Archive for the ‘Target Archery’ Tag


The All-Important Bow Arm Unit

By Olympic Archery Coach Al Henderson From UNDERSTANDING WINNING ARCHERY

What one thing in shooting style or method, what one phase of the shooting form, is the most important?  This is most often asked by a competitive shooter, but it applies to anyone shooting an arrow anywhere at anything.

I believe that what happens to the ‘bow arm unit’ in that precise span of time between the instant of the brain command and the time the arrow clears the bowstring is the key to a successful shot.

This is the last ingredient added to the recipe for good scores and hunting shots that hit the little spot you picked as your aiming point.  Whatever happens at the exact instant that our brain gives the message to string fingers to relax their hold on the string, or the string hand to trip the release, is the thing that makes everything else we have put together for that shot produce either the results we are expecting or the result we did not want.

The tragic thing about this often unrecognized fact is that a coach cannot really see it happen, and a student/shooter does not exactly feel it or, for that matter, even believe it.   Buddy, it’s there, big as life, and it can be proven.

Any reference to a measure of time or speed that may be used in this article is for comparison only.  It takes the brain 70 milliseconds to give any part of our body a command.  Therefore, the brain has time to give us more than 14 commands in one second.  It probably does, too, since we can stand without falling, breathe, walk, talk, smile, close our eyes and unlock the car door at the same time.

A shooter can use this knowledge to his/her advantage.

In shooting, the little, almost unnoticeable cause of an almost-but-not-quite-perfect shot could be that at the exact moment the brain commands the release of the string, a small movement (even the tightening of an arm or shoulder muscle from unnecessary tension) in his bow arm unit, for any reason whatsoever, louses up his shot.  If any part of this bow arm unit moves only one thirty-second of an inch, before the impact of the release-and-shot ‘explosion’ hits the shooter, it can put the arrow somewhere other than dead center.  This error of movement is also magnified because the unit continues moving all through the explosion, like a shotgun moves when shooting a bird in flight.  It is a small amount and it will vary for many reasons depending on what caused it.  But bow arm movement wrecks things.

When the brain gives the command for the fingers to relax, every part of the body knows that command has been given and that this is the beginning of the end of the effort. This is the most important moment.

As an example, at the instant the command is given, the shoulder could slightly quit holding its position because it anticipates that the shot will soon be over.  The elbow could anticipate the finish and not stay rigid.  The wrist could do the same thing.  The bow arm must hold the physical weight of the bow after the explosion so it can begin to get ready at the instant of command, without waiting for the weight to manifest itself.  The entire arm unit could decide that the show is over at the moment the command is given to the fingers to release, and begin to relax because its work is soon over.  The concentration of aiming could also start to give up and quit working too soon.  And on and on.

What other single thing in the whole scheme of shooting technique is so dependent upon so many other things to make it work?  I can think of nothing that has so many operations dictating the success or failure of the shot as does the one-thousandth of a second of time between the brain command and the bowstring being released.  This is the most important instant of all.  This is the time in which you must exercise the control necessary to hold still – to keep your bow arm unit still — until the shock of explosion hits.

I agree, 100 percent control is all you need.  That would solve everything.  However, unless you know what the problem is and understand its importance, you don’t generally control down to the fine points that we are talking about here.

Keeping the bow arm unit still is part of follow-through.  Follow-through is the continuation of your form as it was before the explosion.  Think this through thoroughly and shoot better.

This article is from How-To Chapter 3 – Building The Best Form — from UNDERSTANDING WINNING ARCHERY. a 114-page paperback book by Olympic Archery Coach Al Henderson.

Reprinted courtesy of Target Communications as part of an educational program for outdoors readers. Learn more about the contents of UNDERSTANDING WINNING ARCHERY at

Al Henderson was coach of the 1976 U.S. Olympic archery team that won gold medals in men’s and women’s competition.  More than 200 of his students won state, regional or national championships.  Many were members of college All-American archery teams; others were members of the U.S. Olympic archery team and World Championship team.  He was inducted into the U.S. Archery Hall of Fame in 1982.


