Archery Aiming Techniques & Styles
When you first start archery, you’ll realize that there’s more than one way to do things. This includes holding the arrow, aiming, and utilizing accessories like sights.
In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the most common archery aiming techniques (including bow sight aiming method & instinctive aiming method) and styles, so you can pick the one that suits you the most. Let’s dive in!
Instinctive Archery Aiming Techniques
If we’re speaking traditional, then instinctive aiming will always get the lion’s share of praisers!
Instinctive aiming, also known as “point aiming”, is one of the purest forms of archery ever known.
How it Works
This method is all about shooting an arrow accurately and quickly without relying on the use of sights.
To put it in the simplest way possible, you shoot at what you want to hit while looking at the target in question. It goes without saying that this makes it one of the most difficult shooting techniques.
However, the adrenaline rush of hitting your target will always satisfy you, especially if you’re out hunting.
For these reasons, a lot of traditionalists view instinctive archery aiming techniques as the closest technique to traditional archery that our ancestors used.
Lon E. Lauber, the author of “ The Bowhunter’s Guide to Accurate Shooting” explained the essence of instinctive shooting as a man throwing a baseball.
Although it starts with a lot of trial and error in the beginning, you improve your hand-eye coordination with extensive repetition. This makes it second nature after mastering the technique in a few years.
In a similar fashion, instinctive shooting improves as you shoot the arrows more and more. This happens because your brain improves the general accuracy by developing a natural feel for your bow and enhances the coordination between your hands and eyes.
This also includes feeling more natural with the bow’s weight and how you’re holding it, allowing you to shoot accurately without using sights. Your accuracy improves exponentially with closer targets as well, making it an excellent skill for short-range bowhunters.
The main problem with instinctive shooting is that it takes a long time to learn. Moreover, no matter how great you can get, you might not be able to match using modern sights.
Yet, it’s an extremely rewarding experience that many traditionalists consider it the only true form of archery.
The gap method is another efficient method that allows you to shoot without installing a sight. In this method, you use the arrow point for reference and adjust your shots accordingly.
The reason for its nomenclature is that you refer to a visual gap seen between the arrow tip and the spot on the target where you want to hit. That’s why it requires a solid and consistent anchor.
The Point-On Distance
The “point-on distance” is a reference point where the arrow point is directly on the target and will hit upon release.
Once the archers find this point, they can start shifting to different distances for further referencing. This is done by finding how higher or lower the arrow needs to be to accurately hit the target.
These distances are found through practice, and from thereafter, it’s a matter of adjusting that gap distance.
Requirements for Gap Shooting
Gap shooting is an excellent method if you’re using it at known distances. However, to make the most out of gap shooting, you’ll need to memorize different gaps and different distances.
You also need to have an excellent sense of distance. However, even if you don’t have it, modern technology solved the problem using laser range finders.
If you master the distance estimation and angling memorization, the gap method can be remarkably accurate.
Gap Method also works as a primary step to learn instinctive aiming. If you want to learn instinctive aiming, the gap method is the best way to practice.
Gap Method and Bowhunting
Although it’s great for long-range archery, it might not be excellent for bow hunters. The reason behind that is that it needs a longer thought process than other methods, which you won’t be able to afford while targeting a live animal.
This method also uses the tip of the arrow as a sight for reference. However, in this method, instead of moving the tip of the at different gaps from the target, you’ll change your hand’s position on the string. That’s why it’s called “string walking”.
Similar to gap shooting, you start with a specific point at a distance, and practice it all the way. After that, you start trying different targets at various distances. You can mark the string for each specific distance or count the serving wraps.
Face walking holds the same concept as string walking, so it’s considered a sub-variety of string walking.
The only difference between the two is that here you change the anchor point instead of the location of your hand on the string.
In that case, instead of using different points on the string as a reference, you use various points on your face, which is where it got its name.
Ideally, most bowhunters shoot at a range of 15 to 25 years. Since they rarely shoot an arrow beyond that distance, you may be able to practice shooting at targets that are less than 25 yards using a fixed crawl method.
This method combines some of the previously mentioned techniques together to help bowhunters aim better without having to adjust their hit point or sight pins.
While you usually have your nocking point of the arrow, in the fixed crawl method, you’ll place another one below it.
To do that, you’ll set a distance of 25 to 30 yards between you and the target, and start finding the ideal location for your hand on the string where the arrow hits the target at that set distance.
Once you’ve found the sweet spot, you’ll mark it by placing a nocking point at that location. Following this, you can practice with the new point with ranges less than 25 to 30 yards.
By following the fixed crawl method, you’ll only need to look down the shaft and place that point where you want to hit. That’s why this method is gaining a lot of popularity among traditional bowhunters.
