Compound Archery For Beginners: A How-To Guide

by | Aug 23, 2023

For many people, compound archery can seem a little intimidating. The modern design and seemingly complex structure look like a form of archery that only someone with years of experience should attempt. So much so, in fact, that this begs the question, is compound archery for beginners?

In general, compound archery for beginners is something that should be encouraged as it’s a great place to start with the sport. Compound archery offers the beginner a lot of tools that recurve or traditional archery does not. The mechanics of a compound bow allow an archer to hold heavier weight at full draw. Sights offer the opportunity to adjust aim, plus the compound is versatile enough to be used in many different disciplines within archery.

If you’re new to the sport of archery and wondering if compound archery is for beginners, then you’ve come to the right place, as we take a deep dive into getting started, with everything you need to know.

What is Compound Archery?

Compound archery is a modern form of archery that utilizes cables and pulleys to produce a mechanical advantage over other bows like recurve bows and traditional bows.

Unlike traditional longbows or recurve bows. It’s that advantage that assists the archer in drawing and holding the bowstring.

This mechanical advantage allows for a more efficient transfer of energy and greater accuracy when shooting arrows.

The use of cams, or wheels, at the ends of the bow’s limbs helps reduce the amount of force needed to hold the bowstring at full draw, making it easier to aim and hold steady.

Benefits of Compound Archery For Beginners

There are numerous benefits to choosing compound archery as your preferred shooting style. First and foremost, the mechanical advantage provided by compound bows allows for higher arrow speeds and flatter trajectories compared to other types of bows.

This translates into increased accuracy and a greater effective range.

Additionally, due to their let-off feature, which reduces holding weight at full draw, compound bows offer improved comfort during aiming and release.

Furthermore, compound archery can be enjoyed by people of all ages and physical abilities.

With adjustable draw weights and lengths, individuals can find setups that suit their strength level or body proportions, making it accessible for beginners as well as experienced archers.

Moreover, compound bows often have accessory mounting options such as stabilizers or sights that aid in fine-tuning your shot placement.

Is Compound Archery Suitable for Beginners?

Compound archery, with its modern innovations and features, might seem intimidating to a newcomer. However, it’s these very advancements that make it an excellent choice for beginners. Here’s why:

  1. User-Friendly Mechanics: Compound bows are designed with the user in mind. The let-off feature, for instance, allows beginners to hold the bow at full draw without exerting the full draw weight, making it easier to focus on aiming.
  2. Consistency: Features like draw stops ensure that the bow is drawn to the same length every time. This consistency is invaluable for beginners, as it allows them to develop a repeatable shooting technique.
  3. Adjustability: Many compound bows are highly adjustable in terms of draw length and draw weight. This means that as a beginner grows in skill and strength, the bow can be adjusted to match their progress without the need for a new bow.
  4. Safety Features: Compound bows often come with added safety features, such as wrist slings, which prevent the bow from jumping out of the archer’s hand upon release.
  5. Immediate Feedback: The advanced sighting systems in compound bows provide immediate feedback. If an arrow misses the mark, the archer can make adjustments right away, speeding up the learning process.
  6. Versatility: Compound bows are versatile and can be used for various archery disciplines, from target shooting to hunting. This versatility allows beginners to explore different facets of archery without switching equipment.
  7. Community Support: Given the popularity of compound archery, there’s a vast community of archers willing to share tips, advice, and guidance. Beginners can benefit immensely from this collective knowledge.

Understanding the Components of a Compound Bow

Before diving into the world of compound archery, it’s essential to understand the various components that make up this marvellous piece of equipment.

A compound bow consists of several key parts that work together to provide precision, power, and accuracy. Let’s take a closer look:

The Riser:

The riser is the central part of the bow where everything comes together. It is usually made from aluminum or carbon fiber for strength and durability.

The riser houses the handle and grip, which should feel comfortable in your hand to ensure a steady shot.


The limbs are attached to both ends of the riser and store energy when you draw back the string. They are typically made from fiberglass or carbon composite materials.

The limb design determines how much power is generated when you release the bowstring, so it’s important to choose limbs with an appropriate draw weight for your skill level.


The cams, also known as wheels or eccentrics, play a crucial role in modern compound bows. They are responsible for providing let-off during full draw, reducing holding weight at full draw compared to traditional bows.

