How to Draw Your Bow: The Basics of Archery

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There are several steps to shooting a bow and arrow, including drawing the bow. The draw is the part when you have inserted the arrow in the nock and you are going to pull the bowstring back in preparation for release. Believe it or not, there’s a method to doing this properly to pull off the perfect shot.

So, how do you draw a bow, and what steps should you take to make sure that you get the shot right every time? More importantly, how do you avoid bad draws or the serious risk of a dry fire? Read on to learn everything that you need to know.

Drawing a Bow: Compound vs. Recurve (Traditional)

The first thing that you need to know is that while the movements are similar, the process of drawing a compound bow is a bit different than a traditional recurve bow.

For starters, instead of stationary strings, the compound bow has cams on each end that allow the bowstring to be drawn easier and pull more force at the same time. Not only that, but how you hold the bowstring, and the shot follow-through will be slightly different, as well.

Therefore, you’ll want to practice on a recurve first, but if you plan to use a compound bow, don’t forget to practice there, too. The best thing that you can do is practice and then practice some more. Get a feel for the grip and get a good handle on drawing and then just keep doing it until you’re satisfied with your ability.

How to Draw a Bow: Step-by-Step

Now, let’s get down to the process itself. It’s fairly simple and starts with preparing yourself and assuming the appropriate stance. This is a stance that requires you to be facing your target with your shoulders squared and your feet about shoulder-width apart. You can square your feet or point them both in the same direction, depending on which is more comfortable. Then:

  • Step One: Hook the Bowstring
    This is where you will put your fingers around the bowstring, on the top and bottom of the nock that is holding the arrow. You can choose a shallow hook that allows you to use your first knuckles, or you can try the deeper hook that means grabbing your bowstring clear down by where your fingers meet your hands. This, however, requires a more skillful release to move the fingers out of the way.
  • Step Two: Draw
    This is where you will actually use your grip to pull the bowstring back. You’ll want to use your back and shoulder muscles to get the right strength on the draw. You can choose from a linear draw or angular draw, or any number of personalized styles. However, the linear draw pulls straight back. The angular draw allows the bow to move away from the body at an angle. Sometimes, you have to try different draws to see which feels better and gives you a more targeted shot.
  • Step Three: Expand/Execute
    Now, you will have to get through the clicker. You can either push, pull, or do a little of both. Pushing takes more body awareness but pulling makes it a lot of strain on your arms and elbows. The best option is sometimes to combine the two, known as expanding through the clicker. It can take some time to get all the movements right here, but make sure that you are learning in a way that is effective for your needs. When you execute effectively, you will be able to keep your back engaged while the arrow is leaving the bow, keeping your bow arm in the right position to guide the arrow toward the center of the target. It can take a lot of time and practice to get this down, but it’s worth it for the best shots.
  • Step Four: Follow Through
    Once the arrow has left the bow, you’re not done. You will need to hold the pose, which looks a lot like a “T”, to ensure the arrow moves efficiently to the target. You can’t just stop after the release and be done. The arrow will go wild and take off in various directions, or at the very best, hit the target nowhere near the center.
  • Step Five: Repeat
    You’re not done when that shot is complete. That’s just your first draw. You still have to practice a lot more—so start at the beginning and do it again. Set up practice sessions and consider using your bow to practice drawing without shooting—just be careful not to dry fire your bow because that could cause total destruction and serious injury!

It’s All Connected

This guide is focused primarily on the draw in your shot, but you can’t get through the sequence without moving on to other parts of the shot. After all, what are you to do once you’ve drawn and the bow is ready to release the arrow? You can’t just stop—you have to follow through and finish the shot. That’s why the step-by-step list above is about the draw, but also the rest of the shot surrounding it.

Get Out and Practice

The best thing that you can do now is perfect your stance, perfect your draw, and become the best shot that you can. That just takes a lot (and we mean a lot) of practice. Head to the range and have some fun anytime the mood strikes, and you’ll be on your way to the perfect draw in no time. Feel free to take the time and experiment with different hooks and draws, as well as different stances and follow-through poses to see what gives you the most confidence and the best shots. You might find that you get better results from watching videos of others, too, so add that to your list while you’re practicing your own skills.

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