How To Properly Shoot A Compound Bow

If you have seen movies or television where the archer shoots arrows with a compound bow, you probably think it is as easy as simply picking up the arrow and shoot.

If this is you then you are wrong. There is a whole plethora of mechanics and understanding of how arrows behave in order to properly shoot a compound bow.

If you want to know how to shoot a compound bow, then you are in luck. The following guide will take you through all the specifications and everything you need to know to properly shoot a compound bow.

It definitively takes a lot of knowledge when it comes to shooting a compound bow. Learning how to master will actually take some time and patience. For starters, and unless you already have some experience in archery, you have to learn the anatomy of the bow and how each part works together. We will not be covering all the parts of a compound bow here necessarily, but as we mention them, we will be spelling out their specific function for you.

How to shoot a compound bow

Let’s start dissecting all of the steps necessary to properly shoot a compound bow. As stated earlier, there is a world of knowledge in how to shoot a compound bow.

Mechanical Release

To increase accuracy and to keep the arrow from going sideways, the first thing that archers do is prepare their mechanical release.

The mechanical release, which is also known as simply release or a release aid is a piece of equipment that archers use instead of their fingers to stretch the string. This takes away the pressure from the fingers and avoids them from getting bruised from the excess stretching.

Besides this, all professional archers know that a mechanical release is a lot more accurate when shooting arrows.

There are at least three different types of mechanical release and we will be briefly discussing each.

The Caliper Release

It is the preferred one by archers, basically because it keeps the bowstring perfectly perpendicular to the arrow, meaning that the point of release will be at exactly the axis of the arrow. In a caliper release, when a trigger is pulled, it opens a loop made of two arms at the same time. Most of the time, when using a caliper, a ring is attached to the string for it to attach to it.

This loop is usually positioned right at the D loop or slightly below the nocking point. Once the caliper is attached to this loop, the archer stretches and by simply pulling a trigger, the caliper opens, releasing the arrow.

Other Mechanical Release

Other mechanical release includes the thumb switch, or the t-handle release, which includes a handle for the finger and the trigger. This one also attaches to the wrist. Perhaps its many complicated parts are the major reason why archers prefer not to use it. Besides, it has many moving parts and it is not easy to master.

In the case of the hinge release, also known as back tension release is basically a hook attached to the string that releases the arrow by simple rotation to disengage it. So it is basically a pivoting string hook with a metal moon or sear that is placed on a handle. This is probably the second favorite for archers. They love it because it is simple, has no trigger and it is more comfortable for the fingers.

Some other archers prefer to use their fingers with a special protective coat. We suggest you try this only after you have become an expert.

When using your fingers, the focus should be on making sure the arrow is pointing to the target and that your pulse is in check. But even experts agree that using a  mechanical device has advantages other than simply reducing finger discomfort.

A release is useful for reducing any unintentional discharge by the bow on the arrow. By using a release, the archer also minimizes the risks of dry-firing and causing damage equipment or personal injury.

If you add a wrist wrap to the release aid, this distributes the tension produced by the stretched bowstring between the fingers and the arm muscles.

About the bow

You want to make sure that the compound bow you are using is adequate for you and is in optimal conditions. The strings should be of high quality and not worn or heavily used.

It is also important to know what amount of pressure your bow is able to handle. It is best for you to use a bow that you have previously used. If not, test it in a controlled environment to make sure it will not disappoint in the field.

Archery Shooting Form

Consistent and accurate results in archery are the result of a proper archery shooting form. This is pivotal for learning how to shoot a compound bow more accurately. Elements for archery shooting form include, but is not limited to, posture, grip, stance, and arm position. In this article, we will thoroughly go through most elements that will ensure that you know how to shoot a compound bow better.


The stance refers to how the archer is standing with respect to the target. The archer must be standing perpendicular to the target. The feet should be parallel to one another with one of them positioned more forward than the other.

We are talking about a separation of about 18-25 inches, or the same distance between your shoulders, and with the toes directly facing the target.

The stance must be balanced and there needs to be sufficient clearance between the bow arm and the archer’s chest.


At this point, you have the bow in front of your body and the fingers of your weak hand on the bow in resting position. From this resting position, you should you load the bow. The grip on the bow should be both firm and relaxed.

A too tight grip will produce an inaccurate shot. If you feel you are having difficulty with a firm and comfortable grip, try using a wrist sling. This will ensure an accurate shot. This means that shooting with an open hand is not a good idea as is grabbing the bow with your writing hand.

