Question:I am right-handed and sometimes my arrow flies significantly to the left. It doesn't happen all of the time, so I believe I am somehow torquing the bow. What can I do to fix this? - Tom McGuckin, Abington, Pa.
Identifying and Fixing Bow Torque
The way you start the shot is just as important as what you do when you release the string. One of the most overlooked of these fundamentals is how you place your hand on the grip and what you do with it after you begin the draw. That has to be very, very consistent or you will have the kinds of fliers you are talking about.
If the bow wants to turn in your hand when you are drawing it, the reason is nearly always improper placement of your hand on the grip. The force of the draw will turn the bow and then it will spring back to accommodate your hand position when you release the string. This is the definition of bow torque. Unless you fix the problem, you will fight left and right misses your entire archery career.
How to Fix It
To eliminate torque, you must place your hand on the grip correctly and exactly the same every time. That is the starting point of every good shot. The correct grip is one that applies force to the bow in such a way that, as you draw it, the bow doesn't turn in your hand. Most bowhunters hold the bow too far out toward their fingers, in the cradle of their thumb.
Instead, think of a point at the base of your palm, a spot that is perfectly in line with the two long bones of your forearm. If you imagine a rod running from your elbow, right through your forearm bones and then out through your palm, the point where it comes out of your palm is the ideal pressure point for your grip. You should apply this small spot to the exact back of the grip as you set your hand in place before drawing the bow.
I know what you are thinking, "I can't control the bow when I hold it like that." Exactly. That is the point. You shouldn't try to control the bow with your hand in the first place. You should control the bow with your upper torso, rotating and bending at the waist, not with your bow arm and certainly not with your bow hand.
Do you remember back in high school when you learned about vestigial organs? Well for the purposes of archery, your bow hand and bow arm are vestigial organs, useless implements — merely passive extensions of your body that can do nothing to influence the shot. Think of them in those terms and you will learn to use them properly.
The Art of Passivity
Obviously, for your bow hand to remain passive, you must place it correctly and then never move it, nor apply tension with it, throughout the draw and release. You will probably need to practice this carefully before it starts to feel natural. It is common for bowhunters to adjust their wrist angle or hand position once they start the draw to gain a little advantage on the bow. Fight this urge.
In addition, you must keep your bow hand totally relaxed from the time you start drawing until arrow is in the target. Don't squeeze the grip, and just as importantly, don't force the fingers outward. Just let them hang naturally, limp.
Use a Wrist Sling
If you release the string correctly, the shot will take you by surprise, and if your bow hand is relaxed, the bow will fly right out of your hand before you have time to grab it. Rather than throttling the grip to prevent a dinged bow, use a wrist sling to remove any fear of launching it. I once sent my bow flying from a tree stand following the arrow I had just shot at a whitetail. I killed the buck and the bow clattered to the ground but turned out to be just fine, so it ended happily. However, that heart-stopping moment reinforced my decision to use a wrist sling every time I shoot, even when hunting.
When properly adjusted, the sling should make contact with the back of your hand when you are at full draw. If it doesn't, you will still subconsciously grab the grip during the shot to keep from dropping the bow and that can quickly lead to anticipating the shot and eventually to target panic.
If you grip the bow correctly, the bow will jump straight toward the target when you release the string. If it tries to turn you know you have problems that you can trace right back to your grip. Your follow-through is a good acid test for the quality of your grip.
How you apply your hand to the grip, and how relaxed you can keep it until the arrow is in the target, is a very important fundamental of archery and bowhunting. To shoot your best, you must learn to stop twisting the bow; you can only do that with a proper grip.