Getting Started In Archery: A Beginner’s Guide

by | May 15, 2023

People have been enjoying the sport of archery for centuries, and its popularity continues to grow today. No matter your interest—be it hunting, recreation, or competition—getting started in archery can set you on a lifelong journey of enjoyment and challenge.

Getting started in archery can be overwhelming. You will need to decide which type of archery you prefer, then select the right equipment for you, including choosing and purchasing your bow and arrows, as well as getting to grips with basic form and technique.

But don’t worry, by the end of this article, you will have a solid foundation in the basics of archery and be ready to take your first steps on the path to becoming a skilled archer.

Why You Should Try Archery

If you look beyond simply shooting an arrow at a target, archery is a unique and rewarding sport that can offer many other benefits to those who try it.

Some of those benefits include:

Improved Focus and Concentration

Archery requires a great deal of focus and concentration. It requires you to concentrate on your breathing, posture, and aim, which can help to improve your focus and concentration skills in all areas of your life.

Develops Upper Body Strength

Drawing a bowstring requires significant upper body strength. Regular practice can help strengthen and tone your back, shoulder, arm, and core muscles.

Enjoy The Great Outdoors

Archery is often practised in natural settings, such as parks or forests. It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy nature while also getting in some exercise.

Builds Confidence

Archery requires you to concentrate on your breathing, posture, and aim, which can help to improve your focus and concentration skills. As you develop these skills, you’ll start to feel more in control and confident in other areas of your life.

Meet New People

Archery is a social sport, and many clubs and communities exist around the world. You’ll be able to meet new people who share the same interest and passion for archery.

Group of people holding bows

Reduced Stress and Anxiety

The focus and concentration required for archery can be a great way to shut out stress and anxiety. The focused breathing techniques used in archery can help to control the heart rate allowing you to achieve a more rewarding state of relaxation.

Getting Started In Archery: A Complete Beginner’s Guide

What Equipment Do You Need for Archery?

The equipment you need for archery depends on the type of archery you plan to do and your skill level. You can start with the basic equipment and gradually add more accessories as you become more proficient in the sport.

Bow

The bow is the primary piece of equipment for archery. There are several types of bows available, including recurve, compound, and traditional bows.

The most suitable bow for you will be one that suits your purpose in archery.

Arrows

You’ll need arrows to shoot with your bow. Arrows come in different lengths, materials, and sizes. You’ll want to choose arrows that match your bow’s draw weight and draw length.

Quiver

A quiver is a container that holds your arrows. There are different types of quivers, including back quivers, hip quivers, and bow-mounted quivers. Choose the one that is most comfortable for you to use.

Archery Quiver

Bow Stand

You can use this simple stand to hold the bow when it’s not in use. It safeguards the bow against accidental damage that may occur from people stepping on it or knocking it over.

Bracer

An armguard protects your forearm from being struck by the bowstring as you shoot. It also helps to prevent any loose clothing from touching the string.

The bracer is fitted on the inside of the bow forearm between the elbow and the wrist.

Archery bracer

Finger Tab or Glove

A finger tab or glove protects your fingers from being pinched by the bowstring. Gloves are sold in full-handed or three-fingered varieties.

Finger tabs are usually made from leather and metal and customised to whatever preferences the archer may have.

Bow stringer

A bow stringer helps you to string and unstring your bow safely. For safety reasons, this is best done under the supervision of an experienced archer or coach until you can master it yourself.

Bracing Height Gauge

The brace height is the distance between the deepest part of the riser and the bowstring when the bow is at rest.

It’s essential to get the brace height correct for your bow, otherwise, it will shoot inconsistently.

A brace height gauge is the simplest way to measure brace height. You just place the ‘T’ part of the gauge into the deepest part of the riser, and measure the distance to the string.

Bow types

Beginner Bow

While it’s completely ok for beginners to begin their archery journey with any type of bow, there are certain types of bows that are better suited to beginners and younger archers. These include youth bows, and basic recurve bows.

Youth Bow

Youth bows tend to be made from flexible PVC piping and have a lower draw weight of usually around 15 lbs.

Suitable for younger children and children in their early teens.

Traditional Bow

There are several types of traditional bows, including longbows, recurve bows and self-bows. Longbows are the simplest type of traditional bow, with a straight, narrow design that has been used since medieval times.

English Longbow

Self-bows are made from a single piece of wood and are typically used in hunting.

Traditional bows require a great deal of skill and practice to use effectively, as they do not have the advanced features of modern bows. However, many archers prefer traditional bows for their simplicity, aesthetics, and connection to the history of archery.

