Before you begin – Select a bow that fits you. It is best to get an experienced archer to help you select your first bow. No matter what type of bow you choose, you want one that is the correct draw length and draw weight for you.

I like to start people out with recurve bows. If you can shoot a recurve you can shoot a compound bow, but not necessarily the other way around. It’s kind of like learning to ride a motorcycle. It helps if you already know how to ride a bicycle.

Here are 8 tips for better shooting:

1. Grip (Bow Hand) – The main thing here is that you want a loose grip. If you are right handed, you will hold the bow in your left hand and vice versa. Form a V with your thumb and index finger. Now allow the bow handle to rest deep in the V and lightly wrap your thumb and fingers around the handle. Curve your fingers so they are not sticking out in the way of the arrow. You need a slight bend in the elbow of your grip hand. Do not lock your elbow.

2. Grip (String Hand) – There is more than one grip that works, but I teach two fingers on the string below the arrow nock and one finger on the string above the knock. This is of course if you are shooting without the aid of a release. I do not recommend a release for beginners. Learn the basics first. Make sure your pinky stays back out of the way. You can use your thumb to hold it down. Look at your fingers…You will want the string to come across your fingers half way between the tips and the first joint. Many people use too much of their finger on the string which prevents a smooth release. As you begin to draw the bow, you will want to keep your fingers in the same position on the string. A common problem is that people curl their fingers as they draw the bow string. This causes the arrow to come off the rest.

3. Drawing the Bow – As you draw the bowstring, your elbow on your string hand should be pointed directly out away from your body and parallel to the ground. I always take in a breath as I draw.

4. Anchor Point – As you reach full draw, there will be a spot on your face where the string naturally comes to. I place my finger against the corner of my mouth. Every time I draw, I go to this same spot. This ensures consistency in my draw length. Find an anchor point that works for you. Once at my anchor point, I hold my breath momentarily.

5. Relax – Try to relax as much as possible. The more uptight you are the more likely you are to jerk as you release. A smooth release is essential to accuracy.

6. Aim – Again, there are different methods that work for different folks. I close one eye and look down the arrow at my target. Some people shoot with both eyes open. Either way, you should really focus on your target, mentally visualizing where you want the arrow to go. Pick out a specific spot and stare a hole through it. Once you are at full draw, do not hold your arrow for more than about 3 seconds. The longer you hold your bow at full draw, the more you will shake and the less accurate you will be. One to two seconds is plenty of time to take aim. By the same token, do not rush your shot.

7. Release – Allow your string fingers to relax. No sudden release is required. As you release, let out your breath. Relax.

8. Follow Through – This is very important as with most sports. Do NOT drop your hand. It is a common tendency for archers to drop their bow hand in an effort to see over or around the bow to watch their arrow strike the target. Concentrate on the target and where you want the arrow to strike, not so much the flight of the arrow. Only after your arrow strikes the target should you drop your bow hand. If you drop your bow hand even slightly in an effort to watch your arrow, your arrow will miss the target low.

Make sure if you are shooting at a range or with other people that all is clear before you go retrieve your arrows. Have fun out there, and be safe!Lynne Holdeman