Instinctive Archery – is that the right description?

Sharon on the range

Sharon on the range

Lots has been written over the years and probably will be for years to comes on the theory of what instinctive archery is. Often the authors of articles or books try to define what they view as instinctive shooting, this means there are countless definitions on YouTube, the net, archery books etc. these range from subconscious gapping to shooting without thinking. Many archers question if there is actually anything that is truly instinctive about it.

I recently watched a YouTube video by Jim Grizzly Kent ( and he used the phrase intuitive archery and this stuck with me.

The reason I think it did was a couple of days earlier I’d been helping a friend who gap shoots set up his bow. He’s recently had to drop his bow draw weight due to an ongoing shoulder injury and had bought some new limbs of a different and lighter poundage to his old ones. Since we have a range which allows archers to shoot back to 40 yards plus it seemed a logical location to help him get himself sorted.

I was watching Steve shoot, noting the arrow flight, release, noting down where the arrows fell for each shot. All starting at 5 yards and moving back in increments of 5 yards. I’d give him feedback on whether I saw him throw his arm or not get a clean release on the shot which would give a false reading etc.

view of the range

view of the range

Just so you know Steve shoots barebow under the NFAS banner, this means he is not using a sight on his bow, but can use metal or carbon arrows. In Steve’s case he shoots carbon arrows off a very nice Andy Soars Black Brook take down recurve bow.

During the process Steve explained how at 5 yards he would be aiming say an inch or so below the spot, then at 10 yards it might be half inch below, 20 yards it might be point on. This went on all the way back to 50 yards, with him shooting three arrows at each distance, then taking a break before shooting another three. With me noting the distance and observing his form on each shot.

It was as he said at this stage a very conscious process of working out and focusing on aiming but as he said. “The more familiar I become with shooting the new limbs, the less conscious the aiming will be. I’ll stop having to think I need to be 3 inches above”

For me it was interesting for two reasons.

Firstly from a coaching perspective, hearing how he explains his approach and process, along watching him execute this shot. Steve is very good at explaining his shooting cycle and stages.

Secondly from an instinctive archers viewpoint it was interesting to hear his explanations of how he gaps and works out how to aim or rather where to aim.

One advantage to this process of shooting Steve highlighted was it gives the archer a fall back plan if for any reason they to take a break from shooting due to work / life / health reasons. Their gaps will remain the same (so long as the arrow specs, draw dynamic and limbs are the same). The downside of this technique I’ve been able to identify cover consistency of the archer or equipment. Like all archers you must ensure you can perform your shoot cycle consistently.

If you change your arrow spec this may and probably will affect your gaps as a heavier arrow would fall faster so for longer shots you’d aim higher.

From my viewpoint

Whilst I don’t gap shot I do know that when I shoot I try and do a couple of things.

On longer shots I try to envisage the arrow flight to the target. How it will climb and fall hopefully into where I’m wanting it to land.

Shorter shots I know how it will appear in the target as if by magic. A friend when he saw me shot once said you don’t anchor you draw up set and release in one movement, which is something I know I do when either at short shots or when I’ve been practising a lot and on form.

I know when I stop shooting for a couple of weeks or longer then my eye, subconscious distance judgement, instinctive aiming  or whatever you want to call it goes and I feel I’m a bit rusty.

Anyway I thought some of you might find this interesting, have a look at Jims video and a read of the different authors thoughts on instinctive and a gap shooting.

Thanks for reading.

Shoot Report of sorts – Harlequin – February 2017

Harlequin Archers Feb 2017

Harlequin Archers Feb 2017

I feel the bitterly cold temperatures marred this shoot with the cold wind in some parts of the wood along with several sleet or wet snow showers making it feel like a test of endurance at times. I think anyone who survived the day deserved an award. Due to the  unpleasant weather there is only the one photo as my phone was buried under several layers in my jacket to keep it dry.
You can read a previous shoot report here. Despite the cold weather there were nearly 150 archers attending.
This was our first shoot of 2017, well strictly speaking it was Sharon’s first as I didn’t shoot the course. Instead I walked around with Sharon and her shooting group of Kay, Andy B, Julie and Roger, who were shooting a mix of flatbow, longbow and Barebow. As for the course, there  were the familiar 2d targets which I’m sure were even harder to draw arrows from in the cold, or maybe that was just us struggling. There were a few shots nicely framed between trees that tested the archer’s nerve along with the now traditional long shot at the 2D Moose, that is simply huge. The majority of the targets were 2D or 3Ds though there were a few paper faces including one deer that Sharon took 3 shots on and found all 3 were scoring.
It was nice to see some friendly faces and to chat to people we hadn’t seen since before Christmas.
It was good to have the opportunity to chat with Andy Soars too about his new bow designs. For those who don’t know Andy is the bowyer who produces the Blackbrook bow range of bows. These are bows which Sharon and I are both lucky enough to own (I have two of his flatbows and Sharon one of his recurves and a flatbow). If you have a chance drop by his website and take a look at his selection of bows.
I did find it hard at times though, especially when talking to some people who asked why I wasn’t shooting or who were partially aware of what had happened.
To be honest my heart is just not into shooting at present. I picked my bow up for first time in over 8 weeks on Saturday and I could feel the loss of muscle tone in my shoulders. The other thing was it didn’t feel like I wanted to shoot. Don’t get me wrong, I miss going down to the wood to shoot round but I realise I’m missing it more for being out there in nature than shooting.
Anyway back to the shoot report.
Harlequin did their best to keep everyone warm with supplies of hot drinks and a very nice chilli as one of the options for a hot meal. By all accounts their scotch eggs went down well too. Sharon shot well coming first in Ladies AFB with Kay coming first in Ladies Longbow. Though Julie didn’t place in longbow I think she shot really well, considering it was her first time out with the bow having only just picked it up. Oh, Andy B hope you are feeling better.
Despite the weather the day seemed to go well and people enjoyed themselves. Fingers crossed it will be warmer for their next shoot.
Thanks for reading.