Recurve Bow

A recurve bow is a type of bow that gets its name from the fact that the bow’s limbs that curve away from the archer. This design allows for greater power and accuracy compared to a traditional straight-limbed bow.

They also comprise what is commonly known as beginner bows. This includes Youth bows and standard barebow recurve bows that don’t allow for any fittings or add-ons.

Recurve Bow

The limbs of a recurve bow are shorter than those of a traditional longbow, but the recurved shape makes the bow more efficient at storing and releasing energy.

Recurve bows have been used for centuries, and are still popular in modern archery. They are often made of wood, fibreglass, or carbon fibre, and can be used for hunting, target shooting, and competition. Recurve bows are also used in the Olympics and other international archery competitions.

Recurve bows can be takedown or one-piece bows. Takedown recurve bows have limbs that can be removed from the riser, making them easier to transport and store. One-piece recurve bows have a single, unbroken structure and are typically used by traditional archers.

Almost all archery clubs will use recurve bows for beginners to practice with.

Compound Bow

A compound bow is a modern type of bow that uses a system of pulleys and cables to achieve greater power and accuracy than traditional bows. The bow’s limbs are relatively stiff and are attached to cams or wheels at the end of each limb.

These cams or wheels have an elliptical shape that allows for a greater transfer of power to the limbs while reducing the amount of force required to hold the string in a drawn position, which can be useful for hunting or target shooting.

Compound Bow

When the archer releases the string, the stored energy in the bow is released, propelling the arrow faster and more accurately than a traditional bow.

Compound bows are popular with hunters and target shooters because of their power, accuracy, and ease of use. They can also be adjusted to fit the individual archer’s preferences, such as draw weight, draw length, and bow let-off.

Compound bows are also available in a variety of sizes and shapes, making them suitable for archers of all ages and sizes.

Choosing The Right Draw Weight

Draw weight is the amount of force needed in order to pull back the bowstring to the full draw position. The weight can range from 20 lbs all the way up to 170 lbs.

Selecting the right draw weight can depend on a number of factors. Common sense is close to the top of the list.

Start Light

If you’re a beginner, start light. Don’t try to pull a 45lb bow. The most important thing here is to dial in the correct form and technique first. A bow that’s too heavy won’t allow you to do that.

Pick a bow that you can pull back to full draw and hold comfortably for 30 seconds. if you’re shaking after 10 seconds, the bow is too heavy.

Shaking and straining to pull back a heavy bow for the first time is only going to end up teaching you bad habits and probably give you a torn rotator cuff into the bargain.

Set your ego to one side and pick a bow that fits your size and strength levels. If you’re still unsure, speak to your local pro shop, and they will be able to assess you for the best fit and advise you as to when you should move up in draw weight.

Younger vs Older

Younger archers (we’re talking teens here) might not have developed the strength of an older (20’s plus) archer. So again, try something like a youth bow or a bow that’s around 20-25 lbs.

Bow Type

If you’ve decided that compound bows are what you want to learn archery with, then you’ll need to remember that a compound bow has something called a let-off that enables you to hold more weight at full draw.

This means that you could potentially handle more weight in the beginning than if you chose to start with a recurve bow.

Choosing The Right Draw Length

Choosing the right draw length for a bow is important to ensure proper form, accuracy, and comfort while shooting.

Measure Your Wingspan

Stand with your arms outstretched and measure the distance from fingertip to fingertip. Divide that measurement by 2.5 to get an estimate of your draw length.

Test Your Draw Length

To check your draw length, draw the bowstring back to your face. If the bowstring comfortably reaches your chosen anchor point, the tip of your nose, or the corner of your mouth, the draw length is likely correct.

If the bowstring falls short of your anchor or goes easily beyond it, the draw length needs to be adjusted.

Choosing The Right Bow Length

A bow’s length is comprised of both its riser (the centrepiece) and both limbs.

A standard-sized riser is 25 inches. Limbs come in short, medium and long sizes. Combining a standard riser with each limb length will give you:

Short limbs – 66 inch bow

Medium limbs – 68 inch bow

Long limbs – 70 inch bow

Base Your Bow Length On Your Draw Length

The longer the draw length you have, the longer your bow should be. Obviously, the taller you are will also be a factor, because taller people tend to have wider arm spans and therefore longer draw lengths.

Selecting The Right Arrow

Choosing the right arrow is vital in archery. You should never choose to shoot an arrow that is too short, otherwise, it may fall off the rest.

