Beginner’s Guide

This article explains what you need to know to get started in the sport/martial art of archery. It discusses equipment, how to shoot, and the different types of archery that are practised in the UK. Please don’t buy anything on the strength of what you read here — it requires considerable expertise to select the right equipment, and isn’t cheap.

What You Need

To do archery, four things are essential: a bow of some sort, at least one arrow (but more is better!), a place to shoot, and something to shoot at. Most archery clubs practice in a field and use a straw boss (a round straw target about four inches thick and four feet across) to shoot at, although there are many other possibilities. I sometimes practice in my garden by shooting at cardboard boxes stuffed with old newspapers (but there’s nothing beyond my garden other than a soil embankment forty feet high — I wouldn’t recommend shooting in the garden if you have neighbours to the rear). Most archery clubs have some equipment available for beginners to practice with, because archery equipment is expensive, and it’s very easy to buy the wrong stuff if you don’t know what you’re about.

As well as the basic essentials, there are any number of accessories you might want or need in due course, and these are discussed below. However, there are some accessories that are so important that you’d be ill-advised to practice without them. In particular, you’ll need a finger tab (a small piece of leather or heavy fabric to protect your drawing fingers from the bowstring) and a bracer (a shield for the forearm of the bow arm, to protect it from being slapped by the bowstring). A chest protector is usually regarded as essential for women, and desirable for men.

How to Shoot an Arrow

There are many subtle variations in the way top archers shoot. However, the basic procedure is always the same, and applies whatever you’re shooting at, at whatever distance.

If you’ve never shot a bow before in your life, of if this is a new bow, or if you’ve changed the sights, stand sufficiently close to the target that you can’t miss. 5-10 metres is probably about right.

If you’re right handed, hold the bow in your left hand, and an arrow in your right. If you’re left-handed, do the opposite.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, left shoulder pointing at the target, so that the centre of the target, and your two feet make a straight line. If you’re left-handed, your right shoulder will be pointing towards the target.

Fit an arrow onto the bow so that the shaft is sitting on the arrow rest, and the nock (the groove cut in the rear end of the arrow) clicks onto the string. The bowstring will normally have a mark where the nock should go or, better still, one or more nock rings — brass discs clipped on the string to hold the arrow nock in place.

Hold the bowstring so that your index finger is above the nock of the arrow, and your middle and ring fingers are below. Tuck your thumb down out of the way.

Raise the bow so that the arrow is pointing in the general direction of the target, usually a little above the mark you want to hit, while maintaining a slight pull on the string. Your arm should be more-or-less straight out, but not locked at the elbow. If your elbow is locked, you’re likely to strike it with the bowstring when you release. Ideally, your arm should be rotated such that, if you bent your elbow, it would bend to the side, not to the ground.

Draw the bowstring back such that you’re looking straight down the arrow shaft. Individual archers vary in their preference for where to draw to — what is vital is that it is precisely the same every time. For target archery, my preference is to draw to the chin, so that the string is touching my chin, lips, and nose. Others prefer the cheek or ear.

At full draw, line up the sight (if your bow has one) with the centre of the target. You won’t be able to hold the sight on the bulls-eye, and you’ll do yourself an injury if you try, but the sight pin should drift across the bulls-eye, and that’s the time to release. If you don’t have a sight, you have to learn the appearance of the arrow against the target as a guide to sighting.

Release the string by opening your fingers. Hold in position until the arrow (hopefully) hits the target.

The crucial test is not whether your arrow hits the mark, but whether all your arrows end up close to each other. If the arrow grouping is good, you will be able to ajust for position either by eye, or by adjusting the sight. But there’s no point in fiddling around with sights if your arrows are peppered all over the target.

Bows and Arrows

In the UK, archery is usually done using recurve bow, longbow, or compound bow. Of these, the recurve is overwhelmingly the most popular. All bows have largely the same essential components.

Limbs which bend when the string is drawn, and store the energy used to propel the arrow. The limbs are usually made of wood, glassfibre, carbon fibre, or some composite of these.

