All in the Wrist: Beginner's Guide to Archery

Written by Michele Wheat

Whether you want to try your hand at target practice with a bow and arrow or you are itching to get out there to bowhunt, archery is growing in popularity for people of all ages. Archery dates back hundreds of years, and it's currently experiencing a comeback as more people decide to try it to see what the excitement is about. Several different types of bows exist, and archers use a variety of different arrows as well. Explore the world of archery to see if this sport is for you.

Bows and Equipment

Anyone can practice archery skills to become adept at the sport. Archers use either compound or recurve bows, depending on their shooting style. Recurve bows are less expensive than compound bows, easier to use, and safer. Compound bows deliver maximum power with less exertion, so these bows are better suited for bowhunters. Compound bows can also be outfitted with extra accessories such as scopes and stabilizers.


Archery Competitions

Archers of all ages and experience levels can compete in tournaments. If you want to enter competitions, look for local tournaments designed for archers of your level. Tournaments might involve field archery, 3D archery, or target archery. Target archery tournaments might be held outdoors or indoors. Participants shoot at targets from specified distances depending on their age and skill level. Field archery tournaments might be held indoors or outdoors. These competitions involve shooting at targets that will be at different distances and angles. As you participate in an outdoor field archery tournament, you'll walk through a course and shoot at each target. For 3D archery tournaments, the competition is usually held outdoors, and the targets are realistic, life-size replicas of animals such as deer, turkeys, bears, and moose.


When your archery interest involves hunting, there are many important things to do to prepare to be a responsible and safe bowhunter. Finding a bow that matches your draw length and strength will be the first step. As you get stronger and more skilled, your draw weight should increase. You'll also need arrows, a quiver, and possibly other accessories such as a mechanical release aid, a wrist guard, a peep sight, and a bow sight. You'll need to practice hitting targets before you begin hunting. Skilled shooting involves standing with your feet shoulder-width apart facing the target, gripping the bow, aiming, drawing the bow, releasing it, and following through. Once you practice enough to develop a minimum level of accuracy in your shooting, you should be ready to hunt ethically. Ethical hunting requires developing the necessary skills first and never shooting farther than the maximum distance you've practiced with accuracy. The goal is to take the animal in the quickest, most humane way possible.

Safety and Technique

Archery and bowhunting safety is crucial, and many states consider a bow and arrow to be a firearm. Always learn and follow local laws for archery. Standard safety rules include pointing a bow and arrow in safe directions only, nocking an arrow only when it's safe to shoot, and being fully aware of the target and everything around it before shooting. Always use recommended safety accessories when shooting, such as an arm guard over your wrist and finger protection, and handle your arrows carefully.

Glossary of Archery Terms

  • Aim: Directing an arrow toward the target
  • Archer: A person who shoots with a bow and arrow
  • Arrow: A thin rod shot from a bow
  • Bow: A weapon with a cord connected between two ends, used to propel an arrow
  • Bow Nock: The tip of the bow limb with a groove to hold the bow string
  • Bow Weight: The draw force required to draw the bowstring, measured in pounds
  • Composite Bow: A bow made out of wood, fiberglass, or other materials that are laminated together
  • Draw Length: An archer's length from the front of the sight window to the bowstring when pulled to full draw
  • Dry Fire: Pulling back and releasing the bowstring without an arrow attached
  • Fletching: The feathers on an arrow
  • Grip: The middle of the bow handle, gripped by the archer
  • Limbs: The parts of the bow that extend out from the riser to the tips
  • Nock: The point in an arrow behind the fletching where the arrow connects to the bowstring
  • Quiver: The container used to hold arrows while shooting or hunting
  • Recurve Bow: A bow with limbs shaped in a curved arc
  • Release: Letting go of the bowstring after drawing it to propel an arrow
  • Riser: The middle section of the bow, separating the limbs