Patrick Huston gives us the lowdown on the root cause of recurve issues
It can be very hard for an archer to actually find what is causing their scores to drop. If you don’t have access to a good coach or interested and knowledgeable archers, it can be very difficult to actually analyse the cause of arrows not landing in your group.
Most of this article will be related to arrow position relative to your group. I am assuming a respectable standard of grouping, it doesn’t have to be particularly tight but shoot at a distance where there is a noticeable concentration of arrows, whether that is 18m, 30m, 50m or 70m. I am also assuming a relatively steady front arm, i.e. not moving all over the place, and I would also point out that the majority of these errors can be removed entirely or seriously reduced by regular bow training.
My stray arrows tend to land to the left of my group and sometimes slightly low
The first and foremost cause of this error will be what is known as a forward loose. Something most people will not know is that these can still look like a very good shot! To check this, get someone to do a slow-motion video of you with their phone. Scroll through the click-and-release motion very slowly and see if there is any movement, however slight, forward from the top of the elbow as or just before the fingers relax. (You’d be surprised how many archers do this – even Brady Ellison!)
The best way to fix this is to train alternate ends shooting with a shot trainer on, such as a Formaster or similar device. Do this exercise at least once a week. This trains your subconscious to execute both ends of the shot away from each other and simultaneously. If you don’t have a shot trainer, focus on constant movement or even acceleration of expansion through and after the clicker.
My arrows land in a horizontal line to the left of my group
This is most likely caused by moving your head with your rear arm as you come through expansion of the shot. Our coaching mantra teaches ‘back tension’ and ‘pulling through the shot’. This is really not correct at all. You can make back tension massively out of line by squeezing your shoulder blades. If you get into the correct line then your back muscles have to be active, and will therefore support the weight of the bow. Pulling through the shot – by its very nature – moves the ‘back sight’. If you imagine a compound archer moving their peep sight, you’ll know it’s not going to go in the same place.
To fix this, first off we need to really have a properly fixed ‘back sight’. You should be try to fill as much of the gap underneath your jaw in to your neck as you can. This provides a more consistent reference which is less likely to move. Next we need to really stop the head moving. Try pulling the string hard onto the chin and using that as a stop. Now to make expansion. I would prefer archers to really use the front shoulder to move through the clicker for various reasons, but we really need to think about expansion. You expand through the clicker, don’t pull through. Even if you expand from the back shoulder, then do that. If you pull then the head moves. Expansion comes from inside the shoulder and makes your chest cavity and interior volume change. This is what makes you come through the clicker. Long and short – don’t move your head!
I have stray arrows land high of my group
This is going to sound silly, but really quite often this is not closing your teeth fully. You’d be surprised at the standard of some archers that don’t close their teeth properly!
Fixing this is obvious: shut your teeth together. Some people may have bite issues which can make this slightly more difficult. You can look into retainer-like things to make a more solid palate; try moving the jaw around and see if it locks in place somewhere, or even try different shapes of plastic in between. Experiment, and find a solid position between your jaws.
The other likely cause is a variation in contact between your hand/tab and face. Often it is thought of aiming and the target before you are really finished setting up the shot. Also there can be issues with the contact area of the tab, fingers and face.
The best thing to look for here is direct contact between your fingers and the jaw line – bone on bone contact. If you can get human sensitivity and a solid thing on both sides of the anchor then we are much more likely to be consistent. This can often be difficult given the tension in the rear wrist though.
The next thing I would recommend is to come in to anchor from below the face. Contact the string with your jaw and slide up until you are firmly in contact with the jaw – whatever that is which is in contact. Finally, ask other archers to try their tabs to see if another tab gives you the best feeling reference on your face.
My ARROWS tend to be on the right hand side of the group.
This is quite likely due to execution error on the front end of the shot, ‘collapsing’ as most people would explain it. The problem here is your bow arm moving inwards when the clicker drops. This might only be a fractional amount or it could be very obvious. Sometimes you will see people with their bow swinging and think they are fine. Actually they are letting it roll in the sling but after letting their front arm move in slightly to allow the bow space to move. The problem with this is the variation. You want both sides to move apart on the clicker. This way you have 100 per cent of the shot and no less. If you are collapsing at all on either side you can have anywhere from 100 per cent down to zero.
First off, this is likely to come from the front shoulder position and ‘set’ which is too complicated for this article. The best and easiest way to correct this issue is to focus on keeping pressure on the inside of your thumb in the grip which pulls the bow away from the string on release. Focus on this pressure coming from your rear deltoid, through the tricep and into the thumb, and you could even try making the limb/long rod point outside the line when the bow rolls over.
My arrows are dropping low
This can often be caused by pointing them there! If someone finds it difficult to hold in the gold, they are most likely to hold below it. This can also happen by peeking at the gold from behind your sight pin, which most often means aiming low. You fix this by pointing at the middle, maybe try an open ring or a bigger sightpin to reduce angst – definitely not a fine dot or fibre optic.
This can also be caused by bottom finger pressure. If you have varying bottom finger pressure and it drags on the string it can send them low (varying string finger pressures can send them everywhere). If you notice your bottom finger takes a lot of pressure this can very likely send stray arrows down in the target.
The most important thing about getting consistent finger positioning is to let your fingers and hands relax. Adding tension in the wrist makes it a lot harder to be the same each time. Allow your hand to really stretch out and when placing your fingers just press them against the string. You may be surprised how little you need to engage to draw the string.
The final thing most likely to cause low arrows is dropping your front arm. The root cause can be very similar to the execution error as above. However this takes more mental rigour to correct. Really focus on keeping the arm pointing to the target. Try to aim with the back of your wrist after the shot. Another way to train this is to get someone to pull your arm down with a stretchy band or piece of string. This compounds the error, which makes you correct it subconsciously. Swapping between the extra strain and your regular shot will program the correct arm reaction into your shot.
Don’t think by any means that this list is exhaustive, or that you definitely have one of these faults. Hopefully you’ve got something from this guide to a select smattering of things likely to cause errors. Happy shooting!