There are different types of cams: single cams, dual cams, hybrid cams, and binary cams. Each type offers distinct advantages in terms of performance and ease of tuning.

Related: How Does A Compound Bow Work?

Compound Archery For Beginners: A How-To Guide

Consider Your Budget and Personal Preferences:

As with any hobby or sport, budget plays a significant role in selecting a compound bow. The good news is that there are options available for every price range.

Keep in mind that more expensive bows often offer advanced features and better performance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a reliable entry-level bow within your budget.

Prices for a beginner compound bow can range from $200 – $400. This can, however, vary greatly depending on the make and model.

Additionally, personal preferences are essential considerations when choosing a compound bow.

Factors such as color options, brand reputation, quietness of the bow during shooting, and even aesthetics may influence your decision-making process.

It’s crucial to find a bow that aligns with what you value most in terms of performance and overall satisfaction.

Remember, selecting the right compound bow is an investment in both enjoyment and skill development. Take the time to research different brands and models while considering all aspects mentioned above before making your final decision.

Choosing Your First Compound Bow:

There are many different styles of compound bows to choose from. A lot of the decision-making process will be influenced by the type of archery you choose to pursue. Below is a rundown of the different types of compound bows on the market.

Single Cam Bows – characterized by one cam at the bottom limb and a round idler wheel at the top, are lauded for their simplicity and quieter shots.

Twin Cam Bows – or dual cam bows, boast synchronized cams that provide a flatter arrow trajectory and enhanced accuracy.

Hybrid Cam Bows – merge the best of both worlds, offering the simplicity of a single cam and the performance of a twin cam.

Binary Cam Bows – have both cams slaved to each other, ensuring they always remain in sync, while

Quad Cam Bows – less common, quad-cam bows utilize four cams for increased speed and power. Each type has its unique advantages, and the choice often boils down to an archer’s specific requirements and shooting style.

Related: What Are The Different Types Of Compound Bows

Draw Weight:

When deciding on your first compound bow, determining the right draw weight and length is crucial for both comfort and accuracy.

The draw weight refers to how heavy it feels when you pull back on the string until it reaches its maximum position before releasing it.

Beginners should start with a lower draw weight to develop proper form and avoid straining their muscles.

As you progress, you can gradually increase the draw weight to challenge yourself. Remember, it’s better to start light and work your way up rather than struggle with a bow that is too heavy.

Draw Length:

The draw length is the distance from your bow hand’s grip to the bowstring when pulled back fully. Having the correct draw length is crucial for consistent shooting and maximizing accuracy.

If your draw length is too short or too long, it can affect your form, anchor point, and ultimately your shot placement. It’s advisable to have an experienced archery professional measure your draw length accurately.

Essential Gear for Compound Archery

Arrows: Types, Materials, and Spine Selection

Choosing the right arrows is crucial for optimal performance in compound archery. When it comes to types, you’ll commonly encounter carbon and aluminum arrows.

Carbon arrows are lightweight, durable, and offer consistent performance. On the other hand, aluminum arrows are a bit heavier but tend to be more budget-friendly.

So it ultimately depends on your preferences and budget. In terms of materials, carbon arrows are often favored due to their robustness and excellent energy transfer.

They fly straighter and penetrate targets better than aluminum counterparts. However, if cost is a concern or you’re just starting out as a beginner archer, aluminum arrows can still get the job done without breaking the bank.

Another important factor to consider is arrow spine selection. The spine refers to an arrow’s stiffness or flexibility.

You need an arrow with an appropriate spine that matches your bow’s draw weight and length to ensure optimal accuracy and consistency when shooting.

Generally, you can consult a spine chart provided by manufacturers or seek advice from experienced archers who can help you find the right arrow spine for your setup.

Related: Choosing Arrows For A Compound Bow

Bow Sights: Single Pin vs Multi-Pin Sights

When it comes to aiming assistance in compound archery, bow sights are invaluable tools that help improve accuracy by providing precise reference points for aiming at targets.

There are two common types of bow sights: single-pin and multi-pin sights. Single-pin sights have only one adjustable pin that can be moved up or down according to your desired distance.

