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The #1 Mistake made by Amateur Archers: Not Anchoring Properly

Want to know what the number one mistake beginner archers do?

The answer is: Not anchoring properly.

Eight Archers, One Anchor Spot
So lets talk about this so people get a better understanding about what anchoring is and where they should be anchoring. First lets have a little mini glossary so people have a better idea of what we are talking about.

Anchor Point - The point on your face (usually on your face) that you are pulling back to when preparing to shoot. It is usually a very specific spot and you want to be using the same spot - the exact same spot - every time you shoot.

Cheeking - Pulling to an anchor point on your cheek, further to the side. Using this anchor point has a disadvantage in that you cannot see straight down the length of the arrow and when shot the arrow will end up going further to the side (to the left on a right eye shooter or to the right on a left eye shooter). [See Dominant Eye for Archery.] Cheeking effectively puts the arrow on an angle going more to the left or the right and when shot the arrow will fly more in that direction.

Note - Cheeking does give the arrow more power + speed, but it comes with a loss of accuracy.

Clicker - A gadget used on Olympic recurves that tell the archer when they have achieved full draw. This device is only used in combination with South Anchor (see South Anchor further below).  The archer pulls back to South Anchor as they prepare to shoot / aim and wait for the Clicker to slide off the tip of the arrow and make a click sound, at which point they release immediately after the sound of the click.

Facewalking - This refers to a person who is anchoring inconsistently on their face, meaning they are using a different anchor point each time they shoot. Facewalking will typically cause an archer's arrows to make tall lines going up and down. (This is similar to Stringwalking, which is inconsistent placement of the arrow nock on the bowstring.)

Fishhooking - Fishhooking is when an archer is pulling to North Anchor (see North Anchor below) and is pulling the corner of their mouth further back in the direction of their cheek. The end result is the same as Cheeking (see Cheeking further above).

William Shatner using North Anchor on a Traditional Recurve
North Anchor - An anchor point located on or near the corner of your mouth, often either directly on the mouth, just above, or just below the mouth. This anchor point is sometimes also called a High Anchor or the Traditional Anchor Point. Anyone using a traditional bow, such as a recurve, longbow or shortbow that doesn't have a Clicker (see Clicker above) should be using North Anchor as their Anchor Point. The reason why traditional archers use their mouth as an anchor point is because it is easier to remember as a landmark on their face, resulting in more consistency. If they are pulling near their eye, on their cheek, on their chin, etc, then there is less consistency because they cannot remember the same spot on their face as easily.

Arnold using South Anchor on an Olympic Recurve
South Anchor - An anchor point underneath the chin and alongside the jawbone. Also known as Low Anchor or the Olympic Anchor Point. This anchor point should only used in combination with a Clicker (see Clicker further above), because South Anchor is not a fixed anchor point (it doesn't stay the same every time you shoot). Instead South Anchor relies on the Clicker to tell the archer when full draw has been achieved and when they will achieve the most accuracy when they release. (South Anchor also uses a tab release with a shelf on it, designed specifically for being pulled along the underside of the jawline in the hopes of attaining more consistency.)

Okay, so now that those are out of the way you will probably have an idea that Cheeking, Facewalking and Fishhooking are things you want to avoid doing. If you're either a beginner or a traditionalist then you should be pulling to North Anchor. If you are getting into Olympic archery and you have a Clicker installed on your bow, then absolutely, you should be using South Anchor.

Katniss using South Anchor, she should be using North.
Thus a very common mistake is for people to use South Anchor, but with no Clicker. The result is inconsistent draw distances because they are just guessing as to where to be pulling to on their chin/jawline. It also causes inconsistency left-right because they are pulling the same distance on the side of their jawline.

You can see this failure in films like The Hunger Games in which Katniss pulls to South Anchor when using a longbow and again later with a recurve that has no clicker on it. Having this in a film then perpetuates false information that this is a good place to be anchoring with a traditional bow - which it is not. Katniss should be using North Anchor, but the filmmakers don't know any better.

Not Anchoring At All
On the right you will see a woman who isn't anchoring at all. She is just pulling back the bowstring off the side of her face. She cannot see down the length of the arrow and is really just guessing as to where it might go.

Another way of not anchoring is to be pulling back the bow, but not pulling it back all the way to your face. This is essentially a partial draw, but it is also a failure to anchor properly. You can see this as demonstrated by Marilyn Monroe in the photo below.

Marilyn Monroe Partial Draw
Another common mistake I have seen beginners do is trying to anchor near their eyeball, either right in front of their eye, right below their eye, or to the left or right of their eyeball. I even once saw a beginner trying to anchor on his forehead. Pulling to the side of the eyeball near the temple produces results similar to Cheeking (as explained further above), whereas pulling straight to the eye, under the eye, or even to the forehead will result in a person having to aim above the target in order to hit the target, and will also result in inconsistency because they cannot remember where they are pulling to precisely (or where they are aiming, because they are aiming above the target and cannot see the target itself because the arrow is in the way).

I don't like using the word "newb" because I find it is impolite and used to discriminate against people who are beginners, but I must admit it is a word I often think of when I see people pulling close to their eyeball. Calling them "Green Archers" would be more polite and a hat tip to the 1940s serial short films produced by Columbia Pictures, "The Green Archer". (Green Arrow, the DC Comics hero is loosely based off The Green Archer serial.)

So in conclusion, always anchor - and always use an anchor spot where you can get a lot more accuracy. To learn more about this topic read Instinctive Archery Vs. Anchor Points.

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