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.