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There are few things more frustrating than feeling like you’ve just shot a perfect arrow only to find it hit high of your target time after time, and it isn’t always the easiest problem to diagnose.
Here is why you’re shooting high:
- Bad Form
- Target panic
- Sight Adjustments; and
- The Wind
All of these can all cause you to shoot high. There are several practical measures you can take including practicing good form and making proper adjustments to your sight.
Even a small, barely perceptible difference in your stance or grip can make a difference to where your shot will hit the target. If you’re shooting high consistently, it is probably because of one of these tiny changes.
Keep reading to find out the common causes of shooting high and how you can solve the problem.
Is it Your Stance?
Your stance has to do with the position of your body as you shoot your bow. There are many slight variations in foot placement that are acceptable, but as a general guideline, your stance should be stable, straight, and highly repeatable.
The easiest stance to master is called the square stance, and it is where most archers start out because it is easy to replicate. Here is how you use the square stance:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart so that your body creates a 90-degree angle to the target. If you hold your bow in your right hand, your left foot should be forward.
- Your hips should move very little if at all while drawing and releasing the bow.
- Stand tall. Don’t leave forward or backward. Keep your back straight.
- Relax your legs. Don’t lock out any part of your body.
- Proceed with confidence!
The open stance is another commonly used stance. It is very similar to the square stance except you move the front foot more to the side. This opens up the body, and many find it more comfortable, and easier to step into without thinking.
However, it is harder to duplicate the open stance consistently because you will be more or less going on feel for how far out you put your front foot.
As far as stance goes, you need to choose one that works best for you, and one that you can repeat with precision.
Is it Your Grip?
Gripping your bow should not be a struggle. If you have a death grip of any sort on your bow, you’re going to have trouble aiming it.
This is because when you grip the bow too hard, your hand applies uneven pressure to the bow grip which causes the bow to shake. When you draw the bow, the shaking will increase, and you may even be able to see your bow shaking slightly.
Even if you can’t see any visible shaking, a slight unsteadiness can still cause your arrow to hit the target higher than you intended. This will be more pronounced the farther you are from your target.
The best way to grip your bow is in a relaxed grip. Position the grip between your pointer finger and your thumb. The grip should rest on the meaty part of your hand beneath your thumb. The lifeline of your hand should line up with the edge of the grip.
Your fingers should not clench at the grip. They should just be resting gently on the bow if necessary.
Ideally, you would want your grip to be relaxed enough that you might get a little nervous about your bow falling from your grasp after you shoot an arrow. But this relaxed of a grip is not recommended unless you use a bow sling.
Bow slings allow you to get that characteristic swing follow-through that you see in many of the best competitive archers without risking your bow.
If you’re just starting out with archery, you don’t need to worry about a bow sling. Grip the bow enough that you won’t drop, but not more.
Check Your Fingers
Hooking the bowstring inconsistently is another problem typically faced by beginner archers who are just learning all the little bits and pieces that go into archery. Hook the way that you hold the bowstring when you are drawing it back.
Check your fingers. Are you hooking at the same location every time? Are you gripping the string too tightly? Are you using the right fingers?
Anyone of these things can have a major and negative impact on your shot. If you hook the bowstring too low, your arrow may go high. Make sure you are paying attention to the nock point.
There are several acceptable ways to pull a bowstring, but in the most common, you place your index finger above the arrow and the middle and ring finger below it. The thumb and pinky finger are kept out of the way.
Adjust Your Sight
If you are consistently shooting high, you may need to adjust your sight. Adjusting your sight is simple. Some sights require that you use an Allen wrench to adjust the pin or pins, but many use knob adjustments.
Every sight works a little differently and instructions specific to your model should have come in the owner’s manual.
When making adjustments to the sight, remember you should always follow the arrow. This means that if you’re shooting high, you should raise the sight. If your arrow is hitting the target to the left of where you’re aiming, then you should move the sight to the left. Always follow the arrow.
After you have made the adjustments, you will need to shoot off at least three arrows to see how the adjustment is working. If you made an overcorrection to the sight, the arrows will hit low, if you didn’t correct enough, they will continue to hit high.
You may also need to adjust your sight if you’re hunting and shooting from a tree stand due to the angle differences and the differences in your stance.
Complete the Shot
Sometimes we get so excited to see how the arrow flew that we don’t actually complete the shot before we move the bow or jerk our head or make some other movement that affects your shot.
Be sure you complete the entire shot before you go looking for your arrow. A good rule of thumb is to not look for the arrow until you hear it hit the target. This is slightly longer than you would need to wait, but it is a good habit to get into in order to ensure that you complete the shot.
Check Your Anchor Point
The anchor point is the place, usually on your cheek or jawbone, where your hand that holds the bowstring touches. Your hand and the bowstring should touch your face in the same location every single time you draw the bow.
This allows you to be consistent. If you aren’t consistent, your sight is not going to be accurate and you will not get off a precise shot. Consistency is key.
If you’ve altered your anchor point recently, you will probably need to adjust your sight to reflect the difference.
If you are a bow hunter and you seem to be missing some shots, but you aren’t having any trouble when hitting an inanimate target, you could have just faced a good number of “string jumpers.” These are typically deer who respond to the sound of the arrow being shot faster than others.
