In October of 2018, USA Archery official unveiled its 2019 United States Archery Team. This elite group of professionals will travel the country representing the best that the sport has to offer.
Do you dream of taking one of these coveted spots one day?
If so, you’ll need to master the art of archery first, and that begins with learning how to aim your compound bow.
Perhaps you’re an amateur just picking up your bow and arrow for the first time. Or, maybe you’re a seasoned pro who got rusty after a little time off.
Regardless, you’ve come to the right spot. Today, we’re teaching you how to perfect your aiming method in a few steps. Ready to learn more? Pick up your equipment and let’s get started!
What Is a Compound Bow?
Before we delve into the mechanics of how one works, let’s first review what a compound bow is. In short, this bow employs a set of complex pulleys that serve to force an arrow through the air toward its target.
More traditional bows, including recurve bows and longbows, are devoid of such modern mechanisms. Instead, they require powerful upper body strength, as sheer force is required to draw the arrows. As such, you’ll also need to stand closer to your target with these types of bows.
A compound bow, on the other hand, allows you to put more distance between yourself and the target. It also relies less on bodily strength and more on a deep knowledge of proper aiming techniques. They’re ideal for beginner archers, as they allow you to focus on your form and strategy over more advanced aspects of the skill.
Below, let’s take a look at a few steps to take when aiming a compound bow.
1. Release Tense Muscles
It’s proven that stress can directly lead to muscle tension, which can impact an athlete’s motor skills. To improve your odds of hitting the target every time, be sure to warm up your shoulders before you pick up your bow.
Try a few simple stretching exercises to get yours in peak condition. Continue those motions into your neck and upper back to make sure you’re loose and ready for action.
Right before you release the arrow, take note of your muscle tension again. Archers tend to carry stress in their forearms, which can throw off their aim. Make sure yours is relaxed and in position, shifting that tension instead to your tricep if possible. The result will be a smoother, more consistent shot.
2. Look at Your Feet
You know how important a golfer’s stance is to his or her performance? The same holds true with archery.
If your feet and legs aren’t aligned in the correct position, your entire posture will be off-kilter, which could throw off your aim. Successful archery aiming is rooted in finding your perfect stance.
Begin by finding your target and facing it at a 90-degree angle. Then, place your feet as wide as your shoulders. Rather than keeping both your feet pointing entirely in the same direction, lift your lead foot and turn it outward at a slight angle.
At this point, resist the urge to lean in a particular direction. Rather, balance your weight as evenly as possible between your feet. If you find that you become wobbly easily, there are several single-leg exercises you can perform to improve your balance.
3. Grasp the Bow
There are myriad complicated compound bow holds out there. However, in reality, unless you grab the bow in a natural way, you’ll be hard-pressed to repeat that move every time. What’s more, you’ll have to strain more to maintain that specific grip throughout the duration of the shot.
So, it’s wise to hold the bow naturally, putting the majority of the grip pressure on your lower thumb.
While you may feel the urge to squeeze the bow and put your fingers directly against it, turn your hand outward instead. This helps to relieve any built-up tension and pressure, allowing you to better maneuver the tool.
4. Find Your Anchor Points
“Anchor points” is an archery term that means the places on your face where sections of the bow graze it as you pull the arrow backward.
Your individual anchor points will differ from someone else’s, but there are three basic regions that define these areas.
As the name implies, this is the spot on your face where your hand reaches up and touches as it pulls the arrow. Depending on the length of your draw and your release type, this might be along your jawline. Or, it could be at your cheek or even under your ear.
In general, women will have a shorter draw length, making bows equipped with adjustable lengths on the single cam system especially desirable.
A preferred though not always possible form, there may be times when your bow setup allows the string to touch your nose as you pull it back. Take note of how you achieved this stance and seek to repeat it in the future.
If you aren’t using a peep sight, you can use a kisser button to further improve your for. These can take many forms, from a simple knot in your thread to an actual plastic button. You position this object so that it sits against your lips when you’re at full draw.
If you are using a peep sight, you’ll need to bypass the kisser button altogether. Why? A peep sight is a small tool, usually shaped like a ring, that you place inside the string itself. This allows you to see through the string, improving your aim.
