Over the last year or two I’ve noticed that more and more folks are ditching their compounds and taking up traditional archery. Personally, I couldn’t be happier. As with any trend, there will be some who try it because it’s the “cool” thing to do, but due to the rigorous demands of traditional archery, they probably won’t last long. However, there will be a lot of archers who will discover the simple, almost indescribable satisfaction that can be found in going back to the basics of archery.
With compound bow technology now pushing the limits of shootability and performance, many folks are drawn back to the simple challenge and nostalgia of stick and string. I’m not knocking compounds, and a unique challenge can be found with any sporting implement of choice, but frankly, I just got bored with my compound. I could leave it in the closet for months, pull it back out, and in a few minutes, cluster arrows like I had never set it down. I decided to take up the trad bow, and with some helpful instruction and a ton of practice, slowly became proficient. As my skills improved, I was hooked. There’s just something about that feeling…holding the full weight of the bow at full draw, focusing intently on a single spot, letting that arrow fly and strike where it’s supposed to, without all the sights, releases, wheels, cams, and other doo-dads.
If you are just curious and want to dabble in traditional archery, you’ve got a tough road ahead, but if you are willing to put in the effort, you will likely discover a whole new meaning to archery. If you have solid form and shooting technique with a compound, the transition can be done more easily than you might expect. Here are the two biggest factors to focus on in your transition.
Form and Release
Good form is important to be a consistent compound shooter, but is magnified even more with traditional bows. With no let-off, good form is essential for executing a release without torquing the string or bow. Shooting with your fingers also introduces other variables that the mechanical release drastically reduces. Release and form are very closely intertwined, and there are a lot of good Youtube videos that can help you out. Also, if you can stay awake, there is some excellent instruction in the DVD “Masters of the Barebow,” and I highly recommend it.
You’ll quickly discover that tuning a traditional setup is very different than what you’re used to. One of the things you will want to figure out quickly is the proper brace height for your particular bow. Brace height means the distance from the string to the farthest forward portion of the back of the grip. It is adjusted by twisting or un-twisting the string. It varies quite a bit, but most bow makers and manufacturers have a recommended brace height, and I’ve found that they are usually very close. Equally important is tuning your arrows so they have the correct dynamic spine. That means that they have the perfect point-weight and length combination that allows them to flex just the right amount during the shot, and fly perfectly straight. There are quite a few tuning methods that you can find in detail with a quick Google search, but I prefer a simple method of bare-shaft tuning. With a tuned arrow, your bow will be much more forgiving of minor errors in form and release, and your arrows will fly better, and not be so dependent on fletching to correct the flight.
All kidding aside, you will likely suck big-time at first. That’s okay. You should have realistic expectations, but don’t let that discourage you. It took me a year to become what I consider proficient at 20 yards. Then it took another year or two to become comfortable out to 45 yards or so (and I can’t stress enough that staying proficient requires constant practice). Seek out an experienced shooter in your area or local club and pick their brain to the point of annoyance. Even if you can only get your instruction on the web and through video, you can still do it. Film yourself during practice sessions to help you see flaws, then work to correct them. It sounds like (and is) a ton of work, but as you see yourself improve, it won’t feel like work anymore, and you just might be hooked. Most importantly, have fun!