Archery 101: How To Shoot A Compound Bow

Archery 101: How To Shoot A Compound Bow

Compound bows are the most popular bow type used in archery today. Their fast speed and large let-off percentage make them ideal for both target archery and bowhunting. Although their setup process can be a bit complex, compound bows are still, in many ways, one of the easiest bows to shoot accurately.

However, the bow doesn’t shoot itself. Just as with any bow type, accuracy takes an archer with proper form. The good news, though, is that with enough practice, anyone can develop proper form and learn how to correctly shoot a compound bow.

On the surface, shooting a compound bow seems simple - you pull the bowstring, aim down your sight, release the string and let the arrow fly off until it hits the target. But in reality, several things go into being able to deliver good shots as an archer.

In this article, we’ll go over the fundamentals you need to know to improve your archery shooting  using a compound bow.

Getting Started With Your Compound Bow

A compound bow is a mechanical device that launches arrows using elastic energy. The bow setup consists of the upper and lower limbs, which store the energy generated each time you pull back the bow string. Each limb has its own pulley system and cable. 

Attached to the end of each limb are the cams - round or oval discs that mechanically manipulate the bow draw weight as you pull back the string. The cables run from one cam to the other and move the cam whenever you pull back the bowstring. Energy produced during the draw process is stored as potential energy in the limbs and converted into kinetic energy as the bow is fired, resulting in a high-velocity arrow release.

Determining Your Compound Bow Fit

To get started, we’re going to assume that you have a compound bow and it’s already set up to a reasonable extent. You don’t necessarily need all of the additional accessories if you’re a beginner, just the basics, and you’re good. But it’s entirely fine if you decide to get them from the get-go. 

The most important thing for you will be to ensure that your compound bow feels comfortable and right for you. To that end, you want to keep the following things in mind: 

  • Bow weight: When considering whether or not your bow is a good fit, your bow weight is the best place to start. Light bows are easier to control, while heavier ones offer added stability. In choosing a bow that fits right, you have to strive for a balance between the two extremes. A bow that’s too light or too heavy will make it pretty difficult to shoot well.
  • The draw length: This describes how far you’d need to draw your compound bow before firing. It is the distance between the bow grip and string at full draw. Knowing the right draw length for you helps optimize the power and accuracy of your shots.
  • The draw weight: This describes the weight needed to pull back the bow to reach full draw before firing. The proper draw weight for you depends on your body mass and strength. For beginners, the rule of thumb is to start with a lower draw weight and work your way up from there. 

While these are all important metrics, you can find more information about the factors to consider when choosing a compound bow in this guide.

How To Shoot A Compound Bow 

So, we’re all caught up on the important things to consider to ensure your bow is the right fit. Now, let’s get to the thick of things - archery shooting with a compound bow. 

Start With The Right Form 

Good shots start from the bottom and all the way up, making archery form a critical part of any successful shooting session. Proper form is critical to achieving improved stability and accuracy as an archer. Learning the right form and maintaining it each time you shoot will help you tighten your arrow groups and consistently deliver precise shots.

But you need to understand that developing proper form as a compound archer takes time. Several things have to be kept in mind as you gradually develop brain and muscle memory until taking the right form eventually becomes second nature to you.

The following are helpful pointers to help you achieve the perfect form: 

  • Stand steady

Stand upright and in a relaxed position with your feet perpendicular to the target and about shoulder width from each other. For better stability, turn your toes slightly out. Your entire body should be aligned straight toward the target. As much as possible, avoid leaning forward or back. Your shooting position should be sturdy, but at the same time, it should be relaxed and comfortable. You can try out the different stance options available to determine the ideal option for you.

  • Get anchored

Once your archery form and posture are set, you can proceed to draw your arrow. The draw process requires that you pull the bowstring in one smooth motion all the way to the back, keeping your elbow straight out, at the same level as your shoulder. This ensures your back muscles do the work and not the relatively weaker arm muscles. 

Each time you draw your bow, the arrow nock should come in contact with the same place. That spot is referred to as the anchor point - a point on your face where you feel comfortable resting your drawing arm. Using that exact spot as the index each time you draw your bow is critical to the accuracy and consistency of your shots as an archer.

  • Relax your grip

To ensure you’re correctly gripping your bow, the first thing you need do is to center the grip in your palm. This helps evenly distribute the weight between your fingers and wrists. Next, you must make sure you can maintain a firm but relaxed grip on the bow. Fight the urge to tighten your fingers as you grip the bow; a tense grip will only throw off your shot.

  • Straighten your arms

As much as possible, maintain a relatively straight line from your grip arm back to your lead shoulder, keeping that shoulder low and extended. You should also keep a relatively straight line from the arrow tip all the way to the elbow of your string arm. 