A riser — this is the handle part between the limbs. In a one piece bow, the riser and the limbs are, of course, the same piece of material. The riser will ususally be made of wood or metal.

A string, usually made of dacron. The reinforced bit in the middle is called the serving. Towards the middle of the serving is the nocking point, where the arrow is mounted.

An arrow shelf or arrow rest on the riser. This supports the arrow while it is drawn. A shelf is a cutting into the bow riser itself, while a rest is something mounted on the side of the riser. An extended shelf cutout is sometimes referred to as a sight window. Some bows have both shelf and riser; traditional longbows have neither.

A sight (maybe). More about sights later.

A bow that is more than a toy costs from about £100 up to, well, as much as you like. Most serious club archers spend £200-300 on a bow and accessories; if you spend more than this and you aren’t shooting every day, you’ve probably spent too much.

Recurve Bows

The modern recurve bow has two essential characteristics:

Limbs whose tips point towards the target when the bow is unstrung. When the bow is strung, the limbs are pulled back so that the tips are parallel to the bowstring. This arrangement allows energy to be stored evenly in the limbs during the draw, leading to a much faster arrow flight than can be achieved by flat bows.

The riser (handle part) of the bow has a cut-out on one side so that the arrow rests in the horizontal centre of the bow when it is drawn. A traditional longbow usually has a solid riser, so the arrow rests on one side or other of the riser, which makes it harder to control lateral direction.

The recurve bow is the only type recognized in the Olympic Games, and is the most widely used in tournaments. Most beginning archers shoot a recurve, and many enthusiasts never shoot anything else. Most recurves are five to six feet in length, and tend to be of a `take down’ design; that is, they can be dismantled for transport.

The governing bodies for archery have very strict rules about the types of recurve bow that can be used in tournaments. In general it is acceptable to fit the bow with weights and stabilizer rods to create a more consistent shot, and one-point sights are always allowed. A one-point sight is exactly that — a sight with one point of reference. Providing a second point of reference (e.g., a mark on the bowstring) is usually forbidden. Most recurve bows and accessories that you can buy from a reputable retailer will comply with the rules of most archery organizations. One area of contention is the clicker. This is a strip of thin metal, one end of which mounts on the riser, and the other rests on the arrow shaft when an arrow is nocked. The metal of the clicker slaps into the riser when the bow is drawn all the way back, so you know you are at a consistent draw position. Anyway, some bodies allow these devices, and some don’t.

Compound Bows

The compound bow is characterised by a system of cams and pulleys, which have the effect that the draw weight decreases as you come to full draw. The makes it much easier to aim, because you aren’t holding the full weight of the draw while you’re sighting. In addition, because you don’t have to hold the full draw weight, the peak draw weight of a compound can be higher than that of a recurve, leading to a faster arrow with a flatter trajectory (but see the discussion of draw weight below — it isn’t quite as simple as that).

Because a compound offers such an advantage over a recurve or traditional bow, most archery organizations recognize compound archery as a completely separate discipline with its own rules. In most cases, any kind of technological aid is permitted, including two-point sights. Most compound archers use a `peep’ mounted on the bowstring as the back sight, and a traditional one-point sight at the front. However, telescopic sights and spirit levels are usually allowed as well.


The traditional longbow is at the opposite end of the complexity spectrum from the compound. It is a stick of wood with a string tied between its ends. Most archery organizations impose strenuous restrictions on what can be done to make the longbow more accurate — basically nothing. Sights, even one-point, are usually forbidden, and in many cases you’ll have to shoot `off the knuckle’, as even arrow rests aren’t allowed.

Arrows usually have to be of wood and feathers, but most governing bodies stop short of requiring the feathers to be hand-tied to the bow. Shooting a longbow is much more fun than shooting a recurve or a compound, because nobody expects you to hit anything consistently.

Longbows are made of various types of wood; the most traditional is yew, although teak and maple are also used, either singly or in laminations.

