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Archery According To Gary

Arne Moe
Rotational Drawing
Arne Moe
Release Tips
Jimmy Blackmon
The String Hand and Arm
The Gap Compromise
Relax Like a Rope Under Tension

If you suspended a bow and arrow in the air and drew it back and let it go every arrow would go to the same spot. Why don't your arrows go to the same spot? The reason is that you are interfering with the bow.

Take your middle finger and touch the end of your nose ten times. You will not be able to touch it in the same place. It is humanly impossible. Because of these two facts the following principles may help you.

The most important thing to be able to do in archery "form", is to be able to relax like a rope under tension.

The most important thing to be able to do in archery "aiming", is lining up the arrow tip on the point of aim while seeing your target in your periphery vision at the same time.

Four things that can help you be your own coach:
Get a full length mirror you can stand in front of. This is a great way to see your own form. Where is that elbow? Where are your feet? At the end of your legs, I hope. How are you holding your head? You can't see yourself as others do, but a mirror is better than a friend, it won't lie to you.

Keep a journal. Each day you shoot, debrief yourself. Write down your impressions of what worked or didn't work. Read your notes and think about those observations. If you don't shoot every day, notes will refresh your mind to what you're working on as you build a repeatable shot sequence.

Take your movie camera once in a while and record your shot sequence. A picture is worth a thousand words, and you will see how terrible your form really is. Once you see the problems you can begin to work on them. Smile at the camera, you're becoming a work of art.

Take a picture of every group you make. You can study your groups and eventually see patterns like usually left and high or perhaps right and low. When you become aware of where your shots are falling you can go back and work on your form to correct this. If you're not aware of your shot pattern you will only keep doing the same thing that causes the problem.

There are 3 lines in archery you must be aware of

The Line of Sight
The line of sight goes from your eye to the target. It is the only straight line in archery.
The line of sight consists of the dominant eye, the target, the arrow point and finally put the arrow nock on the line.
You are now lined up visually. Lining up visually is relatively easy, but if you have one kink in your power line, or if the line of force does not go from the elbow to the target you're not getting a hit whether it looks straight or not.

The Power Line
The power line consists of the bow hand, bow, string, draw finger, back of the hand, wrist, forearm muscles, and string elbow. Look at the power line like a chain where each part of the power line is a link in the chain. The chain must be pulled straight from the bow hand to the string elbow. If there is any twisting between any link, the power line is not straight and results in a miss. In other words do not hold the bow, only hook the string, do not grip it. Do not cock the wrist. Do not tighten your forearm muscles to grip the string. If you do any of these things you’ll torque the power line and miss. RELAX BABY - RELAX.

The Line of Force
The line of force has only two points. They are the bow hand and the string elbow.
The string elbow must be directly behind the bow hand. If there is any torquing of any link in the power line, the force line goes from the elbow to that link. The force line will not go from the elbow to the bow hand. This is why you miss even though the arrow appears visually straight to the target.You cannot see the line of force. You must feel it and direct it to the target.

If you can put these three lines together you’ve got a hit. The essence of this is being relaxed as a chain under tension.

The truth is your elbow is the anchor not the not the corner of your mouth. The corner of your mouth is just a draw check. If you line up from the corner of your mouth, the arrow will appear straight to the target, but when you release the power will come from wherever your elbow is and if it is left or right of your mouth you will miss. PERIOD.
Relax the upper body and get that elbow back in line.

The Line of Force

The best way I can help you see the Line of Force is to get you to take a string, tie a loop on one end and put your string arm through the loop so it wraps around your elbow. Now take the other end of the string in your left hand and hold it out like you are holding a bow. Pull your string elbow back and you will see the string go straight from your bow hand to your elbow. This line from bow hand to elbow is how you can visually see the line of force.

Now that you can see the line of force stand in front of a mirror. Hold your bow hand and string toward the mirror and bring your string arm elbow back around behind you until the string lines up straight from your eye to the mirror. When the string looks straight, your elbow is directly behind the bow hand. That is where you have to get your elbow if you're going to shoot straight. Feel it. Learn to recognize that feeling. This spot can only be found if you're as relaxed as a string under tension.

Practice with the string until you get use to the feeling of how far back your elbow must be to get a straight line pointing right at the target. You may be surprised. Memorize the feeling.
The main reason right handed shooters have a tendency to shoot a little left is their string elbow is not quite back, and because the string shoulder is right of the head they pull their string hand off to the right. This causes the bow hand to counter balance and move left causing a left miss.