Nocking the arrow

Once you have the proper archery shooting form it is time to nock the arrow. This is a rather simple process.

All compound bows are designed so that a nocked arrow only toucher the bow at the string and on the rest. If the arrow were to touch any other point of the arrow, it would certainly deflect it.

The first step into nocking the arrow is to position it on the rest.

Some compound bows have a “biscuit” style where the arrow slides through bristles and positions itself. This is a more secure style as you do not have to worry about the arrow falling off. If the bow is a normal rest, the arrow will simply sit atop.

The nock of the arrow is the part that comes in contact with the bowstring. A properly nocked arrow will make contact with the bow at the nocking point of the string and at the rest. You must make sure that the arrow is properly placed and that it will not come in contact with any other part of the bow when fired. When the arrow is pressed against the bowstring, a clicking sound is heard, meaning that the arrow is ready to be set to firing position.

The center shot

When the string is being tensed the center shot will be the line at which the arrow will travel when shot. In other words, it is the traveling trajectory of the string from the resting draw and the full draw.

The arrow should be in front of the string at all times. So, the bow and the bowstring should be aligned. Aligning your arrow on the center shot will prevent any loss of energy and ensure a perfect shot.

Anchor position

Let us now take a look at the hand you will be using to draw the string. This is your drawing hand. When drawing the bowstring, this string hand should be positioned against the side of your face.

Your hand and the string will be on the right side of your face and vice-versa if you are left-handed.

This is the anchor position. You can achieve maximum accuracy by anchoring your hand against your chin or the corner of your mouth.

Draw and release

When drawing the bow, make sure the arm holding the bow is parallel to the earth. Then you draw until you reach the anchor position.

Try to use your back muscles more than your arm muscles. This will give you smoother shots and will reduce fatigue and muscular strain.

Rest your bow hand lightly around the bow; gripping it too strongly might produce excess torque, giving you a failed shot.

Once you have identified the center shot, acquired the shooting form, you align the bow’s sight on the selected target. If your bow is equipped with a sight, the aiming will be a lot easier.

You should know that you still need to learn how to use the sight, even if it has a laser on it. Practice will make you better at reaching the perfect aim.

When you are about to release, your fingers must be relaxed completely. If only one of your fingers is too tense, you can disrupt your release. This is when a mechanical release comes in handy because it brings the releasing process down to simply pulling a trigger. But still, this does not ensure a perfect shot. If by accident, you slap the trigger, the arrow will go sideways.

How to shoot a compound bow more accurately

Shooting a compound bow more accurately comes with practice. You can follow some tips and tricks that will help you get there.

You can become a better shooter by making simple changes that are not really that difficult to make. There are so many factors that will influence the accuracy of your shot and that unfortunately, are out of our control. Take the weather, natural obstacles, the speed and direction of the wind, for example.

However, we can improve how we handle the bow and arrow to get a better shot.

So, if the universe is on your side, the planets are aligned and the odds are on your favor, it would be a shame if you missed that shot. Undoubtedly, practice makes perfect. It is equally important to never wind down in your practice. Check out the following tips on how to shoot a compound bow more accurately.

Calibrate your bow

By calibrating we mean to make sure everything regarding the bow is on check. The first thing you might want to take a look at is the tuning.

A bow must definitively be tuned properly in order to have an accurate shot. Interestingly, this is a point that too many archers pass by. The accuracy of your shot is affected by center-shot alignment and timing.

By timing, we mean that both cams on your compound bow rotate exactly the same and reach the back wall (full rotation) at the same time. The cams are the two wheels at both ends of the limbs. They rotate around a pin as the string is stretched to reduce friction. If these two do not rotate at the same time, then you will feel the string acting funny, which is caused by the strings not reaching back wall at the same time. They are out of sync.

Fortunately, this can be fixed with a couple of twist on one cable will bring the other one back to sync. You will find that all two-cam and cam-and-a-half bows have a timing mark to show if your bow is properly timed or not. A single-cam bow will never face this issue, which makes it advantageous regarding tuning.

Now check if your rest and nocking point are centered properly. The best way to test this is to shoot at a piece of paper.

A perfectly aligned arrow will make a perfectly framed whole through the paper. If the bullet hole is shifted to one side, there is a problem with rest and/or nocking placement. This will cause all your arrows to go sideways. Make proper adjustments until you get a perfect bullet hole on the paper.