The method just gives you an easy and quick reference for shooting, eliminating the thought process while shooting for better targeting. If you only shoot within these ranges, the fixed crawl method will come in handy.
However, the main drawback of that method is that it has a limited range, usually 25 to 30 yards. So, it only works within these distances. If you prefer a longer range, consider the previous string walking method.
Modern archery introduced a lot of accessories and equipment that help archers to hone their skills in a significantly shorter amount of time. Using sights and sighting mechanisms for aiming is currently highly common among archers.
Using these sights helps archers to focus on improving their bow handling techniques while keeping their eyes in-line with the target. These sights are usually mounted over a bracket on the bow.
Using sights is common among target archers and bowhunters as well. However, hunters might find it difficult to use in areas with low light.
Using sights on bows is a simple technique that’s easy to grasp in little time. Additionally, various modern sights are designed to be compatible with different types of bows, so you can use the one that suits you.
Types of Sights
Each type of these bow sights has its own sets of advantages and drawbacks.
However, what might seem like a problem for one, can give others an edge. Let’s have a brief overview of each of these bow sights.
Fixed Pin Sights
Fixed pin sights are the most commonly used type of sights for all the right reasons. They’re enjoyed among beginners as well as experienced archers and bowhunters.
These fixed pins are easiest to use and set up. However, it might take a novice a bit of time before getting the hang of it. After that, everything stays smooth.
Fixed point sights include a simple yet highly effective design with a range of colored pins. This number can come in different variations with 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9 being the most commonly used.
- Easy to set up
- Available in a wide variety of variations
- Commonly used among beginners
- Multiple pins can obstruct your vision
Movable Pin Sights
As the name suggests, these sights allow you to move and adjust the pin to your liking for distance on any given target. The distance is marked on a seeker or a slider that you use to scale each shot.
Besides movability, it also differs from fixed pin sights by having a single pin as opposed to the large number in fixed-pin sights.
Since you’ll need to adjust the pin accordingly, it’s perfect for competitions where the targets are static. However, if you or the target are constantly on the move, using a movable pin sight isn’t a good idea.
- Less visual obstruction
- Ideal for hunting competitions
- Require manual scaling for distance
- Can be extremely difficult for moving targets
Pendulum sights are mainly designed with a pin mounted over a pendulum inside the sight bracket. This pin offers a new dimension, allowing you to hunt more accurately when aiming downwards.
This makes them excellent for bowhunters who mainly aim from tree stands. When you lower the bow angle, the pendulum moves out of the bracket, giving the hunter a chance for a more precise shot.
TRUGLO Pendulum Ultimate Treestand Bow Sight is one of the most popular examples on the market.
- Excellent for hunting from a treestand
- More precise shots aiming with a lower angle
- They need previous knowledge of archery angling and velocity concepts
Digital sights are the newest entry to the bow sights world. These sights use projection-like dots instead of the traditional pins, which allows for a clearer view of the target.
They’re also known as electronic sights, as they contain an electronic microchip that’s powered by a battery. This can be problematic for hunters who pack light. There aren’t many digital sight options in the market. The most popular one is Garmin’s Xero A1.
- Excellent view of the target
- Very high accuracy
- Easy to use
- Battery runs out
Arrow Holding Techniques
Besides archery aiming techniques and styles, there are also different arrow holding styles that you might need to consider while aiming with a bow.
Let’s have a quick look at each one of these techniques, so you can find your ideal fit.
Three Under Hold
The “three” in “three under” refers to your fingers that pull the string of the bow. In this holding method, you place the index, middle, and ring fingers under the nock of the arrow.
This method is ideal for close-range archery, such as bowhunting. That’s why three under is popular while using traditional archery aiming techniques that require no sights for far distances. Three under is also popular within barebow shooters for similar reasons.
The holding method also makes the arrow closer to the line of sight while allowing for a decent release from the bow. It can also work with fixed crawl aiming and string walking. Three under is popular among novice archers, as it’s extremely easy to learn.
The Split-finger method is the practice of placing the index finger above the arrow nock while keeping the middle and ring fingers below it.
Similar to the three under method, this one provides a good release. However, it’s a bit more difficult to learn.
This method places the nock of the arrow at a lower point, and therefore, allows for less obstruction field of view. This makes it a preferred technique among Olympic archers, as it works great when shooting targets at a further distance.
Unlike the three under, this method requires a bit more practice to master. The main problem is that beginners tend to grasp the nock of the arrow more tightly.
As you can see, there’s a lot of arching aiming techniques and styles that suit archers of different proficiency levels.
If you’re a beginner you might want to start with the basics and work your way up. However, you should know that no matter the technique you’ll use, it’ll take a lot of practice to master it.