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.

Merlin archery adventures – instinctive archery

One of the blogs I follow is Archery Adventures which recently became Merlin Archery Adventures. (
Written by Grizzly Jim, it covers articles on equipment and other things of interest to the archery community. One such post that caught my eye recently concerned instinctive archery.I believe I shoot Instinctively, I don’t gap shoot and don’t have sights on my bows. My head tells me where to aim and I draw up. I sometimes get asked how far do you think a shot is and my normal reply is don’t know and I lift my bow arm and say about there.
The fact I don’t gap shoot or consciously know what my point on is surprises many of my archery friends.

I remember talking to one of my fellow club members Stephen a few months back. He was  saying how his point on was I think 43 yards with his new bow. Stephen then asked what mine was. My reply I think surprised him when I said I didn’t know. We went to the range and he had me shoot a few arrows and I explained that when I draw up I’m not looking at the arrow point and barely conscious of the arrow shaft. Instead I’m focused on the target and the spot I want to hit.
This may sound strange especially coming from a coach but it is the way I feel comfortable to shoot.
I just know when I get to a shooting peg and view the target I need to either “aim” below if it’s close,  at it if medium distance or above if further away.
Or as someone once said to me.
“Aim for below the belly, the belly or the rider on top.”
By the way,  some of you may not be familiar with what point on is so here is my definition of point on.
It is the distance at which if you have your arrow tip on the centre of the target when at full draw and released your arrow, the arrow would land in the centre of the target.  Exactly where the arrow tip had been at the point of aiming.

Point-On — The measurement of distance a given bow and arrow will shoot when an archer sights the tip of his arrow upon the point of aim and hits that target. (
Gap shooting is another process that some use. The archer judges the distance and knows through practice that at say 24 yards thet have to aim 4 inches below where they need to hit. That’s the gap above or below the target the archers aiming for
In reality I think most people are somewhere between instinctive and gap shooters. Next time you are out shooting give it some thought and ask your fellow archers.

As always thanks for reading and if you get the chance check out his blog.