Introduction to Instinctive Archery
Originally bows and arrows were created and fashioned out of natural wood. Shooting an arrow was done by simply drawing back the bow with the string, taking a general aim, then letting it loose. There was no additional equipment, only instincts and an inner sense guiding the person. Today, this is known as instinctive archery. In this article the basics of instinctive archery will be explained – the equipment required, and the best natural stance to assume when shooting instinctively to improve your aim.
Some people are born with natural gifts and talents in sports such as archery and many others. This becomes evident when they first pick up a bow, an arrow, then shoot with remarkable precision on their first attempt. Others who are less gifted will need to traverse the well-worn road of practice to achieve excellence.
The instinctive archery aspect is much like how we throw a baseball at the exact spot where we want it, or a stone to hit a target- it is completely natural, and follows the bodies’ internal compass, plus the essential mind and muscle coordination to make it happen. Instinctive archery, or “snap-shooting”, was adapted for more practical reasons other than sport. It was used mainly for hunting food and game, where little time and concentration is given, before the target runs away. Emphasis in instinctive archery is placed more on the archer’s skill rather than the use of sights or a prolonged aim and is completed more by feel.
As with any new skill, the most important part of mastering it, is the need to practice, which trains the brain and the muscles involved and thereby increases the chance of an precise and accurate shot. With sufficient practice this new way of shooting will become second nature or natural for you. In order to find success with this new shooting style, you must prepare, so for more information read on below.
A Guide To Instinctive Archery Basics
First off you require a solid starting point for instinctive archery and this starts with a properly placed arrow rest and nocking point to serve as a solid guide. It can be adjusted as you become more comfortable with style of shooting. You will find different nock points based on the type of bow you may be using, such as a longbow or a recurve bow. Use the same equipment each time when learning, doing this will eliminate any inconsistencies with your equipment whilst practicing.
Next you require a consistent form to create a solid base on which to build. The goal in this exercise is to recreate the correct pose and shooting motion each time, much like basketball players perfecting their shot motion or golfers, their swing.
The key to creating this form is your stance, draw and anchor, and finally the release. We need to start from the correct position, a nice smooth draw remaining balanced and then holding at your anchor point. I use my fingers just touching the corner of my mouth as my reference, however, there are a lot of variations from this common point. What is essential is that you come to exactly the same point each time. By maintaining the same stance and utilizing the same draw each time induces consistency. Consistency is particularly important when learning any new skill such as this, do the basics well and everything else looks after itself.
Starting with a stance that puts your feet about shoulder width apart, ideally with your toes pointing at 90 degrees to your target and the balls of your feet aligned with the aiming point. With your weight slightly more onto your front foot so your weight is going in the direction of your shot. The bow is normally gripped by the non-dominant hand and allows the pointer finger to do its job of pointing directly to the target when you raise the bow. Keep in mind that different bow types have features that make it easier to grip, and you might be unaccustomed to this kind of grip before, but with practice it becomes second nature. The most natural and intuitive way to become better at instinctive archery is to always keep your wrist, arm and pointer finger in alignment- in this manner, you should experience less problems and become more accurate more quickly.
Now nock an arrow just underneath your nocking point. It should rest on the same side as the back of your hand that is gripping the bow. ‘Gripping the bow’ is a bit of a misnomer, in so much as the bow isn’t actually gripped but rests (or pulled back) against the palm of your bow hand as the arrow is drawn. Consider slightly tilting your bow to where the arrow cannot fall off, and remains in position even when you shift. Hold the string with your dominant hand with a traditional grip. Generally, the pointer, middle and the ring fingers are utilized in holding the string. The bow’s string should be handled with the fingertips’ meaty pads between the tip of the finger and the finger’s first joint. If you find that it is too hard to draw the bow in this manner, choose a lighter bow until you can draw without too much trouble. I recommend that you also protect your fingers over a long practice session with a finger tab or shooting gloves. For my review of the best archery gloves click here. Your string hand should maintain a straight line just behind the arrow, from the fingertips to the wrist and extending to the elbow. The arm should look like a natural extension of the arrow. The bow itself is drawn not one-sided, but use a combination of pulling with the dominant arm that grips the string and pushing with arm that holds the bow.
A fully drawn bow needs an anchor point to get to the next step. Finding and establishing a good anchor point is also one of the most important technique in learning instinctive archery because it allows you to consistently maintain a draw length where you are able to comfortably position the arrow aiming towards the target. The most recommended anchor point is where the string is drawn back to where the middle finger ends and touches the corner of the mouth. This position is the most common and most reliable anchor point, so use it well and often.
Release the arrow by relaxing the back of the hand, optimally about the time the finger comes in contact with the anchor point. An excellent release would be where the draw hand is exactly where it was before and after the shot was made.
The real skill in following the instinctive archery path is the ability to focus on the target and nothing else. Instinctive archery is all about skill and focusing intently on the target and forgetting about everything else in the moment. To achieve this start focusing on the target intently even before the bow is drawn.Once you have your focus solely on the target, then and only then should you commence the draw.
It is essential that the bow is not held at full draw for long – fight the urge to carefully aim and just use your gut instincts.
Keep the focus and fine-tune your form to whichever works for you in the long run.
I recommend starting over a short distance say up to 7 yards. It serves no purpose trying to much your first shots instinctively over 30 yards and miss the target every time. Start from a short distance initially and then work back as your skill improves. This is a much more rewarding way of commencing this skill and ensures that you are more likely to continue as your skill improves.
To learn how to increase your accuracy click here.
Remember that instinctive archery is skill-based and you will benefit tremendously with time and practice. Don’t fret too much if the starting shots were not to good – focus and it will get better.