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Traditional archery is a challenging and amazing sport. However, getting started can be a bit confusing and overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin. When I returned to traditional archery, I found that there was a lot of things I needed to learn before I could even really get back into it.
So, what are the most important things to know before getting into traditional archery? In order to get into traditional archery, you will need you to know which type of bow and equipment you prefer to use, how to properly care for your equipment, and where you can go to develop your skills.
Here is a quick list of what we’ll cover in this article:
- What Is Traditional Archery?
- Should I Start With A Longbow Or A Recurve Bow?
- How Do I Determine The Best Bow Fit?
- What Other Equipment Do I Need?
- How Much Does It Cost To Get Started?
- How Do I Store And Maintain My Equipment?
- What Skills Do I Need For Archery?
- How Do I Prevent Injury?
- Where Should I Practice?
- How Long Does It Take To Get Good At Archery?
This list will help give you an idea of what you will need to get started.
1. What Is Traditional Archery?
Traditional archery refers to shooting with a bow and arrow without the use of any kind of devices to improve your chance of hitting the target. Traditional bows are simple, timeless, and the weapon of choice from everyone from Robin Hood to Katniss Everdeen. Though accuracy is easier to achieve with a modern compound bow, traditional archery is all about pushing your own skills and having fun.
Traditional archery really allows you to get back to the roots of the sport. If you wanted, you could shoot with a bow that you hand-carved yourself from a tree! Regardless of the material of your bow, it is all about challenging and developing your skills as an archer. With practice, guidance and the proper equipment you can achieve incredible accuracy.
2. Should I Start With A Longbow Or A Recurve Bow?
Traditional archery has two primary bow designs: recurves and longbows. Both bows are relatively basic, but there are variations you should be aware of when deciding which style you want to use.
The longbow is a straighter bow, and when strung they have a graceful bend and look like the letter ‘D’. Want to know more? We’ve written an article all about why the English Longbow is so awesome!
The ends of a recurve bow curve forward in so that when the bow is strung, the sting actually contacts the limbs. The additional curve adds a spring-like quality to the bow, giving the bow more power and allowing you to shoot arrows at a higher velocity than bows without the recurved limbs.
It is also important to note that recurve bows are available in two types as well: single piece and take-down. The take-down bow allows you to detach the limbs, giving you more options and making it easier to transport.
One question that often gets asked is: are take-down recurve bow limbs interchangeable?
Some take-down recurve bows are designed to use only specific limbs for that bow. Other bows use the International Limb Fitting system, or ILF for short. These types of limbs can be used on any ILF riser. We’ve written a whole article that looks at this topic in great detail and you can read it here.
The best way to determine which bow you want to use is to visit an archery store and test out both styles. This will allow you to compare both bow types and determine which is the right one for you.
Personally, I feel the recurve bow is the best option for beginners as it is easier to handle, and it allows for the option of getting a take-down style bow, and typically less expensive than a longbow.
3. How Do I Determine The Best Bow Fit?
There are a few different ways to determine a person’s draw length:
- the Height Method
- the Arm Span Method
- the Measuring Tape Method
The first method has to do with the height of your child. The general principle is that the human body is proportioned in such a way that if you know a person’s height you can figure out certain other measurements. Simply measure your child’s height in inches and divide by 2.5.
For example, the average height of a 10-year-old boy or girl is 54.5”. Therefore the average draw length = 54.5” / 2.5 = 21.8”
The next method, the Arm Span Method, is the exact same. Measure your child’s arm span from the tip of the middle finger to the tip of the other middle finger and divide by 2.5. This works because the arm span is equal to a person’s height!
These two methods give a good idea but the most accurate method is to use a measuring tape.
Simply take a measuring tape and hold it upside down as if you were holding a bow. Now draw back the end of the tape simulating drawing back a bowstring as shown in the picture below. Pull the tape back to the corner of your mouth and take the measurement. That is exactly what your draw length is.
I like the Measuring Tape Method best because it simulates the exact motion of drawing back the bowstring and, therefore, gives the most accurate measurement of draw length. You also don’t need any special equipment, other than a measuring tape.
For example, I am 5’11”. Using the height method, my draw length should be 28.4″ (71″ / 2.5 = 28.4″).
Now, when I used a measuring arrow specially made to determine draw length it turns out my draw length is actually 31″. If I had cut some arrows to match the 28.4″ draw length those arrows would be 2.6″ too short!
When I measured my draw length using the Measuring Tape Method described above, I got exactly 31″.
Use measuring tape folks.
