Drawing an Essential Feature—Example of Bad Methods—Modes Adopted by Different Archers—The Best System—Inability of Devices to give Certainly of Draw—Position of Left Arm a most Important Feature — Mr. Waring's Arm-Striking Theory Denounced—The Necessity of the Unobstructed Passage of the String Demonstrated— Proper Position for the Left Arm—the Length of the Draw.
Whether Ascham's assertion that "drawing is the better part of shooting" be strictly correct or not, one tiling is certain, that at any rate it forms one of its most important features; and upon the manner in which it is accomplished very much depends, not only the ease and grace of the entire performance, but the accuracy and certainty of the hitting. Now, though it is not asserted that but one method of drawing exists, whereby a man may attain to great scoring, it is nevertheless maintained that there are many modes in common practice at the present day, by the use of which such scoring is effectually prevented. A small volume might be written in describing the different bad methods of action adopted by various Archers to accomplish this part of shooting. One I have seen took first a deliberate aim at his own toe, then an equally careful one at the sky above his head, and finally at his mark; it is perhaps needless to add that he seldom or never hit it. Another was wont to go through the most extraordinary gyrations with both arms, moving them about somewhat like the sails of a windmill during the whole process of drawing until the very moment of the arrow's departure—where to, until it dropped, neither he himself nor any of the lookers-on had the remotest chance of divining. Several make a sort of see-saw of the bow and arrow, drawing the latter backwards and forwards for the last few inches, till the ill-treated weapons are at last allowed to separate. Such tricks as these, and many others like them too numerous for description, are methods of drawing that do prevent good shooting, and none are or can be correct that in so glaring a manner do violence to gracefulness, or the first principles of common sense. But, putting aside such eccentric performances as these, there still remain several different methods of drawing, that may fairly admit of discussion as to their respective merits, and these I shall proceed to notice.
Some Archers, and good ones too, extend the bow-arm fully and take their aim before they commence drawing at all. I cannot, however, think that this method is to be commended, as it has an awkward appearance from the necessity that exists of stretching the right arm so far across the body in order to reach the string, and materially increases the exertion necessary to pull the bow. The same objections apply, though in a less degree, to drawing the bow a few inches only, and then extending the arm and taking the aim. A third method to be noticed, the very opposite of that described, is, when the arm is extended, and the arrow drawn home before the aim is attempted to be taken at all. This, at the first view, has apparently a great point in its favour, namely, that it insures the arrow's always being drawn to the same point; but is objectionable, nevertheless, as being most trying both to arms and bow, as being generally ineffective, not particularly graceful, and causing the proper loose to be constantly missed, from the great overstrain that is laid upon the drawing fingers of the right hand. Another method is, to make the pulling of the bow and the extension of the left arm a simultaneous movement, and to such an extent, that the arrow shall be at the least three-fourths drawn at the time it is brought upon the aim—the right arm being at this time so much raised, that its elbow shall be on the same level as the drawing fingers. This is the system adopted by the generality of good Archers, and is decidedly the best, as being the most graceful in action, and by far the easiest as regards the pulling of the bow. There is some difference of opinion amongst those who adopt this plan, as to whether the arms and bow should be brought to the point of aim from beneath that point, or brought round and above, and then lowered to it (in either case, whether upwards or downwards, in a perpendicular line), or whether this should be done by a horizontal motion. The first method appears to me to be the simplest and most direct, since the drawing most naturally commences from beneath the point of aim, and it seems rather going out of the way to make an upward circular motion in order to get above it, for the sole purpose of again descending to it. As regards the horizontal movement, it is objectionable, as having a tendency to carry the arm across the target, and so out of the true line.
At this point (the arrow being at the least three-fourths drawn and the aim found), a further matter for discussion amongst Archers is, whether the continuation of the pull to its finish should be immediate and without pause, or otherwise; that is to say, whether the entire drawing should be one continuous act, from the first moment of pulling and raising the bow to the loosing; or whether the arrow should be held quiescent for a short time after the aim is found, so as to steady and correct it, and then be drawn to the loose. Ascham maintains that the first is the only correct method, and calls the second a shift; but a very great deal of experiment has proved that very little, if any, advantage is possessed by either system over the other, and that the Archer may adopt whichever he pleases without detriment to his shooting, provided only that the pause, if he make it, be a very slight one. My own predilection, from habit perhaps, is rather in favour of the continuous draw, and it is certainly somewhat less laborious, as if once a stop takes place, a renewed effort is required to complete the pull; but, upon the whole, the difference between the two methods is so trifling, that it may safely be left to the option of each shooter, as before stated, to choose for himself.
I shall therefore venture to recommend, as being, all things considered, the best system of drawing, that the pulling of the bow and the extension of the left arm be a simultaneous movement; that this be to the extent of drawing the arrow at the least three-fourths of its length before the aim be taken (if to such a distance that the wrist of the right hand come to about the level of the chin, so much the better); that the aim be found by a direct movement on to it from the starting-place of the draw; that the right elbow be well raised; and that the arrow be then pulled home, either with or without a pause, preference being rather given to the latter.
One of the main features of good drawing is, that the distance pulled be precisely the same every time, that is to say, the arrow always be drawn to identically the same spot. Unless this be accomplished, the elevation must be more or less uncertain, since the power taken out of the bow will, of course, be greater or less according to the extent it is pulled. A great many devices have been tried and practised to make exact similarity in the distance drawn a matter of certainty, by notching the extremity of the arrow for instance, so that the left hand may feel when it has reached a certain point, and by other contrivances of the like nature, and producing the same effect. But such devices never have a beneficial result; for when the eve and mind are fixed on the aim, concentrated upon it as it were (as they should be), if anything occurs to distract either, the shooting is sure to become uncertain and unequal. Some Archers endeavour to obtain a certain guide to the length of draw by means of the right hand, making this be felt in some particular part of the cheek. One who shot at one of the earlier Grand National Meetings actually held on by his own nose, the thumb being the instrument of fixture; another will put his tongue in his cheek, and hold on by that. The same objections apply to these as to the first-mentioned device; and they are additionally objectionable as being extremely unsightly and ungraceful, besides preventing the elasticity of finger required for a good loose. There appear, indeed, to be no artificial means by which similarity of draw can be beneficially obtained. Nothing but constant and unremitting practice will serve the Archer here.
The pile of the arrow should not be drawn on to the bow—at least it is better that it be not—as, unless it is exactly the same shape as the arrow itself, it will throw the latter out of the line. (See Plate 5.) Moreover, more or less danger will exist of the arrow's being pulled and set inside the bow, when such a smash will probably take place, as will be anything but soothing to the nerves of the shooter, or safe to his bow or eyes. This rule can be the more safely pressed on his attention, as there is no object gained by violating it. It is, therefore, recommended that the arrow be pulled just to that point where the commencement of the pile touches the bow and no further. Thus the arrow should be longer, by the length of the pile, than the Archer's actual draw,