These sights offer simplicity and clarity since there’s only one pin to focus on while aiming. They work exceptionally well for target shooting or situations where you have time to adjust before taking a shot at varying distances.

On the other hand, multi-pin sights feature several fixed pins set at specific yardage intervals. These pins, usually three to five in number, allow you to quickly aim at various distances without needing to adjust a single pin.

Multi-pin sights are popular among hunters as they provide quick target acquisition and eliminate the need for adjusting on the fly. Choosing between single-pin and multi-pin sights depends on your shooting style, preference, and the type of archery you engage in.

If you’re primarily a target shooter who prefers precision over speed, a single-pin sight might be ideal. However, if you’re an avid hunter who needs quick aiming at varying distances, a multi-pin sight could be more suitable.

Compound Bow Sight

Peep Sights:

The Peep Sight plays a pivotal role in achieving accuracy. Mounted on the bowstring, the peep sight is a small circular device with a hole in the center.

When an archer draws the bowstring, they align the peep sight with their front sight, ensuring a consistent anchor point and line of sight with every shot.

This alignment drastically improves accuracy by offering a narrowed and consistent field of vision, eliminating potential discrepancies in aiming.

Especially beneficial for long-range shots, the peep sight has become an indispensable tool for modern archers seeking consistent performance and pinpoint accuracy.

Related: Peep Sights: Everything You Need To Know

Arrow Rests: Drop-Away vs Whisker Biscuit Rests

Arrow rests play a crucial role in supporting and guiding the arrow during the shot cycle. Two common types of rests used in compound archery are drop-away rests and whisker biscuit rests.

Drop-away rests are highly popular among competitive archers due to their ability to minimize contact with the arrow as it’s released from the bowstring.

This reduces the chance of any interference that might affect arrow flight or accuracy. The rest drops down or away upon release due to mechanical or limb-driven mechanisms, allowing for maximum clearance and improved consistency during shooting.

On the other hand, whisker biscuit rests consist of bristles that securely hold the arrow in place until release. These bristles create minimal friction against the arrow shaft while providing stability during draw and aiming phases.

Whisker biscuit rests are often chosen by hunters since they offer great reliability even under rugged conditions where arrows may encounter vegetation or brush while moving through close-range shots.

When selecting an arrow rest for your compound bow setup, consider factors such as shooting style (target shooting vs hunting), ease of installation and adjustment, noise level during use (important for hunting scenarios), as well as personal preferences regarding accuracy enhancements versus simplicity and durability.

Remember, choosing the right gear for compound archery is crucial for a rewarding experience on the range or in the field.

Take your time to research and test different options before settling on the equipment that suits your needs and helps you achieve your archery goals.

Release Aids

Release aids, often simply referred to as “releases,” are mechanical devices used by archers to release the bowstring in compound archery.

Unlike traditional archery, where fingers directly release the string, compound archers utilize these devices to ensure a smoother, more consistent release.

The primary reason for this is the increased draw weight and precision demands of compound bows. Releasing the string with fingers can introduce inconsistencies and string torque, which can adversely affect arrow flight and accuracy.

Release aids mitigate these issues by offering a cleaner, more uniform release with every shot.

How Release Aids Work

Release aids come in various designs, but most operate on a similar principle. They grip the bowstring or the D-loop (a small loop of string attached to the bowstring) and are triggered to release it.

The most common types include wrist strap releases, where the device is strapped to the archer’s wrist and is triggered using a thumb or index finger, and handheld releases, which are held entirely in the hand and can be activated using a thumb or back tension.

When the archer is ready to shoot, they pull the trigger on the release aid, which then lets go of the string, propelling the arrow forward.

By using a mechanical release, archers can achieve a more consistent release, reducing variables and enhancing the accuracy and precision of their shots.

Related: Compound Bow Release Aids: An Essential Guide

Stance and Posture

When it comes to compound archery, having the right stance and posture can make a world of difference in your shooting accuracy.

Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, perpendicular to the target.

Keep your body relaxed but engaged, with your shoulders squared and back straight. Distribute your weight evenly on both feet.

Now, let’s talk about hand placement. For a right-handed shooter, your left hand (non-dominant hand) should grip the bow handle firmly but not too tightly.

Your fingers should wrap around the handle comfortably, forming a relaxed “V” shape between your thumb and index finger. When holding the bow, ensure that it is parallel to the ground.

