6 Most Common Beginner Archery Mistakes
February 8, 2024 by Leigh Hauck
As a beginner, archery can be an extremely intimidating and sometimes overwhelming hobby. With such a massive amount of information available on the internet for beginner archers, it can be hard to decipher the good information from the bad.
It is even easier to develop bad habits that you aren’t even aware of. I am going to break down the six most common mistakes that I see beginner archers make (and often experienced archers too), to help you nip a bad habit in the bud and have a better footing as you develop the rewarding and exciting lifestyle that is archery!
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Thinking that money buys success
We see it all the time – you will hit the ball 50 yards further on every drive if you buy this club. You will run faster if you buy these shoes You’ll catch more fish if you buy this lure. The list goes on, and the world of archery is no different.
As with any sport, hobby, or activity, 95% or more of your success will come from you not your gear. Of course, a Ferrari will be a smoother and faster ride than a Honda Civic, but if you don’t have a driver’s license then neither will do you any good.
Archers of all levels too often fall into the trap of thinking that money buys better accuracy, when the truth is that time is the oh-so valuable resource which must be spent in excess to achieve greatness in archery.
If your form isn’t rock solid, if you don’t have a consistent practice regimen, or if the gear that you are using isn’t setup and tuned to its highest potential, then you shouldn’t be worrying about buying the latest and greatest archery product to increase your accuracy. A $5,000 bow in the hands of a beginner will do no good, while a $250 bow in the hands of an expert is a legitimately lethal weapon.
Spend as much time as you can developing your mind and body as an archer with whatever equipment is available to you before making a huge investment. Time spent on the range, on YouTube, reading blogs and forums, and creating your own opinions about products and techniques will be a much greater investment for you than emptying your wallet on the latest and greatest new archery product.
As you develop as an archer, you’ll have better judgement over what products will help you and are worth spending money on and you’ll be sure to save money and have greatest success as an archer as a result.
Blaming problems on equipment
While this blog is focused on beginner mistakes, this is a mistake that I see archers of all levels make constantly, and ties right into the first mistake that we discussed.
It is so easy to blame a bad day on the range, or a bad shot at an animal on a lapse in your equipment.
“My sight must have got bumped”
“my arrow rest must be off”
“this bow is junk”
While there are certainly cases where your equipment is to blame, the vast majority of mistakes come down to something you did or didn’t do properly.
I am not suggesting that every problem you have or every bad shot you make is entirely your fault either. The key here is to take a step back and assess your problems from an outside perspective. Here is an example which happened to me recently.
I was hunting elk in Northern Alberta this past fall and was presented with an exactly 60 yard shot on a beautiful cow on the last day of my hunt. She was perfectly broadside, and I felt more than comfortable with that shot distance on such a calm day while she was completely unaware of my presence. I settled in to my anchors and made the best shot I could, and my arrow went right under her. The left/right was perfect, but my arrow must have been close to a foot low. Clean miss – thankfully.
My first instinct of course is to suggest that my sight got bumped in the morning’s trek through the woods, but I said nothing and made my way back to camp. I went out back and took a single 60 yard shot with that same arrow I had sent at that elk – it was bang on. Despite having practiced that shot thousands of times in the past, I simply missed. I made a bad shot and had nothing to blame but myself.
The first step in this experience was to verify whether it was my equipment that was to blame or not.
If my sight had gotten bumped, I would need to know and would need to fix it before going back out to hunt, but finding out that it was me and not my gear was a humbling moment which only drove me towards greater preparation and time spent honing my skills as an archer!
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Inconsistency in practice
This mistake is an easy one to make, and not by your own fault. Many archers and bowhunters don’t have easy access to a practice facility. Outdoor ranges are often long drives from home, and indoor ranges get expensive to shoot at.
It is way too easy to only go shooting once or twice a month and have a long – perhaps multi hour – shooting session. While this is an important thing to do occasionally, practicing less but more often has a lot of merit, and everyone can do it.
It is far better to shoot 6 arrows every day than to shoot 200 arrows once a month, and you can do it at home! All it takes is a target in your garage or basement, you only need 4 or 5 yards of distance to practice shooting. This is a vital distinction to make.
When you are shooting at distance all the time, your focus points towards one thing: aiming very precisely. Nobody needs to teach you how to aim though, aiming is simply pointing – we know how to do that instinctively.
