Vol. I, No. 5, pp. 318-320. August 1831.
Nocking is nothing more than fixing the nock of the arrow in the string, and, though a simple operation, calls for one or two remarks. The cock-feather, which was described in my last letter, as distinguished in general from the other two by difference of colour, and as being in every ease that which is laid on the horn of the nock, should always be placed uppermost on the string, that is, opposite the side which rests on the bow. Care should be taken, too, to nock always on the same part of the string, so that the arrow may lie straight across the bow; and this, as was before observed, will be best ensured by whipping the precise nocking-point with sewing-silk of one colour, and above and below it, to about the breadth of the fingers used in drawing, with some other coloured silk. The proper nocking-point in most bows, is exactly opposite the top of the handle.
In nocking, the bow should be held horizontally, the lower end being behind, and the string upwards. The arrow being held by the middle, should be carried under the string and over the bow till the pile reaches the left-hand, the forefinger of which must then be thrown over it, while the right-hand slides back to the nock. As soon as the upper side (that which has the cock-feather on it) is ascertained, the arrow (held between the finger and thumb) may be drawn down the bow and fixed upwards on the nocking-point.
Drawing.—To draw well is the most essential, and, in general, with beginners, the most difficult part of shooting. Archers differ in their mode of drawing, some extending the bow-arm completely before they begin to draw, others gradually while raising the Bow. The last, however, is the method usually adopted. As the left hand raises the Bow from the horizontal position in which it is held in nocking, the right should begin to draw; so that when raised to its proper elevation it may be three parts drawn. The following may be stated as the most approved rule. In raising the Bow draw it three parts—there pause to take aim—then draw it quite up to the head and instantly loose; if kept upon the stretch more than a second or two; it will be in great danger of breaking.
In drawing, the left or bow-arm must be held quite straight, and the wrist so much turned in that the string, when loosed, may strike the arm abort the centre of the bracer; the hand most be level with the top of the handle, and grasp it firmly, but with the greatest pressure between the finger and thumb. The forefinger should never be stretched out; beginners frequently do this to prevent the arrow falling off the hand, but it is quite unnecessary, as it will always retain its position if the Bow be properly drawn. The reason of the arrow falling off is this,-that in drawing, the fingers press too much over the string, and cause it to twist, and the arrow being on the string, is carried to the side towards which it is twisted, and consequently falls; let the pressure of the fingers be on the right of the string and the arrow will retain its place.
In pulling the string the three first fingers only should be used, and when it can be done with two it is still better, as the loose becomes easier; the thumb should never be used in drawing. The string must be nearly up to the first joint of the fingers, for it cannot be so easily disengaged when held beyond it.
In taking aim, the arrow is drawn towards the ear, and not, as might naturally be supposed, to the eye. Nor must the pile of the arrow be in a direct line with the mark, or it will fall considerably to the left of it. It is almost impossible to give any correct or practical rule as to the proper elevation of the Bow in shooting; observation and habit will tend chiefly to precision, and the knuckles of the bow-hand furnish a more certain and useful criterion than the Doctrine of Projectiles or the Parabolic Curve, a knowledge of which, it has been gravely asserted, is absolutely necessary to ensure good shooting. Let your knuckles, thee, be your guide, and carrying the eye along the first or second knuckle, raise or depress the Bow according to the idea of distance which experience, or the fall of the last arrow, may have given you.
Holding.—Many of the observations on the last head have anticipated those which ought, properly. to have been considered under this. I may here, however, observe what was before omitted, that in drawing, the bow must be held perpendicularly.
Loosing.—On this point, too, I have only to repeat that the arm must be held very firm at the moment of loosing, and the loose ba immediate on the arrow being drawn to the head.
These are the Five Points of Shooting; my observations upon which I shall conclude with a quotation from Ascham, who, in his quaint style, has observed that—"if a man giveth good attention to these Five Points, and studieth them diligently, he will arrive at such perfection as never man came to yet." I can scarcely hope that my explanations have been either so clear or satisfactory as to ensure this high degree of perfection; but it is some consolation to me, as it will, perhaps, be also to my readers, to learn from the same high authority, that "Archery is an art more pleasant to behold than easy to be taught, and not so difficult to be followed in practice as to be described."
I am, sir,
Your obedient servant,