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Correcting Errors in Archery Release

Having an archery coach or instructor can be extremely beneficial when it comes to improving the quality of your shots. An archery instructor can tell you what you are doing wrong and give you valuable tips on how to improve and practice.

Assuming that there is no problems with your form or your equipment, the most common causes of faulty shots is a poor release of the arrow.

And sadly there is many possible ways a new archer can muck up their shot by making any number of the following mistakes.

#1. Gripping the bow with your bow hand too tightly.

Gripping the bow too tightly will cause a tiny jerk up, down, left or right (or combinations thereof) which during the tiny fraction of the second where the arrow is passing by the bow itself will cause the arrow to jerk in a different direction.

To fix this you need to hold the bow gently, relaxing your bow hand. You are still holding the bow there, but you aren't gripping it really hard. That can make a huge difference on the quality of your shots.

#2. Gripping the bow off-centre.

If your grip on the bow is more to the left or to the right it can cause torque in the bow on release which will bump the arrow to the left or right. You can even grip the bow too high or too low.

To fix this again, it is very important to relax your bow hand and hold the bow in a central position.

#3. Grip too relaxed causing arrows to go too high.

Yes, I admit, the previous two were about relaxing your bow hand and gripping it gently. But relaxing it too much can cause your arrows to jerk upwards. So you need to practice holding the bow firmly, but still in a relaxed fashion. Remember the old story of Goldilocks. You need to find the grip which is "just right".

#4. Extending your bow arm more than usual.

Extending your bow arm more than your usual amount (using your shoulder joint to push it further out) can cause extra torque, and in turn cause your arrows to shoot higher than normal. This is a problem that will correct itself with time and experience, but if you notice you tend to do this then you can remind yourself to hold your bow arm in the same position every time you shoot and to not extend it further using your shoulder joint.

#5. Bow Arm is Locked or Bent.

A bent bow arm can cause your arrows to go lower than usual. At the same time a locked elbow (rotating it counter-clockwise on a Right Handed Shooter of rotating the elbow clockwise on a Left Handed Shooter) can cause your whole bow arm to jerk during the release.

To fix either of these problems you need to hold your bow arm straight, but without locking the elbow.

#6. Bow string is rubbing against jacket or arm during the release.

The bow string rubbing against anything, such as your jacket, your arm, your hat, anything can send the arrow slightly awry. To correct this remove any obstacles that might rub against the bow string. Take off your jacket, remove your hat while shooting.

The bow string might even be rubbing against your out-turned (and probably locked) elbow, which can cause extremely painful stringburn. To fix this, rotate your elbow outwards.

#7. Bow shoulder problems...

There are variety of shoulder problems related to your bow arm. I have already talked about over-extending the shoulder and bow arm above, but there are other common problems people do too. Bunching up the shoulder too much, hunching your shoulders, these are usually problems resulting from a person who has a weak shoulders and is trying to use a bow which is too powerful for them.

Solution? You can try relaxing your shoulders but if that fails you will need to switch to a lower poundage bow. You are challenging yourself too much and your shoulder muscles aren't up for the intense challenge. (Someone needs to do more push-ups.)

Once you have a lighter bow remember that you don't need to bunch or hunch up your shoulders. Just relax your shoulders and aim for what feels natural.

#8. Shoulder angling to the side.

Another shoulder problem is if your shoulder is bunching slightly forwards towards your chest or backwards towards your back. This subtle difference can cause your shots to sometimes jerk to the left or right.

Again, try to relax your shoulders.

#9. Fingers not aligned.

Assuming you are using finger gloves for your release, make sure they are aligned evenly before pulling back on the bowstring. This will make for a smoother release. Beginner archers will sometimes have difficulty doing this as their finger muscles need to build up more strength, but with time they will correct the problem if the archer pays attention to their finger alignment.

#10. Plucking the bow string during the release.

An improper release such as accidentally plucking the bow string (it will sometimes even making a funny sound if you do this) will cause the arrow to go way off to the side.

Focus on releasing your fingers quickly and evenly.

#11. String alignment is off to the left or right.

