Common Archery Mistakes – Informational Guide

Jeff
| Last Updated June 4, 2021

It’s no secret that archery is an incredibly complicated activity.

Bows are difficult weapons to wield and master, and archers of all skill levels are always capable of making both minor and drastic mistakes to their technique.

That said, many of these are surprisingly avoidable, and if you’re looking to improve your accuracy and endurance during a shoot, these common archery mistakes are great things to be aware of so you can fix them early.

9 Common Archery Mistakes

Each of these mistakes will usually come down to poor posture and bow grip, two things that are extremely hard to master when you first handle a bow and difficult to maintain as you start getting more comfortable. That said, you should be prepared to encounter any of these as you improve your skills, as all of these factors are easy to forget when practicing alone or in the middle of an enthusiastic shoot.

Archer’s Stance is Inconsistent

Easily the most common archery mistake, making sure you have a solid stance is vital to making your shots more consistent. 

What This Looks Like

Usually, your stance is inconsistent when you hold your bow too open or too closed in your arms. It also can have to do with your legs being in an uncomfortable or inorganic position to hold your balance.

Why It’s a Mistake

This will cause your shots to miss frequently, as you can’t hold a steady aim or easily focus on your target.

Photo credit: bowhuntingmag.com

How to Fix It

For a solid archery stance, you’ll want your feet planted at the same width apart as your shoulders, and you should aim to keep your back perfectly straight to keep your weight evenly distributed.

Maintaining this should let you aim your bow horizontally without leaning forwards or backward, giving you better aim and more comfortable shooting.

The Grip is Too Tight

The tension that comes with drawing a bow might make you far more concerned about it becoming loose, so it can be common for new archers to grip their handle with far more strength than necessary. 

What This Looks Like

Usually, a tight grip involves you using your full hand to make a fist around the handle of your bow, putting immense pressure with all your fingers, and putting extreme pressure on the more sensitive area between your thumb and index finger.

Why It’s a Mistake

An overly tight grip is a huge threat to both your accuracy and endurance, as it’ll make your arm extremely tired and prevent it from staying still while you’re aiming a shot.

Bow overgrip (Photo credit: blog.lancasterarchery.com)

How to Fix It

The key thing to remember in fixing this error is that you’re not so much holding the bow as you are resisting the pressure of the drawstring.

Your main amount of tension in gripping the bow should be between your thumb and index finger, with the rest of your hand holding the bow more gently to make sure it’s pointed straight, letting you aim more easily and avoid exhaustion during longer firing sessions.

Losing or Inconsistent Anchor Points

For those unaware, anchor points are essentially reference points to make sure your shot is aligned properly. These are places on your face where your bowstring hand will touch when your bow is fully drawn, letting you aim properly and fire at a reliable strength.

What This Looks Like

If you aren’t hitting your anchor points, you’ll usually just be pulling with your hand away from your face, meaning you don’t have a perfectly straight shot and won’t reach full strength. It’s also possible to have inconsistent anchor points, where you swap spaces and fail to get familiar with a particular stance and shooting style.

Why It’s a Mistake

Consistency is vital for any archer, and having an inconsistent way to aim will consistently result in your bow being harder to fully draw.

How to Fix It

Focus on your full bow grip, and don’t be afraid to put the drawstring close to your face. You can often fix this by practicing getting into position.

Photo credit: mainelywhitetails.com

Drawing your bow and getting comfortable with the drawstring will help you, even more, when arrows are involved. With enough comfort and familiarity with the position, you should be able to hit your anchor points more reliably.

Elbow Position 

When holding a bow and arrow, you can feel incredibly empowered. Being able to move it in so many directions can make you want to twist your arms and elbows for fancier shots, but this is more often a sign of a poor grip and not going to help your aim as much as a fully vertical position.

What This Looks Like

Most elbow position problems come in rotating it. You might think that spinning it wouldn’t change things since the arrow can still fly straight, but since your drawstring hand has to rotate into especially uncomfortable positions to compensate, you’ll be twisting it in an even worse spot.

Why It’s a Mistake

When one hand is in a poor position, your other will always follow. This might feel more comfortable for your bow hand, but your drawstring hand will often have trouble releasing, giving you a significantly weaker shot that might not pierce the target.