Shooting is much different. Shooting is everything in your shot that isn’t aiming; your foot position, your draw, your anchor points, ensuring your shoulder and hand positions are correct, not punching the trigger on a smooth release, and having a fail-safe follow through are all things which need to be honed.
When you only practice at range, you tend to let these things slip as your mind is hyper-focused on steadying your pin on the target.
If you start taking even just 6 shots every day or so at close range, where you are focusing on everything that isn’t aiming, you will see your down range accuracy skyrocket in no time.
As long as you are hitting the target block at 5 yards, you shouldn’t focus on aiming at all in these shooting sessions. It has become a morning routine for myself most days over a cup of coffee, and I believe it makes a huge difference in my accuracy when the time comes that I do go have a long day at the range!
Not stopping on a high
We all know the feeling: you have a long shooting session, and your accuracy starts to diminish. You are getting tired, your form is starting to break down and you are getting frustrated that your shooting isn’t as good as you know it can be. It is very important as an archer to not get to this point in your shooting sessions.
There are many times where I will drive out to the range, take 8 or 10 shots and call it a day. If I am making perfect shots with ease, there is little need to continue shooting, as it does wonders for the mental side of your archery game to stop on such a high and confident note.
Of course, sometimes I get in a serious groove and try to push myself. I will have 300-400 shot shooting sessions sometimes, but if I start to feel my form and accuracy breaking down because of so much shooting, I go to 20 yards, make a perfect shot, and call it a day.
The mental side of archery is so often ignored, and ending on a perfect arrow is a perfect way to build confidence in the skills that you know you have as an archer, you don’t need to keep proving it to yourself!
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Not training both sides
This is a mistake that I had been unknowingly making for over a decade, until it started to really impact me in recent months. I have been shooting a bow since I was 12 years old, by 15 I was shooting a 70lb bow.
I grew up as an archer, and my body developed with a bow in hand. Recently I started having some serious back pain. After seeing multiple doctors, it took a chiropractor to ask what I do for a living for the lightbulb to go off.
Upon telling him that archery is my living and career, he immediately got me to do some strength testing exercises which would compare my left and ride sides. As it turns out, the left side of my body is significantly stronger than the right due to archery.
He described it as though my left side is so much stronger than my right, that the muscles and joints on my left will sometimes try to take over tasks that my right side should be handling.
Over many years of shooting, this created a huge imbalance in my body structure and the constant searing back pain I was having was the result.
I started training as a left-handed archer using what is called a bow trainer. Basically, it is a 3-foot-long rod with various stretch bands attached to the top and bottom, simulating the drawing of a bow.
Starting with the lowest resistance, I was shocked at how difficult it was to draw and hold on my non-dominant side. On the dominant side, I could draw and hold that low tension band all day, but it only took 8 or 10 draw cycles to feel fatigue in my opposing side.
I was also shocked at how sore I was when I woke up the next morning after this first strength session.
Sure enough, it has been working and as my non-dominant side gets stronger, my back feels better by the day. This is not a mistake to take lightly! I don’t care how much weightlifting you do, or how intense your workout routine is.
There is only one thing that strengthens the core archery muscles needed to shoot a bow, and this is drawing (or simulating drawing) a bow.
Starting bowhunting too early
Lastly, it is important not to rush into bowhunting as an early archer. Hunting is very difficult, and there is so much to learn that will be crucial to successful harvests. Shot placement, learning wind, animal behavior, tracking, and incredible stealth are just some of the topics which you’ll need to master.
It is far better to develop these skills with a rifle while you develop your skills as an archer at home. Rifle hunting is easier in that you don’t need to get as close; it is easier to make a perfect shot, and there is so much less that can go wrong.
There are of course many successful bowhunters who had never rifle hunted before bowhunting, and never had an issue. They took the hard way and succeeded. But there are many more bowhunters who started with bowhunting who had a terribly difficult time finding their way because they jumped into the deep end too early.
While you develop the skills of a hunter through rifle hunting, and the skills of an archer through dedicated practice, you will quickly see where the bows place in hunting is and having a much smoother entry into bowhunting. You can think of it like trying to ride a unicycle before learning to ride a bike. There are many fundamentals which should be learned on a two wheeled bike before you make the job more difficult.
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If you have any questions or would like to discuss the topic further, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are always more than happy to talk arrows and broadheads with fellow bowhunters!
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