If you’re going to take shooting advice from someone, you should seek the help of a certified archery instructor, or in this case, a professional archer who shoots for a living. Although your neighbor or best friend from high school may have good intentions, they might not know how to help you, so it’s best to listen to the experts.
James Lutz, a member of the US men’s compound archery team, shared four shooting tips to consider right now. Lutz won a gold medal at the 2019 World Archery Championships and took home a gold medal in the men’s team event at the 2021 World Archery Championships. He’s 23 years old but possesses a wealth of archery knowledge. Here’s what he had to say.
Lutz said the average bowhunter probably isn’t as familiar with his or her equipment as most target archers. Regardless, understanding how your bow reacts to the changes you make is the kind of information you should have whether you’re shooting in a competition or from a treestand.
“Knowing your bow is everything,” he said. “But I get to know my bow by just spending time with it. The more stuff I try, the more stuff I learn about it. If I feel something, I know exactly what it is. That knowledge comes with regular practice and time spent with your equipment.”
For example, adjusting your draw weight, adding weight to your stabilizer and moving your sights can affect your shot accuracy. Lutz recommends being so knowledgeable about your equipment that when you make an adjustment, you know how it will shoot before you shoot it. Being familiar with how your bow shoots and making on-the-fly adjustments helps ensure accurate shots, especially if you accidentally drop your bow and need to make a quick, last-minute tweak.
Both new and experienced archers may neglect or overlook their shot follow-through. Lutz sees it all the time. Whether you don’t know that you should do it, you forget in the moment or you rushed the shot process, consistently following through can improve your accuracy and ease your frustrations.
“The shot isn’t over once you pull the trigger to release an arrow,” he said. “There’s so much that happens when the arrow is leaving the bow. I’ve seen people with the best form ever, but they fall apart right as the bow goes off, and that can change everything.”
After you release the arrow, your arms should stay upright in a proper follow-through. In fact, your bow arm should naturally move toward the target while your release arm moves away from it. You should also keep your eyes focused on the target until you hear your arrow strike. Then, and only then, can you drop your arms and look elsewhere. Doing these things will ensure you don’t move on too quickly, which can negatively affect the arrow’s flight trajectory.
Lutz said archery is similar to golf. “The end of the golf swing isn’t over when the club hits the ball,” he said. “You have to follow through. It’s the same thing with archery.”
Lutz said form is an interesting thing because everyone is different. People have different body shapes and equipment setups, which makes a proper universal shooting form nearly impossible. What’s comfortable to one archer might not be to another. However, there are certain aspects of form that each person should use as a foundational framework to help personalize their shooting form. The basic elements of form include your stance, grip, posture, anchor point, release and follow-through.
“I would never teach my form to someone because it works for me and I’ve seen it not work for many people,” Lutz said. “You must figure out what’s consistent for you because everyone will shoot better their way. You just have to figure out what that way is for you.”
If you struggle to be accurate, you can likely blame a breakdown or inconsistency in your form. To troubleshoot your problem, visit an archery pro shop to take a lesson and get expert tips from a certified archery instructor. These pros break down the step-by-step process of bow shooting and can help you find a comfortable shooting form that works for you.
Lutz said practice is often what sets apart amateur archers from professional archers or unsuccessful hunters from successful hunters. Why? Because you must practice to become accurate and proficient with your equipment.
While competing at the World Archery Championships in Yankton, South Dakota, in September 2021, Lutz said, “None of us would be shooting at the World Championships if it wasn’t for hours and hours of practice and shooting thousands of arrows.” He’s right. You can’t expect to be good at something you don’t do regularly.
“Archery is 100% about consistency,” he said. “If you’re not consistent, you can’t perform well, and you’ll probably miss or wound deer. The more you practice, the more you can get your consistency down. Everything else will follow.”
Read these Bowhunters United articles for practice-routine tips and inspiration.
Another great way to practice, learn your equipment, and perfect your form and follow-through is to try competition archery. Lutz started his archery career by bowhunting but later found he enjoyed competition archery more. Even if you don’t love it as much as Lutz, it’s still beneficial.
“Shooting target archery helps you become familiar with shooting in different conditions and it lets you get to know your equipment better,” he said. “You learn so much from it, and you learn so much about yourself, too. It can definitely change the way you hunt. You’ll just be more confident with a bow in your hand, and that’s huge when you’re trying to hit an animal.”
If competition archery isn’t your thing, give 3D archery a go, join an archery league or try bowfishing. Whatever you do, continue to focus on improving your shot and you’ll be better because of it.