How to Fix It

You should always be aiming for a fully vertical position, with your bow being perfectly perpendicular to the ground. This will give you the greatest amount of ease for both hands, as well as giving you just as much aim as any of the movie or TV show characters that often twist their arms for purely cinematic appeal.

Photo credit: archery360.com

Using the Wrong Equipment

This might seem like a difficult mistake to make, but it’s extremely valuable to know exactly what tools you need for your style of archery. Not every longbow user can easily transition to a compound bow, and using the wrong tools can quickly result in poor shots.

What This Looks Like

If your main training has involved a compound bow, you may be using a longbow or other style that doesn’t fit what you’re experienced with. As a result, you’ll likely be holding your bow improperly. You can also be using improperly sized equipment, making your grip and stance much less comfortable.

Why It’s a Mistake

Different bows are similar, but hardly require the same skills to hold and fire. Using the wrong bow is either something you can do without noticing or overestimating your skill with different bow styles.

How to Fix It

Simply stick to the bows and tools you know, and don’t ever assume that your skills will carry over between different types of equipment.

Aiming for Too Long or Shooting Too Fast

While these problems can vary depending on the types of archery you engage in, you must balance your time between drawing your bow and firing an arrow. Spending too long will often cause you to lose your grip or balance, while quick shots will have poor strength and accuracy.

What This Looks Like

If you’re practicing in 3D archery or slow-firing ranges, you may be spending too little time aiming and drawing in the excitement of hitting a target. Alternately, quick-firing styles may result in you not putting enough strength or time into aiming your shots.

Why It’s a Mistake

You need a solid balance of strength and accuracy in your shots. Spending too much time holding your bow drawn might lead the tension to overexert your arms. 

How to Fix It

Take your time lining up your shot, but don’t bother holding it for extreme amounts of time. Hold it just long enough for you to aim, and try not to fire it too early or too late so that your shot doesn’t go to waste.

Plucking the Bowstring

This might sound more like a habit than poor technique, but new archers can very easily feel a need to do more than just release their arrow. Instead, they’ll pluck it like a guitar string in an attempt to let go of it safely.

What This Looks Like

As mentioned, those who are plucking a bowstring usually let go of their bow with slight force. They hold their arrow or string too hard instead of simply releasing the arrow from their grip.

Why It’s a Mistake

Your arrow needs a neutral release to move perfectly straight, as any interference when the bow is fully drawn will shake it or nudge it away from where you need it to go.

How to Fix It

Hold the arrow near your face, but with just enough space to open your fingers. Avoid curving your fingers around the string, and you should be able to more easily let go of your arrow and let it fire properly.

Improper Draw Length

This can be one of the most difficult things to master in archery since your draw length will be fully unique based on your size. You can measure your draw length numerically, of course, but that doesn’t mean you’ll automatically know it while shooting an arrow.

What This Looks Like

An incorrect draw length will either mean that you’re pulling the arrow too hard, causing the drawstring to be too far from the bow, or too lightly, meaning you aren’t putting enough pressure for the arrow to fly at a good speed.

Why It’s a Mistake

This will entirely change the strength of your shot. Firing high above your draw length will put too much strength into it, causing it to miss due to it conflicting with the wind. Not putting enough draw into your shot will prevent it from smoothly gliding in the air, and it likely won’t have enough range to hit your target.

How to Fix It

Get familiar with your ideal draw length, and practice getting into that position from a neutral position. You must hit this position with every shot, so knowing exactly how it feels and drawing smoothly will give you the best opportunities to make your ideal shots.

Wrong Finger Position or Number of Fingers

In a similar vein to plucking the bowstring, it’s easy to have a bad general grip on your bowstring overall. You might be curving too far inward if you’re plucking it on release, but it’s also possible to damage your fingers without the proper level of grip.

What This Looks Like

Usually, you’re going to know your finger position or amount is wrong if you’re wrapping around the string, when you should instead be focusing with just a few fingers near the arrow to give the perfect amount of tension.

Why It’s A Mistake

More than anything else, this is one of the biggest ways you can cause injuries to yourself while aiming a bow. It simply risks your fingers from getting blisters from the friction and pain from the bow snapping on release.

How to Fix It

Photo credit: keywortharchers.co.uk

Put just enough tension on the bowstring with only a few of your fingers to make sure you’re not putting too many or gripping it too hard. You should only use your index, middle, and ring finger, either below the arrow or near the center of it. Pull the sides of the string rather than the interior of it.

