Learn how to shoot a compound bow using the 8 fundamentals or shooting a bow.

How to Shoot a Compound Bow: Beginner’s Shooting Guide

Stepping into the world of archery and looking to understand how to shoot a compound bow? You’ve landed at the right spot. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essentials of shooting a compound bow, the core elements of the shot cycle, and tips to kickstart your journey. Whether you’re honing your accuracy or just dipping your toes in, we’ve got your back.

From target shooting to bow hunting, mastering the basics of shooting a compound bow is the cornerstone of your success. So, grab your bow and arrows, and let’s dive in!

As a retired Green Beret, shooting has been more than a pastime for me; it’s been a lifelong passion. I’ve had the honor of passing on the skills I’ve sharpened to hundreds of soldiers, both locally and in remote corners of the world. Now, when it comes to archery, it’s a different ball game, but not as distant as you might think.

Just like with a firearm, mastering the basics of the shot cycle is crucial. Once you’ve got that down, you’ll handle a compound bow with the same confidence. Remember, every step, every technique, they all merge together. If you embrace what I’m sharing with you here, I’ve no doubt you’ll hit your target.

Selecting the Appropriate Equipment

Before you start learning how to shoot a compound bow, it’s vital to ensure you have the right gear. Here’s a rundown of the basic archery equipment you’ll need:

  • Compound bow: When picking a compound bow, ensure it’s the right size and weight for you. You can find sizing charts here or at your local archery shop. As a novice, you might want to start with a lower poundage bow to build your strength and accuracy. Learn how to buy a compound bow here.
  • Arrows: You’ll need arrows that match the right length and weight for your bow. Not to mention the right type for bow hunting or target archery. Learn how to buy arrows here.
  • Arrow rest: The arrow rest is the gear that holds the arrow in place while you shoot. There are various types of arrow rests, but as a beginner, you can start with a simple whisker biscuit rest.
  • Release aid: A release aid is a tool that assists you in pulling back the bowstring and releasing it with more precision than using your fingers alone. There are numerous types of release aids, but as a beginner, you can start with a basic wrist strap style release.
  • Bow Sight: A bow sight is a tool that aids you in aiming your bow. There are various types of sights, but as a beginner, you can start with a basic single-pin sight.
  • Stabilizer: A stabilizer provides balance for your bow and can help you maintain your aiming and follow through much more effectively. It is not essential to shoot your bow, but it can make it easier.
  • Quiver: A quiver is a holder for your arrows. You can choose between a quiver that attaches to your bow or one that you wear on your hip (for target shooting).

*See all the Parts of a Compound Bow here.

2022 Compound Bow purchase with accessories.

The 8 Fundamentals of How to Shoot a Compound Bow

Learning how to shoot a compound bow involves understanding and mastering the 8 fundamentals. These are the building blocks of every successful shot. Let’s dive into each one:

  1. Stance: Your stance is the foundation of your shot. Stand perpendicular to the target with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your body should be in line with the target. A stable stance provides balance and control, allowing for a more accurate shot.
  2. Grip: The grip is how you hold the bow. Hold the bow lightly with your non-dominant hand. The bow should rest on the meaty part of your thumb (lifeline), and your fingers should be relaxed. Over-gripping can lead to torque, which can throw off your shot. A relaxed grip allows the bow to move naturally upon release.
  3. Nocking the Arrow: Before you can draw and fire, you need to nock the arrow. This involves placing the arrow onto the arrow rest of your bow and connecting the arrow’s nock — the small plastic part at the end of the arrow — to the bowstring. Make sure the arrow is securely nocked and the bowstring is settled into the groove of the nock.
  4. Draw: The draw is the action of pulling back the bowstring to your anchor point. The draw weight should be comfortable enough for you to pull back without straining. The draw length should be such that your elbow is in line with the target. Remember, the draw is not just about strength; it’s about control. You’re not just pulling back the string; you’re preparing to launch the arrow.
  5. Anchor Point: The anchor point is a consistent spot on your face where your hand or the bowstring touches when you’re at full draw. It could be the corner of your mouth, your cheek, or right below your chin. Consistency is key here. The same anchor point for every shot ensures that your arrow’s launch angle remains consistent.
  6. Aim: Aiming involves aligning your eye, the bow sight, and the target into a straight line. Use your dominant eye to aim at the target. The sight pin should be focused on the center of the target. Remember, aiming is not just about sight; it’s about aligning your body and your intention with the target.
  7. Release: The release is when you let go of the bowstring. It should be smooth and without jerking. Your fingers should relax, allowing the string to slide off. A clean release ensures that the arrow is not thrown off course. Make sure you always pull through the shot, and continue as the release flows into the follow-through.
  8. Follow through: The follow-through is what happens after the shot. Keep your bow arm steady and your eye on the target until the arrow hits. This helps maintain the direction of the shot and prevents any unwanted movement from affecting the arrow’s flight.

