Stick'em Archery Resources

Content Provided By: Brian Stephens, Pro Staff

This archery shooting practice approach is no different than practicing shooting a gun, swinging a golf  club or pitching a baseball.  Fundamentals, Fundamentals, Fundamentals is what you hear coaches preach as they are teaching someone.  The same holds true in shooting your bow whether you are professional shooter or weekend bowhunter. We will be looking at Shooting Stance, Bow Grip, Bow Arm Angle, Draw Length, Anchor Point and Follow Through.

Shooting Stance: All highly successful archers & shooters use a comfortable, solid stance. To achieve a good archery shooting
stance, position your feet shoulder width apart, with your body weight equally distributed between the balls and midsection of your feet.  Follow the tips below and it will help you identify your stance.  Keep in mind it may be different than what you are doing now. Our advice is to find a place with a safe backstop, close your eyes and then draw your bow. Move your feet around until you find the most comfortable position for your feet. Now open your eyes and note the direction of the bow's aim and the position of your feet. Take an arrow and lay it on the ground, with the tip pointing at the aiming spot and the fletch-end of the arrow parallel with the tip of your right shoe (for right-handed shooter). This is your new stance.

Bow Grip: There are many ways to hold a bow grip, but only one specific spot on your hand will prevent torque. Brian Stephens identifies this one spot as where the radius bone meets the palm-the precise location where the hand won't change positions when pressure is applied to it. This spot is located at the base of the thumb, right near the "lifeline."

We have all had string slap or squeezed our bow really tight at one time or another.  How do you prevent this? Place your hand in the grip by rotating your thumb slightly so it's angled outward. Rotating the hand slightly also increases the clearance between the bowstring and your forearm, lessening the chance of contact with a bulky jacket sleeve.

From here, relax your fingers so they hang along the handle or tuck in two or three of your fingers into your palm, allowing your index, and one other finger perhaps, to loosely wrap around the riser of the bow. An important piece of Archery Equipment is using a bow sling is very important, since it removes all fear of dropping the bow.  This is very similar to gripping a golf club.  You don't squeeze that club tightly.  You lightly grip the handle and swing.  If you grip too tight you will notice you are not going to consistently strike the ball well.  By relaxing your fingers along the handle it prevents you from naturally wanting to squeeze the bow, resulting in an inaccurate flying arrow.

Bow Arm Angle: Most archers or bowhunters utilize the wrong muscles to shoot with, most notably the deltoid muscle or shoulder muscles, which is what you use as soon as you begin to raise the bow-arm shoulder. This is a mistake since it creates
tension and a wobbly sight picture.
Let’s discuss muscle physiology for a moment. The diagram to the right shows the different muscles used to draw your bow.  While we naturally want to use our Deltoid or shoulder muscles.  It is important to rely more on our back muscles.  Here is why? A low, locked bow-arm shoulder ensures we utilize less muscle, creating more of a bone-to-bone contact, resulting in a steadier aim. To prove this to yourself, extend your arm and hold your hand out (as if you are holding a bow and preparing to shoot). If your elbow is locked, bend it so it just unlocks. Note the position of your shoulder; it should be low and relaxed. Now press down on the top of the bow-hand shoulder where it meets your arm. Use your release hand to do this. You will notice it won't move because it is locked. This is the way we suggest you hold the bow to shoot.

Draw Length: Proper draw length is critical. The best way to identify proper draw length is to observe the shooter from the side and also from the rear. From the side, the draw-arm elbow should be even or slightly above the arrow. Facing the back of the shooter's head, the elbow should be in line with the arrow, not to the left or right.  Some bowhunters like to use an over draw technique where their measured Draw Length of 28 inches but shoot a 29.5 inch Draw Length.  While this can be effective at providing more speed.  It can have negative impact on your arrow when shooting out of a tree stand or angle if not adjusted for.  The below picture also demonstrates how to determine or measure your draw length.  The formula for determining your proper draw length is measuring from finger tip to finder tip and then dividing that number by 2.5.  We also recommend making sure you take the time to have your local pro shop go through this process with you.