Other Types of Bow

Short, one-piece `hunting bows’ have always had a certain following, particularly amoung field archers. These have the same recurve shape, but are shorter and usually have a much heavier draw weight. In addition, there has recently been an increase in interest in traditional bows other than the English longbow. For example, short `mongolian’ bows have started to appear in archery retailer’s catalogues, as have american-style flatbows.


Arrows are typically made of aluminium or carbon fibre. Budget arrows are sometimes made of glassfibre and are worse than nothing. Traditional longbow archers favour wood; indeed for competition use nothing else is usually allowed. There will be a point (‘pile’) at one end of the arrow, and fletchings (feathers or vanes) at the other. Traditional arrows used feathers, tied by hand to the arrow shaft using gut or linen. These days, fletchings are usually plastic, and are stuck to the shafts using glue, except on longbow arrows which still tend to use feathers.

The groove at the fletching end of the arrow which fits onto the string is called the nock. Usually the nock is a piece of plastic which is glued into the shaft. Some longbow arrows are still self-nocked, that is, the nock is made by sawing a slot in the end of the shaft.

Arrows have to be matched to the draw weight of the bow, and the draw length of the archer. In general it doesn’t matter too much if the arrow is a bit too long, but if it’s too short you run the risk of it falling off the arrow rest and shooting through your hand. Your draw length will probably vary as you settle into your natural shooting style, so it’s best to start off with arrows a bit too long. Of course, you don’t gain anything by way of accuracy by having the arrow too long, and the extra weight slows down the flight, so it’s best to get them cut to exactly the right length once you know what it is.

As a rough guide, expect to pay half the price of your bow for a set of twelve arrows.

Characteristics of Bows

We’ve seen that there are various types of bow in widespread, and not so widespread, use. If you are considering buying a bow, you should be aware that there are a number of important properties that need to be matched to the individual archer. If you get these wrong, you’ll either never hit the target, or injure yourself. So it’s as well to think quite carefully about them.

Draw Weight

The draw weight is the amount of force, usually measured in pounds, required to pull the bowstring back to full draw. It will usually vary with the draw length, so you’ll need to know not only the weight, but the length at which it was measured. My recurve bow has a draw weight of 36 lbs at 30 inches.

Draw weight is one of the most contentious aspects of bow selection, and it is something about which a great deal of rubbish is spoken. It is generally assumed that a higher draw weight will lead to a faster arrow speed, and therefore to a flatter trajectory. A flatter trajectory means that you don’t have to compensate for distance to the same extent, which makes a faster arrow particularly important in field archery, where the distances will vary throughtout the course. In addition, a faster flight gives the arrow less time to be affected by wind.

This assumption — that a heavier draw will lead to a faster flight and a flatter trajectory — has one flaw: it is nonsense. It is nonsense for two reasons. First, a heavier draw requires a stiffer arrow. If you shoot an arrow designed for a 20 lbs draw from a 50 lb bow, it will never hit the target consistently, even it it doesn’t break. Stiffer arrows are thicker, and therefore heavier, than less stiff ones, and therefore fly less fast for a given draw. If you do the mathematics, it turns out that, although increasing draw weight does lead to a faster arrow, the difference between arrow speed for a 35 lb bow and a 55 lb bow is negligible for all practical purposes. As a weapon the heavier draw is vital because, even though the arrow will not be travelling any faster than one from a lighter bow, the increased weight of the arrow will impart a greater amount of energy to the target, and therefore do more damage. For any kind of target archery, however, this consideration is irrelevant.

The second reason why a heavier draw is disadvantageous is a straightforward bio-mechanical one — it is impossible to maintain a steady aim while pulling back a string at your full muscular strength. Even if you can pull a 55 lb bow, you’re never going to be able to hold it as steady as a 35 lb bow.

In summary, for recurve archery there is an optimal draw weight for a particular person, and exceeding that draw weight offers no advantages at all. For most men the optimum is in the 30-40 lb range; for women it is 25-35 lb. No beginner should ever be required to draw a bow with a weight more than about 15 lb, even if he or she can do so without too much difficulty.

