4 Different Ways To Aim In Traditional Archery

by | Oct 12, 2022

Aiming in traditional archery is somewhat of a hotly debated topic. There is no set way to aim, as whichever method gives the archer the best results is the one they should stick to. Having said that there are four methods that are widely used, customised, renamed, and combined, all in the name of getting into that gold.

  • Instinctive Shooting

Instinctive Shooting is aiming at the target rather than looking at the arrow. The arrow should appear blurred while the target should be crystal clear.

  • Gap Shooting

Gap shooting compensates for the arrow’s trajectory with the archer’s point of aim. This means that you will need to know the range you’re going to shoot.

  • Split Vision Shooting

Split Vision shooting also focuses on the target rather than the arrow, but in this case, you are more aware of where the arrow is to the point of using it as a reference point.

In this article, we’ll break down all four methods of how to aim in traditional archery, so you can head off and choose which one suits you best.

How to Aim in Traditional Archery?

There’s nothing more frustrating for a new shooter than not being able to hit what they’re aiming at. There are so many methods for aiming in traditional archery, and it’s hard to get a clear picture of which method is best because everyone has their own way of shooting.

The first steps are to have all the fundamentals in place, like a consistent anchor, draw length and a smooth release. Unless those three things are in place, then any of the methods you use for aiming will be pointless.

Aim in traditional archery

Methods like Instinctive shooting, Gap Shooting, Split Vision and String Walking are all great methods, but if you’re just starting out and all of these techniques seem a little overwhelming, then you can just use reference points on your riser for different distances.

Find a method that works for you and then shoot hundreds of arrows until you’ve got it down.

But before we get into covering some of the most popular aiming methods for Trad bows, we need to answer an obvious question first.

If you’re in two minds as to whether you want to get a Takedown bow or a One-Piece bow, then this article might be of help!

What Is Traditional Archery?

The easiest way to describe traditional, or bare bow archery is that it’s an arrow, a stick and a string. There aren’t any of the bells and whistles of modern archery. There aren’t any cams or sights or clickers. It’s just you, the arrow, the bow and the string.

There are also several different styles of traditional archery bows:

  • Self Bow – crafted from a single piece of wood
  • Classic Longbow – made from wood and fibreglass
  • Modern Longbow – made from wood fibreglass and carbon
  • Modern Takedown Longbow – three-piece longbow made from wood, fibreglass and carbon
  • Classic Recurve – one-piece Recurve bow, made from wood, fibreglass and carbon
  • Takedown Recurve – 3-piece Recurve bow, made from wood, fibreglass, metal and carbon

4 Different Ways To Aim In Traditional Archery

Instinctive Shooting

Instinctive shooting or better yet, intuitive shooting, develops over time. It takes a ton of practice hours on the range because you’re not really learning how to aim, your training what’s known as muscle memory.

When you aim at the target, you’re focusing your conscious mind on the X, while you let your subconscious mind take care of everything else.

If you shoot hundreds of arrows at a target from just a few meters away, your body, your muscles and your nervous system all become tuned to hit that target at that particular distance.

Then you move back and shoot hundreds of arrows at a different distance, and then repeat.

So instinctive shooting is honed over thousands of hours to become an almost subconscious action. You trust that when you look at something that you want to hit, you’re confident enough that you’ll hit it without thinking about it too much.

Gap Shooting

This is the preferred method of target shooters. Gap shooting is where the archer compensates for the trajectory of the arrow with his point of aim.

The archer will use the tip of the arrow as the sight, which will be below the actual target.

How to Aim in traditional archery

Then to measure your Gap, you simply use a tape measure to get that number. So if you have a 14″ Gap at 20 yards, you now know to shoot 14″ below your target at 20 yards.

The Gap itself refers to the difference between the tip of the arrow and the point you want to hit. At different distances, your Gap will be different. The further you are away from the target, the smaller your Gap is until you reach the distance where you will be ‘point-on’. This refers to the distance that when you place the tip of your arrow on a spot, you’ll hit that exact spot.

Once you move past that point, you’ll be aiming above the target.

Split Vision Shooting

Many different archers will say that Split Vision shooting is a method that falls somewhere between the Instinctive and Gap methods, but Split Vision shooting is more flexible than either one.

Split Vision Shooting

Split Vision is similar to Instinctive in that the focus for both methods is on the target. You also don’t need to know the exact distance to the target.

Split Vision is similar to Gap shooting because you can ‘see the arrow’ when you aim. You’re not focusing on it, but you’re using your peripheral vision to use it as a reference point.

String Walking

Using the ‘3 Below’ method of drawing the bowstring, String walking lets you turn the tip of your arrow into an adjustable sight.

You shoot at a target using the tip of your arrow to aim, as in Gap shooting. But instead of using the Gap to adjust, you simply move the position of your hand on the string below the arrow.

If you shoot high, you ‘walk’ your hand down the bowstring. If you hit low on the target, slide your hand up the string closer to the arrow.

Bare Bow Tab used in String Walking

With a little trial and error, you can figure out exactly where you need to hold the string for different distances.

To really nail it down, you can use a bare-bow tab which allows you to line up the markings as reference points.


I would recommend using all of the above methods to learn how to aim in traditional archery at some point. At the end of the day, I would rather know how to use something and not need it, than need it and not know how to use it.

Each method has its strengths and weaknesses, and you can even combine two ways together once you have a better practical understanding of how each technique works.

Practice, practice, practice!