Both hands must stay on the line of force without one torquing the other this way or that.

Finding Your Natural Stance

The best way I have found to help you find a natural and comfortable stance upon which to build your shot is the following:
First of all what is the purpose of the stance? The purpose of the stance other than keeping your ass off the ground is to align your upper body to the target without bending or twisting at the waist, shoulders, arms and neck. In other words we are going to find a foot position that automatically puts the upper body on the line. Remember that torquing is the enemy of accuracy.

Do this:
Take a broom and unscrew the head. Take the broom handle like a big arrow. Hold one end between your fingers Mediterranean style and bring it up to your face anchor. Hold out your left arm and place the other end of the broom handle on your hand like you are shooting off-hand.
Now look at something on the wall like you're going to aim at it. Put up your arms and broom handle.

If you're right handed you should see the broom is pointing well to the left of where you're looking. Without twisting at the waist or shoulders, take your right foot and start to take little steps back, and around behind you to the left.

As you step back and left with the right foot you will see the broom tip swing right. When your foot finds the right place the broom handle will line up to the target without any twisting in the upper body. Now you're lined up without torquing so look down and see where your feet are positioned. That is your personal natural stance. From then on when you approach a target put your feet in that position and your upper body will be automatically in position to begin its shot sequence.

Bending the front knee is the best way I've found to fine-tune aligning your upper body to the target without torquing. Now that you have established a natural and comfortable foot position, you will still often find that when you put the bow up the arrow tip is still pointing to the left of the target. This is because your string hand, holding the arrow is to the right of your head.

Try this:
Look at the wall, put the bow up, see the arrow point left.Do not twist the upper body in any way, but bend the front knee to the right, leaning forward slightly. When swinging the knee to the right you will notice the tip of the arrow also swinging to the right. When the arrow swings onto the target stop bending your knee and you will find yourself directly lined up to the target.
Now you are ready to start your draw.

Finding Elevation

After shooting hundreds of thousands of shots over the years I realized instinctive doesn't cut it. My left to right was excellent but my up and down wasn't as consistent. I've heard hunters say many times they were shooting at a deer only 15 yards away and they shot over the back. The reason for this is that we usually anchor level with mouth or chin. This places the arrow nock lower than the eye so when we simply angle the arrow so it looks to be pointing towards the target, because the back of the arrow is low, we tend to hold the point high and the arc of the arrow lifts it over the back. I realized I needed a system of finding elevation.

Howard Hill, the greatest American archer of the last century, used a gap system. He looked at the center of the target with direct vision and raised the arrow to the gap in periphery vision. I found this to be difficult as the target is clear but the arrow being lined up is fuzzy, so judging where it is exactly is difficult.

Horace Ford, the greatest English longbow archer of the 19th century, wrote a book in 1850 in which he describes his system which is called Point of Aim I find it easy to do and extremely accurate. In Point of Aim we focus on the gap, not the target center. The target is fuzzy in the periphery vision and the gap spot is clear in the direct vision. We draw and put the tip of the arrow on the gap spot. The gap and arrow are perfectly clear. It's easier to line up a clear little arrow to a big fuzzy target than as in gap shooting where you try to line up a fuzzy little arrow that you're not looking at to a big clear target.

Do this:
Look at the target. Draw a line straight down to the gap. Focus on the gap spot. Draw and put the tip right on the gap. You'll see the the target in the periphery vision. Just line it up. When you release, the arc of the arrow will carry the arrow into the bulls eye.

Have fun Friar Tuck
You're on your way
with a little luck

Bow Arm Position

Hold your bow arm out straight. Do not have a bend in your elbow. This is why: just as when two boys are pulling on a towel and one lets go the other falls down. If you have a bend in your elbow when you let go of the string the bow hand will move to the left as the elbow straightens. Stand up, hold out your arm with a slight bend in the elbow and then straighten your arm and you'll see what I mean. This pulls the line of force left at the bow hand , resulting in a miss. Keep your bow arm and hand relaxed but fully extended to get the same draw length with the least torquing of the upper body.

Controlling Your Breath

Breath will not make or break a shot but it can help. Just like when you lift weights, taking a small sucking breath helps make the bow draw feel lighter. Also a small breath braces the chest, and keeps the chest the same size. Once you've taken your breath, Hold it. In this way your chest is not moving and you have plenty of oxygen for those few seconds you're aiming.