With a compound bow the situation is slightly more complex. Because draw weight decreases as you come to full draw, you can decide either to have the same peak draw as a recurve, but with easier sighting (because you’ll only be holding half the weight when you’re sighting), or you can accept the same weight at full draw and have twice the peak draw. For example, if I can sight comfortably while drawing 35 lbs, I could pull a compound bow with 60-70 lb peak draw. But, as described above, I would not do so, because there are no advantages for target archery. If I choose a compound with a 45 lb peak draw, I will be holding about 25 lb at full draw — which is trivial — and my arrows will travel just as fast as those shot by a 60 lb bow because they will be much lighter.

Draw Length

Although you can select your draw weight, you can only vary your draw length by a small amount. You need to ensure that you get a bow that is compatible with the length you want to draw. You will get maximum draw length if you hold your bow arm right out straight, and draw the bowstring right back to your ear. You will get the minimum draw if you bend your bow arm slightly, and draw back to your chin. In general, it tends to be assumed that a longer draw is `better’, in the same way that a heavier draw is `better’. In the same way, this assumption is wrong. Why? Well, although a longer draw will transfer more energy to the arrow, and therefore create a flatter and more stable trajectory, you can only capitalise on this improvement in trajectory if your are a superlatively competent archer, or a machine. There are two reasons for this. First, if your draw is longer, the arrow is in contact with the string for a longer time, and this means that deviations in the side-to-side movement of the string have longer to affect the trajectory. Second, you’ll find it harder to achieve a consistent `anchor point’ if you pull the string back much further than your chin. Small variations in where you hold the string at full draw have enormous effects on where the arrow ends up. All the expert recurve archers I have met only draw to their chins.

For compound archery, the chin often does not make a good anchor point. The reason for this is that, because the bow will be quite short, the string will make a very acute angle at the nock point. So even though you’ll be able to touch the string to your chin, you won’t be able to touch your nose or lips, so you won’t be able to get as consistent a draw length. Consequently, most expert compound archers draw draw the string back to the angle of the jawbone, and let the string touch the nose higher up.

In summary, don’t necessarily assume that you should buy a bow suitable for a 31-inch draw when your draw is only 29 inches, and hope that you’ll work up to the longer draw. You probably can, but it might not be for the best in the long term.

Bow Length

If you want to shoot in tournaments, you’ll probably find that the maximum and minimum bow length is defined in the the regulations. In general, you’ll get slightly better accuracy from a longer bow, provided you have the muscular strength to hold the additional mass steady. This is because the velocity of the arrow will build up slightly more slowly for the same draw weight. In addition, with a very short bow, the angle that the string will make at full draw will be so acute that it will be difficult to hold steady and not pinch the arrow.

Archery Disciplines

In the UK, most archery clubs predominantly practice a fairly regimented form of target archery. However, field and `3D’ are becoming increasingly popular, and there are niche interests as well.

Target Archery

Target archery involves shooting a great many arrows at a well-marked target, either all at the same distance or at a small number of set distances. Target archery is practiced essentially the same indoors and outdoors, except that it is difficult to get very long distances at an indoor venue. The various governing bodies for archery set out which distances should be shot, how large the target face should be, how many arrows should be shot at each distance, and how the hits should be scored. This combination of distance, size, number, and scoring is referred to as a round. So, for example, a FITA round consists (for men) of 36 arrows shot at each of 90, 70, 50, and 30m. The distances are slightly shorter for women, because they tend to shoot less powerful bows. The target faces are 60cm diameter at the shorter distances, and 120cm at the longer. Scores range from 10 points for the `gold’ (bull’s eye) to 2 to the outermost ring.
At my modest level of skill, I consider I’m having a good day if I can hit the target boss at all at 90m. And, because it takes a whole day to shoot a FITA round, by the time I get to the more manageable distances, I’m so knackered I still can’t hit anything.

The archery event at the Olympic Games uses a fixed distance of 70m.

Most archery clubs would not shoot a full FITA round, or any other kind of standard round, except in a tournament. Normally people just turn up and shoot at the distances they feel they need to work on (or, in my case, a distance at which hitting the boss is more likely than missing it).

