How to Shoot a Compound Bow

How to Shoot a Compound Bow

You can have the best bow on the planet, but without proper stance, you won’t get very far in archery. Archers practice stances because it brings consistency to the shot. The natural muscle memory will keep increasing the accuracy as you will be in tune with how your body works with your bow.  Your compound bow stance is a skill that will always improve with correct practice and lead to tight accurate target groupings.

The Stance


There are three main types of stances used in archery. These are “square,” “open,” and “closed” stances. There is no reason for any of those stances to be better than another, it just comes down to what feels the most natural for your body. The most comfortable stance is based on where your body’s natural centering point is.

What all stances have in common is that your feet should be shoulder width apart. Your feet should always be approximately perpendicular to the target. Bend your knees slightly, this acts as a way to absorb shock from the let-off, when you release your arrow.

  • Square stance is when your feet are perfectly in line with each other.
  • Open is when your hips are open or slightly turned towards the target.
  • Closed is when your hips are closed away from the target. Keep in mind that if you use open or closed stance, you must keep your feet in the same places to stay consistent.

The easiest way to discover your natural foot positioning is trial and error. Try each stance about a dozen times and see which one is the most consistent.

The Body

To position your body, stay as upright as possible. Slouching and creating more curves than natural in your neck and spine will throw off your arrow. To keep your lower back flat and straight, tucking your hips in may help.

Your head and neck should be in their most natural position. Your chin should be approximately in line with your shoulder.

Pull your shoulders downwards, but don’t force it. This will naturally rotate them back to a well-aligned position. Some archers imagine a string from their shoulders to ribcage to their belly button.

The Grip

What you’ll read over and over again in this article is to be relaxed and natural. This is extremely important when it comes to good grip technique. You’ll often hear the phrase “Don’t shake hands with your bow” because it’s very true. One of the most common mistakes of a new archer is that they attempt to hold the bow similar to a handshake.

Instead of shaking hands, approach the bow with a naturally relaxed hand. Begin with your hand flat and parallel to the ground and then turn your hand upwards (clockwise for right hand, counter-clockwise for left) at a comfortable angle to hold your bow.  It will be about 45-90 degrees. Raise your fingers a little bit and let the grip of your bow fall into the padded meaty part of your hand below your thumb. Wrap your fingers around the bow, but don’t put a death grip on it. You should be firm but relaxed.

Depend on your bow, you will decide a wrist placement. There are low, medium, and high grip styles. Low being below the hand, medium in line, and high above. Many compound bows today are suited for a low grip style. Again, this is trial, error, and comfort.

Practicing Good Stance

So now you know how to find out what works for you. Be aware that what works now with the bow you are using, can still change. As your skills as an archer grows, you can expect to shift preferences. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

The key to becoming good is to practice. Consistency will always be the most important part. As you learn the little shifts and movements of your body combined with your compound bow, you’ll find the most consistent spot.

Many archers recommend beginning with square stance if you don’t feel much preference with the other two. This is because the square stance is something that is easy to measure and recreate.

Nocking the Arrow

Now that you’re standing correctly, let’s talk about the bow. It’s time to nock the arrow! Your number one rule is that your arrow should only touch the bow at two points.

  1. The arrow rest.
  2. The string.

Make sure you don’t touch the limbs with your arrow as that will transfer vibration. You’ll notice that most arrows (and very likely yours) have veins of two colors.  Usually, it’s a bright color and white. Two veins will have a color and one will be different. The different one should face upward. Note that some arrows have the odd colored one facing outward if not upward. That is still correct if that is how you need to nock the arrow.

Drawing the Bow

Remember everything we told you about good stance. If you are new, it is good to double check your stand at this stage.  It is just as simple as pulling the string back, however, there’s a little bit of technique.

Use your back muscles to draw the weight of the string so that your arms do not fatigue. This motion feels like squeezing your shoulder blades together.  Your draw should be one smooth motion. If it is not a complete smooth motion, consider lowering your draw weight to something more comfortable.

The first few inches will be the hardest, but then the compound bow’s cams will fill in to make holding a lot easier.

Where your nock naturally settles is your anchor point. It should be near your face. If it is too far behind your head or too far forward, consider changing your draw length accordingly.

The height of your anchor point is personal preference as long as you aren’t blocking your own view. You should experiment to find your most natural point and then consistently practice with it.  The average tends to be an anchor point about the height of your lips.

While aiming, although it might feel easier to move the bow upwards, don’t do it! It is an unhelpful habit that some develop from early stages, which can be dangerous when not having full control over the bow.

Aiming and Releasing the Arrow

Most archers shoot compound bows with some sort of sights. Sights have two parts, the peep sight and the forward sight.

The peep sight is the part you are looking through.  Remember which eye is your dominant eye? Close your other one to accurately stare down the target. Align your eye to the target with the peep sight.   

The other part of your sight is the pin sight. There are typically three pins, which are 20, 30, and 40 yards. Know how far you are shooting and line your arrow up accordingly.

Now for the easy and satisfying part.  All you have to do is let go.

However, do make sure you don’t pitch forward with the arrow or loosen the grip on your draw right before releasing. It’s a feeling that takes practice to get used to. Imagine still pulling back as you release to keep the string taunt. Depending on the bow, you may feel kickback so be prepared for that.

Full Video on Shooting a Compound Bow Correctly:

Now that you know how to shoot a compound bow properly, pick the best compound bow for you!