Removing Torquing

This is how to remove torquing between the bow hand, and the string hand. Allow your bow to straighten you. This is how. There is tension between your bow and bow string. The string will stay on the center line of the bow if you don't interfere with it. If you can relax your hands enough in the draw, the tension in the bow and string will line up your hands one behind the other.

The truth is you can't hold your bow, you can't grip the string, you can't twist your wrist, or flex the forearm muscles to draw. Basically you need to eliminate yourself from the equation as much as possible, from interfering with the bow, which will shoot straight if you don't torque something someplace in the power train.

The Face Anchor

The face anchor must be touched as light as a feather. Let me explain.
We are shooting the line of force from the elbow to the target. We have to get all the parts of the power train: bow hand and bowstring, draw finger, hand, wrist, forearm and elbow, on the line of force without torquing for the arrow to go straight. If we twist any part of the power train, we distort the line of force and miss.

Take a string and loop it around your elbow and hold the string out in your bow hand. Now you can see the line of force stretched out. Here's the problem. Put the string between your index finger and middle finger like you were holding the nock of the arrow Mediterranean style. Press your fingers over until you touch your face anchor. Now look and you will see the string bent from your wrist to your mouth and from your mouth to your bow hand. In other words you have distorted the line of force and will miss.

You must be able to gently bring your eye over the arrow so the face anchor and finger just barely touch. Light as a feather without distorting the line of force with the face or finger.
Practice with the string a bit, until you can feel how to touch face to your finger without seeing the string bend.

Elbow Position

The elbow must find its own position behind the line of force. This position can only be found by relaxing the shoulder muscles so the right arm is just hanging from the string under the tension from the elbow. If you relax it will find its own spot.

If you raise the elbow you have to cock the wrist or twist the string downward. If you lower the elbow you have to cock the wrist or twist the string upward. Either way it bends the line of force and is a miss.

Do not raise or lower the elbow: it must find its own height by relaxing to arrive at the line of force.

Facing The Target

When we shoot our bows our shoulders are on an angle to the target, but we must keep our heads square onto the target. When a hawk dives on a mouse it does not hold its head sideways but holds its head square on, to focus. Predators have their eyes in the front of the head so the eyes can focus or triangulate on a single spot.

Try this: look at a spot on the wall. Now slowly turn your head to the right. You will see as your head turns right you will start to see the spot become fuzzier and finally you will see double vision and can only clear your vision by closing your left eye. By the time you have turned your head that far right you will notice the bridge of your nose is also getting in the way of your dominant eye causing a shadow on the target.

If your form is such that you hold your hold head far right, shooting with one eye will help. I believe holding your head square with both eyes on the spot is what mother nature intended for a predator and it works best for pin pointing a spot.

A tool I often use to tweak my aim is to squint my weak eye a bit. If I put a book a few inches in front my face, I find my left eye does not see quite as clearly as the right eye. No one has 20/20 vision.

If I think of my shot sequence I'd say I look at the target with both eyes, then I look at the point of aim as I draw with both eyes open, and as I get anchored, I squint the left eye a bit to clear the vision for the final aim.

Try drawing and experimenting a bit. Look at the point of aim and squint your weak eye a bit. Don't squint the dominant eye. By doing this you get the depth perception of two eyes but the clear focus of your dominant eye.

Hold your thumb six inches in front of you. You will see it but your eyes are crossed. The thumb is clear and the background is blurry. If you focus on the arrow tip your eyes cross there or at twenty yards your eyes cross there. Whatever spot we focus on that spot is clear but further or closer parts of our sight picture are blurry.

Another problem with holding the head to the right is "weak eye take-over". If your head is held right your left (or weak) eye is closer to the target than the right dominant eye. At a certain angle the left eye will take over, being closer but you won't know because you only see one thing. Just like your finger jumps back and forth when you close and open your right eye, when the weak eye takes over, you move the arrow left and shoot left.

The first step in archery is to look at the target head square-on with both eyes and then take your stance. In this way your body will naturally line up to the target while holding your head in the best position to aim. Don't take your stance and then look at the target.


Aiming is rarely talked about and even more rarely understood. The most common way of aiming is instinctive. We hear constantly "look at the center, concentrate on the center. Don't take your eyes off the center." I mean shouldn't we line something up to the center? How about something like an arrow? Why is looking at the center supposed to be an end in itself? Instinctive includes everything and therefore nothing. The truth is you can stare at the center as intently as you like, but the center will not be afraid of you. Quite frankly I don't stare at the center of the target. My system of aiming is a combination of point of aim and gap shooting. When I'm doing my final aim, I am not focused on one spot. My eyes are slightly out of focus so I can see all the parts of the aim better, rather than focusing on one spot clearly yet not seeing the other parts of the aim clearly enough to line them up well.
There are four parts to aiming with this style:
1 is the arrow shaft, which must be behind the arrow tip to be straight to the target. I can't see the nock as it is below my line of sight but I can certainly see enough of the shaft that I can tell if it's lined up or not.