*More details on each fundamental are below. Keep scrolling.

The Shot Cycle: Putting it All Together

The shot cycle and draw cycle are critical aspects of shooting a compound bow. The shot cycle refers to the entire process of making a shot, from the moment you pick up the bow to the moment the arrow hits the target. It includes all the 8 fundamentals we discussed above.

The draw cycle, on the other hand, refers specifically to the process of drawing the bow. It starts when you begin to pull back the bowstring and ends when you reach your anchor point. Understanding the draw cycle is crucial because it affects the power and accuracy of your shot.

Now we’ll take a closer look at each of these fundamentals and provide tips and techniques to help you improve your accuracy and consistency. So let’s get started and take your shooting to the next level!


Everything starts with having the proper stance when preparing to shoot your bow. The perfect shooting stance for archery involves standing perpendicular to the target, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be parallel to each other. Keep your weight balanced between your feet, with your weight slightly forward on the balls of your feet.

Your body should be lined up with the target – this means your shoulders, hips, and feet should all be pointing in the same direction. You don’t want to be standing at an angle, or you might shoot off to the side.

When you’re ready to shoot, keep your body relaxed and your muscles loose. You don’t want to be tense or stiff, as this can affect your aim and accuracy. Try to maintain a neutral, natural posture, without slouching or standing too straight.

It’s worth noting that everyone’s body is different, and what works for one person might not work for another. So don’t be afraid to experiment with your stance and find what feels most comfortable and natural for you. And as always, practice makes perfect!

Slightly offset weaver-style shooting stance, feet facing toward the target. This is one of the alternate stances you can learn how to shoot a compound bow.
Slightly offset shooting stance.


The way your palm lays across the grip can affect your shot placement and accuracy. Generally, it’s recommended to use a “V” grip, where the lifeline of your palm rests against the back of the grip and your fingers wrap around the front of the grip loosely. To achieve the V grip, place the grip of the bow directly into the V shape created by your thumb and index finger.

In general, a closed grip can increase torque on the bow if you apply too much grip pressure. It can cause tension in your hand and arm muscles, which can affect your shot. An open grip, which is preferred, can help you stay relaxed and loose, but you may need to pay extra attention to keeping the bow in a consistent position.

Many archers use what’s called an “open grip” or “neutral grip,” where the bow is held with the fingers lightly touching the grip but not squeezing it tightly while the palm of the hand sits against the grip in the “V” position described above. This allows the bow to sit more naturally in the hand and reduces the risk of torquing the bow during the shot. The bow should drop naturally after the shot and the bow’s wrist loop should keep the bow secured to you and keep it from falling.

Grip the bow with a v-grip style, pressure on the palm of the hand, not on the fingers.
Use a V-Style Grip of the Bow, minimizing torque by not gripping the bow tight with your fingers, but allowing the bow grip to rest along your hand’s love line. This is an example of an “open grip.”

Nocking the Arrow

Nocking refers to the process of placing an arrow on the bowstring in preparation for shooting. Proper nocking is essential for accurate and safe shooting. Here are the specifics of perfect nocking:

  1. Start by placing the arrow on the arrow rest, with the fletching (the feathers or vanes at the back of the arrow) facing away from the bow.
  2. Hold the bow in your non-dominant hand and use your dominant hand to place the arrow on the string, with the nock (the groove or notch in the back of the arrow) resting securely on the bowstring.
  3. Make sure the arrow is properly aligned on the bowstring – the nock should be perpendicular to the string and the fletching should be pointing away from the bow.
  4. Once the arrow is in place, gently slide it forward until it clicks into the nocking point. You should hear a soft “click” as the nock snaps into place.
  5. Double-check that the arrow is properly seated in the nock and that the nock is securely fastened to the bowstring. You don’t want the arrow to come loose during shooting, as this can be dangerous and affect your shot.

It’s important to note that different types of arrows may require different types of nocks or nocking techniques. So be sure to consult the manufacturer’s instructions or a knowledgeable archery coach if you’re unsure about the best way to nock your arrows.

Nock the arrow and attach your release.
Nock the arrow and then attach your release.

