My father had me on his shoulders and in the woods with him as soon as I could muddle the word “hunting.” I couldn’t thank him enough for teaching me about the woods, the importance of respect and safety, and all the nuances about shooting a bow. I have met so many people throughout my life that have the interest, but were not taught as a child about the sport. Or perhaps, they have reached out for guidance and were intimated by the overwhelming information and expense of taking on archery. This experience can be akin to a scrawny guy like me walking into a gym full of meat-heads bellowing testosterone fueled grunts. Yes, I would walk out and just accept my scrawniness.
When venturing into the world of archery and bowhunting, the first question might be, “what kind of bow do I get?” The market is flooded with some amazing technology now-a-days. Most every bow on the rack can produce arrow speeds approaching 300+ fps. Some speed bows on the market today blaze into the realm of 360 fps. The prices range from about $300 to well over $1,000. Which one do I choose? Keep in mind, I’ve killed deer with bows at both ends of the spectrum. No matter the price range, your accuracy of your shot depends heavily on the amount of practice you put in. Establish your budget and begin shooting. It’s all about repetition and making consistent shots while building your muscle memory.
There a a few parts of the bow which can make a difference in your choice. The cam(s) on the bow are the energy producing powerhouse of the bow. The cam size and shape determine the “feel” of the draw cycle, the let-off at full draw, and the amount of kinetic energy released on the arrow. The larger and “more radical” the shape of the cam, the more speed can be produced, and a fast arrow makes a happy archer. These more radical cam toting speed bows come with a higher price tag. But have no fear, there are plenty of options in bow manufacturers. There are many brands that are very cost effective choices that still pack one heck of a punch. Another term you may hear being discussed is the brace height. The brace height is the distance between the grip of the bow and the string. The longer this distance, the more “forgiving” the bow is for a beginner. Today’s speed bows have a much shorter brace height, but are also a little more difficult to shoot. Much like driving a sports car as opposed to a sedan.
Now that you’ve selected the bow that fits your budget, remember there are essential accessories you still need to purchase. You’ll need to equip your new bow with a sight, an arrow rest, and of course you’ll need some arrows. Though you can shoot your bow with only these accessories, I recommend not doing so without a release and a peep sight installed. A release will provide more stability in arrow flight as there is minimal lateral deviation of the string at the launch. Imagine releasing the string with your fingers. The string will tend to “roll” off your fingertips causing a lateral oscillation of the arrow as it comes off the bow. To minimize this, a release starts the forward string movement from a center position resulting in a centered arrow departure. Now for the peep sight. A peep sight forces you to look through the string at the same point every time you shoot. With the peep as the rear point of view and the sight pin as the front, your line of sight will be far more consistent than without a peep. The object is to have your line of sight as straight as an arrow every time…excuse the pun. A qualified bow technician at your local archery shop should adjust your draw length and install all of these accessories on your bow tailored to you. There are other accessories like a stabilizer, wrist strap and silencers. Just focus on shooting your bow and getting the feel, these extras can come later.
I often hear people ask, “how many pounds do you shoot?” This is not a competition about who can muscle more weight. You should draw a weight that is comfortable for you. When I say comfortable, I mean many times over. My son’s first bow season will be this fall. I told him he is not allowed to hunt this season unless he shoots at least 25 arrows/day. I set his bow to 35 pounds and after 20 arrows it becomes pretty challenging.
There are very particular muscles in your chest, shoulder and back that you never knew you had until you begin shooting a lot. These muscles will strengthen over time and you’ll find wanting to pull a little more weight to obtain some more arrow speed. Let this happen and stay committed to your shooting schedule. I have not found any exercise or workout program that will help. Shoot, just shoot.
While shooting, there are some simple things you’ll need to focus on to increase accuracy. There is a tendency to give your bow a death grip. This can cause something known as “torque.” That simply means that your bow hand is unintentional “twisting” the bow left or right. Loosen up the grip. You should be able to wiggle your fingers at full draw. Anchor point is the term for the point your hand falls on the side of you face when at full draw. I tend to rest the the back of my hand on the same point on my jaw line every time. If you shoot a lot, this becomes muscle memory and will exponentially increase your shot consistency. Your stance is also important to keep consistent. Feet should be shoulder width apart and perpendicular to the target. I mark the ground where I want my son to place his feet. It's all about doing it the same way every time.
Archery and bowhunting are my passions. Nothing makes me happier than to help someone get started in the sport that I love so much. Don’t be intimidated…just commit.
Justin Johnson, Nature’s Paint Pro Staff