2 is the arrow tip which is used like a front sight of a rifle. That means that up close the tip of the arrow is under the target, not on it. Just like a rifle sight is under the target up close. The most important thing I do with the tip of the arrow is to put it exactly on the point of aim.

3 is the point of aim which is where you put your front sight (the arrow tip) to aim. Sometimes I call the point of aim the gap or the gap spot. No matter what it's called, it's where you put the tip of the arrow to get the correct elevation. If a wind was blowing from the right it is possible to correct this by placing the point of aim slightly to the right and allowing the wind to push the arrow over onto the target. Just for the record though, unless it is blowing very hard or a long distance, I aim right at the target.

4 is the target which is behind and above the point of aim. I'm not focusing on the target but splitting my vision between the target and the point of the arrow which I'm lining up to the target. I simply see the target is equal on each side of the arrow and if it is, I have to hit the center line. I don't worry about elevation because if the point of aim is correct the arc will take the arrow right into the center. Again it's all slightly out of focus in my periphery vision but as long as the tip is on the point of aim and I line up that arrow, this system is deadly accurate. So finally you must see the shaft, the point, the point of aim and the target all at the same time in your vision to get a perfect hit.

45 Degree Cant
An English longbow can be held vertically or canted. However the more vertical you hold an English longbow the greater the tendency to shoot left is, so hold your bow down at 45 degrees. Even then you'll have to turn your head slightly left and bring your string elbow down to get the arrow visually straight to the target, but that's OK Gumper. You can do it. Give it a try.
Fine Tuning Your Cant

Hold your English longbow at arms length. You will see you have to twist your wrist to hold the bow vertically. Also you will notice the arrow points to the left when the bow is vertical. Vertical is not natural. If you now roll your wrist to the right you will see the arrow come to point right at the target. When you hold your bow out it is natural for your bow and wrist to come to about 45 degrees of angle. 45 degrees is a very natural angle.
You will also see if the bow is 45 degrees that the knuckle and hand also join the bow at 45 degrees. This makes a natural v shaped trough for the arrow to sit in.

Contrary to popular belief the bow hand does not set the final cant, but the string hand does.
Let me explain. When we put the bow hand up the bow will naturally come to about 45 degrees; however if you put your bow up leaving your bow hand open and raise your string elbow. You will see the bow roll left or if you lower the elbow the bow will roll right in the hand.

So set your cant by naturally letting the wrist find it's own position "about 45 degrees" open the bow hand, draw on the bow a little bit. Relax both hands so the tension in the bow aligns both hands upon the draw and when the string elbow finds it's own spot the cant will match the draw without torquing. The string hand will adjust the bow cant as it pulls the bow into the bow hand.

Starting Your Draw

Put the tip of your arrow right on the point of aim before you start your draw. In other words start where you'll finish. It saves time. If your point is where it will be upon release all you have to do is get the shaft behind the tip. If your tip is on as the rotational draw
brings your elbow around behind you and your finger touches your face anchor, theoretically you should be aimed and ready to release.

Hold your bow arm still so you can visually see the tip of the arrow stay still on the point of aim. Archery is a very precise sport. The tip of the arrow can't be here or there. It must be exactly on the point of aim. Because the bow arm is under compression it tends to shake a bit. For instance sometimes when I begin to draw my left arm jerks to the left. As with so many aspects of archery relaxing helps. I find if I pause, stop pulling, and relax for a split second the tremor stops and I can continue to draw smoothly.

After you have anchored and are aiming you may see the tip swaying back and forth slightly to left and right of the point of aim. This is not good enough, but difficult to prevent. To minimize this sway first of all relax, and your arm will shake less being relaxed rather than being tense. Second press forward gently with the bow hand. This firm pressure will steady your arm. Thirdly keep visually concentrating on the target and tip. Now hand and eye co-ordination comes into play. As the tip sways onto the target let go.