You might also want to add a peep sight to your bow. There is nothing wrong with placing a peep sight to your bow to increase accuracy. All those shots you missed in the past were because you probably did not have a better way to position your arrow in line with the target. A larger sight offers you greater visibility and field of view. You can get plenty of visibility with a ¼-inch diameter peep, even in low-light conditions.

Relax your body

One too many times we have seen beginner archers squeeze the bow so tightly that they give it undesired torque.

Tension and accuracy are antagonists when it comes to arrow shooting.

All the way from the ground, your body should be relaxed.

Yes, relaxing the legs and feet is important, but so is relaxing the arm holding the bow. In fact, it is pivotal to a solid aiming.

Your arm holding the bow should be fully relaxed and be a shock absorber. This is achieved when your arm is relaxed. So, instead of stiffly trying to make the bow stay still, bend your arm a little only to allow the elbow to unlock. With practice, you will be able to master the body relaxation.

Consider a release aid

A mechanical release will greatly affect your accuracy. Instead of having to use your bare fingers, with a mechanical release all you have to do is pull a trigger.

This small device is actually perfect for increasing accuracy.

Now, this does not mean that within the minute you switch to a mechanical release, you will double your accuracy. It takes some time to get accustomed to it, even if you are a seasoned archer. However, you will be having a higher accuracy within days!

Practice precision

Precision refers to aiming at a very close range from each arrow. In other words, it is how close each bullet hole is from each other.

Bowhunters, for example, target, say, a deer. Pinpoint accuracy is important when hunting game but it is necessary for the archer to determine which point in the animal will the arrow go.

Now, you do not develop pinpoint accuracy by pointing at 3-D objects all the time. In order to do this, practice with a  bulls-eye target board. You can, of course, use another spot in which fine-point precision is required. By practicing shooting at very tiny marks, you will be developing precision.

Stay active

This is probably a challenging one, especially if you have not been in the field for a while. But then you do not want your abilities to hit bottom. Throughout the season, keep up your form and strength so that it stays on point when you next need it. Set an indoor target where you can practice from time to time when you come from work. Carry a target in your car so you can take some shots from time to time.

The first arrow is the one that matters

When you are in the field, you really do not have the time to warm up with countless arrows before shooting the “real” one.

The truth is that the “real” one, the one that truly matters is the first one.

Now, practice allows you to get where you need to be. But this place refers to your next shot. Make sure that your practice routines include sessions where you shoot very few arrows and focus on the first one. Focusing on this first arrow in every session will help you learn what are your tendencies when coming close to a shot.

Push yourself

You should always aim to step up your game. This is only achieved when you stretch your limits.

The place to do this is the practice range.

If you want to put your abilities to the test, you have to continuously push yourself beyond what you have accomplished.

For instance, if you only shoot deer at 20 yards, you will become an expert at that distance. But this does not mean you will not do good at 30, 40, or 50 yards. Once you have mastered the 20 yards, it is time to stretch.

This is what you could call stepping out of the comfort zone. We may add to that that it is about going out of a comfort zone to something greater until that begins to feel like a comfort zone, and so on. Challenge yourself for further ranges. Imperfections in your form will be more easily detected when you try shooting at a longer range.

Let’s say that at 20 yards, you aim towards the 10-ring but a hitch or a tiny imperfection makes the arrow land in the edge of the 10-ring. But at 50 yards, a miscalculation that deviates the arrow a quarter inch will deviate it 6 inches. You will have to make corrections to bring that arrow back to the center.

Do you want to have an accurately perfect bullseye at 50 and 60 yards? You have to beef up that form.

So, shooting at larger distances helps tighten your form. If you cannot increase your target range, then reduce the size of your bullseye. For instance, if you usually shoot at a target with a large radius, reduce that radius to the half and aim there. Consistent practice will make you develop a great stance almost naturally.

Stay still

This is more common than what you might think, but one of the issues that many archers deal with is holding their position until the arrow hits the target. It quickly becomes such a bad habit that they end up moving the bow down even before the arrow has left it.

Needless to say, this compromise accuracy tremendously.

When shooting an arrow, you should follow through. This refers to keeping the bow steady until the arrow hits the target. You should consciously make the effort to stay consistent with your position until the arrow reaches the target. Your bow arm should stay steady and relaxed. To enjoy much greater consistency, hold all your body positions until you see that the arrow has hit the target.

