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Home > Books > The Art of Archery > Chapter IX: Of the Way of Shooting with a Bow
Ninth Chapter.
Of the Way of Shooting with a Bow

As a book called "The Art of War" tells us, an archer who wishes to shoot in good style must attend to several points, both as respects his body and his feet. First of all his arrows must be on his right side, as his sword is on his left. He should poise his bow on the thumb of the hand with which he holds it when he shoots, and for butt shooting balance it exactly. If the bow is well made the upper limb will be the longest. While doing this, he should draw an arrow from his quiver in two motions, the reason being that unless he had a very long arm, the arrows would remain jammed in the quiver, from which the feathers would suffer. Then, holding the arrow by the middle, he must put it in the bow,[8] and there hold it between two fingers, and you must know that these two fingers are the first and second. And every good archer should, as I have said before, draw his bow with three fingers and to his right breast, as by doing so he can pull a longer arrow. The foot of the side on which he holds the bow should be in front of the other, the toe only touching the ground, so that when the heel is brought down (without moving the foot), the side may turn towards the butt, and give a good impetus to the arrow. As to drawing, it can be done in two ways; some draw with the bow hand raised, and some with it low down, and both are good in different ways. Drawing with the bow hand low is good for butt and target shooting, and is a more natural way of shooting than with the bow hand high, besides which it assists the loose, and also because the arm, not being raised so high, is, in case of necessity, less exposed.

You must know also that there are several ways of loosing, but all depending on two things-on the drawing hand, for one must have and hold the string on the second joint of the first finger, and on the first joint of the third, and on the step, of which there are three kinds, that is to say, with one, two, or three steps, the one step loose is done in two ways; one is stepping forward with the foot of the bow hand side, and the other by bringing beck the arm, pushing out the bow and arrow, and at the same time stepping back with the other foot; this step straightens the arm, but it must be a long and sharp step back. The two other ways are by taking two steps and three steps. To shoot with two steps, a backward step must be taken with the hindermost foot, so that on bringing the front foot down, sufficient impetus is given to effect the loose. For the three step, the front foot is moved forward, then the bow is thrust forward as explained above, and the hinder foot is brought back in such a way that when the arrow is loosed one can step forward with the front foot.

According to custom a good archer should draw ten palms' breadths of arrow. There are many who draw more, but of those who draw more, there are many who shoot a weaker arrow by doing so. There are many good archers who don't draw so much, yet do not fail to make long shots and shoot as strong as the others, but if their reach is sufficient, they should pull the above-named length, for they would be finer archers by doing so. I venture to say that it is impossible to shoot a long arrow in an ungraceful way, if the bow is pushed forward.

If you wish to become a good archer you must practice in two ways, namely, at the butts under the screen, and at a target. For it is easier to learn to shoot by shooting under the screen, than in any other way, and in order that you should know how the screen if fixed, I will tell you. The screen should be placed across the range, half way between the butts, the bottom edge being one foot abort the ground for every ten paces there is between the butts. Thus if the butts are one hundred paces apart, the screen would be ten feet high, and the bottom edge should have bells on it, so that even if the feather of the arrow should touch it, one may know it by hearing the bells ring. And the said screen should be at least half an aune in depth, so that no mistake may be made.

For target shooting, as I have already said, round bows should be used. For good archers the range should be three hundred paces. Nevertheless I have formerly seen shooting at four hundred paces, but it must be admitted that the archers were first-class ones (bons exquiz archiers).