Nocking the Arrow

The next step after positioning yourself correctly is nocking the arrow onto the string properly. This is crucial for consistent and accurate shooting.

One common method is using a D-loop or nocking point on the string as a reference for arrow placement.

A D-loop is a small metal or nylon loop attached to the bowstring that provides an anchor point for releasing arrows consistently.

To use it, simply insert one end of your release aid or tab into this loop before drawing back.

Alternatively, you can also use a traditional nocking point placed directly on the string itself as an alternative reference for arrow placement.

Whichever method you choose, ensure that you nock the arrow securely onto either one while aligning its index vane (the colored feather) with either side of your bowstring’s center serving – this will help maintain accuracy throughout each shot.

Drawing The Bow

Mastering your draw technique is crucial for achieving consistent results in compound archery. Start by gripping the bow handle firmly but without excessive tension.

Once you have nocked your arrow and positioned yourself correctly, extend your bow arm fully without locking your elbow.

As you begin drawing back, keep your elbow elevated in line with or slightly above shoulder level.

This helps create an optimal positioning for power generation while maintaining stability throughout the shot process.

Now comes an important decision: choosing between a mechanical or fixed draw length stop.

A mechanical draw stop provides a physical wall or stopping point at full draw, giving you a definitive reference point when aiming and releasing arrows consistently each time.

On the other hand, a fixed draw length stop allows you to consistently reach a predetermined anchor point without any hard stops.

To achieve a clean release once fully drawn, utilize back tension by squeezing your shoulder blades together while simultaneously pushing forward with your front arm slightly – this helps activate posterior muscles like rhomboids and trapezius instead of relying solely on finger muscle strength.

By incorporating back tension, you’ll achieve a more controlled and accurate release. When we talk about drawing the bow in compound archery, we have to mention…

The ‘Let-Off’ in Compound Archery

In the world of compound archery, the term ‘let-off’ holds significant importance. It refers to the percentage reduction in draw weight that an archer experiences when they pull the bowstring to its full draw length.

For instance, if a compound bow has a peak draw weight of 70 pounds and a let-off of 80%, the archer will only hold 14 pounds at full draw.

This reduction in weight allows the archer to maintain the bow at full draw for extended periods, facilitating better aim without excessive muscle strain.

The distance between the point at which the draw weight drops in weight and the point at which the archer reaches full draw, is called ‘the valley’

The Valley

The valley is the transitional phase between the peak draw weight and the let-off. It’s crucial for archers to be aware of the valley’s depth and width.

A deep and wide valley provides a more forgiving draw cycle, allowing the archer some leeway in their draw length without feeling a significant increase in draw weight.

Conversely, a narrow valley means the archer must be precise in their draw length to stay within the comfortable let-off range.

If an archer draws too short or too long in a bow with a narrow valley, they might feel a sudden increase in draw weight, making it harder to maintain a steady aim.

Setting Let-Off For Hunting

When it comes to hunting, a higher let-off is often preferred. The reason is simple: hunting scenarios can be unpredictable, and an archer might need to hold their bow at full draw for an extended period while waiting for the perfect shot.

A higher let-off ensures that the archer can remain still and silent, without the strain of holding a heavy draw weight, increasing the chances of a successful and humane shot.

Additionally, the rapid power delivery of a compound bow with high let-off ensures that the arrow has enough kinetic energy to deliver a quick and ethical kill.

Setting Let-Off For Target Shooting

In contrast, target archers might opt for a slightly lower let-off. While the reduced strain of a high let-off is beneficial, target archers prioritize a consistent anchor point and a stable shooting form.

A lower let-off can provide more tactile feedback, helping the archer maintain a consistent form and release. Moreover, target shooting doesn’t demand the rapid power delivery essential for hunting, allowing archers to prioritize precision over power.

However, it’s essential to note that the ideal let-off for target shooting can vary based on individual preferences and the specific demands of different archery disciplines.

Related: What Is The Let-Off On A Compound Bow? All You Need To Know

Aiming Methods

Aiming is a crucial aspect of compound archery that can greatly impact your accuracy. As a beginner, it’s essential to explore different aiming techniques and find the one that suits you best.

Let’s delve into three popular methods: the pinhole aiming technique, gap shooting technique, and string walking technique.

