Shooting a bow the traditional way may help you become an even better archer. Here’s how you can shoot without sights!
Quick Steps on How to Aim a Bow Without Sights
It may seem off, but think about it. The very first hunters never used sights when shooting down prey! And because each shot matters, a single miss may mean no food – or worst, death!
But setting aside the morbid stuff, instinctively shooting a bow without side does have its benefits. Archery is a state of mind. And by practicing to shoot without guidance, you are essentially being one with the bow. And isn’t that what matters when shooting? As such, we’d like to break down the steps on aiming a bow without sights:
It Begins With Your Stance
Shooting form matters when it comes to instinctive archery. And the first step in having a proper shooting form is your stance.
There are two stances to consider:
- Squared Stance – your feet should be parallel to the shooting line.
- Oblique Stance – also called open stance, this position has your lead foot pointed towards your target.
Beginners are suggested to use the squared stance. This is because this position will let you maximize the use of your back muscles when shooting.
On the other hand, the open stance will give you a flexible foothold even on uneven surfaces. This position will also help you prevent overdrawing when aiming a target. You would need some extra arm strength when shooting, though – you’ll be forced to rotate your hips with this stance!
When you’ve mastered both, you’ll find that each stance will help you when shooting without sights!
Nocking is an Art
Have you ever noticed that the smallest details matter when it comes to archery? And this attention to detail can best be seen in nocking. Let’s break this simple yet very important step into chunks!
- Get an arrow
- Place the shaft of the arrow on your bow’s arrow rest
- Position and attach the nock of your arrow to the bow string
Now, these micro-steps may last just a few seconds. But think like a traditional hunter – each second counts! Take these steps into muscle memory and you’re on your way to great instinctive shooting.
The Proper Grip
How You Should Grip Your Bow
The way you grip your bow is another essential step in instinctive archery. Using your non-dominant hand, make sure your bow rests comfortably on the pad of your thumb. Squeezing too tight will make the bow torque inward. The unwanted torque just means that you will not most likely miss your shot. You may also hurt yourself, with your forearm taking the impact!
Protip: a nice way to know if you are gripping your bow properly is looking at your knuckles. Your bow will be right where you want it to be if your knuckles are at a 45-degree angle to the grip!
How You Should Grip the Bow String
Next, focus on the way you grip your bow string. Assuming you have already nocked the arrow, slowly pull the string back by using your index, middle, and ring fingers. Also, make sure that the string rests in groove found in your top knuckles. Depending on how comfortable you are in gripping the string, you can:
- Have the nock between your index and middle fingers
- Have all three fingers located just beneath the shaft of the arrow
The point is, comfort should be prioritized when gripping and pulling the string.
Bracing for the Draw
A simple step, but still, important! Lift your non-dominant arm at shoulder level. Most archers miss out on this simple adjustment. Making sure that the bow is at shoulder level will help you gauge your target – very important, since you don’t have any sights to rely on!
Drawing the Bow String Back
Now is the time to draw. But instead of using your arms, make use of your back muscles. This is to prevent you from under drawing the scene. Recurve bows, unlike compound ones, have no feature to notify you that you’re at full draw. Also, using your arms will tire you out faster.
Anchoring the Bow String
Let us focus more on how far you should draw the bow string. It is recommended that you pull up towards your anchor point.
But what is an anchor point? This is basically a point in your face where you are comfortable placing the end of your draw. Having an anchor point will assure you that your draw is consistent and smooth. Now, having this into muscle memory will also lead us right up the next step, which is…
Aiming without the use of sights may be intimidating. But don’t let this be the case. Stressing the point that archery is a state of mind, let aiming be as natural as it can be. Do not overthink this – trying harder will stress you out, which will make you lose focus on the target.
Let Your Arrow Fly (and Follow Through Too!)
Going with the natural state of mind that you want to be in, gently push your fingers on the bow string to shoot. As your arrow flies, make sure to follow through with your draw hand moving towards the bottom part of your ear.
You’re doing this because you’d want your bow to tilt forward. This motion assures you that the energy built up in the bow is transferred properly towards the arrow!
Breaking Down the Various Steps on Shooting Without Sights
We’ve mentioned earlier that aiming should be a natural act. After practicing and maintaining this mindset, you can now focus on aiming techniques to help you in instinctive shooting. Here are those techniques:
This technique uses the distance between you and the target to help set an imaginary line for your arrow to fly. Although gap shooting does depend on each shooter, other factors to consider in this technique are arrow length and weight, and bow poundage.
Basically, you imagine a vertical line that connects the tip of your arrow and the center of your target. And, depending on the distance, you may need to adjust where the imaginary line connects. For example:
- 10 yards – the imaginary line is a few centimeters below the target.