Most target archers shoot a recurve bow, but some clubs allow other types of bow. Needless to say, you can’t meaningfully compare the scores of a person shooting a compound bow with someone shooting a longbow. Arguably, you can’t really compare the scores of a person shooting a beginner’s budget recurve with someone shooting a top-of-the-range recurve bristling with high-tech gadgets — but we do. That’s sport for you, I guess.

Target archery is a gentlemanly (gentlepersonly?) sport, usually carried on in a sober and diligent manner. People who do it usually take it seriously. Achieving high scores is generally felt to be important, and in competitions arguments about the minutiae of the rules are not uncommon.

Field Archery

Field archery is a bit like golf with arrows. Usually the archers will shoot at a range of targets set out in a wooded course. Again, there are standard rounds defined by the governing bodies. In some rounds the target distances are defined, while in others the archers have to estimate distance on the course. The targets are usually straw bales set out on the ground, to which the target face is pinned. Very commonly the target faces show pictures of animals, and a hit scores more highly if it is in an area of the `animal’ that would result in its ending up on the dinner table. The scoring areas on these targets are generally much smaller than those used in target archery, but the corresponding distances — usually 5m to 30m — are significantly smaller.

Field archery requires somewhat different skills than target archery. For a start, the shooter has to be able to walk (this is not entirely a glib comment — target archery is one of the few Olympic sports where wheelchair users can compete on equal terms). In addition, it is necessary to be able to adjust for different distances without losing a shot. A willingness to grub about in the undergrowth to find lost arrows is also an advantage.

Field archery enthusiasts tend not to use a recurve bow, the favoured weapon of the target shooter. Instead they prefer either a compound bow (if the objective is to score highly), or a traditional bow (if the objective is to recreate the hunting experience of the days of yore).

Apart from the obvious advantage that a compound offers — you’re more likely to hit the target and therefore spend less time pulling up bracken to find your missing arrows — a compound is much more portable. However, it’s nowhere near as much fun to shoot as a longbow.

In the UK, field archery is not as popular as target archery, mostly because in urban areas it’s hard to find enough land to maintain a course on. Target archers have a tendency to look down on field archery as a sort of working-class version of the sport; however, since the introduction of 3D archery (see below), `traditional’ field archery has become almost respectable.

3D Archery

3D archery is a relatively recent innovation and came to the UK, I believe, from the USA. 3D archery involves shooting at life-size, compressed foam models of animals. In order that archers with more modest skills can hit something, on some courses you’ll be shooting at, say, a buck moose at 10 feet, as well as more challenging targets. Realism of the fauna is not, in general, a limitation in this sport — most courses seem to feature an alligator somewhere.


There are other well-recognized archery disciplines as well as target and field (and maybe 3D). However, they seem to be practiced only rarely. Flight archery is a contest to see who can shoot arrows the furthest. Clout archery involves shooting up into the air, so that the arrows come down on top of targets placed on the ground a huge distance away (usually 140 or 180 metres). Poppinjay involves shooting `birds’ made from feather dusters off a church steeple (often simulated by hoisting a frame containing the targets up a flagpole). There are other variations as well, but they tend to fall into the category of historical re-enactment rather than sport.

In many countries, bows are actively used for hunting. Whatever you think of the ethics of this activity, it is illegal in the UK, even on private land.

Equipment and Accessories

You can spend as much money as you like on archery equipment. I know people who have spent more on arrow rests that I spent on my bows. There are a number of sensible accessories that will make your archery life easier, and some relatively inexpensive bow equipment that will increase your scores. In the end, however, you need to spend a load of money to increase your scores even slightly, so unless you’re already shooting on top form, you’ve got to wonder whether it’s worth it.

I’ve already mentioned what I consider to be essential accessories — a finger tab and forearm bracer. Here are a few other things which generally represent money well spent.


If you’ve got more than one arrow, you’re going to need somewhere to keep your arrows between shots. Quivers usually hang from your belt or from a strap around your back. Most target archers use belt quivers — back quivers are a bit of a pain, to be honest, and only an advantage in field archery where you’re standing in the bushes a lot of the time. Many longbow archers favour back quivers because they believe they are more `traditional’. Maybe they are, but it’s not clear what that tradition is, exactly. There’s very little evidence that back quivers or, indeed, quivers of any kind were used in mediaeval europe.