Aiming A Compound Bow

Gap Shooting

The gap shooting technique involves visually estimating the distance between your target and where your arrow needs to hit by using gaps or spaces between various reference points on your bow or sight pins.

This method requires experience and fine-tuning since it relies on understanding how different distances correspond with specific gaps.

With practice, you’ll develop an intuitive sense of these gaps and be able to consistently hit targets at varying distances.

String Walking

The string walking technique involves changing where you anchor your drawing hand along the bowstring to adjust for varying distances.

By moving your anchor point up or down on the string, you change the trajectory of the arrow without adjusting any other elements like sight pins or bow settings.

This method requires good muscle memory and careful experimentation to determine how different positions affect arrow trajectory.

Related: 4 Different Ways To Aim In Traditional Archery

Adjusting Your Sight Pins for Various Distances

When shooting targets at different distances, it’s crucial to adjust your sight pins accordingly. Most compound bows have multiple pins on the sight that can be adjusted up or down to compensate for varying distances.

The closer the target, the lower you’ll need to set your pin.

Conversely, for longer shots, you’ll raise the pin higher. It’s important to practice and become familiar with this adjustment process so that you can quickly and accurately set your sight pins according to the target distance.

Practising Proper Follow-Through to Improve Accuracy

Follow-through is often neglected but plays a vital role in ensuring consistent accuracy. After releasing an arrow, it’s crucial to maintain your form and focus until the arrow hits its target.

Keep your bow arm steady and resist any temptation to drop it prematurely.

Maintain a relaxed grip on the bow handle and avoid any sudden movements that might affect arrow flight. Practising proper follow-through not only enhances accuracy but also helps build muscle memory for consistent shooting form.

Tuning Your Compound Bow

The importance of tuning cannot be overstated. It ensures that the arrow flies straight, reduces the chances of erratic arrow flight, and maximizes the efficiency of the bow.

Whether you’re a competitive archer aiming for the bullseye or a hunter seeking a successful hunt, tuning is a step you cannot afford to skip.

The basic steps for tuning involve:

  1. Checking and adjusting limb alignment.
  2. Ensuring the bowstring is centered.
  3. Setting the nocking point.
  4. Paper tuning to check arrow flight.
  5. Walk-back tuning for long-range accuracy.
  6. Fine-tuning the arrow rest and sight.

Related: How To Tune A Compound Bow

Cam Timing Your Bow

In compound bows equipped with dual or hybrid cams, cam timing refers to the synchronization of the cams as they rotate during the draw and release cycle.

Ideally, both cams should reach their respective full rotation points simultaneously, ensuring that the bowstring is released evenly from both ends.

Proper cam timing ensures that the energy stored in the bow’s limbs is transferred efficiently to the arrow, resulting in a smooth and consistent shot.

The Importance of Cam Timing

Cam timing is crucial for achieving optimal bow performance and accuracy. When the cams are out of sync, it can lead to issues like uneven nock travel, reduced arrow speed, and inconsistent accuracy.

An improperly timed bow might also feel harder to draw or exhibit increased vibration upon release. Regularly checking and adjusting cam timing is essential to maintain the bow’s peak performance and ensure that every shot is as accurate and efficient as possible.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Gripping the Bow Handle Too Tightly

One of the most common mistakes beginners make in compound archery is gripping the bow handle too tightly.

It’s understandable – you want to have a firm hold on your bow, right? Well, not exactly.

Gripping the handle too tightly can actually hinder your shot and affect your accuracy. When you grip the bow handle tightly, it creates tension in your hand and arm muscles.

This tension can translate into unwanted movement when you release the arrow, causing it to veer off course. Instead of gripping the handle like you’re holding onto a lifeline, try adopting a more relaxed approach.

Imagine that you’re cradling a delicate bird in your hand – gentle but secure. This light touch allows for better control and stability throughout the shot process.

To achieve this relaxed grip, ensure that only your fingers are wrapped around the bow handle, while your palm lightly touches it without adding pressure.

By doing so, you’ll find that maintaining consistent aim and executing smooth shots becomes much easier.

Flashing or Jerking During Release

Another mistake many beginners make is flashing or jerking during release – a phenomenon where archers anticipate recoil or become overly eager to see their arrow hit its target.

