why I stopped shooting instinctively

Before someone assembles the lynching mob and heads for Tennessee hear me out. I grew up shooting instinctively.  I killed many deer shooting instinctively, but I also missed a lot. I shot a bow much like I shot basketball or threw a baseball.  I looked at what I wanted to hit and I let my brain do the work.  It just sort of told my hand when to let go of the baseball during the throwing motion and it put my bow arm where it needed to be when shooting at a deer….most of the time.

When I decided to see just how well I could shoot a recurve and longbow I began first with trying to improve my form. I recognized that consistency was the key to a good shot so naturally the shooting form that removed all the variables in the shot sequence would be the best form.  If your shot is exactly the same each time then you can tune the bow and arrow to hit the mark.

Next, I turned to tuning. I knew that my arrows must be perfectly tuned, but I discovered a problem. I would go out with my arrows and shoot the first one.  Let’s say it showed weak.  Shooting instinctively my brain would take over and put a correction into the second arrow and the third.  My brain wanted to hit the bulls eye so it would receive the data input from the first shot and then make a correction so I would induce an error into the equation of trying to see if my arrows were weak or stiff.  At that time I didn’t paper tune at all.

Finally, I wanted to practice a lot so I did.  I went out and just focused on the spot I wanted to hit and shot and shot and shot.  After a while I felt like I had gotten about as good as I could get, but I simply wasn’t satisfied.  I wanted to be more accurate.  I still missed a lot and I often shot over the backs of deer.

I preordered Masters of the Barebow Vol. 3 and after receiving and watching it I decided to follow Rod Jenkins’s program to a tee.  I watched the video at least 100 times.  Seriously.  Then, as Rod says, I completely bought in.  I not only changed my form to achieve even more consistency, I discovered the benefits of aiming.

First, I learned to Gap shoot.  I tuned my arrows all over again and this time I put the tip on a spot and shot them.  Now my brain was out of the equation.  I simply put the tip of the arrow on the dot and shot three arrows.  All of them hit together, right of the dot, so I knew they were weak.  I cut them down a half inch and shot them again and could see how much they moved towards the dot.  Once they hit the dot I was tuned.

I then went through the process of learning my gaps for each distance and began practicing.  Now, instead of practicing by simply focusing harder, I was able to shoot my gaps for different distances and if they were off or I was not hitting where I was aiming I knew why.  It wasn’t simply a brain malfunction, which was common in my case, but rather my alignment or some other quantifiable thing that I could then fix. Collectively, my form and aiming system allowed me to practice in a more focused manner.  My shooting improved exponentially.

I’m not trying to sell you some snake oil, but here is what I will offer.  If you are not completely satisfied with your accuracy why not try another style?  Do you remember fifth grade basketball on the blacktop?  Do you recall that some kids could just look at the hoop, shoot the ball and hit free throws?  Do you remember that there were some kids that just simply could not do it?  They just didn’t have the hand eye coordination or touch or voodoo or whatever it took to swish that net. Why would archery be any different?  There are some guys that can take a bow, look at what they want to hit and put an arrow right where they want it to go. Others simply can’t make it happen.  The thing about archery is that there are ways to cure the frustration that comes with missing that massive 10-pointer.  If you know that when he’s about 10 yards from your stand you put your arrow tip a foot under the spot you want to hit then you have a system that will find you field dressing said buck.

Today, I gap shoot and I also stringwalk.  I have found that each of these aiming systems help me to be more accurate and after you figure them out they are not overly complicated at all.  Estimating yardage is easy out to 30 yards and after you’ve shot your gaps for a while you will find that you don’t even have to think through it being 13 inches at a given distance.  You just put the bow up, look at it and know it’s right.

Whatever you decide it’s important that you are happy with your shooting so no matter if it’s instinctive, gap, point of aim, or stringwalking I wish you the best with every arrow you shoot.

12 responses to “why I stopped shooting instinctively

  1. That’s a good post Jimmy.
    It shows that there are many different ways to do things and how diverse archery can be so that all may enjoy the wonderful flight of an arrow.
    It;’s all good and I wonder sometimes why so many people squabble the way they do about different shooting styles. We all just have to find what works.


  2. Did the same thing after shooting “instinctive” for nearly 50 years. Accuracy improved greatly , and I’m way more confident now. Missing is no longer in my mind.

    Great post, keep it coming.


  3. Great article. I started traditional archery a few years ago and began by shooting instinctively. I recently read Byron Furguson’s book and decided to try gap shooting. The problem I have is that I cant seem to use the tip of the arrow to aim. Its like I still shoot instinctively but now I look at the arrow. Any ideas? Its hard to explain but Im going to keep trying. Anyway good article

    • It will take time to adjust. I went from instinctive to gap and it took a month or so of shooting some every day at known distances until I gained confidence in the system. Best of luck and thank you for the kind words.

  4. Jimmy – any tips for someone who shoots split finger, but wants to gap? I shot instinctively for 40 years, then last year I got serious at being competitive at 3D and Arne Moe started coaching me long distance.

    This year I was finally able to get myself booked into one of Rod’s clinics and he was able to take my form the “rest of the way”. I an now tuned to shoot with my point under the spot I want to hit, but my elevation estimate is still instinctive as I feel that the gap is just too large shooting split fingered to be effective.
    Any help is greatly appreciated.

    • Shoot 3 under. You are fighting against the system when you shoot split finger and try to gap. Move the arrow closer to your eye and the gaps will reduce. This will help you a ton.

      • I know you’re right Jimmy, I may have to go back to doing just that. I shot 3U for a year, then I went to a local coach a year ago and the first thing he did was take me back to split. I struggled with the form he had me using, and about six weeks before I went to Rod’s clinic I went back to what Arne had taught me. Glad I did as it put me in much better form to get the most out of Rod’s instruction. Now I just need to drop the last thing the other coach had me doing, and go back to 3U. Thanks for pointing out the only obvious solution! Lol. Rob

  5. Right here is the right website for anyone who hopes to find out about this topic.
    You realize a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I
    really will need to…HaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject that’s been written about for years. Excellent stuff, just excellent!

  6. Ironically I just recently started target shooting with a recurve and naturally (instinctively) started “gap shooting” before I had ever heard the term. Your article gave me the confidence to continue with it. Great article.

  7. Pingback: When Do Bowsights Work Best? Something You Don't Know

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