How To Shoot a Compound Bow – Step-by-Step Guide

| Last Updated August 7, 2021

Most people find shooting a compound bow an uphill task because of its complexity and many parts. However, once you know the basics and the steps to follow, you'll be ready to shoot your compound bow accurately and consistently.

This article explains how to shoot a compound bow properly even as a complete beginner. Be sure to follow through to the end.

Quick Questions Before Starting

When it comes to shooting a compound bow, you want to know first what you need, how long it takes to learn, and how easy or hard it is to shoot arrows off your compound bow.

How Difficult is This to Do?

Shooting a compound bow is hard for most beginners since they are still learning the complex working system of compound bows. However, once you get your foot in the door, the shooting process becomes easier, fulfilling, and full of fun. 

How Long Does it Take to Learn?

Depending on how much time you put in, your dedication, and your learning ability, you can learn shooting using a compound bow in just a few hours, days, weeks, or months. 

Undoubtedly, you'll learn how to take your first shot in a few hours, but it might be months or years before you master the process and produce consistently accurate shots. 

How Much Do Materials Cost?

You should expect to spend between $500 and $1,500 to buy the necessary equipment and accessories for shooting using a compound bow. The price depends on the brand, type of equipment, and the quality of each piece you buy. 

Ensure You Have the Proper Equipment For a Beginner

You'll need a handful of equipment and accessories to learn how to shoot with a bow. The good thing is that these items can last for a long time after you have learned and mastered the art of compound bow shooting. 

  • Compound bow: $400-$1,000+

  • Arrows: $40-$250 per dozen (best to go for cheaper as a beginner since you'll need lots of arrows for lots of practice - $40-$50 for practice arrows.)

  • Release Aid: $10-$20

  • Bow sling: $7-$50

  • Glove/Fingertab: $5-$25

  • Armguard: $8-$30

What Does Proper Posture Look Like?

To shoot accurately, easily, and consistently with a compound bow, you must pay attention to your posture or form. It entails being conscious of how you position your body relative to the target and the bow itself. 

Generally, your head should be in a neutral position, facing the target directly. You should stand with your weight equally distributed between both feet for stability. 

Stances for Shooting a Compound Bow

Depending on your preference and comfort wishes, you can choose between an open stance or a square stance when shooting a bow. 

Open Stance

In the open stance, you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, with the body straight up and no bending at the knees. The legs, hips, and feet face the target a lot more, which is why it's called the open stance. 

The front foot should be back a bit and the shoulder of the bow arm aligned in a way that the bow arm remains out of the bowstring's path to prevent snugging the string on the arm, clothes, or arm guard. It also prevents hitting your arm with the string. 

The open stance provides more control and stability during the actual shooting. 

Square Stance

In the square stance, you place the feet on either side of your shooting line. They should be a little over shoulder-width apart. The shoulders and hips remain in line with the feet so you stand square to your target. 

The square stance offers even more stability and is easier to maintain than the open stance. 

How To Shoot a Compound Bow

Once you have the basics right, it's time to get to the juicy part - the actual shooting process from the time you nock the arrow until the follow-through. 

1. Assume a Proper Posture

Your posture will significantly determine how well you shoot arrows off your bow. Start by breathing in and out a few times to relax the body for the exercise. 

Once you are fully composed, assume either an open or square stance as per your preference. If you are unsure which stance to use, you can try both to determine the one you feel more relaxed and comfortable in and use it throughout the process. 

A left-handed shooter should stand with their right side facing the target, with the right foot in front of the left. 

You can ask a seasoned archer for help with establishing a proper form or posture if you feel overwhelmed. 

2. Nock the Arrow

The back end of the arrow has a section called a nock, which attaches to the bowstring

When the arrow is loaded correctly, the odd-colored vane or feather should face up the sky. Be sure to push the arrow against the bowstring until you hear a click. 

Once you have loaded the arrow, you need to attach the release aid to the D-loop, the accessory that looks like a capital "D". You should place your hand on the release, but with the trigger finger placed safely behind the protruding trigger to prevent accidental firing. 

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It’s always important to nock the arrow while pointing safely at your target and not other people or items a misfired arrow could damage. 