Different Types of Arrows

Wooden

Wooden arrows are used mainly for traditional archery. They are relatively inexpensive but do require some maintenance to keep them straight and in good condition.

Due to the low cost, they are also a great choice for beginners.

Aluminium

More durable and consistent than wooden arrows. They are popular with both target shooters and bow hunters.

Carbon

These arrows are made from carbon fibre and are more durable and consistent than aluminium arrows. They are popular for high-performance target shooting and hunting.

Carbon Arrows

Fibreglass

Beginner archers often favour these affordable and durable arrows made from fibreglass

Hybrid

Manufacturers create hybrid arrows by combining materials, such as carbon and aluminum or carbon and wood, to leverage the advantages offered by each material.

How To Determine Correct Arrow Length

To find the right arrow length for you, place your thumb on your nose and fully extend your other arm out to the side with your hand pointing up.

Place the arrow nock in the V created by the hand closest to your face. If the arrow is the correct size, it should extend at least two inches past the V on the outstretched hand.

If you can’t find an arrow that’s long enough, then you MUST NOT shoot.

Find out more about how to choose the right arrow length by reading this article that goes into much more detail

The choice of arrow type depends on the archer’s skill level, the type of archery, and personal preference.

A Quick Word On Arrow Spine

Arrow spine refers to the stiffness of an arrow shaft, which affects how much the arrow bends when shot from a bow.

The spine of an arrow is an important consideration for archers because it can affect accuracy, consistency, and performance.

When archers become more experienced, they can begin to tune their own arrows for even more accuracy.

When determining the arrow’s spine, archers measure the “deflection,” which quantifies the distance the arrow deviates from its straight path when they apply a specific weight to the center of the arrow shaft.

The deflection value correspWhen determining the arrow’s spine, archers measure the “deflection,” which quantifies the distance the arrow deviates from its straight path when they apply a specific weight to the centre of the arrow shaft.

The deflection value corresponds to a number, such as 300, 400, or 500, where lower numbers indicate a stiffer spine and higher numbers indicate a more flexible or weaker spine.

Weak Arrow Spine

Choosing the right spine for your arrow depends on several factors, including the weight and length of the arrow, the draw weight of your bow, and the type of arrow point you plan to use.

Using arrows with the correct spine for your setup can help you shoot more accurately and consistently.

Hand Dominance In Archery

To know which hand is your dominant hand in archery, you will just need to pick up a bow and draw back the string.

You should know immediately what feels comfortable.

Both left and right-handed bows are available. Just remember that a right-handed bow is held in the left hand. And vice-versa for a left-handed bow.

Main aiming a bow at archery target

Eye Dominance In Archery

Aiming in archery relies on using one eye to line up with the target. Everyone has a tendency to rely on one eye rather than the other. This is what’s known as the dominant eye.

The hand that draws the string and the dominant eye should match to aim correctly.

For example, if an archer is right-hand dominant, he/she should aim with their right eye.

Buying Your First Bow

Before buying your first bow, there are several things you should consider. Here are some important factors to keep in mind:

What Do You Want From Archery?

Defining why you want to begin archery in the first place will very much determine what type of bow will best suit your needs.

Backyard Shooter – If you want to pass the time shooting arrows in your backyard, a simple youth bow or entry-level recurve bow would be more suitable.

Archery Club Shooter – If you have plans to join your local archery club, then a recurve bow will be your best bet. The next thing to consider here would be your budget. Recurve bows can cost anything from $200, all the way up to $1000.

Historical Shooter – If your love for the sport’s history has drawn you to archery, choosing traditional bows would be a better option as a historical shooter You could try out an English Longbow and take part in one of the many historical recreations that happen all over the country.

Historical Archers

Bow Hunter – If you want to try your hand at bow hunting, then a compound bow or a hunting recurve bow is what you need. Some US states have laws requiring hunters to shoot with a higher draw weight, so you would need to consider that beforehand.

Target Shooter – If competition is your goal with archery, then a target recurve bow is the best path to take. As you progress in skill, the early use of a bow that you can accessorize by adding sights and stabilizers will greatly benefit you.

Should You Buy A Bow Online or From A ProShop?

There are pros and cons to buying a bow online versus purchasing one from a pro shop. Ultimately, the decision depends on your experience level, preferences, and budget.

If you are an experienced archer who knows precisely what you want and need, buying a bow online can be a convenient and affordable option. Online retailers typically offer a wide range of bows at competitive prices, and you can easily compare models, brands, and prices from the comfort of your home.

However, if you are a beginner, it is recommended that you purchase your bow from a pro shop. In a pro shop, you can get expert advice from trained professionals who can help you choose the right bow for your body type, skill level, and shooting style.