- 60 yards – the imaginary line is a few centimeters above the target.
Gap shooting relies on repeat shots to check if you’ll need to adjust the line. A safe number of shots to take is three. After three shots, you can make necessary changes to hit your target!
Having the tip of your arrow aimed directly at your target, adjust your shot by changing anchor points on your face. Used in coordination with the gap shooting technique, you would be able to find an anchor point that’ll hit your targets!
Instead of moving anchor points, this technique involved adjusting the position of your draw hand instead. As a rule of thumb, the closer your target is, the lower your draw hand should be on the bow string.
Trust your instincts – this is the core of the instinctive shooting technique! Instead of directly aiming at a target instinctive shooting requires you to focus on where you want your arrow to land itself. A mixture of gut feeling, your skill and luck, this technique is considered to be the purest form of shooting in archery!
What You Should Know About Instinctive Archery
Focusing on the basics, instinctive archery is mainly shooting a bow without the use of sights. It is basically replicating how traditional hunters shoot. That said, as well, instinctive archery focuses mainly on recurve bows – no fancy gears or gadgets involved!
The Pros and Cons of Instinctive Archery
Let’s simplify it – here are reasons why shooting without sights is awesome (or not!)!
- Creates a Habit – practicing to aim a bow without sights promotes the use of several archery techniques that’ll make you a better shooter. Even the smallest details (like the one we mentioned – nocking) can mean the difference between a hit and a miss.
- Unleashes the Hidden Archer in You – back to the basics, instinctive archery allows you to experience how traditional shooters hunt. It is indeed a challenge – but getting to understand the many struggles hunters faced before will give you a deeper appreciation and respect on archery.
- Builds Patience – whether for hunting or target archery, patience is truly fostered through instinctive shooting!
- Creates a Deeper Relationship With Your Gear – you are one with your bow. And a shooter that knows the ins and outs of his gear is a force to be reckoned with!
- Can be Time-Consuming – it is trial and error, after all. Shooting arrows without sights can be a frustrating. You definitely need to be patient to get the right shooting form and motion in!
- May Strain Your Arms – given the many arrows you’re most likely to shoot, instinctive archery may also result to strained arms.
- Why Focus on Tradition –when you’ve got the gear her itself! Compound bows were designed to shoot arrows. Why complicate shooting when you’ve got the gear to fly arrows, right?
Try shooting without sights – you’ll get to find out if instinctive shooting is for you or not!
Statistics on Why Aiming Without Sights is Popular
Instinctive archery does continue to be a popular among hunters today. With the archery industry in full swing (equipment/gear sales continue to rise, as reported by the Archery Trade Association), you can be sure that a lot of people want to get into the game.
In fact, as per a 2019 report in archery participation by the ATA, approximately 21.6 Americans joined in shooting activities and the like. This was an increase compared to the prior year – a 14% spike! Archery, actually, is considered as the fastest-growing sport in the U.S.!
And there is also a strong and large following when it comes to recurve bow usage. Throughout the years, recurve bow usage is at 15% - 20% among shooters!
Bonus 1: Prepping Your Gear Will Help You on How to Shoot a Recurve Bow Instinctively
Help is on the way! Here are more gear-related tips to help you out in shooting a bow without sights
Get a Comfy Forearm Guard
Since your non-dominant arm may be prone to injury (with it most likely to be slapped by the bow string), invest in a good and comfortable forearm guard!
Get an Archery Shooting Glove
Since you’ll be straining your dominant hand a lot, get a shooting glove. Aside from protecting your fingers, this glove maintains a strong grip on the bow string. The perfect gear to have when repeating your shots!
Bonus 2: Important Recurve Bow Vs Compound Bow Details When Shooting Instinctively
Let us further expound on the nifty differences on how different shooting without sights is when using two different set of bows!
- Tends to release arrows in a faster manner
- May be prone to overdrawing
- Requires extra skill and attention when hunting
- Needs a full draw before releasing a shot
- Comes with a specified full draw
- More precise during hunting – a shot can be aimed and setup properly before the actual arrow flight
Given the differences, mastering recurve bow quirks during instinctive archery may just make you a better archer when using a compound bow! Which leads us to our last point…
Instinctive Shooting May Result to You Becoming an Awesome Archer
Because of the habit of focusing on the many essentials when shooting a recurve bow, instinctive shooting may just be the thing for you if you want to improve your archery skills. Have fun and trust your instincts when not using sights!
Want to learn more about instinctive archery? Check these links out!
Learn-Archery – breaking down the different archery techniques to improve shooting a bow without sights.
Archery Newbie – focusing on the different aiming techniques.
Archery Trade Association 2018 Insight – a snapshot on today’s archery scene.
The Modern Archer – some statistics on instinctive archery!