3. Raise the Bow with a 'Soft' Grip

As a beginner, you might be tempted to grip the bow too tight with your bow arm. 

A tight grip makes the bow tilt or rotates because of the excess muscle force you exert on it. Instead, your grip on the bow should be a bit loose, with your fingers lightly wrapped on the bow grip in a relaxed manner. 

You should raise the bow until the bow arm is parallel to the ground but not in a locked position that would limit its flexibility and movement. The bow should face the target directly. 

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4. Draw to Anchor Point

With the bow raised and aimed towards the target, draw back the bowstring to full draw and rest it against at least two parts of your anchor point for more stability. 

The bowstring should touch the cheek/jaw tip and the nose tip - the two easily accessible parts of the anchor point. 

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5. Shoot the Bow

Once you have your bow drawn and your eyes squared on the target, it’s time to shoot the bow. 

6. Follow Through with the Shot

When you shoot the bow, the shooting force pushes the bow towards the target. Your shooting hand recoils backward towards your back. At this point, you want to follow through with the shot to ensure your actions don’t hurt it. 

A good follow-through requires that you remain as relaxed as possible, with your eyes still set on the target until the arrow hits it. Avoid any unwarranted body movement that takes you off the sight of the arrow's flight path to the target. 

For a detailed overview of the compound bow shooting process, be sure to refer to the video below. 

How To Shoot a Bow Left Handed

If you are left-handed, you should grip the bow in the right hand and draw the bowstring using the left hand. The release procedure for this orientation is similar to that of a right-handed archer. This time, though, the release is in the left hand. 

How To Shoot a Compound Bow With Release

If you are using a release rather than bare fingers to shoot, bring your trigger finger to the trigger and engage it to release the arrow and launch it towards your target. 

The trigger finger can be the thumb for a thumb-triggered release or the index finger for an index finger-triggered release. 

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Other Factors You Need to Know Before Starting

The many parts of a compound bow mean that there are other aspects you need to consider before you buy or even practice shooting your bow. Here's a brief mention of some of the key aspects.

Draw Length

The draw length, measured in inches, measures how far back you pull the bowstring to full draw. It is usually about the same length as the arrow.

You can determine your draw length at an archery shop with the help of an archery expert. A simple formula for calculating it is to measure the size of your arm span from one fingertip to the other and then divide the measurement by 2.5.

The longer your draw length is, the faster the bow will shoot. However, you shouldn't set your bow to excess draw length as you'll be compromising control, comfort, and accuracy for just high arrow speeds. 

Draw Weight

Draw weight refers to the force in pounds you use to pull back the bowstring to full draw - the furthest position to which you can stretch the string. 

Different archers have different bow draw weights, and you should seek the help of an archery expert to determine yours. Excess draw weight compromises your shot accuracy and consistency. 

Ocular Dominance

Also called eyedness or eye preference, ocular dominance is the brain's tendency to favor one eye for visual input. In archery, you must identify your dominant eye so that you buy a bow matching your eye dominance to make it easy to shoot with the two eyes open. 

If your right eye is the dominant one, you should be a right-handed shooter.

Beginner's Tips and Safety Considerations When Shooting a Compound Bow

Although archery is a highly safe sport, you have to observe all the recommended safety measures to ensure your safety and that of others around you. Here are a few tips to guide you through your new compound bow shooting process. 

  • Avoid dry fire: Dry fire refers to shooting your bow without an arrow in place. It is an unsafe practice that damages your bow and threatens your safety since the bow might push back towards your face and cause injury.

  • Always use a backstop: If you are practicing archery at home and not in the shooting lane of an archery shop, ensure you have a sturdy backstop for catching any arrows that stray off the target. 

You want to avoid shooting such arrows into other people or property for utmost safety. 

  • Take archery classes: Sometimes, shooting a compound bow won’t be straightforward for a total beginner. If you find that you can't shoot well when doing private practice, consider taking archery classes or training alongside a seasoned archer.


The complexity of a compound bow might scare you into thinking that shooting one is north of too hard for you as a beginner. However, all you need is to learn the basics such as good posture, nocking, and drawing to shoot a compound bow successfully. 

It pays off to practice consistently, maintaining the proper stance each time and following through with each shot until the arrow hits the target. 

Practice makes perfect!

My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.