They can also help you with proper fitting, adjustment, and maintenance of your bow, which is crucial for accuracy and safety.

Furthermore, buying from a pro shop often comes with additional perks, such as custom fitting and tuning, warranty and repair services, and access to accessories and gear that you may need in the future.

If you are a novice or intermediate archer, buying from a pro shop is the best option to ensure you get the proper guidance and support you need to choose the right bow for you.

However, if you are an experienced archer who knows exactly what they want, purchasing online can be a convenient and cost-effective option.

How Much Does Archery Cost?

When it comes to archery, there are several budget considerations to keep in mind. Here are some of the main costs you may need to account for:

Equipment

The cost of equipment varies widely, depending on the type of archery you’re interested in. For example, a beginner’s recurve bow can cost anywhere from $50 to $1000, while a high-end compound bow can cost $1,000 or more. Other equipment such as arrows, targets, quivers, and releases can also add up quickly.

Training

If you’re just starting out with archery, you may need to invest in some training to learn the basics. This could include taking classes or working with a coach, which can cost anywhere from $50 to $100 per hour.

Range Fees

If you don’t have access to a private range, you may need to pay fees to use a public range or indoor facility. These fees can range from a few dollars per hour to $20 or more per day.

Competition Fees

If you plan on competing in archery tournaments, you’ll need to budget for entry fees, travel costs, and accommodation.

Maintenance and Repairs

Like any sport, archery equipment requires maintenance and repairs over time. This could include replacing bowstrings, and repairing or replacing damaged bow limbs. Always try to keep your arrows and other gear in good condition!

The cost of archery can vary widely depending on your level of interest and the type of equipment you choose. However, with some careful planning and budgeting, you can enjoy this sport without breaking the bank!

Choosing the Right Archery Style

There are many different types of archery. Take your time to think about what appeals to you about the sport. It should give you a better idea of which style to follow.

Target archery

Target archery is a popular form of archery for both recreational and competitive purposes. It is also an Olympic sport, with both individual and team events.

In competitive target archery, archers shoot a set number of arrows at a series of targets. The highest total score determining the winner. In order to maximise the potential for hitting the bullseye, they will use a whole host of bow accessories. These include stabilisers, sights and clickers to optimise every shot.

Getting Started in Archery: Archers aiming at a target

Target archery is a more precise and technical form of archery. It requires a high level of accuracy and consistency from the archer. It is also a popular form of archery for beginners, as it allows for a controlled and structured learning environment.

This is where archers begin their journey, and where the importance of correct aim, stance and form are taught.

Field archery

Field archery is a sport that involves shooting arrows at targets placed at varying distances and angles in a natural outdoor setting.

Organizers set up courses in woodland or forested areas, strategically placing targets at various distances on hills or slopes in challenging terrain.

3D Archery

3D archery involves shooting at 3-D foam targets that simulate animals, such as deer, elk, or bears. Strategically placing targets in natural outdoor settings, archers shoot at them from various positions and angles.

Unlike traditional archery, 3D archery involves shooting at targets that are designed to look like real animals. Different scoring areas correspond to different parts of the animal’s body.

Clout Shooting

Clout shooting is a traditional form of archery that involves shooting arrows at a flag or target placed at a long distance away, usually between 100 and 200 yards.

This unique form of archery originated in medieval England as a way for archers to practice long-range shooting. In warfare, it served as a means to disrupt enemy formations. Nowadays, clout shooting primarily serves as a sport and a means to preserve traditional archery skills.

In clout shooting, archers shoot from a designated line or area and must estimate the distance to the flag or target. They use a combination of visual cues and experience. The archer shoots a set number of arrows. The arrows that land closest to the flag or target earn points.

Clout shooting can also be a physically demanding form of archery. Archers must shoot a large number of arrows at a long distance.

Many traditional archery clubs around the world actively practice clout shooting and regularly organize competitions.

Flight Shooting

Flight shooting is a specialized form of archery. It involves shooting arrows for maximum distance, rather than for accuracy or precision.

Recurve, Compound and Longbow classes are permitted to shoot in different weight categories.

No obstructions exist, enabling archers to shoot arrows at an upward angle to maximize distance.

Archers utilize specialized bows and arrows specifically designed for flight shooting, incorporating lightweight and aerodynamic components that enable the arrows to achieve greater travel distances.

Bowhunting

Bowhunting is a method of hunting game animals using a bow and arrow. This practice dates back thousands of years and was one of the earliest methods of hunting for humans.

