How to Get Started With Archery

Learn the basics of archery, including information on choosing a bow and arrow, how to aim and games to play.

| January/February 1982

Even though archery has been practiced, almost unchanged, for thousands of years, recent improvements in equipment have made the sport as modern as tomorrow. Folks from 9 to 90 can enjoy this form of recreation, whose main requirement — space in which to shoot — is usually readily available to the rural family. The activity is uncomplicated, relatively inexpensive and provides exercise for both the muscles and the mind. Indeed, archery has been used for centuries as a vehicle for Zen.

Additionally, after you've mastered the sport, you'll have the option of exploring the two major types of organized archery competition (field and target tournaments) as well as bow-and-arrow game stalking, which is often considered to be one of the most demanding and rewarding forms of hunting. Or, on the other hand, you may just want to learn a backyard hobby that you can enjoy in solitude or with your family.

In any case, getting started will involve acquiring access to a range, purchasing equipment, learning the basic techniques and practicing.

The Archery Range

Your practice range should consist of a cleared area that allows you to back up at least 40 yards from the target. (If you can find a site that permits you to shoot toward the north, you'll minimize the hassle of having to shoot into the glare of both morning and afternoon sun.) The area behind the target must be open (it's best if you keep the grass short, to ease the chore of hunting down stray arrows) and must be a "safe zone" that's free of livestock or outbuildings. The entire range should be positioned to eliminate the possibility that a person or a pet could pop up from around a corner and in front of an arrow. In fact, safety must be your foremost consideration, because arrows can inflict serious injury or death. Therefore, use the same care when handling your bow as you would when shooting a gun.

For a backstop, stack three rectangular hay bales horizontally. Paper plates with big, black dots inked in their centers make adequate and inexpensive (especially if you recycle used ones) targets. Decent archery equipment will cost you some money, but there are ways to reduce that expense, too. You'll need a bow, arrows and a quiver, a bow sight, an arm guard and a shooting glove. Because the bow is the item upon which you'll base some of your other purchases, and because it will be your largest initial expense (though you'll eventually spend more on arrows), decide first what type you want.

Buying an Archery Bow

Most modern bows can be divided into two categories: the graceful, traditional recurve and the futuristic compound bow. About 10 years ago, the latter (a contraption made up of fiberglass, wood, magnesium, cables and pulleys) arrived on the scene and took the archery world by storm. Its invention is considered the biggest advance in bow technology since the recurve began to replace the longbow centuries ago. Both types, however, are good the choice will depend primarily on your budget.

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