Instinctive Shooting Traditional Bows

Instinctive shooting a longbow at a water bottle

Many archers in the tradbow world want to learn how to shoot instinctively. Instinctive shooting – the idea of staring at a target and having your arrow land where you want it to be – is the sought after skill where traditional archers want to live. Traditional archery, for the most part, has always been instinctive. It would be silly seeing archers on horseback with sighted bows in the pages of your history books. 

Why should I shoot instinctively when I can slap on a sight and group at 100-yards? Well, a similar question could be asked about the purpose of shooting a recurve over a compound, or a compound over a gun, or a gun over a grenade. If you’re going to handicap yourself by shooting a traditional bow; do it deliberately. 

 


Me shooting a Bear longbow at 30-yards 

So what’s it take to start shooting instinctively? Practice. Lots and lots of it. 

I started shooting target archery with sights in high school. After a few months of practice, I was robinhooding arrows at 20-yards and cringing at my $30 mistake every time I’d do so. I dropped off somewhere along the way and lost interest in the hobby. I felt my time was better spent playing in rock bands or chasing girls, but I’d eventually come back to it.

I would later come back after finding out that there was a target archery range near my job around 6-years later. I dusted off my local archery shop purchase, the 40# target recurve, similar to the Samick Sage takedown recurve, and just started shooting at unmarked distances towards a target I meant to hit. The feeling of coming back to this was similar to shooting rocks with a slingshot at AOL CDs as a kid … sometimes you’d get close, you’d adjust, get closer, only to miss by a bigger margin. This is, however, the basis of instinctive shooting. After 5-10 sessions of 1-2 hours of shooting, things started clicking. 

During this period, I was losing arrows. There wasn’t any consistency in my shooting, and form was something that I didn’t really care for. There were too many moving variables in each arrow that was released to where nothing was systematically correctable. The only consistency was my anchor point. 

After the gestation period when things started to click at around 20-yards, I was finding the target. I was landing all arrows on paper at this point which was fantastic, but at some point, frustration hit. While everything was starting to close in, there was no “bullseye” or “gold” that olympic-styled archers seek. If something did land in the proper zone, it was dumb luck. I kept at it anyhow. 

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