Become an Expert Bowman with Three Practice Drills

Archery, the skill of using a bow and arrow, is an ancient pastime. Whether used for warfare, hunting, or sport, shooting with a bow is a way of working the mind, body, and soul. It would be impossible to hit a bullseye without a combination of all three forces working together. Archery is as difficult for some as it is interesting. Nobody is born an expert marksman; hitting the target consistently takes time, talent, and effort. There are various drills for improving your ability to shoot with a bow, some better than others. Below are the three best training drills Dave have found in his numerous years as a bowman.

DaveI’ve been a lover of bowsports from a very young age. I’m a regular at my local archery range where I’m always competitive. I enjoy getting people interested in the sport and its various disciplines and passing on my knowledge, you can read more about archery over at my site

The Mirror Drill

Ask any professional fighter (boxer, martial artist, wrestler) how they improved their talent, and you will hear one response: shadow fighting/boxing. This drill follows in the same pattern. The key here is improving your muscle memory, so that drawing a bow becomes second nature. More than this, you want to perform as if you weren’t performing at all. There’s an ancient Kung Fu proverb along those lines, anyway. You want your form to come naturally, so you can act without thinking. Being that drawing a bow is slightly different than rote memorization of forms and movements, the practice here is slightly different, although the premise remains the same.

shadow-boxerThat said, Kung Fu masters perform a drill similar to this drill. You only need a mirror. A mirror and a lot of practice. Stand in front of your mirror, preferably at a 45 degree angle. Hold your bow in hand, with or without an arrow inside. If you don’t have a bow, that’s fine, you should just practice good archery form. Next, draw your bow back as if ready to shoot. You will then check your form by rotating your eyes to observe your posture. If you are off in your stance, elbow position, bow or tab hand adjust and try again. Relax your body after each draw.

Repeat this drill ten times before taking a break. The more you perform this Mirror Drill, the more you will improve your muscle memory. Before long, your bow will become an extension of your arm and your form will become natural.

Make sure to never fire an empty bow. This can damage the limbs. If you must draw an empty bow to practice always draw down rather than releasing the string.

Ready, Set, Aim! Drill

Like the above drill that is meant to improve your muscle memory, this drill is meant to improve your overall aiming ability. The difference here is that the Mirror Drill is for perfecting your form and making your draw as flawless and natural as possible, while this aiming drill is for improving your ability to hit the target on release. After all, what good is a perfect form if you can’t hit the mark?

Here, instead of a mirror, you need the actual target. You won’t be observing yourself, but rather measuring your aim. Stand in front of the target, about 20 feet away from the mark. Draw the bow and aim directly at the X in the center. Once you’ve centered your aim, hold your arm in place for as long as you can. Simply stand there and hold the drawn bow out in front of the X until your arms start wobbling. You won’t release the arrow after you wear your arms out as this could damage your bow. Instead you’ll relax your posture and bring the bow back down to the side of your body.

You want to perform this drill three times in a row, ensuring your aim was centered and your arms were tired each time. After you’ve mastered this exercise, move back another five feet and repeat the same movements. Continue moving back and making yourself comfortable at each range and you’ll increase the fluidity of your draw and aim in no time.

Shooting Blind Drill

hunter-compoundNow it’s time to combine the two above drills into a test of your mastery and another drill that is meant to perfect your muscle memory and help you understand how a shot should feel. Although this drill may seem dangerous, you should have full confidence in your bow abilities at this point. So much confidence that you can shoot with your eyes closed. I hope so because that’s what you’ll be doing.

You should have perfected your form in the Mirror Drill. You should have perfected your aim in the Ready, Set, Aim! Drill. Now it’s time to see how natural your bowmanship has become. You may not yet be Green Arrow, but you should be much closer than when you first began.

Stand a few yards away from a target, with your body relaxed, feet apart, and of course, with your eyes closed. Draw back your bow smoothly, without rushing or going too slow. Ensure a natural draw, and a natural release. Feel the process in your mind and feel the shot. When you open your eyes it really doesn’t matter how close to the target your arrow landed. The objective of this drill is to feel the shot.

You want to be able to shoot naturally, without fear or hesitation. Measuring your blind shot will only make you more apprehensive. Also, if you have a direct target, you will want to measure your shot and will find yourself forcing your eyes open to control the sight pin.

Make sure nobody is on the range or inside your arc of fire when you try this. Lawsuits and jail time can put a serious damper on your progress.

Ensure You Have the Right Bow

If you see an improvement in your shooting from trying these drills, practising in the mirror, holding your aim and blind firing then great. If not you may need to check you are using the best bow for you. Here’s are some great tables and reviews of the best recurve bows,

Put It All Together

You may have noticed a pattern in the above three drills. While I have found that these drills are wonderful for building, developing, and testing your skills, I also feel that with the right motivation, you can improve a great deal in a short period of time. Of course, as with anything, practice makes perfect. Continue the drills, in sequence, until you feel comfortable. Then you’ll be able to hit any target you may encounter, be that a FITA target or your prey.