This unconscious movement can throw off your aim and lead to inconsistent shots.

To avoid flashing or jerking during release, it’s crucial to cultivate patience and focus on maintaining proper form throughout each shot cycle.

Keep in mind that precise shooting is a culmination of steady draw motion combined with controlled relaxation at the moment of release.

Practice keeping your entire body as still as possible after reaching full draw until well after releasing an arrow. Focus on executing a smooth follow-through after release rather than abruptly shifting your attention to the target.

By doing so, you allow the energy of the shot to dissipate naturally, leading to better arrow flight and more consistent accuracy. Remember, compound archery requires a calm and composed state of mind.

Embrace the tranquillity of each shot, letting go of any expectations or desires for immediate results. Patience, control, and a gentle release will ultimately reward you with improved accuracy and a greater sense of inner peace.

Rushing Shots Without Proper Alignment

Taking the time to align yourself correctly before releasing an arrow is crucial for consistent accuracy. Before drawing your bowstring back, ensure that your feet are shoulder-width apart and positioned adequately according to your stance preference.

Check that your body is relaxed yet stable and that you’re facing straight towards your target. Take a moment to assess your posture – make sure your shoulders are level and avoid tilting or leaning forward.

Once you’ve reached full draw with the correct form, take an extra second to double-check that both your bowstring hand and release hand are aligned with each other as well as parallel to the ground.

This alignment helps maintain consistency across different shots.

By slowing down and ensuring proper alignment before each shot, you give yourself the best chance at hitting bullseyes consistently.

Remember that precision takes precedence over speed in compound archery – quality over quantity.

Maintenance and Care of Your Compound Bow

Regularly inspect strings, cables, and cams

To ensure the longevity and optimal performance of your compound bow, it is crucial to regularly inspect its key components. Start by examining the strings and cables for any signs of wear and tear.

Look for frayed strands, loose servings, or damaged loops. If you spot any issues, consider replacing them or seeking professional help to avoid potential accidents while shooting.

Next, pay close attention to the cams on your bow. Inspect them thoroughly for cracks, dents, or any signs of misalignment.

Cams are intricate mechanisms that play a vital role in your bow’s performance and accuracy. Maintaining their integrity is essential in ensuring smooth draws and consistent shots.

Check the axles and bearings on your bow’s cams. These components facilitate the rotation of the cams during the draw cycle.

Apply String Wax

String wax adds a protective layer to the bowstring, reducing friction and preventing premature wear. Start by holding the bowstring with one hand while using your other hand to gently apply a thin layer of wax to the exposed area of the string.

Rub the wax along the length of the string, making sure it gets into all the fibers. Be careful not to use too much wax as it can cause buildup and affect arrow flight.

Allow time for the wax to dry before shooting, usually about 24 hours. Remember that regular maintenance and care of your bowstring will not only ensure a smoother release but also prolong its lifespan, keeping you shooting accurately for many sessions to come.


Can a beginner start with a compound bow?

Absolutely! Compound bows are user-friendly and adjustable, making them suitable for beginners eager to learn archery.

Are compound bows worth it?

Yes, compound bows offer advanced features like let-off, increased accuracy, and power, making them a valuable choice for both hunting and target shooting.

How much does a beginner compound bow cost?

A beginner compound bow typically costs between $200 to $400, but prices can fluctuate based on brand, features, and included accessories.

How hard is it to learn compound bow?

Learning to use a compound bow requires practice and dedication, but its advanced features make it more user-friendly for beginners. With proper guidance and consistent training, most individuals find the learning curve manageable and rewarding.


Congratulations! You have taken your first steps into the captivating world of compound archery.

By choosing the right equipment, mastering proper shooting techniques, and understanding how to maintain your bow correctly, you are well on your way to becoming a skilled archer.

Remember that practice makes perfect when it comes to compound archery for beginners. Another thing to remember is that archers of all levels have all been in your shoes at some point.

Dedicate time to consistent training sessions where you can refine your skills and improve your accuracy over time. Embrace the joy of hitting bullseyes but also appreciate every step forward you take in honing this ancient art form.

Archery is not only about hitting targets but also about personal growth – patience, discipline, focus – qualities that extend beyond the range.

So keep shooting with passion and determination!