Image of a notched arrow with archery targets in the background.

Self-Taught Archery - What You Should Know

By: Mark Jeffreys

Can you excel at archery if you’ve never taken a lesson or used a trainer? I’m someone who hasn’t received any formal education or training for archery, but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert archer. However, I like to teach myself new things, and I tend to spend a bit of time learning about various things online. It’s easy when you have the information at your fingertips, but mastering a physical craft that is so dependent on consistency and proper form is another thing altogether. How well will you be able to learn archery without any formal education?

You can learn how to do archery on your own, but there are some things that you should be aware of if you want to master the craft or take part in competitions. Repetition is essential in archery, and if you teach yourself lousy form, it will be hard to unlearn those bad habits to help yourself shoot more consistently. There are many things that you have to be mentally aware of when you’re shooting, and when you’re first getting started, it is especially hard to keep track of everything. It’s also especially hard to keep track of each aspect of your form while making sure that you have the correct technique. If you can afford it, it might be a good idea to take a few classes or hire an instructor to help you get a good start to the sport and give you some suggestions on how to practice moving forward. To get started, you need to make sure that you have the right equipment for what you want to shoot.

Getting the Right Bow

One of the keys to being able to learn archery is to have the right equipment. Of course, you can practice on a rental or loaner bow, but it will be hard to determine the proper form if you’re not using the same bow each time your practice. When you’re selecting a bow, you need to figure out which type you want to use, be it a longbow, recurve - typically a takedown recurve bow - or a compound bow. Selecting your type of bow will mostly be based on preference, but if you want to enter competitions make sure you choose a bow that is allowed for that competition. After you’ve decided on which type of bow you want to use, you’ll need to make sure your bow fits you correctly.

Getting a bow that is fitted correctly for you is critical. The three primary factors for getting the proper bow is the hand, draw length and draw weight. Whether you get a right or left-handed bow is almost always dependent on which eye is dominant. There are exceptions, but these archers will have to work harder to master the craft. Your draw length depends on how long your arms are, and it’s essential to get the right size bow. If you get a bow that is too short for you, you’ll overdraw the bow and cause it to stack. If you get one that’s too large, you’ll sacrifice arrow speed, which is essential for accuracy. Your draw weight is heavy the bow is to draw it to it’s measured draw length. Starting with a lower draw weight is recommended so you can learn proper form and build up the muscles used for archery. Shooting with a heavier bow will help with your arrow speed, but make sure you’re not too heavy, or it will negatively impact your form. Once you have your bow, you’re ready to go out and start shooting.

Shooting on Your Own

When you’re shooting on your own, you have to be careful to make sure that your form is proper and consistent. Repetition is key to mastering the sport, so you need to make sure that you spend plenty of time at the range, but that you do so with proper form. If you don’t monitor your technique, you’ll likely develop bad habits that will affect your consistency and will be hard to break in the future. If you want to avoid this type of situation, there are a few things you can do to help yourself out.

If you shoot without anyone else around, be sure to give yourself a few days rest between sessions, especially when you’re first getting started. If you practice with sore, tired muscles, you stand a good chance of shooting with bad form, and your practice will be inconsistent. You’ll be shooting yourself in the foot - hopefully only figuratively - if you don’t practice consistency. To watch your form and see if you’re making any mistakes, try recording yourself. Many athletes review game tapes to analyze their performance to see if they could have performed better, which is what this will help do for you. Even if you have someone else around you to check your form, recording yourself may be a good idea as you might see something others would have missed.

If you want lessons but can’t afford the full price, you can check your local range to see if they offer group lessons. These don’t provide nearly the same benefits as one-on-one lessons, but they are much more economical and can help you get a good foundation when you’re starting off. You should also check to see if there’s a local club in your area that you could join. Some of these are free - though you have to pay for your range time - and will provide you with other experienced archers that can give you tips to help you improve. One place you can check is TeamUSA.org/USA-Archery to find an adult or junior archery club in your area. If there isn’t one in your area, you can start one through their website. Their programs offer training classes, competitions and win awards. If you need a more personalized training experience, you’ll need to look at getting a one-on-one trainer.

What a Trainer Can Help With

Many problems with your form can be solved through time as your experience grows. An archery trainer can help speed up this process and help you get started without building bad habits that will prevent you from achieving your full potential. If you’ve been shooting for a while and are having issues with consistency, a trainer can help identify potential problems and work with you to correct them. They can also offer advice on ways to adjust your form to see if that will give you better results. They should also be able to evaluate your equipment and make sure that it isn’t causing you any problems, which is especially helpful when you’re new to the sport.

Summary

You can learn how to shoot archery on your own without a trainer or formal lessons. You should make sure you get the right bow for the shooting you plan to do. When you’re shooting, you need to be careful with your form. When you’re shooting, it’s helpful if you can record yourself so you can evaluate your style and find out how and where you may be making mistakes. Remember that repetition is critical, so make sure you are consistent with your practice. Archery clubs are a pretty good way to get some experience, and if you need some basic instruction, you can look at getting group lessons. A personal trainer would be especially useful when you’re first getting started to help you build a good foundation. With time, you should be able to resolve issues on your own, so it depends on how fast you want to improve.

I hope I’ve helped you find out how you can get started practicing archery on your own, some things you should consider when selecting a bow, and what you can do if you need more help.

How did you get started with archery? Did you have any formal training, were you all self-trained or did you pick up tips from locals at the archery range? I’d love to hear your story on how you got started, so please comment below.

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Thank you!


Mark Jeffreys

Mark has been interested in archery since he was 8 years old and tried to make a bow using a stick and a rubber band. Mark enjoys the challenge that archery provides and is constantly seeking to improve. His mission is to pass on what he’s learned to help other archers.