How to Shoot a Recurve Bow: A Beginner’s Guide to Practice Archery (with Pictures)

So you’re looking to learn how to shoot a recurve bow.

 Archery is making a comeback as a modern sport, and not merely due to the olympics. Kids, teens, and adults are buying recurve and compound bows and shooting at their local archery ranges, parks, camps, and backyards.

If you’ve picked up a beginner recurve bow (or if you’re on the market for one, checkout our collection of Bear® Archery beginner bows) and want to start putting it to use, here are some fundamental shooting techniques (with pictures) to help you learn how to shoot a recurve bow.

*An important note, this guide was written using a right-handed shooter to demonstrate. If you are left-handed, simply reverse any mention of “right” to “left”, and any mention of “left” to “right”.

Basic Archery Stance

Having a proper stance is important for stability, posture, and aiming, and will enable you to draw and release the bowstring without injuring yourself. Two simple and popular archery stances that you can start with are the Square Stance and the Open Stance.

how to shoot a recurve bow - square stance
Square Stance
how to shoot a recurve bow - open stance
Open Stance

In the square stance, place both feet shoulder width apart and on both sides of the shooting line. Have your left foot leading the right foot and perpendicular to the target.

In the open stance, take a half-step backward with the left foot and point it slightly towards the target. This is best when standing on uneven ground.

Nocking the Arrow

how to shoot a recurve bow - nocking an arrow
Push the arrow's nock into the bowstring

Holding the arrow in your right hand, place it on the arrow rest on the left side of your bow. Position the arrow with the index fletching* facing away from the bow. Push the arrow’s nock into the bowstring, in-between the finger guides.

Do not wrap the index finger of your left hand around the arrow shaft. Let the arrow rest on the bow by itself.

how to shoot a recurve bow - improperly gripping the bow
Do not wrap the index finger of your bow hand around the arrow shaft
how to shoot a recurve bow - gripping the bow
Let the arrow rest on the bow by itself

Hooking the Bowstring

The most common way to hook the bowstring is using the Mediterranean Draw. Using three fingers, place the index finger on the upper finger-guide and the other two fingers on the lower finger-guide. It is best to hook the string with the first joints of the fingers. Avoid gripping the string with your fist or pinching the arrow.

how to shoot a recurve bow - hooking the arrow
Place the index finger on the upper finger-guide and the other two fingers on the lower finger-guide
how to shoot a recurve bow - hooking an arrow with 3 fingertips
It is best to hook the string with the first joints of the fingers

Holding the Bow

Grip the bow so that the handle rests on the large padded surface between your palm and thumb. The idea is to push the bow in place, rather than gripping it tight in position. A good indicator you are holding the bow correctly is if your knuckles create a 45-degree angle to the center line of the bow.

how to shoot a recurve bow - proper elbow rotation
A good indicator you are holding the bow correctly is if your knuckles create a 45-degree angle to the center line of the bow

Elbow Rotation

Gripping the bow correctly is important for proper rotation of the arm. Gripping too tightly will rotate your forearm in-line with the bow string, which will hurt if you’re not wearing an arm guard. If your arm is properly rotated, your elbow will point away from you and your forearm will clear the string.

how to shoot a recurve bow - proper elbow rotation
If your arm is properly rotated, your elbow will point away from you and your forearm will clear the string.

Shooting Form

Prepare your shot by bringing the left arm to shoulder-height and hooking the bow string. When you pull the arrow back, you want to pull with your right elbow high and in-line with the arrow. Drawing the bow is best done with the back muscles. Imagine squeezing your shoulder blades together; using only your arms will tire you out.

how to shoot a recurve bow - standing with proper shooting form
Pull with your right elbow high and in-line with the arrow

Releasing the Arrow

Releasing the arrow should be slow and smooth. Relax your right hand and move it back slightly until the bowstring slips out of your fingers. After releasing the string, follow-through with your shot by continuing to relax your hand until it hangs by your ear. The bow will naturally tilt forward a little bit during the follow-through.

how to shoot a recurve bow - releasing the arrow
Follow-through with your shot by continuing to relax your hand until it hangs by your ear. The bow will naturally tilt forward a bit during the follow-through.

Summary

By learning how to shoot a recurve bow with proper shooting form, you’ll be able to add more sophisticated shooting techniques with confidence. If you’re still on the market for a beginner archery set, checkout our Complete Beginner’s Archery Set. You can set it up aywhere with at least 20 feet of shooting space, such as a backyard, park, beach, cottage, and more.

It comes with your choice of a Bear® Archery beginner’s bow (with bows for all ages to choose from), as well as 6 foam-tipped arrows and a giant target board.

Millions of campers, schools, and beginners use Bear Archery® bows to teach and learn archery, and over 20 thousand Canadians have learned archery with this target board set. Buy one set and get a second set as a gift for 25% off (use coupon code “gift25” at checkout when purchasing 2 sets).

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