Today, bowhunting is still popular among hunters who enjoy the challenge of getting close to game animals and making a clean kill with a well-placed arrow.

Basic Archery Techniques

Below is an example of T-Draw Shooting with a Barebow. The T-Draw shooting technique teaches the fundamental skills that help you progress and refine your technique to a high standard whilst reducing the risk of injury.

To achieve the solidly balanced ‘T-shape’, the body needs to adopt two things:

  1. Vertical Posture – starts in the ‘Prepare’ step. Held until the shot is complete.
  2. Level Shoulders and Arms – starts in the ‘Raise’ step. Held until the shot is complete.

Stance

To establish a strong and stable stance, align your feet, hips, and shoulders with the target while keeping your spine in a vertical position.

Align your feet with the shooting line: Your feet should be parallel with the shooting line

Distribute your weight evenly: Balance your weight evenly between both feet, with a slight emphasis on the balls of your feet.

Maintain a relaxed posture: Keep your body relaxed, with your shoulders down and your head straight.

Getting started in Archery

Nocking the arrow

  • Clip an arrow onto the nocking point and place the shaft of the arrow along the arrow rest.

Set Hands

  • Position your bow hand on the handle. Place three fingers on the string below the arrow.

Prepare

  • Focus on the target, while achieving the ‘preparation line’.

Raise

  • While looking at the target, raise your arms to shoulder height.
  • Balance the ‘push and pull’ between the string and the bow.

Draw

  • Still focusing on the target, draw the bowstring back. Hold at full draw to achieve the ‘draw force line’.

Anchor and Aim

  • Anchor your draw hand so that your index finger touches the corner of your mouth.
  • Aim with the point of the arrow on the target. The push and pull of the bow at full draw to keep the bow stable.

Arrow in the bullseye of a target

Release

  • Relax your draw hand to release the string while still focusing on the target and maintaining your posture.

As a beginner, you will make mistakes. That’s just part of the learning process. Minimise your chances of making too many of those mistakes, by having a coach or an experienced archer to guide you through the early stages of your journey. This leads us onto the next point.

Can You Teach Yourself Archery?

Although it is possible to teach yourself archery, it is advisable to seek guidance from a professional coach or instructor when embarking on your archery journey. Through them, you will learn the fundamentals and ensure safe and effective practice.

If you’re not learning and practising good form and technique from the very beginning, then it’s going to be much harder to unlearn those bad habits further down the line.

It would almost be like trying to correct a bad golf swing after years of doing it the wrong way!

Without good instruction from the start, you could potentially have been programming your body into doing the wrong thing. These practices could take a lot of time to undo.

You can find numerous online resources that provide clear guidelines on how to get started on your own.

Tips to get started

Study the basics

Learn about the different types of bows and arrows, proper form, and safety precautions. There are many online resources, books, and videos available to help you learn.

Start with a light draw weight

Choose a bow with a low draw weight to start with, as this will be easier to handle and allow you to focus on proper technique.

Practice consistently

Dedicate time to regular practice sessions, focusing on proper form and technique. Start at a close range and gradually increase the distance to the target.

Join a community

Look for local archery clubs or groups to join, as this can provide valuable guidance and support from experienced archers. There will also be the chance to enter competitions and join in on other social events.

Learning From a Professional Archery Coach

Getting expert advice from the start of your archery journey can only enrich your experience.

You’ll have access to expert advice on all of the above. Plus, your archery coach can put you on a path of progression once you’ve had your first few lessons.

They can also offer advice on things like goal setting. They’ll teach you when’s the best time to consider moving up in draw weight, and how to maintain your bow for increased longevity.

A professional coach can teach you the proper safety procedures and techniques, which are essential in archery. Learning these safety procedures from an expert can help ensure that you don’t injure yourself or others while practising archery.

One thing you won’t get if you try to learn archery by yourself is feedback. A professional coach can provide feedback on your technique and form. This can help you make adjustments and improve your skills more quickly.

Without feedback, you may not even realize that you’re making mistakes or developing bad habits.

Conclusion

People of all ages and skill levels can enjoy the exciting and rewarding sport of archery. By following the steps outlined above, you can confidently and easily embark on your archery journey. Having the necessary knowledge and the right equipment will get you the most out of your learning experience.

Ensure that safety remains your top priority when starting archery by actively following all guidelines. Seek out professional instruction if you feel it’s necessary.

With consistent practice, you should see a steady improvement in your skills over time and achieve your archery goals.

So what are you waiting for? Give archery a try and see where this amazing sport can take you!

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