Tips and Tricks in Correcting Common Archery Mistakes

Don't be ashamed if you're guilty of committing some or all of the nine mistakes we've discussed. You have to know that there are more bad habits you can develop as an archer. But as the old adage goes: Practice makes perfect.

That said, we provided below some tips you can incorporate into your journey to getting better.

Record Your Draws and Shots

It’s not enough for most aspiring archers to know how a good shot can feel. Since you aren’t able to look at your positioning and stance yourself, you’ll want to get a third-person view to get a better idea of what you might be doing wrong. After all, you might not even know what you’re doing incorrectly, since many of these mistakes can feel normal and natural at the moment.

This can be as easy as setting up your cell phone camera pointed at you while you draw an empty bow, or shoot your arrows. This will not only give you a better way to see what you’re doing wrong from a better perspective, but you can also show others so that they can critique your stance without them needing to get close to you while firing an arrow.

Work With Peers

Even without discussing your own mistakes and insecurities with your shot, it can be incredibly helpful to visit shooting ranges and 3D archery shoots with others. The biggest way to fall into these mistakes is to practice alone and not recognize your errors, and seeing someone else perform can help you recognize what mistakes they might be making so you don’t make them yourself.

That said, if you have a comfortable enough relationship with your shooting group to ask them for help, you should always feel free to ask them for tips on your stance. If they see something you’re doing wrong, it’s likely going to be a safety hazard, and while you don’t need to backseat critique them, your group should aim to be welcoming to tips and suggestions for better and safer shooting.

Watch Professional Archery Shots

Several of these problems come in the form of archers learning stances from the media, with movies and TV shows often having improper form so that they can look better on camera. This isn’t to say all forms of archery on television are inherently bad to watch, as professional broadcasted events will often have great closeups of the archers themselves.

These are perfect ways to see an ideal aiming posture, particularly if you don’t know what your comfortable draw length or anchor points should be. Finding an ideal stance is certainly more complicated than imitating a professional, but it can be a great start and a good way to refresh yourself.

Photo credit: windarchery.com

Consult an Expert

As always, you should feel comfortable at any skill level to contact or work with an instructor if you feel your shooting isn’t up to par. Even professional archers will work with instructors and coaches to help perfect their shooting, so you should never feel afraid to take a class or lesson to make sure your form is consistent.

Many archery workshops will offer single classes, or let you work with individual instructors for a short number of personalized lessons. These are not just for beginners, as even the best archers need to make sure their fundamentals remain strong and consistent.

Conclusion

There are plenty more problems that archers can encounter, but it’s important to know there’s no shame in mistakes. Wielding a bow is incredibly difficult, and it involves far more strength and pressure than nearly any other ranged weapon. Mastering how to hold and fire takes a lot of time and mistakes can come up at any skill level, so just try to remain vigilant for these sorts of common problems and you’ll improve your archery skills in no time.

People Also Ask

Alongside more common mistakes, there are a few tendencies that most archers can encounter that aren’t as easy to understand. These are often more complex than most common archery mistakes, but especially important for more experienced archers to understand and solve early.

Why Do My Arrows Go Right?

If your arrows are firing out the right side from right-handed shooting, you might be holding your bow at an unusual angle. Your drawstring hand usually will be lining up with your body to make sure it fires straight, but if you’re unintentionally putting it at a slight angle, a little tilting will usually drift your shots an exponential amount.

Why Is Dry Firing Bad?

Dry firing, which is when you pull the bowstring and release it without an arrow, is extremely dangerous because the bow will reverberate when you release it.

Usually, the charged tension will be absorbed by the arrow as it releases, but firing without one can potentially shatter your bow and cause enough recoil to hit your face or arms. 

If you choose to practice your posture and drawing without an arrow, instead just focus on your grip and positioning before lowering the weapon and slowly returning it to its original position. The last thing you need as an archer is to risk a broken bow or an unexpected injury.

Jeff

My name is Jeff and I have been hunting and fishing for over 40 years. I am an avid archery lover, bass fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman. Currently, I'm obsessed with elk hunting but I'm sure I'll move onto a different favorite soon. You gotta love hunting for that reason :) If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at admin@biggamelogic.com. Read more about Big Game Logic.