A batting coach can tell more by watching the baseball than by focusing on the movement of the bat. Top golfers also study their ball flight to suggest changes in form.
In all sports involving a projectile, it benefits the performer to understand the cause and effect relationship between results and the actions that cause them. Studying the grouping of your arrows — especially the bad shots — is a great way to diagnose problems.
The Low Miss
At a 3-D tournament years ago, a competitor and I were tied after regulation. I was up first in the shoot-off and hit the 10-ring, leaving my competitor a chance to beat me. In the excitement, he punched the trigger, and his arrow zipped under the target. His unfortunate miss highlights a common problem: when you punch the trigger rather than squeeze it, you will often shoot low.
The low miss has a number of other causes, including the tendency to drop the bow arm to "peek" to see the arrow in flight. Practice with arrows you can't see in flight; use dark fletching and nocks. Practice early and late in the day when the light is reduced. Keep your eyes locked on the target rather than coming out of the shot to watch the arrow.
Some archers have poor follow-through and drop their bow arm. Continue doing all the things you were doing before the shot through the release and until you see or hear the arrow impact the target.
An inconsistent pressure point between the grip and your hand can also produce a low hit. If you vary the pressure point from one shot to the next, the bow will shoot differently. The ideal pressure point eliminates tension in the bow hand. Bend your left wrist (for a right-hander) and push your right index finger into your left palm at various locations. There is only one spot — located right below the pad of your thumb on your lifeline — where the force won't cause any movement in your bow hand. That is your ideal pressure point.
If cams are out of time or not synchronized, the impact point of the arrows will change if you don't hold the EXACT same pressure against the wall on every shot. The results can be significant, especially when shooting broadheads. Creep tuning — which I cover in a subsequent column — will eliminate this problem.
The High Miss
I see a lot of high misses by bowhunters who don't use peep sights. Unless you have a firm anchor point you can rely on 100 percent of the time, a peep sight should be standard equipment. This problem will be exacerbated on long shots or steep uphill and downhill shots.
Left & Right Misses
Leaning the bow (canting) is a common cause of left and right misses. Ideally, you should hold the bow straight up and down on every shot. Canting the bow is acceptable as long as you cant it the same on every shot. This is only possible by using a bubble level in your sight and adjusting it to your preferred cant.
You are more likely to suffer from left and right misses if your draw length is too long. You shouldn't feel like you are completely stretched at full draw; you should be able to keep your arms and shoulders relaxed.
Interference with the bowstring can also cause left and right issues. Most commonly, "chin drag" occurs when the string is held tight to the face and must move around the flesh to get started. Heavy hunting clothing can also interfere with the string.
Tension in your body — especially your bow arm and hand — creates torque at full draw, causing the bow to turn, changing the relationship between your arrow and the sight.
Bent or damaged arrows are the number one equipment problem that cause misses, followed by string stretch and loose components. You can determine if you have an arrow problem by numbering the shafts. You will identify the culprits after only a few rounds.
Some strings stretch over the first several hundred shots and may make additional shifts afterwards. Mark your cams to assure the string or buss cables don't stretch without your knowledge. A good custom string can solve these issues.