Quivers can be quite expensive, but if you’ve spent more than ten quid you’ve probably wasted your money.


Stabilizer are various combinations of rods, weights, and dampers that screw onto your bow to dampen oscillations during release. This sounds like hocum but, in fact, makes good sense. During the release, not all of the energy stored in the string is transferred to the arrow; because the bow is not rigidly mounted, some of the energy makes the bow recoil. This recoil jolts the arrow rest, and deflects the arrow. By installing the right amount of mass and damping the right places, this recoil can be reduced by spreading the transfer of energy over a longer period of time (at least until the arrow is on its way). Most serious competitors use a least a `long rod’ on the front of the bow, and many use side rods as well. There is no magic formula for picking the right amount and distribution of weight — it requires trial and error.

I have mixed feelings about stabilizers. I have used them in the past, and know that they improve my scores. But that improvement has not come from an improvement in my archery technique, but from superior technology. If you’re competing against other people, you need all the technological help you can get. But if you’re only competing against yourself, it’s worth bearing in mind that these technological aids don’t improve the archer, even if they improve the scores. Of course, if you take this argument to its logical conclusion, we’d all still be throwing stones.


You can make a perfectly serviceable sight by gluing a piece of thin foam rubber to the front of the bow riser, and then sticking a long, brightly-coloured pin in the side of it. Not only is this `sight’ dirt cheap, its quick to adjust. You can mark the pin positions corresponding to different ranges on the front of the foam rubber with a pen. It is highly unlikely that a top-of-the-range, single-point sight will give you better performance than you’d get from the pin-and-foam sight on an ordinary recurve bow, so it’s not really worth spending a fortune unless you’re preparing for the Olympics. For £20-30 you can get a sight which will out-perform the bow.

For compound archery the situation is a bit different. In general, two-point sights are allowed, so the improved accuracy of the bow/sight combination means that it is sensible to have a more elaborate sight. However, I have to wonder whether, given the inaccuracies inherent in archery, a telescopic sight really offers value for money. For field and 3D archery, it is important to be able to shoot various distances without messing about with the sights too much. Moreover, a sight that sticks a foot out from the front of the bow is likely to get bent in half when it gets snagged in a tree. Consequently, many field archers prefer stumpy, multipin sights, which are both rugged and can accomodate different sighting ranges.

Release Aids

These are normally only allowed in competitions if you’re shooting a compound bow. A release aid is a device that allows you to release the bowstring without deflecting it with your fingers. Although some compound archers do still draw with their fingers, the reality is that compound bows are not really designed to be used this way, because release aids improve accuracy so dramatically. Because compound bows are much shorter than recurves, the angle made between the arrow and the string at full draw is very acute, so its difficult to avoid trapping your fingers and fouling the release.

Archery Clubs

Most clubs meet once or twice a week to practice for an hour or two. Most club training shoots follow the same basic format. Usually the first wave of shooters take their places at the shooting line, and shoot six arrows. Then the people who have shot move back and the next wave take their positions. And so on, until everyone has had a turn. Then when nobody has any arrows left, everyone goes up to count scores and collect arrows. On an outdoor shoot, particularly a field event, there’s likely to be a short delay while the missing arrows are recovered from the grass or the bushes. Shooting a set of arrows this way is called an end, for some reason. Some clubs use whistles to signal when it’s time to start and stop, others just have somebody shout.

Like any other kind of club, archery clubs vary in their personality. The personality of the club tends to be set by the personalities of its founders. Clubs that have a high turn-around of beginners and/or younger people (and, by their very nature, this category includes most university and college clubs) tend to be run in a rather regimented way. This is exactly as it should be, when you’ve got a bunch of people shooting what is, after all, a lethal weapon.

