How do you start with archery – a beginners guide
So, you have decided to become an archer. Congratulations, you found one of the coolest sports in the world! There are many, many people out there who will gladly welcome you to the sport of archery and give you advice and tips and tricks. The global archery community is just awesome, be it the modern Olympic Recurve archers, the futuristic Compound archers, or the laid back Traditional Archers. Personally, I just woke up one morning with the set idea that I will now be an archer. It’s been a bit of mission back then, the Internet was still young and Facebook wasn’t really a thing but eventually I quickly changed from modern olympic recurve archery to traditional archery. Today I make most of my own arrows and strings and have built a few bows – it’s a treat that only comes with traditional archery.
How do I begin archery and where do I get training?
This is now easier than ever. Just google for “archery + the name of your city” and more often than not you will find an archery club, shop or operator like Archery Park nearby. Get in touch with them and ask if you can come by for an introduction. Most will have spare beginner gear and will be very happy to show you around and let you shoot some arrows. Try to remember that there are many different styles of archery. Good archers have tried all of them and picked up tricks and ideas from the many variations. Eventually you will settle on a type and quickly join the friendly banter between the bicycle shooters (compound), the high-tech fraction (modern recurve) and the cavemen (traditional archers). If there isn’t a club nearby look for online forums in your country and also on Facebook, I promise there will be an archer somewhere near you. Be very wary of places that offer archery but don’t know anything about it! Their gear is often in dangerous state, with strings that are about to tear apart, arrows that are damaged and might break on release (which is a serious, serious danger!) and they can’t teach you anything.
If you decide to learn archery on your own just be aware that in order to become a good archer you will need to learn a lot! Mistakes and bad body posture can quickly become a habit that will be very hard to get rid off. Some good lessons at the start and shooting regularly with experienced archers will help you to become a good archer and you will enjoy the sport for the rest of your life. If you must try to learn on your own, I recommend the book Become the Arrow by Byron Ferguson.
What gear do I need?
Every archer needs these things: A bow, some arrows, a quiver, an armguard and a shooting glove or tab or trigger release and a bow stringer (Trust me on this one! You don’t want to end up with twisted limbs on day one).
If you were to turn an experienced archer upside down and give them a little shake you will find the following things falling out of their pockets in addition to the list above: string wax, a cloth to wipe of dirty arrows, super glue to repair fletches and arrow points in the field, a knife and a spare but well shot-in string.
The good news is that you don’t need any of this to start! Find a place with experienced archers and ask to have a go first. We at Archery Park Nelson have 17 years of experience with traditional archery and our guided tour is 3 hours of 3D target archery, with an initial detailed practise session on our lawn range. And as said above most clubs will have a similar beginners class as well. It’s a good way to try different styles and practise archery without your own gear.
But there comes the day when you want to buy your own gear. The style of archery you want to do influences much of the gear you need but there are some general rules.
Find out which one is your dominant eye. This will determine if you will be a right or left hand shooter and if you need a right or left hand bow. A right hand shooter holds the bow in the left hand and pulls the string with the right. The arrow will therefore be lined up under the right eye so they can look along the arrow towards the target. The arrow passes the bow handle on the left for tight hand bows. For a left hand archer everything above is mirrored. This video explains how to work out which of your eyes is dominant: Video
Most people when they are right handed are also right eye dominant and vice versa. However a few people are what is called cross-dominant. It is extremely advisable to practise archery according to your eye dominance. So if you’re right handed, but left eye dominant, then you should shoot a left hand bow. I have seen first hand what the difference is when I trained with a good female archer who was cross-dominant but didn’t know about it. Her scores in tournaments were always good, but when we started training with a left hand bow and after she got used to it her scores were off the chart. She shot a simple primitive wooden bow, but her scores made other women in the Recurve class jealous.
Start with a low draw weight bow! Your muscles and more importantly tendons need to be trained to cope with the stress of pulling and holding back the string. If your bow is too strong very bad posture will become a habit: things like not having a definitive anchor point in your face, head tilted too far backwards or forwards, back leaning backwards, bad release etc. It also increases the risk of injuring your shoulder. Your muscles will build up faster than your tendons, so keep practising good form with this bow for a month longer than you think you need to before you go up in draw weight.
If you take the above into account it also means that your first bow doesn’t need to be expensive – actually a simple recurve will do the job, especially as tuning the arrows is less difficult. If you’re serious about archery, you will ditch it after about 5 to 6 months and are ready for more draw weight. One day you will find your dream bow and you will be happy to have spend less for the ones before and have more in the pocket to buy it.
Invest in a good shooting glove or tab. I still use my second glove, it’s now 14 years old. It’s worth the investment! It should be soft and fit like a second skin. Buy it way too tight!
Get help with your arrows!!! Every stick makes a bow, but an arrow is hard work. The arrow needs to fit the bow and you. And it’s a complex system. Even the most basic arrow shaft information, the spine, comes in various ways depending if it’s a wooden, carbon or aluminium shaft. Carbon arrows need also to be splined and they are difficult to lengthen at home. The weight of the arrow tip has as much influence on arrow flight as the type and lengths of feathers. And the length of the arrow has big influence on the dynamic spine. Ask someone to check your nocking point too. If your heads spins by now, just follow my advice and get help 🙂 Oh, and don’t buy an arrow set of Alibaba until you really know what you’re doing AND you can check you got what you ordered at home.
How do I keep having fun with archery?
Easy! Meet other archers. Shoot as much as you can. Practise, practise, practise. Go to tournaments. Try other archery styles. Make a bow, even if you are a Compound archer, just to understand how it works. And make some arrows for the same reason. And visit Archery Park Nelson to have a nice shoot together with us on our 3D target range.
Ready for your first archery set?
Support Archery Park Nelson and order straight from us! We have carefully put together an amazing starter set.