Don’t expect your skills to be on “stand-by” mode and that you can get them all back by the time they are required. Yes, practice makes perfect and if you want to improve your accuracy, you have to practice and practice.

How to properly shoot a compound bow

Definitively the fun part of preparing to shoot an arrow is drawing the bow. But first, it is important that you keep your form, stance, and the way you grab the weapon. You are all set with your feet facing each other, you grip the bow, nock the arrow and position your body for release.

The first thing you need to make sure about if you are into archery is to get yourself a bow that is not too heavy for you.

If you try to lift a bow that is too heavy for you, gravity will take its toll on the accuracy of your shots.

Start with a lightweight bow and build your way up from there. If you already are a strong athlete that gives you practically no advantage.

It is not the same to lift up a 50-lb dumbbell than to lift up a 50-lb complex bow. You just need to find a bow that best fits with you. There is nothing wrong with using a lightweight bow if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Once you found the proper one.

You must know how to properly shoot a compound bow. You must align both your bow hand and your release hand in line with your nose and the target. Keeping it steady, and using your mechanical release, you use your release hand to pull the bowstring towards your face. Breathe in when you start bringing the arrow towards you. Your shoulder than rotates towards the back as you do this movement.

Remember that you should feel the muscles on your shoulders working, not only those on your shoulders.

Actually, and as surprising as it might sound, do not use your biceps and triceps to draw. This actually can lead to injury from tension on your arms and shoulder. When you stretch the string you will feel that the bow hit its “wall”. This is when you should position your aiming hand close to your chin in order to observe the proper “anchor point”, which we mentioned before.

How to shoot a compound bow for beginners

When you are a beginner, shooting a compound bow becomes something like learning how to ride a bike. At first, you have to consider all the parts, focus on doing it right one step at a time. But once you have efficiently mastered the art of archery, you practically become a natural.

Since these are your first steps, due to safety concerns, they must be baby steps. A compound bow is a weapon and, as such, must be treated with respect.

Before you start your practice, always make sure there is no soul in the trajectory of your arrow or even in the vicinity. You might experience some aiming issues at first so you must be cautious.

The following are some quick tips that you will have to focus on and practice when you are getting started with a compound bow.

  • Start yourself with a beginners compound bow, which is less complex than a pro one and lighter. Once you start improving, you can move on to a heavier bow until you feel more comfortable.
  • Your feet should be length apart with your left one in front of the right foot (the opposite if you are left-handed). So, your feet are forming a straight line towards the target. Let’s say the target is at 12 o’clock. Your body then should be facing 3  o’clock if you are right-handed and 9 o’clock if you are left-handed.
  • When you grab the bow, you must do it with your weaker hand. Make sure you hold it from the middle with a relaxed grip and that it feels equally balanced.
  • Locate the arrow rest and place the arrow on it and then place the back of the arrow (nock) against the string. It is important at this point that you do not aim the bow at any person.
  • After you have loaded the arrow, scan the area to verify that it is safe to shoot. While you are holding the bow from the center you use your drawing hand to pull the string with the arrow back. This pull should be steady, slow, and not difficult.
  • Correct your posture and keep your eyes on the target. Use the tip of the arrow as a sight to your target. Once you have positioned it, lift it up a little bit because the arrow will project itself downward while airborne.
  • Release the hand that is pulling the string and lose your stance only after the arrow has hit the target.

How to shoot a compound bow without a release

Back in the days, it was commonplace to shoot arrows with your fingers. Mechanical releases were an innovation.

But since they proved to be more practical and provide greater accuracy, now the table has turned.

It is now not so common for someone to use their finger only instead of a mechanical release. If you are using your fingers to pull on the bowstring, it usually is a large bow since this one makes a wider angle when stretched, reducing tension and preventing a painful finger pinch.

It is nearly impossible to shoot an arrow using a bow that is 36 to 38 inches from axle to axle.

The truth is that any bow shorter than 40 inches makes this acute angle that will close to sever your fingers. Today, bows are made smaller to make them more portable and practical. Hence, many are shifting to using a mechanical release.

So, the first thing that we need to establish is that, if you are going to finger-shoot, then you should use larger bows. Believe it or not, finger-shooting can have their advantages. For example, shooting with your fingers gives you more control over the arrows. If you torque the bow due to too much pressure on it, you can use your shooting fingers to correct any misdirection. If the arrow is about to fall from the rest, you can simply and almost automatically put it back in place.

Finger shooting makes the entire place and shoot process more fluid and less mechanical. This does not apply to target shooting though, where precision is the most important thing.