These two indicators, which work fine on their own, can often work against each other if applied in tandem. So, use one or the other to make sure your head posture is accurate.
Position the arrow in the string and pull it back, making sure your wrist does not turn in the process. Then, once you have established those anchor points above, notice the ones that feel the most natural.
5. Set Your Eyes on the Target
As mentioned above, a peep sight is an excellent way to help guide your eyes toward the target. Especially if you’re a beginner archer, this can help you train your focus. If you’re wondering how to use compound bow sights, the best rule of thumb is to lead with your instinct.
Most compound bows come equipped with these handy accessories, though not everyone will use them in the same location. If you’re wondering how to use compound bow sights, the best rule of thumb is to lead with your instinct.
When positioning your peep sight, notice where your gaze usually falls. You want to be able to look comfortably through yours when you have your bow drawn to full position. If you’re having to shift your eyes down, up or to the side to get your target in view, move the peep sight until it’s properly aligned.
If your bow does not include a peep sight, you can buy one at your local hobby store. Be sure to select one according to your needs.
Do you commonly shoot at wide-distance ranges? If so, a smaller peep sight is able to accommodate those setups. If you’re used to shooting in low-light conditions, such as at dusk, a larger peep sight is the way to go.
Not sure if yours is correctly aligned? You should be able to spot both your forward sight (attached to your bow) and the target through your peep sight.
6. Try Closing One Eye (Or Don’t)
You’ve likely seen this move in archery competitions, though it’s not a required form. Some athletes find that squinting one eye shut helps them better focus the other. If you’ve ever looked through a telescope to see the night sky, you may have done the same thing.
Try it a few times to see if it works for you. If it improves your aim and allows you to find your target more easily, go for it. If not, that’s OK, too. In fact, leaving both eyes open allows you to have more accurate depth perception and can help you track your arrow after it leaves your bow.
One note: If you do find that shooting with one eye works best for you, try to find out which eye is more dominant than the other. Then, find a compound bow that is built to accommodate that side. For instance, if your left eye is stronger, a bow designed for left-hand use is preferred.
Not sure which eye is the strongest of your two? Try this at-home test.
7. Set Your Distance
Within the forward sight on your compound bow, you will find a few different pins. These are used to designate how far away your target is. For instance, you may be shooting from 20 yards away, 40 yards or more.
Select the pin that matches your target most closely. Next, align your bow to ensure the pin and target are aligned.
Your pins might not be marked as to the distances they represent. If this is the case, you’ll need to work with your bow a few times to determine what they mean. Start by standing 20 yards from your target and try to find your target through each pin.
The one that allows you the greatest control over your target at that spot is your 20 yard one and you can use that as a baseline for the other measurements.
Next, look at the area below your pins. Some bows may include a level in this region, which works similarly to one you’d find at the hardware store, helping to make sure everything is aligned as it should be. Position the bubble in the center of the level if it isn’t already there.
8. Try a Few Focus Techniques
The period of time right before you let your arrow go is a critical one. You might find that aligning your pin lines directly with the target helps you to aim more consistently. Or, you might find that trying to make those precise measurements line up is creating unwanted tension in your upper body.
If the latter is the case, try relaxing your stance a bit and letting the target float in between one or more pins. No, you won’t have as accurate of a draw, but you’ll be better able to repeat your results the next time around if you aren’t as stiff.
In the same vein, some archers prefer to bypass the peep sight and pins altogether and look at the target instead. This can take a more sophisticated degree of skill, though it can help even inexperienced archers eschew the anxiety that comes with trying to get every mechanism perfectly straight.
Learning How to Aim and Excel at Archery
Now that you know how to aim, are you ready to take on the exciting sport of archery? One of our nation’s most longest-lasting and iconic traditions, it’s a game of coordination and precision as much as athleticism.
When you’re ready to take your interest to the next level, we’re here to help. We’ve scoured the internet to find the best compound bows available, along with some of top tricks and tips on how to make the most of your new purchase.
Not sure where to begin? Before you head to the store or start working on your form, check out our introduction to compound bow shooting to learn more about your new favorite sport.