Archery: Facts From Experience

So, our Social Club went and did archery today (well, yesterday if you count the fact that it’s after midnight). As a result, I have some interesting facts to help make descriptions of archers more authentic.

  1. The bow itself is held in the non-dominant hand (i.e. if you’re left-handed, you hold the bow in your right hand).
  2. Only three fingers (on your dominant hand) are used to hold the arrow at the string – your index finger above the arrow, your middle finger below the arrow, and your ring finger below the middle finger (of course). Your thumb and your little finger should not touch the string or the arrow.
  3. You do not hold the arrow against the bow with the fingers of your non-dominant hand. The ones we used (plastic, modern ones) had a grip on them, and just above the grip was a “shelf” for the arrow to rest on.
  4. The hand holding the bow should be closest to your target, with your body positioned at a ninety-degree angle from it.
  5. For safety reasons (and possibly other reasons, I don’t know for certain), we held the bow out horizontally (toward the target, which was definitely safety) to nock the arrow.
  6. When preparing to shoot, you need to hold your non-dominant arm (the one whose hand is holding the bow) out as straight as you can.
  7. The arm of the hand holding the arrow to the string should be pulled back so your fingers are next to your face, with your elbow up (about level with your shoulder).
  8. When you release the string, keep your dominant hand where it is or pull it back further – don’t let it follow the bow string. If you do, it reduces the power of your shot.
  9. There are very good reasons that archers wear arm guards on their non-dominant arms – see below.
Arm bruised by use of bow.
My arm, bruised from the use of the bow.

This is the result of shooting about… between 35 and 50 arrows (can’t remember exactly how many rounds we went, but we shot 5 arrows per round) over the course of an hour, starting 11 hours before. Note that there are two bruises – the large one by my elbow, and a smaller one nearer my wrist (right at the top of the photo). The smaller one is where the bow string rested when I was holding the bow unnocked.

(Next time, I’m going to wear something a lot more protective than a light knit cardigan.)

Gloves with the fingertips cut off wouldn’t be a bad idea to use until you develop callus on your index finger from holding the nocked arrow – it rubbed there.

Even with the bruising results, I had a great time (I didn’t realize how bruised my arm was until about two hours ago). It was a lot of fun, and I got noticeably better over the course of the hour. I also tried out two bows – the “medium” bow, which most of them were, and for my last three rounds, the recurve bow (which was larger, and fit me rather better, given my height and the length of my arms). I never managed to get all five of the arrows each round into the target (the ones that missed tended to sail over the target and hit the ground about two feet or so behind it), but for the last round, I did manage to get one in the bullseye!

Target with 7 arrows, 3 or 4 of which are mine.
Target – 3 or 4 arrows in, including one of the two bullseye ones, are mine.

If you look carefully, the arrow in the yellow centre with its “feathers” showing over the black circle is mine (mine were coloured orange, my partner’s were coloured blue). One of us got three arrows in the target this last round, the other got four. (The two ones in the red circle are mine; I’m not sure whether the one in the blue circle is mine or not. Can’t remember.)

At any rate, aside from being great fun (I want to do it again! I’ve never had the chance to do archery before!), having experienced it I now know at least some basics of how to write someone using a bow and arrow. 🙂 Useful for those fantasy stories!

Hope this can also help others with their own writing.

‘Later, all!

🙂 Trudy A. Goold

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