It has been a while since I have shot a bow and arrow.  The two A’s (age and arthritis) cause me to avoid doing much shooting after some 40-years of bowhunting.

Due to some vision problems, I have never been able to focus on a sight pin and also the target.  Therefore I always shoot “instinctive’.  Then I met Mitchell Schmitz of Extreme Outdoor Products of MS Inc.  We met at the annual POMA (Professional Outdoor Media Association) business meeting in MS.

Mitchell has invented a bow sight for compound bows that eliminates wrist torque and the need for peep sights and kisser buttons.  It allows you to shoot your bow like a rifle.

With this sight on the bow, archers have a dead on consistent anchor point because of the need to align two pins.  For those who have eye dominant problems the sight allows one to shoot any bow right or left handed accurately.  For instance, a right-handed shooter can still shoot right-handed even though he is left-eye dominant.

In low-light situations this sight it out performs the peep sight.  Not having a kisser and/or peep sight on the string increases arrow speed.  You are able to shoot tighter groups more quickly.

The sight allows several archers to use the same bow accurately regardless of draw length.  You align two pins.

Made of aluminum with steel pins, the sight fits most bows and comes in camo or anodized colors.  It has graduated settings for easy fine tuning adjustment.

For more information about this sight contact Extreme Outdoor Products at 601-833-5395 or visit their website at


On the high end is the cost of bows for the more sophisticated competitive archer.

Buying an inexpensive bow may not be the best way of getting the most for one’s bowhunting dollar. 

Money on the initial purchase is often lost on the expense of getting it tuned and learning to shoot properly.  It may be set up properly.  If it is not, valuable practice time or even time in the field is the cost of gaining the proper set up. 

Those of us who were self-taught were at a disadvantage.  Today, by going to a professional archery shop can vastly accelerate the learning curve in both shooting and hunting skills. 

Professional sales personnel and instructors are students of archery.  They are skilled in the use of motivational tools to develop their skills through what is often years of hard work.  They are willing to help the novice avoid mistakes they themselves have experienced. 

Professional archers are more than just sales clerks who sell bows and arrows.  They are a source of information and support.  They have information on what tackle is new and the latest information on what is going on to preserve and protect our sport. 

The better pro shops have practice ranges right on the premises.  If they do not have a range of their own, they know where one can go to practice in the area.  Many shops will provide some instruction on a formal or informal basis for those customers using the range. 

It is important early to get good professional instruction.  It saves time correcting mistakes.  It may even prevent the bowhunter becoming disillusioned with the sport and giving up.  The pro wants his customers to learn to shoot well and be satisfied with their skills.  If the archer gives up, he will not be a repeat customer in the future.  Repeat business is vital to staying in business. 

A good pro is a problem solver.  He is skilled in recognizing the needs, desires, interests and any limitation of the customer.  He can help the customer learn to “know their bow.”

If you purchase a bow from an “out of the box” business, it still needs tuning.  It needs to be in tune to your specific needs.  Taking it to a pro for help with tuning is about the best way to make sure you get a reliable job done.  Expect to pay the pro for the service and his time.  He has bills to pay and a family to feed just like you.  If he does not charge, remember that he also has tackle that you can purchase and make sure you buy future tackle from him.  Buying from discount retailers has drawbacks.  In many an instance it is more expensive in the end. 

Pro shop people are informed on all sorts of new developments.  He has to be, it is his livelihood. 

Pro shops are the best place to get tackle repaired and primed for the hunting season.  They have the specialized tools and experience necessary for the tasks.  Beginning archers need help from someone in the know.  A well-meaning friend may or may not know what he is saying.  Even old timers need some help sometimes with things they think they know and maybe do not.

%d bloggers like this: