How to Learn Archery – A Complete Guide

Our Expert Guide for Beginning Archers

Archery is unique from other sporting activities. Although it isn’t considered the most physically taxing sport, it is popular for being a social activity that all ages can enjoy. Archery is a relaxing hobby in its own right, but it is mainly considered a competition sport, which adds to its appeal. However, while it may look easy, how to learn archery requires an attention to detail that makes it stand out against other sports.

As it is an especially strategic activity, the terminology and equipment can seem overwhelming for many beginners. The feeling of satisfaction when your bow shoots a perfectly precise shot is one that will be addictive for you, but in order to get there, you have to master the basics first.

How to Learn Archery – A Complete Guide
Chapter 1

Types of Archery

Learning archery is not a quick task, but it is a rewarding one, and you will soon feel immersed in the world of this fantastic sport.

The artistry that archery entails makes it the rare kind of physical activity that requires not only physical agility but also mental strength as well.

By wanting to participate in the art of archery, you are beginning on what will be an exciting journey and soon feel part of the shooting community.

Types of Archery

This comprehensive guide is designed to help you reap all of the benefits that archery has to offer and hopefully lead you on your way to becoming a successful archer.In straight-forward terms, archery is defined as the activity of using a bow and arrow to shoot a target.

However, there are various divisions of archery which will require slightly different shooting methods, so it is a good idea to learn more about them before diving straight into practicing.

Here are three of the most popular types of archery that you’re likely to encounter:

Target Archery

Target archery is the classic idea of archery. It involves large round targets with colored rings and is most likely where you’ll start your archery journey as a beginner. The targets are set at certain distances on flat land, and you can practice this both indoors and outdoors. BTW, our favorite archery target is reviewed here.

Field Archery

A more challenging type of archery, field archery takes place outdoors, often in wooded areas or on rough terrain. Archers will be shooting uphill or downhill, with the targets ranging in size and distance.

Therefore, it requires more thought and focus than target archery. The added prospect of adverse weather also makes it more difficult than target archery that can be practiced indoors.

Flight Archery

Flight shooting focuses on the distance rather than the accuracy of the shot. Competitors are grouped according to the pulling weight of their bows, with different types of bows such as conventional bows and crossbows used. The aim of flight shooting is to shoot the arrow as far as possible, making it a particularly competitive type of archery.

Chapter 2

Bow and Arrow Basics

Before you get started, here are the basics you need to know about your equipment:

Bow and Arrow Basics


Generally, there are two main types of bow you will encounter, especially when you are starting out, and they are Recurve Bows and Compound Bows.

Recurve Bows

These bows are suitable for target shooting and hunting, with a simplistic design. The limbs of a recurve bow curve away from the archer once unstrung, meaning they deliver a great deal of energy and speed to the arrow. This is also how recurve crossbows are designed. There are different varieties of recurve bow, some are solid pieces, whilst others have detachable limbs and can be taken down for storage, these are called takedown recurve bows.

Compound Bows

A more modern style of bow, the compound bow is designed to give precise accuracy. It uses a levering system to bend the limbs, meaning the limbs are stiffer than those of recurve bows. It can, therefore, store more energy than other bows, as there is less energy expended from limb movement.

Learn Archery Terminology

The Handle: Also known as the ‘riser,’ this is the part of the bow that you hold when you shoot. It also has an arrow rest, where you will place the arrows before you draw them.

The Limbs: Attached to the riser, the limbs form the bow itself, and the top limb is attached to the bottom limb by the bowstring.

The Bow String: This connects the top and bottom limb, and, once pulled, creates the tension that moves the arrow forward.

The Nock Point: This is part of the bowstring, and it is where you place the end of your arrow.

The Bow Sight: This allows you to aim at your target. Usually, bows are already equipped with sights attached to the riser, but you can upgrade them if you choose to.


The more you practice, the sooner you will understand all the parts of the arrow, and the sooner these terms will become familiar to you.

The Arrowhead: This is the tip of the arrow – the pointy end that digs into the target. There are various types of arrowheads, so make sure to consider the weight and shape of them, as it can affect your performance.

Fletching: These are the vanes on an arrow, and will either be made of feathers or plastic. As a general rule, one of the vanes will be a different color than the other two, and is known as the ‘index vane.’

The Shaft: This is what’s known as the length of the arrow, which is the part between the arrowhead and the fletching. The shaft should be compatible with the bow you are using and the type of archery you want to practice.

The Nock: This is the back end of the arrow that sits on the bowstring.

Hopefully, those key terms have given you the clarity to move forward and start shooting!

Chapter 3

Shooting Your Shot

Now that you understand the basics of the bow and arrow, it’s time to practice your shooting.

Don’t feel like you need to rush and be a professional archer straight away – perfecting this will take a lot of practice, but it isn’t as difficult as it may seem.

Shooting Your Shot

1) Perfect your stance. Before you can even think about the bow and arrow itself, you have to make sure you are positioned correctly. The best stance for beginners is known as a ‘Square Stance.’

  • To do this, stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart, and ensure that your feet are parallel to the shooting line.
  • Bend your knees slightly, face your hips forward, and make sure you aren’t arching your lower back.
  • It’s important to make sure your torso is facing straight forward, and stand up as straight as you can, without leaning too much towards or away from your target.
    Your shoulders need to be relaxed.
  • Now, if you are left-handed, keep your torso forward and turn your head to the right so that your target is in view. If you are right-handed, turn your head to the left.

2) Nock your arrow. Putting the arrow on the string is known as ‘nocking the arrow.’ You attach a nock locator (sometimes known as a ‘string nock’) to the bowstring, so you can then set the nocking point on your bow.

  • Once this nocking point is set, it will allow you to attach your arrows to the string at the same place, every time you go to shoot an arrow.
  • On the arrow, there are three groupings of feathers or plastic, and one of them will be a different color to the rest. That’s the index feather.
  • Your bow must be pointing towards the ground, and your bow limbs must be vertical. Place your arrow on the arrow rest, and then click the nock at the end of the arrow so that it goes into the bowstring. If it doesn’t click, it should at least feel secure in place.

3) Holding the bowstring. Most archers will use what’s known as the ‘three-finger draw.’ This approach typically gives you more control over the bowstring, so it is a useful approach for beginners.

  • Put the first bend of your fingers on the bowstring.
  • Place your index finger above the arrow, and your middle and ring finger below the arrow.
  • Relax your thumb so it is facing downwards.

4) Gripping the bow correctly and arm position. Holding the bow too tightly is a common error that many beginners make.

  • It is best to grip gently, with your fingers placed lightly on the front of the bow to steady it. Holding on too tightly can not only hurt your hands and finger muscles but also be dangerous, as you will have less control over the arrow and bowstring.
  • Then, make sure your shoulders are relaxed and bring up your bow gentle to be in line with your target. Keep your other hand placed on the bowstring.

5) Time to draw your bow. Pulling the string back (known as ‘drawing’) is where you really need to maintain your focus.

  • Keep your head as straight as possible as you draw the string towards your face. Don’t look at your target or lean your head forward or back.
  • Keep those shoulders relaxed.
  • The best way to draw is to utilize your back, by squeezing your shoulder blades gently together as you come closer to a full draw.
  • Maintain a flat wrist, keeping a straight line from your wrist to your forearm, to your elbow once you’re at full draw.
  • Make sure the bowstring is in line with the center of the bow.
  • At full draw, have your chest facing perpendicular to the target. Your index finger should be by the corner of your mouth (known as the ‘anchor point). Your elbow should also be directly behind the arrow, and not pointing towards the air.
  • Your draw should flow in one smooth motion from the at-rest position.

Even the most experienced archers still have to practice this a lot, so don’t feel too overwhelmed by all of the steps involved. It can be a complicated process, but perfecting it as best as you can will make your shots will be far more satisfying.

6) The Anchor Point. One of the scariest parts of shooting can be finding the anchor point and having the bowstring so close to your face. Don’t fret, however – this is the correct form and an important step. The anchor point is different depending on the type of bow you are using.

  • When using a recurve bow, the anchor point should be your index finger on your draw hand touching the corner of your mouth.
  • Once you gain more experience, you can try an ‘under-the jaw’ anchor, which is a point used by competitive archers to give themselves more points of reference.
  • For a compound bow, the anchor point is typically at the tip of your nose, the corner of your mouth, and the side of your chin altogether.

7) Time to aim! While this step seems like the most important, it will only work well if you have followed the above steps correctly, so don’t rush the preparation.

  • If you choose to use a bow sight, use your dominant eye to find the target and focus on it.
  • Then, position the bow so when you look through the bow sight, the pin lines up with the target in your sightline.
  • If you choose to aim instinctively (without using a bow sight), the best way to learn is through using specific techniques to increase your muscle memory. This type of aiming is less common in competitive archery, as it requires an intense level of concentration throughout the whole competition.

8) Releasing the arrow. To release, simply relax your three fingers at the same time and allow the string to move forward on its own. All you have to do is let go. Your hand will then fall back slightly, with your chest expanding and your back muscles contracting. Allow your hand to brush past your face gently while you are still at a beginner level.

9) Reflection. Be sure to ask yourself questions following your release, such as how your stance was and whether you grasp the bowstring in the right way. This is the best way to make sure you improve on your next shot.

It is also important to note that you should breathe steadily throughout, which will help the flow of your shot and also keep you calm. Although it seems like a lengthy and detailed process if you can get in enough regular practice, these steps will soon feel like second nature, and you’ll be a pro in no time!

Chapter 4

Archery Classes

A smart way to make sure you are using the correct form and technique is to learn at an archery class at a local archery range.

Unlike soccer or running, for example, archery is not a sport that is always easy to take part in from home, so a class can be really beneficial to get a good amount of practice and to learn from other archers.

Archery Classes

Make sure the class has a qualified instructor, as they will help you to perfect your form. You may also find that gaining in-person advice and critique is more useful to you than your own self-reflection.

As a beginner, you may find that archery classes that provide bow and arrows are a more cost-effective option, or if you are interested in archery but not sure whether to commit to purchasing equipment just yet, this could be helpful for you.

Chapter 5

Safety First

Archery can be a dangerous activity if the proper safety precautions aren’t taken.

I would advise using arm guards and shooting gloves, especially as a beginner.

Armguards are built to protect you from the snap of the string, which can be very painful, whereas shooting gloves can prevent any nasty finger strain from pulling the bow string back.

Safety First

Don’t feel embarrassed to prioritize your safety. Even experienced archers use protective gear, and once you do feel more comfortable, you can gauge how much protection you need based on your skill level.

Strings are prone to snagging, so it may be useful to invest in a chest guard as an extra measure. The chest guard is placed on the shoulder of the arm holding the bow, flattening your clothing so there’s no unexpected snags.

Make sure you wear highly visible, bright clothing when you are in the proximity of other shooters. This is also applicable if you are in a wooded area. This minimizes accidents as you won’t be mistaken for a target!


Archery is a hobby that can be both relaxing and exciting, and whichever way you approach it, the key to improving is to practice often. Hopefully, this guide has taught you how to learn archery and maybe find like-minded people to practice with as well.

While starting out can seem daunting, archery will seem a lot simpler once you get practicing. With the help of this guide, you should now feel more confident to go out and start your archery journey. If you aim (see what I did there) to use this advice and get in as much bow practice as possible, you’ll soon be able to develop your skills and progress as an archer.

If you have any reviews, questions or more advice you would like to share, please don’t hesitate to comment below. We always welcome further suggestions and ideas for the best archery topics.

And if traditional bows aren’t your type of thing, then maybe our product roundups on crossbows might interest you such as the best tactical crossbow or the best youth crossbow.  Or a great place for beginners learning archery is our Best Archery Books review!

Happy shooting!

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