Anchor Point: muscles. Don't press hard Now let’s discuss your anchor point.  Brace your release hand somewhere along the jawbone. This is the best place because it allows great repeatability while keeping your hand forward enough to allow appropriate use of your back against the side of your face, just firmly enough to keep things consistent. Pressing hard into the face causes left and right shots, since it's easy to vary hand pressure, shot to shot.

Three or Four - Point Anchor- Most experts use the "web" of their draw hand wrapped or braced against the jawbone, bowstring to tip of nose, and sight pin in middle of peep or pin guard. (Some hunters also use a kisser button for a four-point system). The key is using the same sequence with your anchor points to ensure consistent shooting.  Bill Lawson says that he likes more of a four-point anchor where he anchors his thumb behind his neck.  Brian Stephens demonstrates he uses more of a three-point anchor with kisser button.  Think about Basketball players.  The great free throw shooters go through the same sequence before they shoot the ball.

A good follow-through is pretty simple; it means your bow-arm stays “up” until impact of arrow in the target and your release hand brushes against the side of your face and lands in the same spot behind your head.

Many experts utilize a surprise-style release, which is only possible when activating the release subconsciously, most often with the back muscles. A shot performed with back tension is easy to identify since the release hand will “explode rearward”.  This is a result of constant pressure building in the rhomboid muscles or back muscles. Brian Stephens shows us an example of this.  This involves the "building up" of pressure in your back until the finger takes up the slack in the trigger. When your back tightens, your arm-and-hand unit pivot rearward, and the trigger folds over.

What is the Surprise Shot I hear shooters talk about?

Consider this example; If the let-off weight of your bow at full draw is 20 pounds, then as you settle into the spot with your sight pin, you then apply back tension, bringing the tension to 21 pounds. Then, when the shot goes off, you should be pulling maybe 22 pounds of tension. With this technique, don’t think about the release itself. Instead, the focus should be only on aiming.

Spook Spann, professional bowhunter, and host of Spook Nation TV, uses back tension to perform the shot as well, but he prefers a slightly different method of creating a surprise shot.

"Instead of gradually tightening my back muscles, I prefer to tighten my back muscles abruptly as soon as I reach my anchor point," said Spann. "This makes me steadier and lets me concentrate on aiming.”

Another approach from Brian Stephens, founder of "Once I get to full draw, I pull into the wall about 4 to 5 pounds, anchor, center the pin through the peep, level my bow, and then allow the pin to fall onto the spot. I then rest my finder on the release trigger and apply about 90% of the pressure required to execute the shot. At this point, I focus on my “Aim Small-Hit Small” place on target while pulling through the shot using back tension."

The rationale for using your back muscles to trigger the shot rather than just your single finger is to ensure greater control, preventing your nerves from negatively impacting the shot. The use of your back delays the shot just enough, so that anticipating when the shot will break becomes almost impossible.  This keeps you solidly aiming, prevents snap-shooting and allows your body and mind to relax while the shot occurs. This all equates to improved accuracy, particularly under pressure whether you are on the range on shooting an animal.

Before you start it is to remember the fundamentals we previously discussed.  If possible shoot with a friend or video yourself.  This will ensure that if you do have some bad habits they are addressed. Finding an “anchor point” and achieving a consistent release can help you make the shot every time.  To train yourself to shoot right, you must use close-range shooting practice-which is best done with your eyes closed like we discussed earlier.  This type of practice allows the conscious mind to adopt new skills through repetitive practice.   Next, it is important to practice some Range Shooting at different distances (archery range or back yard).

These would include 20 yard, 30 yard, and 40 yards.  Followed by staggered distances to include 10, 15, 25, 35, 45 yards.  Add some long range distances that include 50, 60, 70, 80 yards.  These are important to practice if you are hunting out west (ensure your bow will deliver the proper Kinetic Energy to ethically harvest game at these distances) or to improve confidence for those 30 yards shots. 

