There a couple of reasons that you are probably trying to improve your skill in learning how to hold a bow. You are likely either getting ready to hunt or going to target practice, or possibly even entering an archery competition. Just like anything else in life, this is something that takes patience, practice, and some good old-fashioned know-how.
Once you’ve located your target and you’re a safe distance away, there is an element of finesse that shooting an arrow requires. Many people have shot a gun, but shooting a bow takes a completely different set of skills, because anything you learned from firing a gun, is wrong when it comes to bowhunting.
Prepare Your Body
First, it should be said that to hold a bow properly requires so many different things, that someone could get entirely overwhelmed, which will work against them. This is something that takes a calm, relaxed stature. Hands and arms cannot be tense. So start by taking a deep breath and steadying yourself with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Feet should be balanced.
Next, think about your skeletal alignment. How is your posture? Stand up straight and tall. When your arm is outstretched, you need to achieve a good bow arm.
This means that your arm is a place to rest the bow, not grip it tightly. So while it’s not squeezing the grip, it also can’t be droopy or overly bent. Use your skeletal support, not muscle support.
Prepare Your Bow
To hold a bow properly, you need to first balance the bow. When you hold your non-dominant arm (bow arm) forward, loosely grip the bow with your pointer finger and thumb. Is the bow tipping forward?
If so, you may want to add some weight. This is where a stabilizer is useful. Weights can be added and removed, based upon trial and error, by securing them on the stabilizer.
Adding weights isn’t just for balance, but if you have a back bar, they will help with this. Many like to add as much weight as they can handle because that will increase the steadiness of the bow. Adding too much will tire you and therefore decrease your steadiness. Make sure the grip is on the lower side of the bow. Otherwise, it’s upside down.
Another way to prepare your bow (if you’re using a compact bow) is to set the drawback length. This is based upon your shoulder width. Once you set this, when you pull back, the mechanisms in the idler wheel will stop you when it hits the “wall”.
To check, have someone stand to the side of you and make sure that on your draw arm, the elbow is even with the arrow (or just a little above it). From behind you, the elbow should be in line with the arrow as well.
Prepare the Drawback
With the bow properly and loosely balanced on your bow hand, arm outstretched, elbow slightly bent, the arrow will be placed into the bow. The arrow has a groove on the back called a nock.
Most crossbows have a nocking loop in the middle of the string for attaching the nock. If it not, the middle will be your nocking point. Hook the nock into the nocking loop or onto the string and the shaft of the arrow on the rest.
When drawing the bow back, be sure your bow arm and your spine form a line. It’s worth mentioning again, that you are not using muscle strength. Your skeletal alignment needs to be correct and also consistent. Your elbow is only slightly bent. Don’t forget to breathe. First, breathe in, and then only let half of your air out until you feel the tension in your back.
Pull the handle back. While doing so, your bow arm needs to remain in line with your spine while your draw arm pulls back and you feel your shoulder go toward your spine. The tension should be in your back as you pull it into your wall to get steadied. Don’t pull too long our you’ll get shaky. If you pull longer than 6-8 seconds, you lose your steadiness, so release and start over.
Once you pull back, you have to anchor the position of your draw hand. The triangle is what you’re looking for here. Again, by trial and error, find the best position, but one point is then drawn backhand against your cheek (not firmly), one point is the bowstring on the tip of your nose, and the third one is the peep sight, which you’ll look for with your dominant eye.
Prepare to Aim
Now that you’ve done all this to learn to hold the bow, are you still relaxed? You don’t want to know when the arrow will release.
This causes archers to tense up and it will ruin your accuracy. You just need to draw back into your wall and then find your target through your peep sight with the sight pin. The location of the pin is based on yardage from the target.
It’s like you’re staring at the exact spot you want the arrow to go. You will have to go above the actual target since the arrow will drop some, based upon your yardage. The focus is the opposite of a firearm. The target should be sharp and the pin will look blurry.
This is where you stop thinking about the arrow. If you have drawn back into the wall and tensed up your back, the arrow will trigger. If you know it is happening, you will have “target panic” and it will throw you off as your body will automatically tense up. So just keep aiming until the arrow leaves the rest.
Hopefully, this gives you some insight into how you hold a bow. The main thing is to practice by making adjustments, shooting, adjusting, and shooting again and again. Then you may have to continue making adjustments.
This should be done so often that you gain muscle memory. This will make it second nature for you until you become an expert marksman. Just remember to relax and not hold the grip, string, or arrow too tightly.