To become a good shot with the bow and arrow requires close attention to detail and constant practice. It is better to read and think over the instructions for shooting before practicing archery than to have to correct faults which have developed through uninstructed use of the bow. The lure of this seductive weapon should be resisted until one clearly has made a mental note of just what should be done at each stage of the preparation for and the act of shooting an arrow. He should first learn how to string or brace the bow and then study in detail the several steps in the act of shooting; namely, (a) standing in position, (b) nocking the arrow, (c) drawing the arrow, (d) holding and aiming, (e) loosing the arrow. Figures 32 to 38 will assist the reader in understanding the following instructions, it being understood that the archer is addressing a target not visible in these pictures.
Bracing the Bow.—To string or brace the bow: First, grasp the handle with the left hand. Second, place the lower end above the nock against the instep of the left foot with the back of the bow toward you. Third, holding the eye of the string near the upper nock with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand and with the grip on the handle rigid, press down on the upper end of the bow with the "heel" of the right hand and cause the bow to bend. Fourth, creep up toward the nock with the fingers while maintaining the pressure, and place the eye in the groove. This explanation is for what might be termed the right-hand method. The symmetrical procedure for the left-hand method, which is the one shown in Figure 32, is obvious. The learner may view this picture as if seeing himself in a mirror and proceed with the right-hand method.
A word or two of caution is necessary here. Do not let any part of the holding fingers get caught between the eye of the string and the bow. This would most likely cause pain, if not positive injury. Also, the lower tip should never be pressed to the ground while stringing the bow, in order to avoid the chance of snapping it off. The side pressure against the foot is all that is needed here in the act of stringing.
Standing in Position.—With feet somewhat apart stand erect squarely across the shooting mark and face in a direction at right angles to the target with the bow arm—the left for right-handed people—nearest the target. The left hand hanging naturally at the side holds the bow at the grip, string uppermost. Unlike in rifle shooting, the side of the body is presented to the target instead of the front, Figure 33.
Nocking the Arrow.—With the bow in a horizontal position and the string nearest the body, take hold of the nock end of an arrow with the fingers of the right hand and place the shaft across the bow over the arrow plate against the left hand. Place the forefinger or the thumb of the bow hand temporarily over the arrow to steady it and push the arrow forward until it clears the string; then fit the nock to the nocking point of the string, taking care that the cock feather is uppermost; that is, so that it is farthest removed from the bow, Fig 34.
Drawing, Holding, Aiming.—Hook the end of the first three fingers of the right hand under the string and, at the same time, lightly clasp the arrow behind the feathers between the first and second fingers; then turn the head, look toward the target, and think what you are going to do. With both hands in position and the steadying finger of the bow hand removed, swing the bow out from the side toward the target, the left arm straight, the elbow locked, the bow nearly vertical, the arrow shaft against the bow and riding on the base knuckle of the forefinger, the right hand in the act of drawing, and the right elbow high.
Perhaps the word "hook" inaccurately expresses the position of the three fingers under the string. We use it to bring attention quickly to the main thought involved. To draw a bow by pinching the end of the arrow between the thumb and finger, as children do with toy bows, is out of the question; so a more practical method is used. The fingers, however, do not extend over so far that the string falls into the creases of the first joints, but presses instead against the finger pads in front of these joints.
With the left arm unyielding, draw the string back to touch the chin while the fingers, carrying the arrow between them, rest at the jaw. The nock end of the arrow should be squarely under the right eye. Hold this position momentarily while sighting down the point of the arrow to the point of aim, of which more will be said presently. Do not permit the arrow to creep forward or the bow arm to relax in the slightest degree, Figures 35, 36, and 37. (The position of the drawing hand in Figure 37 is about two fingers higher than that taken by many archers.)
Loosing the Arrow.—After being satisfied that the aim is correct, loose the arrow by straightening the finger tips while actually increasing the pull on the string and so permit the string to roll off the fingers evenly without otherwise moving any other part of the body. Do not allow the string to creep forward as it is released; otherwise a perceptible lessening of the force speeding the arrow will result and there will be a change of the trajectory or line of flight of the arrow. Do not move for a few moments following the loose. The drawing hand, freed of the string, holds its position near the chin and the bow arm continues to be extended until, let us say, the arrow reaches its destination. This "after-poise" is important in insuring the fixity of aim just preceding. Figure 38.
In correct shooting, the draw is the same for each loose, both as to length and as to the position of the arrow nock near the jaw. This position is known as the anchor and should be invariable. Archers recognize when this point is reached by feeling the thumb or first finger of the drawing hand at some definite spot along the lower jaw. Each one has his favorite method, and the beginner likewise should early form a similar habit. Under these circumstances, aiming is performed by moving the bow arm only, the arrow behaving as if it were pivoted at the nock.
The grip on the bow handle should be rather loose and the bow should press squarely against the base of the hand. The thumb may assist in the grasp of the bow or it may extend along its length, depending on personal preference.
Beginners frequently find it difficult to retain the arrow against the bow while drawing. Practice will cure this fault. It is due in most cases to the instinctive curling of the fingers for a better grip in the act of drawing. By permitting the fingers to straighten out, except toward the ends where they support the string, the shaft will tend to stay against the bow. No harm comes from tilting the bow slightly from the vertical, if this aids in retaining the shaft in place.
The act of aiming may be done with the left eye shut or with both eyes open. In either event the right eye really does the sighting (for right-handed people). Before the arrow is released, the archer must so adjust his aim that the arrow length is a continuation of the line which hits a plumb line through the center of the target. If the arrow nock is not squarely under the right eye, sighting over the arrow point to the plumb line will not produce this condition, and the arrow will fly to one side.