Andrew Smith looks at the five of the most common shooting errors, which, if addressed, will make it easier for you to repeat the same shot routine each time. Working on these doesn’t take long, and with regular attention should help overall consistency.
1. Draw weight
One of the biggest issues for not being able to control your shot is because your draw weight is either too heavy or too light. Too heavy is an obvious problem, as you lose the fine control you need and simply miss the target faster. However, having too light a bow can equally be problematic, as when things are too easy we tend to lose focus and not concentrate on what we are doing, and before you know it errors have crept into your shooting form. In recurve archery, it is important to shoot regularly to maintain the muscles we use for archery. If you don’t, then when you come to shoot your bow it will feel too hard to draw back until you become archery fit again – the heavier the draw weight you shoot the sooner this effect comes into play.
A bow that’s too light will require heavier limbs, while to address the issue of struggling with a heavy bow I think everyone can find time in the week to do a few extra exercises. It doesn’t have to be every day, but the more you do the quicker you will see and feel the results. All you need is your bow – strung – and your tab. The exercise is simple: draw your bow up, hold the position at full draw for five seconds, then let down for five seconds and repeat – stop as soon as you struggle to maintain good form. The extra rep done with poor form is not going to help. Initially you may find you only do three or four, but this will slowly increase. If you cannot do this number from the start then your bow really is too heavy and you might want to consider a change of limbs.
2. Stand tall
Everything we do in archery is affected by how we position our feet and our posture – if our feet are in a different position each time we go on the line we end up aiming in a different direction, which requires correction of our upper body. Slouching is no good either, and bums and waist lines sticking out do not help. So, work on standing tall while doing the bow exercise and using the stretchy band. Ideally, if the exercises could be done in front of a mirror (reflection in patio doors or a video on your phone also work) so much the better, as you get instant feedback.
3. Using your back
I am sure you have heard this already, but the third most common error is drawing the string back using just your biceps rather than your back muscles. All the talk about which muscles to use and whether or not to squeeze the shoulder blades together is quite confusing – and sometimes wrong. Good form is essentially that, when you are in line, you should be able to draw an imaginary line from the elbow tip, through the forearm, through a flat hand, the arrow, and on to the target (or as best you can). So, to practice this you can use the same Korean stretchy band. Because this is easy to draw back we can concentrate on the position of the elbow, hand and bow arm, and again a mirror or video will help to see that you are doing it right.
4. String on the fingers
There are lots of opinions as to where the string should sit on your fingers, but I favour the string in the first groove of the fingers. The worst place you can put the string is on the pads of the fingers, especially the tips. This requires a lot of tension in the hand and fingers to hold the string in place and results in a very erratic release.
5. Positioning your feet
This is something I have covered before and is available online if you want to check it out in more detail, but for those that have missed it, here is an overview which will make your shooting easier and less tiring. The position of your feet is part of your aiming process, you can put your feet in any position and then use the top part of your body and your muscles to position your torso in the right position. This is fine for archers that are fit and can maintain this throughout a whole day of shooting, but for most archers as soon as you tire you get wild, unexplained left and right shots, and a bow arm that becomes unstable.
We all have a natural body position which will allow us to shoot and not see our bow arm flap around after the shot. To find this position, stand on the shooting line, draw up your bow and aim, close your eyes for two seconds, then open them again and see where your sight pin is in relation to the gold. It is most likely not on the gold. We’re not worried about the vertical position here, just the horizontal position. It’s a case of trial and error, but to correct for this you simply move your feet position a few centimetres and repeat. Keep doing this until you can open your eyes and see the sight pin has stayed central on the gold. This is your natural feet position. I suggest that to avoid any accidental dry firing of your bow you do load an arrow for this, and because you’ll be closing your eyes have a friend assist you on safety grounds.