When watching an archery competition, it is standard to see an archer take anywhere from 10-30 seconds to set up his shot, aim, and release. Most competitors believe that they have to follow a step-by-step routine, making sure every component of their shot is perfectly aligned while carefully aiming their arrow downrange. However, our primitive forbears in this sport rarely shot this way. For instance, a primitive archer could starve or be killed by an enemy arrow if he took 30 seconds to line up his shot. Instead, the primitive archer relied on his subconscious instinct to guide his arrow. This article lays out some archery lessons for anyone who wants to learn how to fire off a shot faster and more accurately. While learning to shoot instinctively is ideal for bow hunters who want to improve their skill and reaction time for next season, instinctive shooting is also of great benefit to the target archer as well.
Not Just for Hunters
According to Olympic coach Kisik Lee’s archery training system, during the aiming component of every shot the archer should focus primarily on their drawing muscles while remaining only slightly aware of their sight pin and its relation to the target. The ideal ratio is to focus 90% on your back muscles and 10% on what you are seeing. By training your instinctive shot, you are exercising your subconscious aiming abilities, making you a better all-around archer.
Pre-Requisites to Instinctive Shooting
Arguably the most important requirement for an instinctive archer is that he or she uses a bow that matches the archer’s dominant eye. For instance, if you are left-eye dominant, you will need a left-handed bow, and vice versa if you are right-eye dominant.
The reason for this is that, if you are using a right-handed bow and are left-eye dominant, you will be required to close your left eye in order to aim using your right eye. To put it simply, your aiming eye needs to be on a perfect line that runs from the tip of your drawing elbow through the arrow, all the way to the target. With both eyes open, you will be able to take in more information about every scenario in which you are trying to make a shot. For more information about how eye-dominance effects your shot, click here.
Additionally, you should have a firm grasp on basic technique. It is important that you have complete control over your shot before you start firing arrows willy-nilly, as it were. At the very least, you should have a consistent and strong stance you feel comfortable shooting from, a consistently smooth draw, and a ruthlessly consistent anchor point.
How to Shoot Instinctively
Without having seen instinctive archery in practice before, it can be kind of difficult to comprehend. How can someone just launch a projectile without first carefully aiming with the precision of a sniper? Well, it may be simplifying a bit, but it’s similar to how you throw a baseball or shoot a basketball. You simply ‘point’ your attention at whatever you’re shooting at and align your body to do the same.
In instinctive archery, rather than aiming your arrow like you would a gun, you are simply pointing at the target you want to shoot and using your peripheral vision to gather as much information about what you are shooting as possible. For instance, with both eyes open you are able to see the direction and speed at which your target is moving, or if there is anything that could potentially obstruct your shot.
As long as you are shooting down your line of sight, it is not difficult to send the arrow where you want it to go. It will almost certainly take some getting used to, but by making small adjustments to your technique, shooting instinctively will gradually start to feel more natural. Experiment with a slightly wider stance to give you more stability, and lean in slightly toward your target. Remember to always anchor your arrow in the same place every single time you shoot (just inside the corner of the mouth works best for me).
To practice instinctive archery, try to limit the amount of time you give yourself to aim your shot. To make it easier on yourself, try to shoot ‘on beat’. For instance, give yourself a beat to nock your arrow and mentally prepare for the shot, one beat to draw the arrow, a beat to aim, and a final beat to release. This will teach you to rely on your instinct rather than mentally working through a checklist to prepare and execute the shot.
Finally, shooting at moving targets is always a great way to practice shooting instinctively. Whether you use an archery target launcher, suspend a pendulum to swing in front of your target, or just hunt small, moving game you are certain to develop your instinctive abilities with regular practice.
As a result of learning instinctive archery, you will learn how to improve your aim in target competition, and drastically increase your hunting accuracy. Stay tuned for more instinctive archery drills and tips!
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