One of the most enjoyable things about shooting a recurve bow is the practice. And one of the most detrimental things about shooting a recurve bow is PRACTICE! The unfortunate consequence for those of us who don’t practice regularly is poor shooting that leads to missed opportunity in the field.
For the most part I’m pretty good about regular practice, mostly because shooting the bow is a hobby I truly enjoy. But then, I am just like many others who get busy with life. And lately, my cabin construction project has been eating up a great deal of my free time. My practice sessions have become almost non-existent for the past month and a half. Not to put to fine a point on it, but I am not feeling greatly confident in my shooting abilities. It’s time to practice and practice hard!
A few years back I had the good fortune to attend the Blackwidow shooting clinic hosted by the guys from Blackwidow Bow Company and instructed by Mr. Fred Asbell. At the time my shooting was relatively mediocre. I had managed to take a few deer with the bow. But that was mostly due to good hunting fortune.
What I took away from that shooting clinic has been invaluable to me as a bow shooter. But of all the tips I picked up on, two have absolutely improved my shooting with the bow and arrow. I’ve added my own twist to these tips to suit my needs as a shooter and I think that is important for anyone to remember when learning a physical activity. What ever it is that you learn from someone else, you must make it your own!
The first of the tips is one that is really quite obvious. You must have a consistent anchor point. That goes without saying. If you are not drawing the bow to the same spot every time, not only are you not imparting consistent energy from shot to shot, but you are likely, in a sense, moving your rear site from shot to shot. As Mr. Asbell said in the seminar and in his many writings, the anchor is the rear site! If it is not coming to the same spot every time, then you are not shooting consistently.
What I quickly discovered after the seminar and while applying Mr. Asbell’s suggestions was that I was snap-shooting. While I was coming back reasonably close to the anchor point at the corner of my mouth on a routine basis, I was not in the same anchor position every time. I was close, but not close enough to get consistent accuracy past 15 yards.
A quick word about anchoring, it is important to understand that reaching anchor isn’t just pulling back to the corner of the mouth. It is pulling back to the corner of the mouth, tilting the head to the same angle for every shot, and keeping shoulder and arm alignment the same every time. To break this down simply, a good anchor should produce the same sight picture shot after shot!
So the second tip I received was related to how I was shooting. I plainly recall Mr. Asbell saying, “Gosh, You sure shoot fast!” and then him suggesting I slow down and hesitate a little bit before shooting the arrow. It didn’t happen overnight, and I realize now looking back that I was truly snap shooting from shot to shot. And as a result I was not necessarily acquiring a consistent sight picture with each shot. But once I started applying these tips to my shooting practice, and the all-important, “Don’t shoot too fast,” my shooting started improving in leaps and bounds. Consistent shots to 25 and 30 yards became doable (which by the way is well beyond my accepted hunting range of 20 yards).
The most important aspect of practice that helped me to incorporate these two tips was practicing them at 5 steps. And so up close is where I will start today just to “reprogram my brain.” My reprogramming procedure goes something as follows:
- Stand 5 steps from the target butt.
- Pick a spot on the bale. Don’t focus too hard on it, just a general spot you know you want to focus on later.
- Draw the bow to anchor and make sure head tilt and sight picture are consistent.
- Count to 3.
- NOW FOCUS HARD ON THE MARK!
- Ease through the shot and relax the fingers.
Generally a half dozen shots along this method is enough to reprogram the brain. Then I start moving around the yard and shooting from various positions or I go stump shooting. I follow the same steps above on each shot, though I don’t necessarily count to three.
Counting to three seems to be a psychological thing. If I do not do this during my reprogramming phase I quickly lapse back into my former snap shooting self. Generally, with some practice, my mind recognizes when the shot picture is right and the arrow slips away with reasonable consistency as long as I remember to reprogram!