Once you are shooting accurately and consistently with these Range Scenarios we suggest you add some Real-World Shooting Scenarios:

Shooting out of tree stand
Shooting kneeling on ground
Shooting sitting down (ground blind)
Shooting out around tree
Shooting in your hunting clothes

* Execute these shooting scenarios at various ranges.  Ensure you are using your safety harness when practicing out of tree stand.

Aiming Points

Once your bow sight reaches the target, we suggest to simply acquire the archery target with your sight pin and start tightening those back muscles. Once this is done, now you can consciously aim at the target, allowing the rest to just
happen.  Accuracy is all about aiming.  We practice a technique called “Aim Small-Hit Small”.  We have several videos on this but it is a technique where you pick out a small spot on your target and you consistently focus on shooting at that spot. This means burning a visual hole exactly where you want the arrow to hit. The finer the aim, the better the results.Archery Shooting Tips From here, trust that the trigger will break smoothly based on hours of shot training, particularly on a close-range target. At this point, don't think about the release, or your release hand, or your finger on the trigger-ever-but only the aiming process. If you do mentally drift away for a split second, think about the pressure in your back muscles, and do your best to increase this pressure, almost to the point where you feel a burn.

Be careful - Don't Hold Too Long
All shooting pros agree that a delayed, subconscious shot is good, but you don't want to over-hold either, which can cause problems.

"Bill Lawson explains, When I am shooting, I exhale as I draw the bow, take a full breath as I pre-load into the cam's wall at anchor, and then get the trigger pre-loaded," said Lawson. "From there, I try to shoot within 7 to 8 seconds. If not, I let down.”

We suggest 5 to 7 seconds as a time frame goal for executing the shot once you hold your breath, because your visual acuity will start to decrease rapidly after 7 seconds. More training and better fitness will allow you a slightly longer window.

Summarize Shooting Points & Tips

1. Focus on Back Tension & Bow Arm Angle: When using back tension to trigger the shot, use only your draw-side rhomboid muscles to pivot your shoulder. These large, powerful muscles are located closest
to your spine. This allows for "pulling" rather than a "pushing and pulling" motion.  This ensures consistency since pushing the bow arm out can cause irregular release pressure and left and right hits.

2. Use a thin or relaxed bow grip: A thin grip minimizes surface area, which lessens the chance you'll grip the bow wrong and torque it.  This is one of the most common issues we see or have experienced ourselves over time that when avoided can make big improvements in your shooting.

3. Aiming - Come down on target: Many experts believe drawing with your sights just above the target and then lowering the sight pin into the bull's eye is best since it requires less use of your arm muscles. This keeps you more relaxed and steadier on target. Remember “Aim Small-Hit Small”.

4. Practice long-range shots: The benefits of practicing long range shots not only expands your opportunity for harvesting game.  For example; if you are hunting Elk or Mule Deer out west you may have to take a shot beyond 50 yards.  Spook Spann practices shooting out to 60-70 yards and feels confident with his PSE Omen to get the job done if other conditions are good to take that kind of shot.  Other benefits of practicing these ranges is it helps your confidence when you are taking 30 or 40-yard shots.

5. Hook the trigger with finger: When using a wrist-strap release, shorten the stem or strap on the release so that your finger has a deep grip on the trigger. This will allow you to form a "hook" using your finger. Note: the trigger should cross somewhere between the first and second knuckle. This makes trigger feel less sensitive and allows you to fire the trigger using your back, facilitating a surprise release.

Take the time to evaluate what you are doing well and what you need to improve.  Use a friend or video yourself to critique  your shooting technique.  The time you spend now fine-tuning your technique can pay off big time when you are on the range or drawn down on a Monster this upcoming season. Good luck!  If you need additional information or Archery Supplies please come visit -Archery Shop

Good Luck and Remember...........

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