A Shot-cycle (mine) that might work for you

Posted: 2014/05/20 in From the perspective of an Archery Coach.

(Pics to come)

Here’s something that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time working on, and before I go any further, this is about what works for me… Today… Tomorrow could be a different story.

Good form should be the result of achieving a stable, repeatable and relaxed position. If, physical strain is felt anywhere, adjustments need to be made because the potential of an injury just isn’t worth the risk.

When given the opportunity to do so, I like the comfort of a slightly closed stance because of a physical impairment. I have one leg that is about an inch shorter than the other and by moving my bow-side leg slightly forward and shifting body weight backward, I level my hips. This provides a stable base from which to shoot.

Nocking the arrow
Nocking the arrow is a relatively simple process in a target shooting situation and these pics will show you what I do.

Setting the grip and hook
Archery is a very tactile sport, meaning that the more contact that you can have with the bow without interfering with its function the more accurate the result.

So, after nocking the arrow I set the hook of my release into the d-loop and lower the bow to a comfortable, rested position. I allow the weight of the bow to pull my relaxed shoulder forward slightly, allowing the tendons to stretch slightly while I wrap the knuckle of my index finger around the corner of the bow’s shelf. This establishes an anchor point from which I can begin my hand positioning/gripping process. It is important for my thumb knuckle to meet the grip of the bow the same way for every shot, in this case it is used to set the position of my hand webbing and palm in the same way, all of the time.

Once the grip is established, I apply string pressure, by pulling slightly, to keep it set.

Raising the bow
For me, this process begins with a slow exhale, then as I raise the bow, inhale. I raise the bow until my wrist is slightly higher than my shoulder, then I exhale.

The draw
Inhale slowly and begin the draw. In a slightly downward motion, I pull the string toward the under side of my chin and intentionally below my final anchor point. The downward motion does a couple of things, firstly it forces me to lock my bow shoulder into a bone on bone position, and secondly, it allows for immediate activation of the string-side back muscles and the draw becomes easier.

Locking the draw-length
This is where I’m gonna get into shizzle because some will want to call this back-tension and others will try to explain this as a concept called 50/50, and that’s just more crap.

A bow, as simple or as complex as you’d like it to be, is a machine designed to take advantage of Newton’s third law, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” before transitioning into his second law, “Acceleration is produced when a force acts on a mass.” So, if you go by these basic principles, at full draw the bow is trying to pull both the riser and the string together to meet somewhere in the middle. Now, imagine yourself as being a wedge between the two apposing forces, applying the exact amount of force to counter the compressive forces being exerted. By pulling more in one direction or pushing more in the other, you are causing an imbalance that requires an adjustment in the opposite direction and this will most certainly cause a failure in the stability of the system in regard to the desired result, and that’s a smooth, unfettered release.

So, all of this is a long winded mumbo-jumbo is a way of saying… Pull and set, lock everything into a single and repeatable position that won’t collapse, and do NOT move it from there. Be the wedge that balances the system.

Setting the anchor
I believe this to be the most critical step of the shot cycle set up, from this point nothing can be achieved if it isn’t set properly. And, this is why I have three specific contact points to reference and set. First, I slide the knuckle of my index finger into the space or slight cavity behind my jaw bone and directly under my ear. Secondly, as a result of the first step, I register the position of a kisser-button on the side of my face and use this to set the third and final step of my anchor, positioning my nose on the string. It is imperative that my nose be centred because slightly to the left and the shot goes right and vice versa.

Let’s try and understand what has just happened here. The first two steps set the up and down of the shot and the last step is setting the left and right of the shot in as far as the relationship to scope alignment.

Aligning the scope, acquiring the target and framing the shot
Even though I’ve already set a grip on the bow in regard to the position of my bow hand and an anchor on my face in regard to my draw hand, I have one more anchor to set and that is aligning the inner circumference of my peep with the our perimeter of my scope, concentrically. I do this by rolling my head slightly until the alignment is achieved. It is critical here to be certain that my nose, kisser-button or index finger knuckle do not move or the entire process MUST start from the beginning. Once the alignment is correct, I can acquire the target and begin framing the shot, and that’s just another way of saying, “start the aiming process.”

Aiming and release
I put these two parts of the process together because they aren’t mutually exclusive of each other and the release is NOT activated by more squeezing of back muscles, nor is it the result of pulling on a back-tension release until it goes off because it won’t, not until some kind of rotation of hand rotation is applied. And, we need to understand that these seemingly individual concepts are equally important, as part of the same process.

Within my scope I have a large green dot (about 4mm across) that will almost entirely cover what I want to hit, in this case, the gold coloured X-ring of a FITA target face. As I begin the aiming process, I also, almost simultaneously, begin the triggering process, meaning that as I’m moving the dot to cover the gold, I begin a slow and deliberate squeeze of my trigger. Unlike people that set up hair-triggers in both trigger or back-tension releases, mine is set to maximum tension. The advantage for me is that I can move my trigger almost a half inch before it will go off. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that my trigger has been modified for three fingers so the movement of my trigger has a much larger arc.

So, back to the aiming part of this process, at first my dot moves and seems random in its pattern while traveling in and out of where I want to place my arrow. Then, suddenly, the dot begins to slow until it stops, momentarily. It is at this moment my brain reacts and something happens to my eye, it expands, this is the only way I can describe it, and a glow of gold comes from behind the green dot, and at that moment my fingers involuntarily contract and activate the release.

Aim, aim, aim, load the trigger , aim, aim, aim, eye expands, aim, aim aim, fingers contract, aim, aim, aim, release, aim, aim, aim.

The arrow is gone so it doesn’t really matter what you do. However, it is probably a good idea to keep your bow hand raised until the arrow hits the target. You’ll note that in the quote above I’m still aiming after the release, this prevents my hand from lowering prematurely before or during the release.

Lower the bow to the resting position and wait a few seconds until you are set to begin the process again.


  1. archer says:

    do you exhale when you release or hold your breath?

  2. Shawn E. Rees says:

    Good question… I actually don’t stop breathing. I breath from the stomach not the diaphragm, a technique I learned from another sport.

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