Essentially, the arm with which you’re gripping the bow should be directly aligned with your shoulder at full draw. Your drawing arm and elbow should also be level with each other. But do not entirely lock out your bow hand. Don’t bend it so much, either.

  • Remember the follow-through

Once the shot has been fired, you should always follow through. Don’t exaggerate this step - your shot should end as naturally as can be. If you have a proper archery form, the follow-through will fall in place, and you’ll find yourself being more accurate. 

Different Methods to Shoot A Compound Bow 

You’ll notice that we haven’t discussed the actual shooting process so far. This is because there are several methods for shooting a compound bow. Everything about the archery form is standard procedure, regardless of how you shoot. Now, let’s consider the available methods you can employ when shooting your bow. 

The Command-Style Method 

This is arguably the most popular shooting method among everyday bowhunters. Also known by some as “punching the trigger,” its name is gotten from the fact that you get to command the trigger by punching it as soon as the pin sits exactly on the right spot. While the command-style shooting method is used by hunters, it also works quite well for target shooting. 

To practice shooting the command-style technique, go ahead to draw your bow and aim. Lay your finger lightly on the release trigger, keenly focus on the pin’s dot, and fire as soon as the pin passes over the target center.

Another important part of command-style shooting is visualization. As you shoot longer distances, you need to be able to paint a vivid picture of the pin moving slowly and then touching the center of the target. Remember that archery requires just as much mental strength as physical strength. If you’re too conscious about the shooting process, you’ll anticipate the shot, which is a deadly mistake any archer can make. Master the act of visualization, and trust your body to act in line with what you visualize. Then, you can be sure the trigger will go off at just the right time. 

The Surprise Release Method 

Just as the command-style shooting method is more popular among bowhunters, the surprise release method is used by a vast majority of 3D archers. 

To get this right, hold the sight pin on the target and let it float while you concentrate on the target center. Relax and focus solely on aiming, then slowly trip the trigger so that it is a surprise when the release eventually goes off.

You can practice a perfect release by doing some blind-bale shooting or aiming drills that involve aiming and floating the pin without shooting. 

The Back Tension Method 

The back tension method simplifies the entire shot process by minimizing the archer’s mental struggle between the process of holding, aiming, and triggering the release. Mastering this method takes a lot of practice, but once perfected, the entire shooting process becomes imprinted in your muscle memory. The back tension method, when done correctly, only requires that the archer focuses on aiming.

Note that for this shooting method, the trigger is not set off by your fingers or any muscles near the release itself but by the rotation of the hand or interference caused by the back muscles as they move your limbs into position. If the result is not a complete surprise, then the process was not correctly executed.

Back tension helps you minimize arrow release anticipation and makes your shots a complete surprise when released. This makes it a great remedy to combat target panic associated with release anticipation. 

When shooting with this method, it is important to maintain proper shooting form - stance, nocking, bow draw, and anchoring. You should also remember that your elbow should either be in line or slightly behind the arrow. This helps to support your back muscles, thus bolstering your form and stability. 

Additional Tips For Compound Bow Shooting

Now that we’ve covered the basics of archery shooting with a compound bow, you will also need to keep a few other things in mind: 

Take Safety First

Archery is a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous in the wrong circumstances. As an archer, it’s important you remember always to prioritize safety and protect yourself. Keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Get a forearm protector to keep your arm safe from wrist slaps
  • Ensure that your compound bow is of high quality and that fit properly 
  • Whatever you do, never dry-fire your bow 

Find That Anchor Point 

We already pointed this out before, but it deserves a re-visit. Before you go off shooting, you will need to find your anchor point. 

For most archers, the anchor point is usually around the corner of the mouth. However, some people prefer placing their draw hand on the chin - while others prefer somewhere just behind their jaw. Whatever feels comfortable and natural, go for it. 

Practice Makes Perfect 

You can’t get the hang of shooting a compound bow in a single day - in fact, it’s practically impossible, and no one expects you to. So, don’t fret when it seems like it’s taking forever to perfect your shots. Most pros work on their shot time and again, perfecting everything from their form to the eventual release. And if you hope to be one as well, you need to be willing to put the work in and practice. 

Don’t worry, though - you’ve got this!


As an archer, everything you do should be targeted toward improving your shot accuracy and consistency. Archery is much more fun when you can see yourself making progress, and this is especially why mastering the bow shooting process is important for you as a compound archer.

However, learning to shoot takes practice and a lot of dedication - especially when it comes to compound bows. For starters, you need to understand and feel comfortable with your bow. Asides from this, we’ve outlined some other things you need to know about shooting a compound bow above. 

Happy shooting!