How To Shoot a Recurve Bow: Everything You Need

a professional archer shooting with perfect form

If you want to relieve the thrill of traditional archery, try to shoot without sights.

Admittedly, it’s not as easy but hey, you can do this.

And I will be showing you a super easy way of shooting a recurve bow instinctively.

So, this is for you if you have been wondering how to aim a recurve bow without sights.

Take it from me: It’s fun, so much fun!

Can we get down to business?

How to aim a recurve bow without sights

Before we enter into the discussion about how to aim a recurve bow without sights, let’s take care of the preliminaries…

Check your bow

Forget ever shooting anywhere near the center if you’re using the wrong bow.

By this, I mean having a bow with an incorrect draw weight above anything else.

I have previously discussed how to choose a recurve bow (size, draw weight, etc)? so go through the article if you’re not sure about your draw weight.

If your draw weight is fine, check the setup…

Again, it’s going to be very difficult to aim and shoot naturally if, for some reason, your recurve has loose/wrongly configured parts.

A malfunctioning bow is actually a safety hazard since it can dry-fire and injure you in the process.

Obtain the essential accessories

You will need a couple of archery accessories to aid your entire basic instinctive shooting process.

Which are these accessories?

Well, some of them are obvious..(think about proper arrows and a quiver). An arm guard could also be beneficial.

You can also throw in a bow stringer to help you string/unstring, although not mandatory.

You may as well include other items you feel could be useful depending on the shooting conditions.

Needless to say, you’ll need to inspect each of the additional items for damage (I already explained the risk of using faulty parts).

Pro-tip: I have noticed that most shooters venturing into this medieval times style of shooting prefer to use minimal accessories. You can discard some, depending on your experience.

But you surely want to be comfy when starting so I would rather you have them.

Now you’re set to go so let’s narrow down to the steps…

Getting into form

Before you take your position, be sure to warm up adequately (most of the veterans know this).

You should as well relax your vital muscles including your upper back.

The key is to be as natural as possible during the entire session.

Onwards to the practical steps now…

Shooting a recurve bow instinctively: Step by step guide

To master instinctive shooting, you must train your body to accurately shoot without consciously aiming.

The following steps teach you how to do this.

Step 1: How to grip your bow

Now, when shooting without being aided by accessories such as sights, you will want to get every detail right.

To begin with, grasp your recurve properly.

But how?

You simply grip the bow tenderly in between your index finger and thumb.

When you’re gentle on your bow, the bow resists gravity issues and subsequently, you enhance your chances of hitting targets accurately.

If you have gotten the grasp as recommended, you’ll find it easy to wrap your finger around the recurve’s handle.

At the same time, you will discover that your wrist, arm, and index finger are all in alignment. Don’t fret if you feel the grasp odd initially- your hands will get used in no time and you should soon feel comfy.

Step 2: The ideal distance to shoot (for a start)

You don’t want to lose your arrows this early.  Neither do you want to stretch your luck so far by opening your shooting from an unreasonable distance.

I propose that you commence with targets at a distance of about 10 yards.

Most shooters learning this shooting style do well from this distance and are able to progress steadily.

You will be increasing the yardage by about 5 yards (you can go slightly higher but don’t exceed 10 ) as soon as you have conquered a distance.

For instance, you can go for 15 yards from 10. Then 20, 25.…and so forth.

Step 3: Taking a stance

Your stance can mess everything else so I want you to take your time before proceeding to the remaining steps.

Remember you need to be facing the target before taking your stance.

This means that your feet (and face, of course) are facing the direction of the target.

From there, you can select the most comfortable stance from the following:

Square stance – here your feet is straight (and parallel to your shooting line, if present). Your shoulders and hips are also perpendicular to your target’s direction. This is the simplest option for purposes of learning instinctive archery.

Open stance– the foot nearest your target should be pointing towards it. This stance adds the core twist (having your hips positioned over your heels). I find this stance comfier although a bit involving to create.  Besides, it’s more stable if you’re shooting in windy conditions.

Pro-tip: The best way of assessing how good you have become is by maintaining the same stance all through so avoid switching stances midway.

Step 4: Drawing the bow

Now that you have your preferred stance, you can turn to drawing and ultimately shooting your recurve.

Now, regardless of whether you want to plant an arrow deep in the vitals of a mule deer or aiming for gold, you want to be precise.

