November 30, 2023
When using a release aid an archer’s body should only contact the bow in two places — the hand on the handle and the tip of the nose on the string. If you don’t interfere with the bow in either of these places, the bow will shoot the arrow exactly where it is pointed on each and every shot. Unfortunately, most of us interfere with the bow in some way, and it causes the arrow to go somewhere other than where it was aimed.
One of the most commonly overlooked sources of interference is the archer’s face. In this column, I will go over the basics of the bowstring/face/anchor relationship so you can fully understand how to make a shot free of interference. Hopefully, this discussion will help you to improve your shooting form.
Find the Right Anchor Point
Most writers and coaches teach that the most important reference point when setting up your shooting form is a solid anchor point. I do not believe this is true any longer. When we were all shooting without peeps, our anchor point was our rear sight, pure and simple. It had to be rigid and repeatable. However, the advent of the peep sight made a solid anchor point much less important.
The exact position of your release hand against your face is a matter of personal preference. Whatever method you use, there are fundamentals every archer should strive to follow. These fundamentals revolve around consistency, alignment and comfort. You must be able to relax as much as possible at full draw in order to shoot consistently. Tension in any part of your body at full draw will result in inconsistency.
The anchor point should allow you to have perfect alignment of your release hand forearm with the arrow when you are at full draw. It should be repeatable under all conditions, including shooting uphill and downhill. It must also allow you to shoot your top and bottom pins equally comfortably, with no tendency to miss to the left or right as you move from close yardages to long yardages.
Most rock-solid anchor points tend to force the string into the archer’s face and chin. Any change in pressure will cause the string’s path to vary left or right as it is released. For right-handed archers, you’ll notice that if you press the string harder than normal against the side of your face, you will tend to miss left. Less than normal pressure will cause you to miss right. Small changes at the beginning of the shot will cause big changes at the target, especially with today’s high letoff bows.
It is difficult to be perfectly consistent with string-to-face pressure, so I try to eliminate this variable completely by not allowing the string to contact my face at all, other than at the tip of my nose.
To find the right anchor that avoids the string contacting your face, have someone shoot a close-up video of your face when you are at full draw. Use your standard hunting release aid and your normal anchor point. Hold the bow at full draw, just as though you were going to shoot. Review the video and look closely at your bowstring where it crosses your chin/face. Check to see if the string is pressed tightly against your face. If it is, it will be a constant source of inconsistency.
As with any other aspect of archery, if you press the string against your face in exactly the same way every time, you will shoot well. However, it is difficult to apply the exact same pressure on each shot, even for archers who practice many hours every week.
Breaking the Habit
If you feel like facial contact is impacting your shot, experiment with ways to get the string off your chin. All faces are shaped differently, so it is more difficult for some than it is for others. You can keep the string off your face by turning your head until you are facing almost straight at the target. Most right-handed archers, and even some good ones, turn their heads much too far to the right, causing the string to make solid contact with their face. I would rather see a shooter hold the string off to the side of the nose than to see them creating face pressure by trying to keep the string on the tip of their nose. Once you figure out how to anchor to avoid contact, make a conscious effort to keep the string off your face on every shot. It may feel awkward at first, and you may have to adjust your pins, but your left and right misses will become fewer and smaller.
One of the easiest ways to tell if you are interfering with the bowstring is to stand behind the bow with the arrow nocked and on the arrow rest. Line the arrow up with the bowstring and look to see if the pins are lined up with the arrow and the string. With a perfectly tuned bow and no face interference, the pins should line up with the string and arrow. If the pins are to the left of the string (for a right-handed archer) you are probably pressing the string into your face. If you like to center the pin in your peep sight when aiming (as opposed to centering the sight’s housing), your anchor point will need to move as the shooting distance changes. For example, if on a 20-yard shot you center your 20-yard pin in the peep, and on a 60-yard shot you center your 60-yard pin in the peep, you must move your anchor point up or down your face.
It is acceptable to move your anchor point up and down a little to aim with different pins. This movement should only be vertical, never horizontal. If you move your anchor point back and forth horizontally it will change your form and adversely affect your shooting. To prevent your anchor’s vertical movement from causing left or right misses at closer or longer ranges, it is best to keep your anchor point very light on your face, as discussed.