Head Angle

It is important to find a head angle that works for you and once found to always be conscious of that position. This is the reason why. You need to get the eye behind the arrow if you are going to line it up. Lets say for arguments sake the corner of your mouth is your anchor. Go to your mirror and look. Put your finger on the corner of your mouth and you will see your eye is pretty much directly above your finger. Leave your finger there and lean your head to the right. You will see your eye is no longer over your finger, but is to the right of the finger. Therefore if you had touched that anchor with your eye on the right of it you would move the tip right and miss to the right even though the arrow appears straight to the target.

So you need to find a head angle you can repeat and automatically lines the eye and anchor up rather than trying to line up an arrow with different eye to anchor angles. If you lean your upper body be sure to keep the head angle the same as the body angle changes. It's o.k. to lean the body at slightly different angles as long as the eye to anchor angle remains the same.

Gloves and Tabs

I recommend a tab rather than a glove. I used a glove for years, tried a tab one day and never used a glove again. Immediately I realized I got a cleaner release with the tab. All my fingers moved together with a tab rather than independently like with a glove. The main cause of plucking the string is one slow finger with a glove.

I can get a deeper hook with my tab. A tab allows me to hook with the second joint of my middle finger. This  is the biggest joint of the strongest finger and gives me the deepest hook possible. With a glove, the deepest hook is just behind the first joint, which is a weaker joint and harder to put on the line of force because when the fingers are bent the first joint is on a right angle to the axis of the arm which is where the line of force is.

A glove covers the finger tips making a light touch hard to feel. A tab has no finger stalls so a light hovering touch on the face anchor is easy to feel with the finger tips. Because a tab has no fingers it is a versatile fit, whereas a glove must be exact to be comfortable.

Stretching it out

The bow must be energized to the same power each time. Inconsistent drawing and anchoring of the bow can cause high or low shots, depending on how far the bow is stretched.

The correct way to load the bow is:
The bow arm must be stretched out to full extension. Only full extension is consistent. Bending the elbow varies because of draw pressures and therefore is not repeatable.

The middle finger of the draw hand must come level with the face anchor. It must not be a bit past or before the anchor point. For each inch we draw a bow the weight increases 2.5 to 3 lbs. For example if we let go at 27 in. one shot and 29 in. the next, there is a 6 lb. difference in weight. This is a high shot and a low shot because of a variance in pressure even if the aim is perfect. The face anchor is not from whence we aim but is the draw check that gives a repeatable distance between bow hand and string hand.
This repeatable distance allows us to load the bow with the same energy.

The final step is, as our rotational draw brings the arrow nock under the eye, our back tension takes effect. My shoulder blades come together and my back muscles pull the shoulder and string elbow back all stretched out on the line of force. This  squeezing  together of the back muscles also causes the chest to come forward a bit, which is where the saying of," Being in the bow," comes from. Now my bow arm is extended, my draw is checked, my string elbow is stretched out behind me, the spring is loaded.
To sum this up in simple terms the bow hand must be fully extended and the string elbow all the way back. If this distance varies whatsoever it's a miss.
These three steps will ensure your arrow goes the same distance at the same height.

Equal Pressure

Having equal pressure between your hands is essential to shooting straight. Do not push more than you pull. Do not pull more than you push. A balanced pressure keeps both hands in line. A balanced pressure is found when the arms get a floating feeling.

Let me explain. Hold out your arm like you're aiming your bow. You will notice your bow shoulder is on the left of your head. This means as you push forward you will see your hand go right a bit. Your hand moving right means you are pushing across the line of force and missing. It is the pressure pulling back from the string hand that holds the bow hand steady. Press the bow hand forward but do not push in the sense of causing a slight jerk. Keep an even backward pressure with the string hand but do not pull the hand off the string by pulling the arm back because as the elbow comes around, the string hand makes a slight turning movement to the right, meaning it is pulling the hand off the line of force causing a miss. Remember torquing is the enemy of accuracy and any link in the power train that is twisted causes a miss.

I use a static release and recommend it. With a static release my elbow does not move and my hand stays on my face. To accomplish this the arm, shoulder, and back must be completely relaxed. The reason my hand stays on my face is because my arm and elbow are truly back, therefore when I release my hand can't go back because my elbow does not go back any farther. This keeps my arm on the line of force.

The static release is simply relaxing and opening the hand. Do not flick the hand open, that is movement and takes forearm muscles, which will only flick the hand off the line of force, and cause a miss. The release is a combination of the fingers relaxing, opening, and the string pressure pushing them out of the way. The string moves faster than the fingers can open, so there is no point in flicking, or plucking fingers off the string and expecting a clean release. A smooth release is better than a forced release.

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