Correcting a Bad Habit
By Byron Ferguson


 Regardless of what kind of bow you shoot – recurve, longbow or compound – at some point you are going to develop a bad shooting habit.  You may develop faulty release, target panic or some other nasty shooting habit.  And in most cases, the bad habit usually strikes when you least expect.

 Picture this common scenario.  You are out on the backyard range and have been shooting great all week.  Maybe you’re excited about a big tournament or special hunt coming up and so you practice more than usual.  Then, the next day, you start to begin your normal shooting practice and suddenly your arrows are spraying all over the target.  You quickly ask yourself, “How is this happening?”

 The first move a shooter makes when such a shooting malady occurs is o start doubting their equipment.  Of course, for the compound shooter, there is more equipment to doubt.  But even traditional archers doubt their simplified gear.  Once your bow is shooting well, you should record its brace height, the location of the nockset, tip-to-tip length and other key measurements so you can quickly check your equipment of poor shooting occurs.  If your shooting does go haywire and all measurements check out okay, you’ll know poor accuracy is due to pilot error and not faulty equipment.

Concentration is a Must
 The single biggest reason why traditional shooters fall into shooting slumps or bad habits is because of lack of concentration.  When shooting, you should only be thinking about one thing – and that is aiming.  Each arrow you shoot should be shot as if it’s going to be the only arrow of the day.  In other words, devote as much concentration into each shot as you can.  This will greatly improve your accuracy and shooting form.


 Another key pointer when practicing is to never shoot when you’re frustrated or tired.  Persisting to shoot a bow when you are tense and angry will program your mind to acquire a negative shot sequence which could lead to freezing, snap shooting or other symptoms of the dreaded shooting disease known as target panic.  Shooting while your muscles ache or hurt will also cause bad habits to occur – habits that when developed are increasingly difficult to overcome.  Whether you feel tired or frustrated, you should quit shooting immediately and pick up shooting another day.

Practice Up Close
 Whenever my accuracy begins to go haywire due to lack of concentration, I’ll shoot at a big bull’s-eye from close range (about 5 yards).  When doing this, I shoot one arrow repeatedly, taking plenty of time between shots.  I find it easy to regain my concentration back when shooting from this close.  For some reason, your mind knows that you can’t miss from this distance, which allows you to relax and shoot with great confidence.  I do this close-range practice routine until I feel my shooting rhythm coming back.  Then I’ll move back to maybe 10 yards and keep shooting until I’m shooting with total confidence.

 My friend John Sloan, Bow and Arrow Hunting’s  editor-at-large, told me about a shooting difficulty had not long ago.  “I got this new bow and it was shooting perfectly,” Sloan told me.  “Then one day I was missing the entire butt.  I couldn’t hit a barn wall.  Naturally, I started fighting my equipment and fighting my form.  It got worse.  I started back with one arrow at three feet, shooting with my eyes closed.  After a day of that, I moved to 10 yards.  Finally after three or four days of just increasing the distance and shooting one or two arrows, with plenty of time between each, I was back shooting fin again.  But every practice session started with three or four shots from close range.”

 The next time you start spraying arrows across the target, don’t fight it.  Although I always like to stop on a perfect shot, sometimes you just have to put the equipment up.  But many times, you can correct the problem by getting close to the target.  Never practice a bad habit.  Correct it.