Do you have a compound bow that you use—or intend to use—in genuine hunting scenarios? Could you benefit from some tips on how to shoot your compound bow more accurately so you can properly take advantage of every opportunity? Learning to shoot accurately and with precision is the responsibility of every compound bow owner and user, especially for those who intend to use their bow in the field for hunting.
Accuracy should be practiced and practiced some more at the target range before ever taking your compound bow out to hunt. Simply put, by taking the time to practice the basics of shooting a compound bow you’ll be able to transfer these same skills to the field, not only augmenting your success as a bow hunter, but protecting other hunters around you as well.
In this article we will outline several compound bow basics through a series of steps that will gradually have you shooting that bow more accurately than ever.
Tips for Shooting a Compound Bow Accurately: Practice the Correct Form
When learning to shoot a compound bow accurately, the first thing you will need to practice and master is the proper form. When it comes to the correct form in archery, we are speaking of the various body positions you will need to adapt, and according to experts these include everything from the manner in which the archer holds the bow in their hand, to the positioning of their elbows, to the direction their feet are facing in relation to the target they intend to hit. Quite simply, it is impossible to make a perfect, accurate shot without the perfect form.
As an archer, your feet represent the foundation from which everything else is built. As a general rule, your feet should be shoulder width apart and your toes should be perpendicular to the target. However, if you feel more comfortable with your feet spaced a little wider or narrower than shoulder width this is fine, too. The key is to take a balanced and comfortable stance. Of course, the wider you spread your feet the more sturdy you will be, but you don’t want them so wide that your stance seems unnatural. Due to more spacious territory, hunters in the West and still-hunters typically have a variety of foundational options, including shooting from a kneeling position. However, those who hunt in the Midwest or East, where the tree stands tend to be smaller, usually have a more limited number of foot placement options when preparing to take a shot. Just remember to start with your feet about shoulder’s width apart and you can always adjust from there.
Hand and Elbow Placement
When it comes to hand and elbow placement, there are several different options at your disposal, but unless you learn the right way to hold the bow your accuracy could be severely compromised. First let’s talk about the placement of your non-dominant hand—the hand that will hold the bow. This hand has a lot to do with the overall accuracy of your shot, as improper placement of this hand can lead to several problems, all of which involve torque. By placing your bow hand anywhere that is NOT directly on the center point of the riser, you will cause torque to the bow, which can negatively impact the movement of the string in relation to the position of the bow, thus decreasing the accuracy of the shot. In much the same way, different methods of causing torque like inconsistent hand placement will cause fluctuating arrow groupings, and an extremely irritated archer in most cases.
In essence, the best way to avoid torque with the non-dominant hand is to make as little contact with the bow as possible. In a perfect setup, the grip of the bow should rest easily in your hand where the thumb meets the center of the palm. This spot is the point of least mobility in your hand and causes the least amount of interference with the natural firing action of the bow. Although you may be tempted to clutch the bow grip tightly, this will actually cause a lot of torque, as you are preventing the bow from resting naturally at its center-most point.
Certain bow grips are also available to decrease bow to hand contact, and hence decrease any torque forced on the bow while augmenting your accuracy. The compound bow is a mechanism that will fire the same way every time. Therefore, only you—the archer—can interfere with the accuracy. This is why it is so important to have as little contact with the bow as possible.
While the placement of your non-dominant hand can make or break your archery in terms of accuracy, also crucial to precision is the placement of your elbows. Ideally, the elbow on your non-dominant side should be stiff and slightly bent—slightly bent to avoid any contact with the string and thus a very painful stinger. In terms of the other elbow—on your dominant side—it should be positioned in such a way that your forearm is directly parallel with the arrow. This positioning minimizes torque by assisting with a clean break between your release and the D-loop or string itself depending on your setup. As a side note, there are also releases available for purchase that can help diminish torque caused by human error.
The Release—Firing the Bow
Now that you have an idea about the proper archery form—a comfortable stance with your feet approximately shoulder’s width apart and the proper elbow placement on both sides—now we can talk about actually shooting with the compound bow.
Knowing exactly how your bow releases an arrow is perhaps the best advice we could give to any hunter or target shooter. Regardless of how rapidly your bow shoots, and despite the amount of pounds you pull or whether or not the bow has been recently tuned, your accuracy will suffer if you don’t have a good idea regarding exactly how and when your bow will fire once you apply pressure to the release trigger.
The release on your bow, just like the bow itself, will fire exactly the same way every time. Thus, the only room for mistakes to be made is when you add an archer to the equation, and this, of course, is unavoidable. With that being said, it is absolutely crucial that you practice long and hard with your bow until its release becomes second nature to you. This muscle memory—knowing exactly how much pressure will cause the arrow to fire—can go a long way toward improving your accuracy. One method for improving this muscle memory is to practice shooting your bow at large targets at very close range—maybe 3-5 yards—with your eyes closed! By shutting your eyes you will no longer be able to blame your miscues on your vision and it will force you to become one with the release mechanism in terms of pressure, and will heighten your awareness of the tension required to keep the bow at full draw. This is a drill you should repeat frequently until you have absolutely mastered it.
Put It All Together
Once you have mastered the proper form and built up the muscle memory you will need to allow your body to know exactly when the arrow will release, it’s time to put it all together and head for the target range. The target range should be the only place where you shoot your compound bow until you have gained the accuracy needed to take it out to the field.
While at the target range, start by practicing at targets that are very close, and continue to practice with these targets until you have gained the necessary expertise for a close grouping of arrows—on the target, of course. Although you may be tempted to move back and aim for longer targets, it’s important at this stage to get comfortable with your bow at short range.
Once you have mastered the nearby targets, move to the medium range targets and repeat the process until you have mastered your arrow groupings on these targets. Truth be told, the medium range is all you will ever probably need while out in the field, as it is simply unethical to try and bow hunt from very long distances.
Because the medium range is all you will ever shoot from in the field, you may think you can stop here in terms of practice and move on to the field. Not so. In fact, it is important that you start practicing with the long range targets at this point. Shooting consistently at far away targets will help zero in your accuracy, as the only way to be successful with these long range targets is to do everything perfectly, from your stance to your hand and elbow placement to your release. Learning to be consistent with long range targets will make you that much more accurate from medium range, so accurate, in fact, that you can now take your compound bow—and the skills you have acquired—out into the field.