Hunting is a physically demanding sport, make no doubt about it. Whether bowhunting from a treestand in frigid temperatures, getting caught in a rainstorm at 10,000 feet, or carefully trying to keep up to a herd of elk in the backcountry…all of that puts a strain on your body. When the moment of truth arrives, and you’re at full draw, wouldn’t it help to have a solid form base to fall back on? Improving your form will do just that and help remove inconsistencies.
Learn Your Stance
There are three basic orientations for your stance in archery. Each one can be modified to suit your body type. They are the square stance, open stance, and closed stance.
Square Stance: Standing with both feet on the same line that points to the target.
Open Stance: Standing with both feet on the same line that points to the target and move the foot that is towards the target back a few inches. Your body is turned slightly open towards the target.
Closed Stance: Standing with both feet on the same line that points to the target and move the foot that is away from the target back a few inches. Your body is turned slightly away from the target.
Find out what foot stance best suits your body by drawing your bow back and focusing on the center of the target, now close your eyes and try to hold that position for 10 seconds and note what direction your aim has moved after you open your eyes. If your aim moves off to the left, move your front foot towards the line, getting closer to a square stance. If your aim moves off to the right, move your front foot away from the line, getting closer to an open stance. Remember at all times, your natural body position at full draw, rather than someone else’s preferred stance, should dictate your stance.
Bow Form In The Field
During hunting situations, you will need to modify your stance based on the terrain. Take, for example, shooting from your knees or steep uphill or downhill shots. Since normally you would not be shooting on flat ground, you will need to simulate these hunting situations to figure out how to adapt and shoot properly.
Proper archery form demands erect posture with your head directly over your spine. Improper form will cause your sight picture to shake, and it will induce torque in your shot.
Proper bow form in detail:
- Stand straight up and do not lean back
- Keep your eye over the center of your waist with your head directly over your spine
- Body should form a perfect T shape
- Hips directly over your feet
- Shoulders directly over your hips
- Square shoulders
- Slightly open stance is preferred but should ultimately be determined by your natural body position
- Feet shoulder width apart
- Distribute weight evenly
- Bow shoulder should be low and relaxed
- Bow arm should be almost straight, with a very slight bend. When the bow arm is severely bent you incorporate muscles to keep it in that position. You want the bones in your arm to hold the weight at full draw, not your muscles.
- String should touch the tip of the nose without leaning your head forward or backwards
- Obtain other consistent anchor points (the more anchor points, the better)
- Release hand should anchor on a repeatable spot along your jaw
- Hand should be placed properly on the bow grip
- High draw elbow, at least as high as the nose, and the crease of the elbow is on the same level, or above, the line of the arrow at full draw
- Overall have a relaxed stance…tension causes muscles to become fatigued
Improper draw length causes the most problems with bow form including the following:
- Causes you to fully extend your bow arm
- Causes right hand archers to push the bow to the left
- Causes you to lean back at full draw, which is hard to duplicate each time, especially in steep terrain or a steep shot from a treestand
- Shaky sight picture, more muscles involved the more tension, the more tension the more movement. Use the least amount of muscles possible for bow arm.
- Pulls your bow arm closer to the string, causing the bow string to slap your wrist
- The negatives of too short of a draw length:
- Body hunched up
- Fatigue will set in quicker because you are using more muscles to keep the bow drawn back.
Following all of these described methods will give you a solid foundation to base your form off of. These techniques will lead you down the path of shooting consistently from shot to shot. Proper form is learned over time, so don’t rush it. Work on each aspect by itself until perfected. Remember, archery is fun, so take it easy and enjoy the “journey” of working towards improving your form.