The most relaxed and informal clubs tend to be the ones that meet on the village green on a Sunday morning and shoot until the pubs open. Archery, for some reason, attracts more than its fair share of pompous and opinionated people, and I’ve know clubs to split up after disagreements about relatively trivial things.

Clubs vary in the amount of coaching they are able, or willing, to provide. Most clubs provide beginner’s courses but, once you’re able to hit the boss more often than not, you’re likely to be left to get on with it. Most club members are friendly and helpful, and will be happy (too happy in some cases) to offer advice. However, don’t necessarily expect that what works for one person will necessarily work for everyone.

A large part of the life of most archery clubs is taking part in competitions. The club where I shoot usually competes in some event or other about once a month. Competitions are a good way to meet people from other clubs and exchange ideas and information, even if, like me, you stand no chance of winning anything.

Most archery clubs have a reasonable stock of equipment for loan, which is extremely useful for trying out things that can only be selected by trial-and-error (like stabilizers).

Hints and Tips

I am not a particularly skilled archer, so you shouldn’t put too much trust in what follows. I’m describing what works for me, not general rules.

Keep your bow arm straight, but relaxed. Many people bend their bow arms slightly, to keep their elbows clear of the bowstring. The problem is that it is almost impossible to bend your arm exactly the same each time. If your draw is an inch shorter from one shot to the next, your hits are probably going to be several feet apart at a 70m range. If you rotate you elbow to point outwards — which may mean rotating your hand on the bow riser — you won’t hit it with the string. An ordinary forearm bracer will not protect your elbow from being struck by the string — you’ve either got to keep the elbow out of the way, or wear a long bracer.

Keep clothing well clear of the bowstring. If the bowstring even lightly brushes a shirtsleeve during the release, that’s enough to move the arrow by several feet at 50m.

Use a bracer, but make sure it doesn’t foul the release. Again, the string clipping the edge of the bracer will most likely send the arrow way off course. Those thick leather bracers that are traditionally worn by longbow archers are particularly bad for this — they need to be fastened up good and tight so the edges don’t poke up into the path of the string. Don’t start out shooting 70 metres if you’ve just changed your bow/sight/arrows/anchor/etc Even the slightest change in the bow set-up will equate to a huge discrepancy at the target over a long range.

If you’re way off form, don’t necessarily assume you’re just having a bad day. If you can normally shoot good arrow groupings, and you suddenly find you’re missing the boss, something is wrong — it’s more than just a bad day. Things to check: Is your bowstring running centrally down the limbs? Have your kids been playing with your sight? Is the string brushing your clothing or your bracer at release? Are you dropping the bow down before the arrows are fully clear? Are you gripping the riser too hard, so it rotates on release? Have you changed your anchor point without realising it? Have you started sighting with the other eye? (This is not a joke — I do this because I don’t really have a dominant eye. For target archery, I always close one eye to sight now, although this isn’t a very good idea for field shooting without sights)

Close your mouth and clench your teeth when you draw — particularly if you draw to the chin. The position of your teeth has a significant effect on the anchor point.

If you make occasional shots way of line to the left or right, consider whether you’re plucking the string on release. Ideally the string should roll straight forward off your fingers. If your draw length is, say, 76cm, and you’reshooting 50m, then any lateral movement of the string will be magnified by a factor of 65 at the target. So the difference between the centre of the gold and missing the boss entirely corresponds to a finger deflection of about 9mm. If you can shoot with both eyes open, you probably should. Why? I don’t really know, but most (maybe all) champion archers shoot with both eyes open. Various reasons are given; the one I find most convincing is that when you close one eye, the pupil of the other will automatically dilate. This makes it more difficult to focus on distant objects. When shooting with a sight, I can’t shoot with both eyes open because (a) I don’t have a dominant eye, and (b) I can’t see the target without my spectacles, and when I’m wearing them I always see a double image in the wrong place. Some spectable-wearers are so keen to shoot with both eyes open that they put scotch tape over one lens to blur the image without restricting the light. When shooting without a sight, keeping both eyes open is considered to be essential, because you have to learn how the arrow looks against the target at different ranges, and you only have half a picture if you have no depth perception.