While it is true that a considerable degree of of skill may be acquired at short range by constant practice, even with a false position, yet for success at the long ranges it is absolutely essential that the archer should keep the one position which gives the greatest command of the bow. After many years of experimenting all the best shots have reached the same conclusion as to the standing which the archer should take, and the style of the proper draw and loose.
Upon the following rules all agree:
Having taken his standing, the next thing addressing itself to the archers care, is to properly nock his arrow.
The proper point on the string to place the arrow is exactly opposite the first wood of the upper limb of the bow appearing above the plush handle. This point upon the string should always bear a mark to distinguish it, so that the point can at once be found.
To nock the arrow, take the bow by the handle with the left hand, holding it horizontally across the body, with the upper limb to the right. With the right hand draw the arrow from the quiver, pass it across the bow until the steel pile projects ten inches beyond the handle, when the left forefinger should be placed over the arrow to hold it to its place, while the right hand is changed to the nock; with the thumb and first finger of the right hand grasping the nock, slide the arrow forward until the nock reaches the string, when the arrow should be turned until the cock-feather comes uppermost, and the nock placed upon the string. The left fore finger should now be lifted from the arrow, which will rest between the bow and the knuckle of the first finger.
The next operation in order is the drawing of the sfring. In order to secure regular hitting at long range it is necessary that the string should be drawn exactly alike at each shot. Not only should the string be brought back the same distance every time, but in precisely the same manner and in exactly the same time. How necessary it is that there should be no variation in the delivery of two shots will be easily understood when it is remembered that though everything else be done perfectly, yet the variation of one-fifth of an inch in the aiming of an arrow at one hundred yards carries it entirely off the target; or in other words, if an arrow is properly aimed to ensure it to strike exactly in the center of the gold of a four feet target at one hundred yards, a change of one fifth of an inch either to left or right will cause it to miss the whole target.
The same rule applies to the distance the string must be drawn each time as will be fully explained in the chanters on "Keeping a line" and "Keeping a length "
To draw steadily and truly, the left hand grasping the handle of the bow firmly should be raised to the level of the shoulder, the string being at the same time partially drawn back by the three first finders of the right hand. These three fingers draw the string by being hooked around it as nearly at their extreme tips as the shooter can control the string, the arrow being held between the first and second fingers. When the bow has reached the level of the shoulder it should be held in a position nearly perpendicular, the upper limb being turned slightly to the right.
The position of the target should now be well fixed in the vision, and the necessary elevation to reach it determined. Then the left arm should be held fully extended and firm as a wooden beam; the right should draw the string back, not by the power of the fingers alone, but by the whole strength of the right shoulder and arm. The utmost care and great practice should be given to acquiring the correct draw.
When the arrow is fully drawn up to the steel pile, as every arrow must be, the arrow and the whole of the right arm from the elbow to the arrow nock, must be exactly on a line. Unless this is secured no regular shooting at long range can ever be obtained. It is easily seen why this is true, for if the right elbow were lower than the line of the arrow, the muscles would be on a strain and the loosing of the string irregular and unsteady.
When the arrow is thus fully drawn up it should at once be loosed, and this is the most delicate and difficult operation of archery, and almost as hard to describe as to learn. The loose is simply the act of allowing the string to slip off the finger tips, and is accomplished by partially straightening the last joint of the fingers while they are slipped off, and backward from the string. Merely to straighten the fingers and let the string go free, will give a clumsy, sluggish loose, but the fingers should be brought smoothly backward and be pulled off the string by the force of the draw. This will give a clean sharp loose, and by careful practice one can become so perfect in it, that his arrows will go with great power and beauty, from even a very light bow.
Much difference will be seen in the elevation required for different archers to reach the target with bows of the same weight. The reason is to be found in the loose. Many archers complain of the great elevation necessary in shooting at the 100 yard range, with bows of 55 to 60 pounds weight, while the expert whose touch is fine and loose perfect, will send his arrows through with a low and steady flight, perfectly commanding the range with a 48 pound bow.
The utmost care is necessary in drawing, that the string is brought straight back from the center of the bow. Grasping the handle firmly, as the shooter must, it is not easy to perceive by the feeling whether the string is being drawn back in a true line or not. One can judge better by the flight of the arrow. If the arrow wags, or waggles from side to side, it is caused by the failure to draw the string back truly. The reason is obvious, for if the string is drawn backward while in a state of tension, and brought half an inch to the left of a line with the center of the bow, and thus loosed, it will rush toward the center changing its course as it moves and throw the nock of the arrow to the right, and of course the head of the arrow to the left. This will give the arrow a wagging motion horizontally in its flight, and wholly spoil the accuracy of the shot. This defect of drawing is generally found to arise from fear of touching the face with the string; for the string is almost always drawn to the right of the true line, rarely to the left. The archer should always draw close in to the side of the chin.
A slight impediment will sufficiently retard the string so as to ruin the flight of an arrow at long range. A touch of the hat rim, the flow-ng end of an necktie, or side-whiskers upon the right cheek, may prevent any excellent scoring. The archer should either wear a shooting cap, or have the brim of the hat pinned up closely on the right side. In drawing and loosing the archer should endeavor to so perfect himself that each would be done automatically, and so easily that he would have really no thought as to how either was being done, his whole attention being fixed upon the target and the direction and elevation being given to the arrow.
In order to get a perfectly smooth loose it is necessary that the finger gloves should fit very closely and be made of pliable leather, which will yield to the bending of the finger. The ends of the fingers should slightly protude, yet not enough to allow the string to hurt them. The archer should not permit the finger gloves to become hard and dry, but should touch them with grease about once in every thirty shots. They should not be saturated with the grease, but should be kept in a smooth, pliable condition. The loose being the delicate part of archery, a very small defect in the archer's gear will materially affect the smoothness of the loose. If the string be not round, the wrapping imperfectly done, the nock fitting too tightly or too loosely on the string, the finger gloves too loose, the leather too hard, or the string awry in either nock of the bow, the loosing will be poor, and the results unreliable. No archer can hope to accomplish good scoring at long range who does not carefully look to al1 these minor things.