Bow and Arrow Hunting
June 1990

Barebow Basics ~By Gary Vater

Shooting Without Sights Takes More Practice, But Accuracy Can Be Amazing!

WITH THE STEALTH of a predator, the bowhunter
eased down the sage-covered ridge. Each step
was calculated and cautious. An earlier stalk had ended with an
alerted animal bursting from its bed, leaving the archer alone
to watch the trail of dust in the distance. The wounded antelope
retreated to the safety of this open hillside and bedded down a second
time. Now the animal was lying near a large clump of
sage, allowing an undetected approach from above.
Though well within bow range, the hunter
was faced with a new problem. The same
bush which aided his stalk was blocking
any chance for a shot. As the bowhunter
crept forward, the buck exploded out of its
bed. With an arrow ready on the string, the
archer stood and swung the bow into action
at the fleeing animal. Even with the shot
changing every second, the arrow found
its mark and put the animal down for

While most people would chalk this up
as a lucky shot, others will perhaps recall
making a similar shot themselves. Many
of these believers will fall into the category
of “instinctive” shooters.
That shot was made with no concern of
range estimation nor of what sight pin to
use. In a situation like that, the opportunity
will only present itself for a few
seconds before the animal is gone. The
arrow is brought into motion as simply as
tossing a ball, with nothing more than
practiced hand/ eye coordination.

Think of the snowballs thrown when
you were younger. There was never any
calculation as to how to make the throw.
You just did it. After a couple of snowfalls,
you’ll have to admit, you became pretty
accurate. And I’ll bet most of you can
remember connecting on a few neighbor
kids who were streaking for safety. There
is no reason to feel you can’t shoot instinctively.
Learning to shoot an arrow instinctively
takes time. Being a learned ability, it`s no
different than any other developed reaction
involving hand/ eye coordination. You
need repetition to engrave it in your mind.
Once you’ve got it, it’ll always be there. It
can’t be bent, broken, or rattled out of

Sound interesting? It can be a simple
process; just point and touch the anchor,
I’m not saying instinctive shooting is a
can`t-miss alternative. Believe me, I know
that And I’m sure not trying to sound like
an authority on shooting the bow. So many
people in this sport never have been exposed
to the many variables of shooting a bow,
I’d just like to help open some eyes to a
shooting style different than what most
people are taught today. I have some suggestions
which may make the transition in
styles a little easier.

Before you snap an arrow on the string,
you may want to take a look at the arrow-
rest system on your bow. It will help to
shoot off the arrow shelf, if you can. The
idea is to get the shaft lying almost on top
of your hand. Have you ever marveled at
the accuracy some people have on moving
game or objects tossed into the air? Odds
are, these people have the arrow as close
to their bow hand as possible. The flight of
the arrow becomes an extension of their

Two basic bow tuning notes should be
mentioned: To shoot off the shelf you’ve
got to use feather fletching. Plastic vanes
aren ’t forgiving enough when passing over
the stiff rest. You’ll also find the nock set
usually has to be placed higher above
square when shooting off the shelf
When the equipment is ready, it’s time
to adjust the archer. Keep in mind that
there really is no single right way to shoot a
bow. As long as the arrow goes where you
want it, it doesn’t matter how your form
looks when compared to everyone else.
I’m just presenting ideas that many others
have found useful. Experiment with some
or all of them. Find what works best for
you and develop your skills from there.
Because we may be building from the
ground up, let’s begin with the foundation;
the stance. Try this: When pointing out
something specific to another person, there
is a tendency to lower your head to get
your eyes on the same level as your finger.
Flexing your knees while leaning forward
a little brings you even more in line. This
same stance works well with instinctive
arrow shooting.

Since depth perception is more accurate
with a clear field of view, you may want to
cant or tilt the bow to open up the sight
window. By doing this, all that’s seen is the
target area, with nothing between to break
your concentration. By the way, if you
think about it, even a bow equipped with a
sight can be shot canted, as long as the
angle remains the same for each shot. One
of the reasons people started holding bows
vertically was to prevent interference with
the person next to them on the shooting
line. If you have to take this into consideration
when shooting at an animal, it’s
time to find a new place to hunt.

The string fingers and anchor point may
need refinement. Try using a middle finger
in the corner of the mouth anchor, if your
prefer a split finger hold on the nock. Others
will find placing all three fingers under the
nock to their liking. Either choice may
accomplish what you are after: to get the
arrow as near the eye as possible. We’re
getting everything in line with our plane
of sight.

The most solid form still needs to be
driven by concentration. Your mind tells
the bow arm where to move as the arrow is
drawn. By the time the anchor point has
been reached, the aiming process has been
completed. If the concentration has been
broken, the results will show it.

When I shoot, all of which I am consciously
aware is two fingers; one index
finger gets pushed toward the intended
target, while the other touches the anchor
point. While I’m drawing, I imagine my
finger touching the exact spot I want to hit.
This simplified thought process eliminates
any second guessing about the shot. More
often than not, second guessing has a negative
effect on the shot. Once developed,
trust your instincts. Doubting or guessing
is where many flinches originate. The mind
is unsure if the arrow should be sent on its
way, while the fingers are saying it’s time.
This point—and-shoot style could be of
particular interest to any archer suffering
from that dreaded disease, target panic.
This mental collapse of the shooting technique
has ruined many an archer. Some
say it develops through a fear of missing.
Those affected can’t really tell you when it
struck; they only know the ability to aim
and hold on target is gone. In an attempt to
overcome it, some have tried hypnosis,
release aids, clickers or switching from
right- to left—handed shooting. Others have
just plain quit the sport in frustration.
I caught a nasty case of it myself about
ten years ago and fought an uphill battle to
conquer it for a long time. Finally I decided
it would be better to develop what I had
left, instead of fighting it. Learning con-
trolled snap shooting was the answer for
me. Since target panic won’t let you hold
the arrow once the anchor is touched, pre-
aiming as the arrow is drawn eliminates
the need to hold. If the aiming is completed
as the anchor is touched, there’s no need to
hold any longer.

Other than just putting in your time in
front of the target butt, here are a couple of
ideas to break the monotony and to develop
your skills more quickly.
One method suggests learning to shoot
in the dark. In a safe, dark area, place a

small flashlight on the ground so it shines
on the target. Even though you’ll be shooting
from only eight to ten yards, make sure
you’ve got a large safe backstop. It is too
dark to use the arrow for sighting, so hand/
eye coordination will have to put the arrow
where it belongs. This way, you’ll be shooting
by feel rather than by sight. With nothing
but the target to concentrate on, the act
of drawing and releasing will become a
natural motion, allowing the archer to place
his total attention on the spot to be hit.

Possibly the most enjoyable way to
develop your instinctive eye is through
stump shooting using Judo or other blunt
points. The Judo points eliminate any concern
about losing arrows, so a wider variety
of shots will be taken. These varied shots
will sharpen your skills faster than taking
the same shot repeatedly. It also will get
you out into the fields and forests, simulating
actual hunting conditions.

Shooting instinctively doesn’t guarantee
you won’t miss your next animal. There
are no guarantees in hunting or shooting as
there are no short— cuts. Both require a substantial
investment of time and practice to
become proficient. If the technique you’re
using now isn’t working, what have you
got to lose by trying something different?
Sure, your friend with the bow sight will
out—shoot you on the target range. But take
him along roving through the woods, where
the ranges are unknown and he must shoot
from an awkward position. I think the pros
and cons of the different styles will balance
out and you’ll both realize there is more
than one way to shoot a bow. <—<<

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