easier for you.

The style really comes down to  personal preference. The common options are Back, Hip, or mounted quiver that attaches to your bow. Here’s a few different options you can check out.

G4Free Archery Deluxe Canvas Back Arrow Quiver

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“I love this quiver, drawing and nocking an arrow feels very natural from this angle, and the quiver doesn’t get in the way when you’re shooting.”

“I wore it for two entire days this weekend and even loaded with arrows it was easy to forget I was wearing it. It did not impede movement in my arms and the arrows never attempted to spill. If you’re on the fence about this one, just go ahead and take the plunge.”

Release

A release is a tool that allows you to release the string of a bow like a trigger. It straps around your hand and then clips to the string. It will often times improve accuracy.

Tru-Fire Patriot Adult Black Release

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Release mechanism works great. Have put it through about 200 shots so far and still working like new. Very sturdy and well made. “

“Definitely improved my accuracy. It’s like an on off toggle switch. Highly recommended.”

Arrows

And finally the Arrows……

ANTSIR Fiberglass Arrow 30” inch

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Very well made arrows. After a dozen or so shooting sessions, I am satisfied that they are both durable and accurate.”

“Very good practice arrows. Strong and just the right weight.”

 

Archery Tips for Beginners

 

Shot Angles from G5prime.com

All too often, archers fall into the trap of practicing the same shot over and over. They quickly pull out the target, shoot a couple arrows on their flat lawn, and call it practice. You’re shooting your bow, but you’re not doing much to prepare yourself for field conditions. An often over-looked archery drill is simply to get up into a tree stand (or even the top of your garage, shed, etc.) and practice different shot angles that way.

Replicating these field situations forces your body to get used to bending at the hips instead of just aiming the bow lower. Each time you practice, move the target nearer, further away, and side to side, which will constantly challenge you to adapt to a slightly different shot. One final tip with this approach is to practice on an actual 3-D deer targetinstead of just a bale or block. This helps you to get used to shooting at a deer form and lets you clearly see which shot angle would penetrate the vitals.

 

Know the Mind from RealTree.com

According to avid tournament shooter and bowhunter, Darin Cooper believes accuracy starts with understanding the mind.

“The average shooter can never unlock his or her potential without knowing how their mind works as it relates to shooting a bow,” said Cooper. “Ultimately, it has control over your success and failure.”

Cooper breaks the mind into two parts — the conscious and subconscious. The conscious can only think about one process at any given time, while the subconscious is a multi-task, super-efficient computer system; it can control thousands of processes all at the same time.

To train yourself to shoot right, you must use close-range shooting practice — which is best done with your eyes closed.

Experts call it “blind bale” shooting. This type of practice allows the conscious mind to adopt new skills but, through repetitive practice, allows the new skills to become absorbed by the subconscious, storing them in its intricate, highly-sophisticated memory bank. From here, the subconscious is best left alone so it can perform these tasks without interruption. The subconscious works in harmony this way. This is very important to recognize and is where most archers go wrong.

By keeping your eyes closed, you stop the conscious mind from doing what it usually does — aiming at the target. By doing this, you free it for use. Now you can focus on another task, something in your shooting form you want to improve.

For example, if you’re trying to improve your follow-through after the shot, place all your attention (conscious mind) on keeping your bow arm up after the release of the arrow. You should keep thinking and focusing on this over and over until the subconscious incorporates the new technique, logging it away. With enough repetition, the mind and muscle memory will take on the new habit and you will no longer have to worry about it.

Psychologists say it takes about 21 days to learn a new habit, so if you recognize several faults in your shooting form, you’ll have to spend a lot of time on the blank bale until programming takes effect.

“It’s wise to tell yourself when you make a good shot,” said Cooper. “This kind of positive pep talk sends a message to the subconscious, confirming that all things are in order. This will boost progress.”

 

Proper posture from  CobraArchery.com

As in other sports, posture is important as it directly influences your aim. Proper stance will increase your accuracy and power and make it easier to locate your anchor points. When shooting, your feet should be perpendicular to the target and just a bit less than shoulder width apart. Always check your stance before raising the bow and finding your anchor point. It may seem simple, but proper stance alone is half the battle.

 

Shooting from OutdoorHub.com

Hold the correct stance mentioned above. Straighten your hand with the bow ahead of you but keep it flexible with a slight bend in the elbow. Don’t lock up your shoulder. Hold the bow like you would the handle of a coffee cup, with three fingers (pointer, middle and ring) but keep the thumb lowered. However it is comfortable is best.

Drawback with three fingers around the string below where the arrow is placed. Keep the elbow of the drawback hand up in line with your arm that’s holding the bow. Anchor your drawback hand on your face, ideally somewhere in the region of your mouth and cheek just below your eyes or nose so that you can see down the shaft of your arrow. To shoot, just relax your hand holding the arrow and follow through with the shot. Don’t put down your bow or change your position until your arrow is in its target.

 

Follow Through from CobraArchery.com

The old adage “keep your eye on the ball” can be adapted to apply to target shooting too. After firing it may be tempting to drop the bow and look elsewhere to relieve the tension of shooting. But you should stay in your stance. Keep the bow up and keep your focus on the target until the shot has landed. While it may seem pointless, this is a habit that will improve your aim and keep it steady over time. If you get in the habit of dropping the bow and breaking your stance immediately after shooting, you may start unconsciously dropping the bow a little too early. You can check yourself on this by having a friend or instructor watch you shoot, or bring a video camera and tape yourself. A camera can always impartially reveal flaws that a human eye might miss (or that a friend might not feel comfortable

 

Adjusting the Sight from DeerandDeerHunting.com

The bow sight will not always be perfect and some adjustment is necessary to ensure accurate aim each time. During my time at the indoor range, we adjusted my bow sight based on where my arrow first impacted the target by using the adjustment screw for elevation located on the actual sight. Later, I found that the sight was still in need of some tweaking and after a few additional adjustments, shot a bulls-eye using a target in my backyard.

Shooting Techniques from PetersensHunting.com

As for aiming, there are two basic techniques. There’s the purely instinctive technique, where the archer simply focuses on the target and, through thousands of practice repetitions, instinctively knows where to hold and when to release. Second, there’s the “gap shooting” technique, where shooters focus on the tip of the arrow and use it for a reference for where to hold on the target. Most masters tend to use the instinctive technique, but either method can be deadly with practice.

 

Don’t Hold Too Long from RealTree.com

All shooting pros agree that a delayed, subconscious shot is good, but you don’t want to over-hold either, which can cause problems.

“When shooting, I exhale as I draw the bow, take a full breath as I pre-load into the cam’s wall at anchor, and then get the trigger pre-loaded,” said Cooper. “From there, I try to shoot within 7 to 8 seconds. If not, I let down.

“Five to 7 seconds is a good goal for executing the shot once you hold your breath, because your visual acuity will start to decrease rapidly after 7 seconds. More training and better fitness will allow you a slightly longer window.”

Mike Slinkard believes his aiming ability is degraded after 6 to 8 seconds. This is why he prefers to shoot in about 5 seconds from the time he gets steady and on target. Any hold beyond 8 seconds and he either lets down or starts the aiming process all over again with a new breath of air.

Everyone will have a slightly different shot window, so experiment using this advice.