There are many other factors that determine a good fit for a bow, especially if you are choosing a bow for your child. We’ve got a complete guide to choosing the right bow for a 10-year-old right here for you to read.
4. What Other Equipment Do I Need?
Now that you have your bow, there are a few more items you will need before you get out there and start shooting.
Not all arrows are created equal, and you will need to select the correct arrow for you and your bow.
Using a well-designed, quality arrow you produce better performance from your bow. Some things to consider when choosing your arrows are the flexibility, material, length, and point weight as all play a part in the trajectory and performance of your arrows.
If you’re shooting a recurve bow Traditional style, it is best to use arrows that have feathers for fletchings because the feathers compress when the arrow travels over the arrow rest. If the fletchings are polymer, they run the risk of getting torn or ripped off.
I recommend the Beman Centershot Traditional Carbon Arrow
to start out with. With these, you get all the advantages of modern carbon arrow technology PLUS the look of traditional cedar wood grain. They also come fletched with 4″ feathers. And, if you ever want to start bowhunting you can definitely use these arrows for that since they were designed specifically for that purpose. You can get them from Bass Pro Shops here.
The bowstring is a vital component of your traditional bow. When purchasing your bowstring, you must know your bow length. The bowstring of a recurve is usually 4-inches shorter than the bow’s length, and a longbow’s bowstring is 3-inches shorter than the bow. Bowstrings also require maintenance and replacement with extended use. In fact, it is wise to always have an extra string on hand.
Technically a bow stringer is not a necessary piece of equipment, however, it is a valuable tool that I find helpful and would recommend to anyone getting into traditional archery. A bow stringer is a piece of cord that makes it easier for you to string your bow. There are a few common methods to string your bow without the aid of a bow stringer, but these methods can apply uneven pressure on the bow limbs that may cause warping over time. The bow stringer is designed to apply an even pressure each and every time you string your bow, and costing only about $20, why not pick one up?
An armguard is worn on your bow arm and is designed to protect you from string slap injuries while shooting. These are essential as even the most seasoned archer can fall victim to the string slap! Archery gloves will protect your fingertips from blisters and will be especially beneficial to you in the beginning. A quiver is for storage of your holding arrows, bolts, or darts. The type of quiver you get is purely up to your preference as an archer, however, investing in a covered quiver will protect both you and your arrows from injury and damage.
5. How Much Does It Cost To Get Started?
Like most things in life, you can spend as little or as much as you want. There is a huge selection of bows on the market, and virtually no end to archery accessories available for purchase.
The bow is the most important piece of equipment you will need and where the majority of your cost will go. A quality entry-level bow can range in price from about $100 to $400.
Remember that longbows are more expensive than recurve bows. Also, you should factor in another $150 to $200 for protective gear, arrows and any other accessories. Expect to pay between $350 and $450 total for a quality bow, good set of arrows and a few accessories.
For a more detailed look at how much it will cost to get started in Traditional Archery, check out this article here.
I wouldn’t recommend buying the cheapest items you can find but rather opt for items with mid-range prices. It is a good idea is to think of the future and leave room to upgrade your gear once you have committed to the sport.
Speaking of good ideas, consider investing in a few archery lessons as well. Even if you just complete a couple of beginner lessons, they will teach you proper form and technique which will help your performance and prevent injuries in the future.
6. How Do I Store And Maintain My Equipment?
You are now the proud owner of some pretty awesome equipment, and it is important to take care of it. Proper storage and maintenance will go a long way in keeping your bow and equipment in good working order.
When you are finished with your bow for the day, you should unstring it. ALWAYS! Leaving it strung even for one night could cause warping or weakening of the bow or loss of tension in the bowstring. Still not convinced? Check out this article we wrote that answers definitively whether or not you should keep your bow strung.
The best way to store your bow is to lay it horizontally or to hang it on pegs. Keeping your bow in a dry area in your home will also work to extend the life of your bow.
However, storing your bow in the attic, garage or in your vehicle is a bad idea as these areas are typically too humid or too arid and will cause it to warp. Also, if you need to put your bow away for an extended period of time, you should consider using a hard bow case that will keep it protected.
Arrows should be stored in a quiver or kept in a box with arrow dividers. If you decide to keep your arrows in your quiver, do not overcrowd them. Trying to store too many arrows in one place can damage them or ruin the feathers.
Fun fact: if the feathers of your arrows do get mussed, you can fluff them back up using the steam from a kettle.
The easiest way to maintain your string is to wax it. Your environment, how frequently you are shooting, and how dirty the bowstring gets will influence how often you will need to wax your bowstring. There should always be a subtle tackiness to your string. If your bowstring feels dry or you notice your bowstring looks “fuzzy”, it is time to wax your string. But why do bowstrings break? We answer that question fully in this article.