To achieve this, start by nock an arrow appropriately- akin to the way our forefathers were doing it.

What you should note is that the index vane (the odd colored fletching) will point between your bow-holding arm and the riser.

This is significant because, without the index vane, you may end up nocking the arrows in a way that will have more friction acting upon them and slowing flight.

You will put your arrow below the nocking point. I have used two nocking points and in such a case, you typically put the arrow in between them.

Master tip: For consistency, ensure that your nocking point seats your nock in the same position on the bowstring every time you’re shooting.

Are we together this far?

Very well..

Next, you will raise your bow.

You should see to it that will your bow-bearing arm is straight as you do this- But you’re not to draw the string at this particular point.

You lift it up until your arm hits a parallel alignment to the ground. This should be at shoulder height.

Master tip: Avoid movements that can cause you to tweak your stance as this could instigate an error in the latter steps.

Now is the perfect moment to draw your string back..

Like the foregoing steps, you’ll require to observe some guidelines..

  1. Grip the string

Here you’re free to use your favorite grasp. Your choices include:

  • Mediterranean draw/ Split-finger: Your index finger is on the string (above arrows) while the middle and ring fingers go below.
  • Three fingers under: Your forefinger, middle, as well as the ring all go beneath the nock.

Is there a method better than the other?

Well, there are lots of arguments and counterarguments regarding each when you interact with traditional enthusiasts.

However, the decision is pretty much personal. 

  • Pull the string to your anchor point

This is the spot where the shooting hand comes to rest near or on your face. Personally, I know I have hit my anchor point when my index finger touches the corner of my mouth.

For accuracy purposes, check that your string draw stops at the same spot each time you’re taking shots.

Mater tip: Pulling a string back with bare fingers may feel a bit uncomfortable for beginners. You can opt to use a finger tab (a protective piece of leather) or gloves.

Step 5: Taking aim

Now we are deep into the fun part…aiming

To be on the safe side, allow me to explain a couple of things that can screw your aiming:

  • Overthinking:  You cannot be faultless first time so don’t waste time worrying about whether you’ll hit the bull’s eye or not.
  • Doubting your instincts: Has it occurred to you why it’s called instinctive shooting? It’s because the thrill is in hitting targets using your shooting sixth sense. And you’ve got to trust your instincts!

So, how do you aim?

Point the arrow at your designated target. There’s zero conscious when doing the aiming.

And that is all here.

Next up is the actual shot…

Step 6: Shoooooot!

While your bow arm remains steady, push the fingers on your bow’s string out of the string’s way.

The string instantly snaps forward sending the arrow flying towards the target.

As it’s the case with other types of shooting, let your draw hand fall back gracefully until it comes to the base of your ears once you release the arrow.

  • Master tip: You might find closing your less dominant eye helpful when aiming.  Moreover, don’t entertain any last-moment movements of either hand lest you undo all your previous good work.

Lastly, don’t forget to follow your arrows through.

How to improve your accuracy in instinctive shooting

Don’t be quick to abandon the style if you are dissatisfied with your accuracy at this point- many first-timers are, anyway.

Allow me to support my plea…

By and large, in instinctive shooting, hitting targets boils down to repetitively shooting and it’s fundamentally a trial and error operation.

And so you should make repeat shots in order to banish weaknesses in your shooting..

For example, you should aim higher if your shot went too low and vice versa.

In a nutshell, you should practice, practice, and practice more until you attain reasonable accuracy with subconscious aiming.

That’s the pillar of instinctively shooting..

And like I had mentioned earlier, it’s a truly amazing technique when you get the hang of it.

Shooting without sights: Helpful ideas

  • As you shoot your recurve over and over, try to learn the arc of your arrows at varying distances. You will understand your arrow’s trajectory under varied shooting heights potentially shortening your learning curve.
  • Mastering the steps of instinctive shooting requires sublime mental awareness. Focus on where the target is over anything else.  
  • In the long run, you should learn to recreate the same body motion every time you’re shooting.

Final word

Without sights to help align your shots, shooting becomes a different ballgame. But it can be fun and deadly, once you perfect it.

I have taken you through the steps so it’s now upon you to put them into practice.

Mastering it, however, takes time and lots of practice.

The one thing I can guarantee is that you’ll love it.

Welcome to the club of proud instinctive shooters!

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