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How to Shoot a Bow and Arrow (Properly)

Updated on December 16, 2013

Before We Get Started...

The most important thing to remember when you are shooting a bow is safety!

There are pretty obvious ones, such as making sure no one is in your line of fire (sound familiar in drivers ed? Don't hit pedestrians? Yeah, it's like that), but there are other rules that are more specific to keeping everyone safe.

Some Rules and Regulations

Alright, you are about to start shooting at a target outside. But here are a few rules to make sure no one gets hurt.

1. Make sure no one is front of you when you shoot, someone watching you shoot MUST BE BEHIND YOU. Not to the side, not diagonal in the front, behind, and only behind.

2. Don't even think about pulling the string on a bow and letting go without an arrow on it. This is sometimes called dry shooting, and it is not good for your bow at all!

3. Only shoot at the target! And this is a suggestion, aim low rather than high. You'll have to hunt for your arrow if you aim too high and you might not find it again. It's also good to aim low so it doesn't hit other things like trees. Getting an arrow stuck in a tree is not fun to get out.

4. If you are at a range, DO NOT walk to get retrieve your arrows while other people are shooting. You make sure everyone is finished shooting, then all walk together to get your arrows. And DO NOT start shooting again until everyone is safely behind a shooting line.

5. If someone is going to walk in front of you for whatever, you lower your bow and take off the arrow. Another small thing, try not to leave your bow on the ground. It's not proper :-)

6. This is a BIG safety precaution when you are in the winter. Leave your bow outside for about half an hour or so first so it gets used to the cold, then you may string it. If you don't the bow will snap. This happened to my grandpa when he was younger.

I think that's pretty much everything, so to the next important safety section...

Arm Guard


Finger Guard (Archery Glove)


Archery Armor

There are two huge pieces of safety equipment that I highly suggest you get before you shoot because it will save you a lot of pain if something goes awry.

  • Arm guard
  • Finger guard
  • (Usually for ladies) Heron shield

Assuming you are right handed, it is important to have an arm guard on your left forearm, to make sure the arrow doesn't brush against your skin and burn. It will typically leave a red mark that will stay there for quite a while, so I suggest you just play it safe.

Again, assuming you are right handed, make sure you put the guard on your right hand so the bow string doesn't leave your fingers calloused. (And it just hurts to shoot without one, in my opinion.)

A Heron shield is for people who want to protect their pectoral regions from getting burned as well. This is one piece of equipment that is good to have just in case.

Now to Business!

You have your equipment, your bow is strung, everyone is safely behind you, and the target is waiting to get shot out. So here's how it goes...

  1. Stand properly. Try to stand so your body is 90 degrees to the right (if you are right handed). It will feel weird at first, but it should give you better aim.
  2. Pick one arrow and put in on the string. There should be a metal-like piece on the middle of the bow string, and the arrow should be nocked onto the string below that piece. Also, make sure the odd color out of the fletching (the feathers on the arrow) is facing toward you after the arrow is nocked.
  3. Chose how you want to pull your string back. The two typical ways to do it. One, use three fingers (the index, middle, and ring fingers) under the arrow and pull it back. Two, use the index finger above, and the other two below to pull the string back.
  4. Use the meat of your fingers to pull the arrow back. DO NOT pull it back with an enclosed fist! Use the tips of your fingers (the skin before the first knuckle) to pull it back.
  5. Pull back to either the corner of your mouth or by your ear. This will give you the power you want behind the arrow.
  6. Look at the target and try to line up your arrow with where you want it to go. Don't expect to be a Hawkeye or Merida within a few sessions of shooting. Shooting takes a lot of practice to be great, and it will take a little bit to get your aim right.

Steps on Shooting

What kind of bow do you like to shoot?

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