In the time that it takes the arrow to leave your bow, the deer dips down slightly in preparation to leap into a run, and at that moment, your arrow whizzes past them.
To prevent this from happening, you will need more practice recognizing if the animal will be prone to doing this. If the deer is already anxious or alerted, they will be more likely to run at the faintest sound.
If the deer is relaxed and unsuspecting, it will be less likely to bolt at the sound of your bowstring.
One of the most common challenges archers face is the wind. It is completely out of our control, and some winds blow in unpredictable patterns.
If it is a windy day, you will have a harder time making accurate and precise shots. The wind can and will cause the arrow to fly unpredictably and possibly high. Check the nearest windsock to see if what you’re experiencing might be caused by the weather.
If you practice frequently someplace that does not have a windsock, like your backyard, you should look into buying one. It will help you assess the wind and learn how to deal with it.
There are a number of measures you can take to combat wind. You can try what is called “aiming off.” When you aim off, it means that you do not aim at the location you want the arrow to hit. If you aim at the center of your target and the arrow hits 5 inches high, you would aim 5 inches lower than the target.
Not everyone has success with aiming off. Some people find aiming at any place other than the target is challenging as their mind struggles at the last second and will cause you to jerk the bow towards the target without meaning to.
Bubbling off is often used by compound bow archers that have a level on their bow’s sight. This level is typically used to ensure that the bow is 1005 vertical while shooting, but when you bubble off you use to level to measure how much of an angle you are holding the bow at.
By holding the bow at an angle into the wind, you can ensure that the arrow will hit the target where you aim.
You can use this method with a recurve or traditional bow as well, but you will probably not have a level to help guide you. When you tilt a bow without using a level it is simply called canting the bow.
No matter how you choose to deal with the wind, there is no substitute for experience. Practice all these methods on windy days to be sure that you can perform well when it matters most.
Target panic, also called gold panic, occurs when your body tenses up or you get anxious right as you are about to let go of your bowstring.
Everyone experiences target panic a little differently, and it can be caused by different things as well, but it is also a psychological problem. It is not a problem with equipment or your form. It all originates from that space between your ears.
Target panic is very common, and it can happen to an archer at any level. It is a challenge that many archers need to face in order to reach the next level in their archery.
Some theorize that target panic is caused by an instinctual need to brace yourself for the shot. It is purported that your body will not allow itself to cause an impact without bracing itself. It is like the biological need to flinch.
Others believe it comes from a rushed desire to release the shot or difficulty with aiming. No matter the cause there is help out there, and if you mention it to your fellow archers, you’re likely to find several who have experienced it.
How Do I Know if it is Target Panic?
Sometimes it will be clear to you that the problem with your arrows flying high is target panic. You’ll feel it when you draw your bowstring, and nothing feels quite right. It can be a gut feeling.
Most of the time you won’t be so sure. If you aren’t sure, then the only way to know if the problem target panic is by going through all of the other items on this list and checking to make sure they are not the problem.
If you are doing everything exactly as you should, and you are still shooting high, it is time to start thinking about target panic.
If the problem is target panic, you may see a temporary improvement in your aim by starting to aim low and drawing the bow up to the target. This is only a temporary fix. It may help for a little while, but as you adjust to this method, this trick will stop working. It can help diagnose target panic sometimes.
What to do about Target Panic?
There is no easy way to get rid of target panic. It is more psychological than anything, but there are some tricks you can try to break through this mental block.
Aim without Shooting
Target panic sometimes comes from the need some archers feel to shoot the arrow as soon as the sight hits the center of the target. If this is the case for you, it is recommended that you practice aiming.
The idea is that if you’re aiming is spot on, you won’t feel as anxious about letting the arrow fly. To do this, go out like you normally would to practice. Aim your bow as you normally would with an arrow nocked and everything, but do not fire the bow.
It is recommended that you do this for a couple of weeks, and the next time you go to shoot, you should see a major improvement.
Shoot without a Target
Target panic is not always caused by the pressure of shooting right after aiming. Sometimes the cause is rooted in the shooting process. To help with this, it is recommended that you focus on your shooting.
To do this, you do the opposite of the previous method. You will need to practice shooting without using the target.
Instead, you would shoot at a large blank-faced target at closer range without aiming at anything. This will allow you to focus on shooting the bow successfully without feeling pressured about aiming.
Learn a New Release Method
If you’re really struggling with trigger panic, it could also be because you accidentally picked up some negative habits when you were first learning how to fire your bow. As your skills in other areas of archery increase, these habits can begin to hold you back as you strive to reach new levels.
While changing equipment or release methods alone will not fix trigger panic, and it can help.
By changing your release method, you can start with a clean slate and overcome your trigger panic.
Now that you’ve mastered all the other parts of archery, you can focus on mastering your release. Even something as simple as changing your release aid can help with this.
If you already use a release aid or trigger you might try something different just to change things up a little. It might break you out of the trigger panic to change up the routine.
As frustrating as shooting high can be, all of the things that cause it are fixable with a little work and a lot of practice. The hardest part is identifying the problem. Once you’ve done that, half the work is done.
I live in Alberta, Canada where I enjoy indoor and 3D archery with traditional bows and compound bows. On this site, I share everything I’ve learned about archery along the way.