This is more of an equipment error, but one that can be easily fixed. Make it a routine to check the alignment of your string so that is straight up and down. Older bows may also be warped, causing the alignment to be completely off.

#12. Tilting the bow to one side.

Some people enjoy shooting their bow on a slight angle. This is often more of a personal choice than anything else. However it will frequently cause your arrows to go off more to one side because the arrow is rubbing against your arrow rest on a different angle.

Tilting the bow can also mess up your arm and shoulder alignment, causing the bow to jerk more during the release.

Fixing this problem can be done one of two ways... Either stop tilting the bow like that or learn to shoot that way by building up lots of experience and adjusting your aim accordingly.

#13. Shooting too quickly.

Some people will sometimes pull back the arrow, but then release too quickly before reaching their anchor point (the point on your face or chin that you pull back to every time). This problem is sometimes called "Snap Shooting".

Simply remember to pull back to your anchor point, breathe into your gut, aim and then release.

#14. Breathing irregularity.

More advanced archers learn to control their breathing better. Breathing too rapidly can cause your shoulders to rise and fall too much, knocking everything off. Practice breathing into your stomach so your shoulders don't move so much and during shots, take a deep breath into your gut and then aim and shoot.

#15. Head position irregularity.

Tilting your head forward or to the side will change the amount of torque you are pulling back with (and effectively change your anchor point). Keep your head straight up and down and try to keep it in the same position every time you shoot.

#16. Leaning body backwards, forwards or to the side.

Some beginner archers have a tendency to arch or lean in funny directions while shooting. (See photo of Marilyn Monroe and look at the angle of her back.)

Keep your spine straight up and down and stand in the same position every time. Changing positions constantly by standing at different angles will cause slight differences in how much torque the arrow has and will cause it to go higher or lower than expected.

#17. No follow through.

Once you've released the arrow stay perfectly still and relaxed while the arrows passes by the bow. Releasing the arrow and then jerking your body or arm slightly during the milliseconds that your arrow is going by the bow can cause the arrow to go in any number of directions.

During each shot give yourself at least half a second after the shot where your remain still and relaxed. Use the time to follow where the arrow went and contemplate what other things you might have done wrong.

#18. Gold Shy or Freezing

Gold Shy or Freezing are mental problems that archers sometimes develop, wherein they aren't really aiming or concentrating on the center of the target face (the yellow circle of the target), and then they botch their release somehow.

Similar problems are Snap Shooting or Punching wherein the archers aims, but then releases too quickly.

And then there are combination problems wherein they are doing multiple things wrong mentally, which is known as Target Panic.

Left untreated these problems can cause the archer to lose focus and their aim and form will degenerate until they over-thinking every shot, constantly panicking, releasing too quickly, intensely nervous and basically having a panic attack.

Some archers even quit the sport entirely because their mental game becomes so difficult to control.

One of the recommended solutions for this problem is to meditate and focus your attention on a single object in the distance. Just stare at it for long periods of time. If a person spends 10 minutes every day staring at something they will, with time, feel calmer and more relaxed when focusing at the target.

However that solution might only work for some people.

Some people might have a different mental problem which is more connected to loud noises or distracting conversation. In which case the recommended way to prepare yourself for this is to listen to music or stand up comedy routines while practicing your archery. The goal is to get used to and to tune out the sounds around you while you are shooting.

Many mental problems for archers can be solved through experience and practice, but when that fails meditation and mental exercises need to be devised which can help the archer correct the problem they are facing.

Ideally what you want is to reach a point where your form, your mind, your aim is all being controlled by your subconscious and you are more in a zen frame of a mind while shooting. Being distracted, over-thinking, impatient, frustrated - these are all things that will result in shoddy shots.


There are many other ways people can mess up their shot, such as squeezing the arrow nock, twisting your body during the release, flinching, releasing the bow string too slowly, uneven finger pressure, jerking your head, wrist on a weird angle...

But all of these problems can be corrected with lots of practice shooting. Although its much faster to fix these problems with an archery instructor who can point out the errors you are making.

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