7. What Skills Do I Need For Archery?
Archery is largely about doing a lot of little things precisely. Even standing and breathing can negatively affect your performance if it is incorrect. As a result, there are many skills you will need to develop outside of your upper body strength in order to be successful.
Focus and Concentration
Intense focus and concentration are needed to excel in Archery. Any archer will tell you that once you’ve got a handle on the basics, the rest of it is a mental game.
It’s all about your ability to focus, block out distractions and relax. Some of the world’s most elite archers work to sharpen these skills by training their brain with specific mental drills and practice. Common exercises include Visualization, Goal Setting and Distraction games.
Archery is a relatively static sport with the majority of the skill coming from the ability to shoot an arrow to a given target with a high level of accuracy and consistency.
Naturally, this requires strength, control, and endurance of your upper body. Being able to hold the bow in a fixed appropriate position while maintaining the equilibrium of your bow while aiming is essential to achieving accuracy and hitting a better score.
It is also critical that you hold your position until your arrow hits its target. Believe me, I know that it is tempting to check your shot as soon as you release your arrow, however, moving too quickly after your shot will affect the trajectory of your arrow. Be patient, and wait those extra couple seconds.
Which brings us to demonstrating patience in your practice. It can be frustrating when you know what you want to do and just can’t bring everything together in order to make it work.
Archery is easy to learn but difficult to master. Just have fun, keep trying, and you’ll continue to see improvement. Remember that even the best archers in the world have days when they can’t hit their target.
With so much of the sport boiling down to the perfecting of your skills and techniques, it is not surprising that discipline is a skill that many archers possess. Striving for excellence in each shot, refusing to leave the range before you get that bullseye, the desire to keep testing your limits and pushing the boundaries of your abilities will all contribute to your growth as an archer.
8. How Do I Prevent Injury?
Archery requires a great deal of muscular endurance and uses muscles that you don’t use while performing regular day-to-day tasks. This means that you will ache in muscles you didn’t realize you had and that your fingertips will be sore.
Proper protective gear and performing stretches and exercises both before and after practice is a great way to warm-up the muscles as well as lessen the aches and pains the next day.
9. Where Should I Practice?
The place where you fine-tune your archery skills is really up to you… and the laws in your area. If it is legal and safe to do so you can practice in your backyard! This is a great option if it’s available to you. Practicing at home can save you a lot of time and some money.
However, as convenient as a backyard practice set-up is, joining a proper archery club is really your best choice, especially when starting out.
A local club will not only give you access to a range but also to a super friendly and supportive community. Your fellow archery enthusiasts will be more than willing to offer you advice and guidance as you begin your journey into traditional archery.
I have found my club to be incredibly valuable resource Features offered will vary from club to club, but a good club will give you access to an indoor range, and some of the larger clubs will also provide outdoor ranges with 3D targets, shoot targets of varying distances.
You should be able to find an archery club in your area with an easy internet search.
10. How Long Does It Take To Get Good At Archery?
As I mentioned earlier, Archery is largely about learning to do a lot of little things precisely. This means that you can work at perfecting your form and performance over the course of your lifetime. However, don’t let that discourage you.
Typically with regular and consistent practice, you should be able to get your skills to a pretty good point within a year or two. Focusing on form and technique and building the muscle memory required to land shot after shot will be an ongoing learning experience as you continue with the sport. Just keep challenging yourself and having fun.
Deciding to take up traditional archery is an exciting decision, and being able to improve my archery skills as well as better my patience, determination, and concentration has been truly rewarding. Being able to achieve all of this while connecting with like-minded enthusiasts in my local archery community has been priceless.
Traditional Archery Shooting Form
Proper archery form is almost more essential than having a perfectly tuned bow. There are many components to developing a solid archery form but when sufficiently practiced, good form will become second nature. Stance, body position, bow grip, and the use of anchor points will all contribute to proper shot execution. These elements may take some time to fully master, but the consistent and skillful results will be worth it.
Recurve Bow Hunting
Once you have the right bow and gear, you need the knowledge to be able to hunt with precision and ethically take that animal. A 40 lbs draw weight is required to effectively kill deer, and for larger game such as moose, bear, or elk at least 60-lbs of energy is necessary.
Also, knowing the pattern the game species you are targeting is essential to setting up a suitable ambush point. This will allow you to optimize your position and increase your chances of getting the perfect shot. Remember that a recurve will limit you to a range of fifty yards or less.
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