Drawing the Bow

First, ensure the compound bow’s draw length has been set properly. Then, to initiate the Draw Cycle, start drawing the bow, raise your bow arm, and extend it toward the target. As you raise your bow arm, use your other hand to pull the bowstring back toward the anchor point (details below), which should be just below the corner of your mouth. During the draw, make sure to keep your elbow high and level with your shoulder to avoid torquing the bow. If drawing your bow is too difficult for you, make sure the draw weight has been set to a comfortable setting so you can draw the bow effectively.

Once you have reached the anchor point, take a moment to ensure your grip on the bow handle is consistent, your elbow is high, and your back muscles are engaged. At this point, you can aim your sight pin at the target and release the arrow by gently squeezing the trigger on your release aid. More details on those actions are listed below in the next steps.

Remember to always follow proper safety measures and never dry fire your bow, which means releasing the bowstring without an arrow attached. With practice and patience, drawing a compound bow will become second nature, leading to accurate and consistent shots.

Use your back to draw your bow, pushing forward with the grip hand.
Use Your back to pull and draw the bow, pushing forward with Your Grip hand.

Anchoring and Anchor Points

When shooting a compound bow with a release aid, the anchor point is the point at which the bowstring touches your face and/or your hand positions itself against your face or a reference point on your body. It is important to establish a consistent anchor point for each shot in order to achieve accuracy and consistency in your shooting.

Here are some specifics of maintaining a perfect anchor point when shooting a compound bow with a release:

  1. Consistency: It’s important to anchor the bowstring in the same place on your face or reference point on your body every time you shoot. This helps to ensure that your shots are consistent and accurate.
  2. Face Anchor: The most common anchor point for compound bow shooters is the face. The bowstring typically touches the archer’s nose or cheek, just below the corner of the mouth. Ultimately, the best anchor point is one that is comfortable and repeatable for the individual archer.
  3. Placement: The anchor point should be placed in a consistent location in relation to the bowstring and the bow sight. This helps to ensure that your shots are consistently aimed and on target.
  4. Pressure: The pressure applied to the anchor point should be consistent from shot to shot. Some archers prefer to apply light pressure to their anchor point, while others prefer a firmer grip. The key is to find what works best for you and to maintain consistent pressure from shot to shot. The lighter the bowstring is against your face, the better your shots will be. The more face pressure you apply, the more chances you have for misaligned shots (left or right).
  5. Release Aid: Consistent positioning of the release against your cheek or just under the jawbone can provide that critical additional anchor point that will ensure the same positioning every time you shoot.

By establishing a consistent and comfortable anchor point, you can improve your accuracy and consistency when shooting a compound bow with a release. It may take some trial and error to find the perfect anchor point for you, but with practice and patience, you can master this important aspect of compound bow shooting.

Anchor Contact Points

The number of contact points recommended for the perfect anchor can vary depending on the archer’s preference and shooting style. However, in general, most archers aim for a minimum of three contact points for a consistent anchor point. These may include:

  1. Hand/fingers: The archer’s hand or fingers should be in a consistent position on the grip of the bow. Refer to the “grip” instructions above.
  2. Bowstring: The archer’s nose or chin should be in contact with the string at the same point for each shot.
  3. Face: The archer’s cheek or jawbone should be in contact with the bowstring at the same point for each shot.

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The Nose Anchor Point

An anchor point that involves the nose touching the bowstring is a common technique used by many archers, particularly in target archery. This technique is often called a “string-to-nose” or “nocking point” anchor.

To achieve this anchor, the archer typically places the index finger of their drawing hand beneath their chin, with the thumb touching the jawbone or ear. As they draw the bowstring back, they bring their nose to touch the string, creating a consistent point of contact.

Using a string-to-nose anchor can help the archer achieve a more consistent anchor point, which can improve accuracy and repeatability. However, it may not be the best technique for all archers, as it can be uncomfortable or impractical for some.

Ultimately, the key is to find an anchor point that works well for the individual archer and allows them to execute consistent and accurate shots. Some archers may also use additional contact points, such as the corner of the mouth or the ear, to help ensure a consistent anchor point. This all depends on their personal preferences and shooting style.

Nose and jawbone anchor points when shooting your compound bow.
Anchor points can consist of your nose slightly touching the bowstring and your release hand anchoring against the jawbone. Anchors need to be in the exact same spot for every shot you take.


