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The Do-It-Yourself Approach to Archery Lessons

The following article was originally published in a different source, which no longer exists, and I have decided to republish it here on I have updated the article for 2019 so this is effectively Version 2.0.

April 2019


My name is Charles and I am a personal trainer/archery instructor in Toronto. I also teach boxing, swimming and ice skating. Depends on the season really. But my favourite thing to teach is definitely archery. I even teach archery in the winter whenever students are willing to brave the cold.

Thanks to all the movies and media fuss in 2012 it was my archery lessons that garnered the most attention between 2012 and 2016. There has been a slow down since then however, so to anyone thinking of getting into the industry I have to warn you that the fad is over. Mostly. The sport is still, from my perspective, at least 10 times more popular than it was back in 2011 or earlier.

Getting archery lessons is a bit of a challenge as there are not a lot of places or people in Toronto that offer private archery lessons. There are archery clubs like Hart House at the University of Toronto, the York University Archery Club, the Ryerson Archery Club and even various high schools with archery clubs, but you typically have to be a student or alumni to join such clubs. So for adults and kids who want private lessons and don’t want to spend a bundle there isn’t a lot of options. Especially for kids, since many places don’t teach kids.

Now you could hire me – that is a given. But I am pretty pricey as I charge personal trainer/sports trainer rates. Not everyone can afford to get archery lessons from me. So instead what I am going to do here is talk about the Do-It-Yourself Approach to Learning Archery.

There are also definite pros and cons to the DIY approach which I will explain.

 #1. Equipment Shopping List

Knowing what equipment to buy is the biggest stumbling block for a beginner. A beginner who doesn't know any better might buy a bow and then forget to buy an arrowrest.

For traditional archery expect to be spending about $350 CDN to get everything you need.

  • 12 arrows with the correct spine ($100 to $140)
  • 12 field point arrowheads ($6)
  • A decent recurve bow, horsebow or longbow with the correct poundage ($150 to $250)
  • A decent arrowrest for a recurve bow [horsebows and longbows don't need an arrowrest] ($35)
  • Shooting glove or tab ($15 to $25)
  • Arm guard ($15 to $25)
  • Bowstringer ($10 to $15)
  • Optional - Quiver, a backpack for carrying your equipment in, special arrowheads, portable targets, etc.
 Plus HST. You could spend more than that. The sky is the limit when it comes to more expensive archery equipment, but getting fancy equipment won't make you shoot any better.

Remember! Get the correct poundage for you to be able to practice proper form, and get arrows with the correct spine for your bow's poundage. Failure to do could mean you are using a bow that is too strong for you to pull properly, and arrows that are to weak for your bow. See 3 Frequently Asked Archery Questions

For Olympic equipment expect to be spending double or quadruple on everything. So expect to spend $700 to $1400 instead. I don't recommend a beginner go straight into Olympic style archery. They should really learn traditional recurve first before transitioning to Olympic recurve.

For compound archery expect to be spending $600 to $2000 instead. While it is possible for a beginner to go straight into compound archery, you will have a trickier time learning how to tune your compound bow, set the sights, and how to use it properly to full effect. If you do something wrong (such as dryfiring) you could end up damaging your compound bow and needing repairs, which can get very expensive. There is definitely advantages to getting compound archery lessons.

Note - Deciding what kind of archer you want to be is an important decision. It is a personal choice that each archer must make and their decision should be respected. You can even try learning more than one style of archery - I personally practice all 5 styles of archery. I currently (as of April 2019) own 34 different bows. Learning multiple styles is an extra investment as you will need different sets of equipment which are often not compatible. Beginners are recommended to try traditional recurve first, which makes an excellent springboard to trying other styles later.

#2. Buying Archery Equipment

In Toronto / GTA we have limited options for where to go shopping for archery equipment. Thus now that you have your shopping list, you need to determine what stores sell what you are looking for.

  • Basically Bows Archery (aka "Gary's") sells a broad selection of longbows, traditional recurves, horsebows, and even Japanese yumi.
  • Bass Pro in Vaughan sells most compounds and crossbows. They have a limited selection of recurves.
  • Al Flaherty's sells mostly compounds and crossbows.
  • Dufferin Outdoor Supply is mostly known for fishing equipment, but also sells compounds and recurves, and bowhunting/bowfishing supplies.
  • The Bow Shop in Waterloo has an excellent selection of different styles, but it is further away.
  • The Archer's Nook in London. (I have never actually visited this location.)
I am listing three reputable online sources because frankly it is often easier / simpler / cheaper to buy your archery equipment online. Some local stores might not have the particular brand/model you are looking for.