To become a master at finger-shooting, undoubtedly practice will do the trick. Go with compound bows that are more efficient with finger shooting, that is, bows that are around 40 inches or more. Do keep in mind that finger-friendly bows are more difficult to find.

The Grip

Knowing how to shoot a compound bow with fingers also has to do with consistency. To increase accuracy in your shot, you must hold the arrow the same way you do every time.

It is important that you keep the back of your hand parallel to the plane of the bowstring. You then grip the string within the first or second crease of your fingers.

Some will recommend you use the second crease for the sake of a better lock. That will depend on what makes you more comfortable. Once you have locked your fingers, make sure you keep them limp and relaxed. This will avoid any torque on the bowstring when at full draw.

While you are drawing, you must increase finger pressure accordingly. This is where you decide how many fingers you decide to use. Most archers prefer to use two fingers firmly hooked to the string to add a little extra security at full draw, especially when spotting an elusive animal or when shooting in the wind.

The Release

There are basically two ways of releasing the bowstring when using fingers. One way more traditional than the other.

The most traditional one is basically swinging your sight pin into the bulls-eye slowly and then hold it steady for one second or two to then simply relax the back the of the hand until the string just slips away. Professional archers do it this way mostly. They pin the target, secure it for three seconds and then relax the hand to cut the arrow free.

The second method uses back tension. This is the way that release-aided professional shooters do it. This method helps reduce those target-panic issues that result from overthinking the target. With this method, your focus is no longer placed on the release. In fact, you train your brain to completely forget about it and devote your attention to the target.

This is how you do it. Position yourself in full draw, position the target pin close to the target and allow the pin to “hover” around the target, like in a circle or mainly going in and out of it. There is no mental command to shoot right now.

Now, this is when you start to train your muscle memory. The side rhomboid muscles of your draw arm are slowly activated. This causes the tension in your finger to increase as well. When the tension becomes too strong, your hand becomes completely relaxed and the bowstring breaks free.

With practice, you will find that you are only aiming and no longer thinking of the release. Basically, you will take that to the subconscious. In other words, the arrow will be shot when your body decides, not your mind.


Can you shoot a compound bow with your fingers?

Absolutely. Just know that in order to avoid finger pinching, your compound bow should be ideal. By this we mean one that is at least 40 in from axle to axle. Anything smaller than that will make it from very difficult to almost impossible to shoot a compound bow with your fingers.

How do you hold a right-handed compound bow?

Hold it with your fingers relaxed and not too tight. If you hold it full grip you risk applying torque at the moment of releasing. In fact, try to bend your arm slightly.

How far can a compound bow shoot?

There are several factors involved here. It will depend on what range is the shooter comfortable with. The range is usually between 30 and 60 yards. Technically, you could shoot an arrow to travel at 100 yards, but it is useless if it does not hit a target. On the other hand, some archers can shoot at a 4-inch circle from 50 yards.

What side is the arrow rest on a right-handed bow?

The rest will be placed on the side where the arrow goes. In the case of a right-handed bow, this will be on the left side.

How do you know if a bow is right or left handed?

This will depend on the position of important elements such as the rest and sights. These are placed according to the dominant eye. So, if a right-handed bow will have these elements on the right side, whereas a left-handed bow will have them on the left side.

Which way do you nock an arrow?

Most bows have a D-ring attached to the bowstring to indicate the nocking position. This is where you will nock the arrow. This nocked arrow should be positioned approximately one-quarter of an inch above the arrow rest.

How do you hold a bow if your right handed?

If you are right-handed, you will hold the bow with your left hand. The aiming, stretching and shooting will be done with the right hand.

What process will help adjust your sights to hit the bull’s eye consistently?

The process is known as sighting in. Start by shooting at least five arrows at a target from 10 yards. Aim for the bulls-eye but understand that the purpose is not to hit it but to have precision. This means that you have a grouping or set of arrows close to each other. If the arrows are very tightly close to each other, this is an indication that you are consistent in your attempts to aim at the target. Speaking of targets you may also like our guide on the best bow stabilizers here.

Next, follow the position of your grouping of arrows to adjust the sight. If all your arrows hit on the top right of the target, move your front sight to the top and then to the right.

Related Posts:

Image Credit Flickr Creative Commons –  laugh like muttley (, image 1

The following two tabs change content below.


Latest posts by stayontrails (see all)

Leave a Comment