November 28, 2023
When shooting a modern compound bow, there’s only one place you solidly connect with the bow, and that’s the grip. Unfortunately, this connection point is easy to mess up. Even when you grip the bow consistently, you can run into issues torquing the riser – simply due to bad mechanics or a poor grip design.
Additionally, letting the arrow go does not constitute a finished shot. You must actually continue the holding-through process until the arrow strikes the target. Why? Because it’s easy for the bow-arm to break down immediately after the arrow’s release, causing arrow-flight and tuning problems. These slight movements will change the arrow’s impact from one shot to the next, wrecking consistency.
If you grip the bow poorly and lack solid follow-through, you’re missing out on additional accuracy. This column will pave the way for better technique in these areas, so you can “thread the needle” on a more consistent basis.
To begin, let’s establish the best way to hold the bow. When I say, “best way,” I mean the most effective and torque-free method, so it’s easily duplicated on every shot. To create this type of repeatability, place the pressure point of the grip directly in line with the end of the radius bone on the hand. This establishes a solid bone-on-grip contact, which does not move or collapse when pressure is applied to it. This keeps everything ultra steady and relaxed.
To position the hand in the right way, you’ll have to turn it 45 degrees to the side with the center of the grip on the thumb side of the lifeline. This position places the base of the thumb square with the grip’s face, eliminating contact with the “mushy” and inconsistent palm region.
Bow grips that are fairly narrow help improve consistency because there’s less margin for gripping it wrong. If you grip it slightly off center, you’ll feel it, since the holding pressure will be somewhere on the outside edge of the grip’s face and not in the middle of it. This will force you to let down and recenter your hand’s position. After doing this several times over, your subconscious mind will pick up on the correct hand sensation, making it a habit. This will keep things smooth and automatic, improving consistency.
Once you feel good about gripping the bow properly, it’s vital to set the bow hand prior to drawing the bow. You never want to come to full draw and then reset or wiggle your hand in the right place. If so, you’ll surely load the bow with all sorts of hand and string torque, ruining the shot.
Here’s a simple plan for doing it right. 1. Clip the release on the bowstring, raise the bow up, and then take up a little bit of tension on the string as you set the hand with the base of the thumb on the center of the grip. 2. Then draw the bow slowly to full draw. 3. Once you draw to full anchor, be sure to relax the bowhand and forearm completely, then settle in on target.
Remember, keep your bowhand’s fingers totally relaxed, which will cause everything in your hand and arm to be at ease as well, including your shoulder region. Train your fingers to wrap lightly around the bow’s grip. Never grip it tightly. You can also experiment with different methods to see if that helps keep your fingers more relaxed. I usually grip the bow by tucking in my three lower fingers along the grip, so they can’t disturb anything, and gently grasp the bow only with my index or pointer finger. By tucking in my fingers, it also helps align my hand in the proper 45-degree position.
As a failsafe, it’s also wise to use a wrist sling to eliminate the chance of dropping the bow. Although this isn’t as much of a problem with today’s low-recoiling models, I’ve actually dropped a bow after the shot due to a relaxed hand. I now use a wrist sling on all my bows, which makes me more relaxed about shooting properly.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a fairly poor release but for some reason the arrow still found its mark. The only thing I can attribute to these saving graces was my ability to stay engaged with the aim and extension of my bow arm until the arrow penetrated the target.
The subconscious mind has the power to do things well beyond our imagination. For example, the mind must be trained to stay completely relaxed the moment the release is triggered and the bow recoils forward. Naturally, we’d want to exert muscle movement the instant something jumps or moves in our hand – causing accuracy issues. But when we consciously tell our minds to adopt a relaxed bow arm, it listens. And when we keep feeding it the same message over and over again, all in a calm way, it adopts the necessary nuances to help it deliver the correct technique.
That’s how we want to ingrain the follow-through, by being repetitive until the mind knows how to do it. I prefer blind-bale shooting for this, followed by “line shooting,” to solidify the correct shot-conclusion process.
Blind-Bale Training: Shooting at a close target, with your eyes closed, gives you a chance to shoot perfectly, nearly every time! Without a bull’s eye to make you anxious, it’s pretty easy to settle into a solid anchor and then execute a smooth release, while keeping the bow-arm up, relaxed, and motionless – at least for one to two seconds.
Blind-bale shooting works effectively since it creates a peaceful environment for our subconscious to learn, without different distractions to trip it up. If you truly want to build a solid foundation for your shooting, this is the place to do it.
Line Shooting: Shooting at a bull’s eye tends to make us anxious – because we insist on hitting the exact center. The problem is, when aiming, the sight pin will wonder from side to side and up and down, tugging at our nerves. A natural response is to “time the release” and trigger it the moment the pin crosses the center. Of course, this is very bad mojo that leads to a disastrous way of shooting.
A better way is to embrace the sight’s natural movement, so it doesn’t control the triggering of the shot. Instead, pull through the release’s trigger slowly and smoothly, so the arrow breaks by surprise. This also leads to a relaxed bow arm and follow-through.
One method that has helped me with my aiming skill is shoot at horizontal lines, rather than circular targets. With these shapes, I can let the sight pin move from side to side easily along the line, almost never leaving it! This keeps my mind relaxed, despite the sight’s movement. After weeks of shooting at horizontal lines, I don’t seem to be anxious about shooting at any shape of target – be that bull’s eyes, 3-Ds, or a small twig on a soft, dirt mound.
Line shooting is also a very effective way to sight in your bow. You can shoot horizontal lines to set your pin gaps and vertical lines to refine the windage setting, all while learning to aim better. Give it a try.
Many archers think the perfect shot is an arrow piercing the center of the target. However, in reality, this is somewhat of a fallacy. The perfect shot is one that feels right, based on the mind’s programming. Sure, you’ll have an arrow that slips into the bull’s eye from time to time, despite a roughly executed shot. But it won’t happen on a consistent basis, that’s for sure.
If you want true performance, train the mind and adopt the right engagement with the bow before and after the shot. When it’s done this way, accurate shooting becomes a natural byproduct of your method, greatly improving your confidence and accuracy as a bowhunter.