#3. Learning Proper Form

Several different ways to do this. Ideally archery lessons is best because it eliminates a lot of the trial and error. But there are other methods:

  1. Watch YouTube videos of experienced archers and do your best to copy what they are doing.
  2. Visit the local archery range (The Toronto Archery Range) and copy what other archers are doing. (Only copy those archers who are shooting the same style you are learning. So if you are learning to shoot longbow, don't copy the Olympic archers.)
  3. Find friends who also do archery and ask for a lesson. They won't be a professional teacher, but they're free.
  4. Read every archery post you can find on I have over 240 posts about archery, so that is a lot to read. Enjoy!
  5. Buy a book. The #1 book I recommend is “Precision Archery” and is edited / written by Steve Ruis and Claudia Stevenson (the editors of Archery Focus Magazine).
  6. Subscribe to Archery Focus Magazine.
  7. Get archery lessons. Sometimes the thing you are avoiding is the thing you need most. An archery coach can steer you away from bad habits and teach you good habits that improve your accuracy and consistency. Watching other people and reading about it doesn't really come close to having a coach who can spot instantly what you are doing wrong and tell you how to fix it.

#4. Weightlifting and Exercise

Now you don't need to do weightlifting or exercise regularly to do archery, but it certainly helps.

Thanks to all the archery movies and TV shows in the past decade archery is still super popular in 2019, but many of these films/shows present a false understanding of archery and convince people think that it is easy to pull a bow. It is not. Most beginners are stunned by how much more effort it requires just to pull a 24 lb recurve and hold it steady, let alone a 40 or 50 lb bow. The more powerful bows require quite a bit of strength and endurance to pull back and hold steady – strength that is beyond the average person.

This is why finding a bow that is easier for the beginner to pull is so important. The poundage needs to match the beginner so that they can practice efficiently, learn proper form, and then be able to build up their endurance and strength over time.

The analogy I use with students is to compare poundages to buying a set of dumbbells. You start off doing bicep curls with a 15 lb dumbbell and over months you work your way up to 20, 25, 30 lbs. You don't immediately pick up the 30 lb dumbbell and start doing curls because the average person will only be able to do 5 or less before getting tired.

Yes, it is possibly for a beginner archer to start with a 60 lb bow... but it is going to wreck havoc on their form because they cannot hold it steady at all. They need to learn how to shoot it properly before they start working on building muscle, and to do that you need to build endurance first and then muscle.

There are specific exercises I recommend to my students (eg. push ups are handy, as are rowing machines). Being stronger and having more endurance gives the archer a physical edge that boosts their accuracy. It isn't just a matter of building up the rhomboids and trapezoids (the most important muscles for archers), you also need to build the deltoids, triceps and the corresponding mirror muscles are handy too (biceps, pectorals). Do not forget the mirror muscles, they still help!

#5. Location, Location, Location

We are fortunate in Toronto to have a free public archery range that is open 24/7 365 days per year. Anyone can go there, day or night, and practice.

See 10 Tips for Night Archery

The Toronto Archery Range is located at E. T. Seton Park, near the corner of Don Mills Road and Gateway Boulevard.

Via TTC take the 25 bus from Pape Station and get off at the corner of Don Mills Road and Gateway Boulevard (near the Tim Hortons / Shoppers Drug Mart).

If driving I recommend parking near the Tim Hortons / Shoppers Drug Mart, or you can park in the Overlea Parking Lot inside E. T. Seton Park (the Overlea Parking Lot is shaped like a donut).

Outside of Toronto you will want to find a local archery range or a similar safe place where you practice. A farmer's field would be ideal, so get permission from the local farmer to practice there. If you have family who own a farm or cottage up north that might also be a great place to practice. If you have a garage or basement that is also good if you like shooting short distances. I do not recommend practicing in a backyard as you have to be careful about being charged with reckless endangerment with a firearm.

#6. You Are Going To Lose / Break Arrows

Guaranteed you will lose and break arrows. This will happen more often if you don't have a coach.

  • Buy at least 10 - 12 arrows. 6 is too few as you will easily break/lose several.
  • Don't be foolish with your arrows.
  • Don't do archery in a place where you will likely lose/break arrows.
  • Use a nice soft archery target that will not damage your arrows.
  • When in doubt aim lower. The arrow is arcing up. You need to aim below the target. Really low. Remember: Aim low, hit high. Aim too high, lose your arrow.
  • Learn how to repair damaged arrows.
  • Learn how to find your arrows.
#7. Don't Expect To Be Immediately Amazing

It takes year to master archery. Archery is a journey and it requires patience and lots of practice.

Teaching yourself using trial and error will be a slow and painful process, requiring lots of practice and mistakes. You can speed up the process dramatically by having an archery instructor, but not everyone can afford to be paying $60 for a 90 minute private lesson.

If you do decide you want archery lessons check out my archery lesson rates by visiting

Within 4 lessons I will have you shooting short distances, long distances, at moving targets, and I will have you set on the right track. Just check out my Archery Lesson Plan and see what all you can learn by hiring an archery instructor instead of trying to teach yourself.

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