The most fun in archery is gained by target practice—shooting against one's own score, or against any number of other fellows' scores. The only way to learn accurate shooting is by constant practice. Keep resolutely at it, and slowly a sure eye and a strong right arm will be developed. Now that the tackle is finished, remember that the bow and arrow is a weapon and must be used, carefully. Never aim at any person with an arrow on the string. The "unloaded gun" is little more dangerous than the "unintentional shot" from a bow. But used properly, the bow and arrow is a beautiful weapon, which develops skill and accuracy, and teaches one coordination of mind and muscle.
String the bow properly. Proceed as follows: Stand with feet well separated. Place the lower end of the bow against the left instep, so that the back of the weapon is against the inside of the foot. (See Illustration III.) Take the handle of the bow in the left hand, and push the base of the right palm against the back of the upper end of the bow; the fingers of the right hand should lightly touch the upper loop of the string, and the back or flat side of the bow should be upward. Now pull the handle of the bow toward the body with the left hand, and push the top of the upper limb away; this bends the bow. Slide the right hand toward the upper nock of the bow, pushing the loop of the string ahead, and finally into the groove that holds it. To unstring, bend the bow this same way, and lift the loop from the groove with the free fingers of the right hand. Care must be used to place the lower end of the bow against the side of the foot, so that the strain of bending comes on the back of the bow and not on the tip of the lower horn nock.
Form in shooting the long bow is something all archers aim to acquire, but even the best of them differ in the exact mode of shooting. There are many common points of agreement, and one learning these points can develop his shot with some individual differences.
First, all archers agree that it is necessary to draw their string hand just under the jaw and directly below the right eye. This position, with the bow fully drawn, is known as the anchor, (Frontispiece), and should be perfectly duplicated for each shot. Only in this way can a beginner discover his errors and correct them.
Next, there is the "loose," or the way in which the bowstring is let loose in shooting. The most commonly used method is to hold the string on the balls of the first three fingers, with the arrow held loosely between the first and second fingers; now draw to the chin and snap the fingers straight back without disturbing the aim. This is difficult to do, but the action will come quite easy with careful practice. The action of the loose is really smooth. Just let the string roll off the end of the fingers and continue straight back. A jerk, up or down, at the instant of release will throw the arrow off its course of flight.
The position an archer assumes in shooting is that of facing nearly at a right angle to the target; that is, with the left shoulder pointing at the target. Thus, when the bow arm is extended, it points nearly straight sideways, and exactly level with the shoulder. (See Illustrations IV and V.) Actually, the bow hand is held about a foot forward of a direct line across the shoulders of the archer. Otherwise, the position would be an undue strain on the neck muscles.
The advantage of this position lies in the fact that it helps to counteract the tendency to move the bow arm toward the left immediately on releasing the string; this is quite a common fault, not only in beginners, but also in experienced archers.