Aiming is a critical part of shooting a compound bow for archery. Having a high-quality bow sight can make this process easier. Here are some specifics of perfect aim or aiming technique:

  1. Alignment: The first step in aiming is to ensure that your bow, arrow, and bow sight are all aligned. This means that the bowstring, arrow, and sight pins should all be in a straight line. Your body should also be aligned with the target.
  2. Centering: Centering is the process of aligning your sight pins with the target. To do this, you should focus your gaze on the center of the target and adjust your sight pins until they are centered on the target.
  3. Hold Steady: Once your sight pins are centered on the target, hold the bow steady and focus on keeping the sight pins on the target. It can be helpful to take a deep breath and exhale slowly, using the pause at the end of the exhale to release the arrow.
  4. Follow-Through: After you release the arrow, continue aiming at the target and holding the bow steady for a few seconds. This helps to ensure that you have a consistent follow-through and that you maintain good form throughout the shot. More on this in the next step.
  5. Adjustments: As you become more comfortable with aiming, you may need to make adjustments to your sight pins or your form to improve your accuracy. Keep practicing and experimenting until you find the perfect aiming technique for you.

Remember that perfect aiming technique takes practice and patience. With time and dedication, you can improve your accuracy and consistency.

Aiming through your Peep sight.  What your sight picture looks like.
What it should look like when aiming through your peep sight and looking at the pins on your bow sight. Photo courtesy of Elite Archery.

Releasing the Arrow (Taking the Shot)

When your aim is true and you are ready to release the arrow, make sure you take the following things into consideration. Taking a shot in archery should be smooth and controlled without any movements that can throw the arrow off target. It is important to maintain tension through the shot and to transition into follow-through seamlessly when shooting your bow.

  1. Maintain Your Form: As you prepare to release the arrow, it’s important to maintain your shooting form. Keep your bow arm steady, maintain your anchor point, and keep your sight on the target.
  2. Use Your Back Tension: Many archers find that using back tension helps to improve their release. This involves pulling back on the bowstring with your back muscles, rather than your fingers. As you do this, you should feel your shoulder blades pulling together.
  3. Release the Arrow Smoothly: Whether you use a trigger-style release or a thumb-style finger release, pull the trigger smoothly. Just like firing a gun, do not jerk the trigger. Maintain tension throughout the shot and flow from trigger pull to follow through with a single smooth motion, pulling through the shot versus any forward motion,
  4. Follow Through: After releasing the arrow, it’s important to maintain your aim at the target and hold your bow arm steady. This helps to ensure that you’re not disrupting the arrow’s flight and that you have a consistent follow-through.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice: Perfecting your release takes time and practice. As you work on your release, pay attention to your technique and make adjustments as needed. Over time, you’ll develop a smooth and consistent release that helps to improve your accuracy and consistency.

Remember that everyone’s release technique is different, so it’s important to experiment and find what works best for you. With practice and patience, you can develop a release that helps you achieve your goals.

Taking the shot and releasing the arrow.
Taking the shot and releasing the arrow.

Follow Through

Follow-through is the process of maintaining your shooting form and aiming at the target after you release the arrow. It’s an important part of shooting a compound bow for archery because it helps to ensure that you’re maintaining proper technique and not disrupting the arrow’s flight. Maintaining follow-through after releasing the arrow can improve accuracy immeasurably. Often times beginners drop the bow looking at where the arrow hit on the target before the shot has been completed, throwing the arrow off target.

Here are some specifics of perfect follow-through:

  1. Hold Steady: After releasing the arrow, keep your bow arm steady and maintain your aim at the target. This helps to ensure that you’re not moving the bow or interfering with the arrow’s flight.
  2. Don’t Drop Your Bow Arm: Resist the urge to drop your bow arm immediately after releasing the arrow. Instead, hold the bow arm steady for a few seconds to ensure that you have a consistent follow-through.
  3. Keep Your Eyes on the Target: As you hold your bow arm steady, keep your eyes on the target and continue aiming at it. This helps to ensure that you’re maintaining your form and not disrupting the arrow’s flight.
  4. Relax Your Grip: As you complete your follow-through, relax your grip on the bow and allow it to come down naturally. Don’t force it down or try to control it too much, as this can interfere with your form and accuracy.
  5. Review Your Shot: After you’ve completed your follow-through, take a moment to review your shot and assess your form and technique. Look for areas where you can improve and make adjustments as needed.

By focusing on your follow-through and maintaining your form and aim after releasing the arrow, you can improve your accuracy and consistency when shooting a compound bow for archery. Remember to practice regularly and stay patient, as perfecting your follow-through takes time and dedication.

Follow through after the shot.
Follow through after the shot. Maintain your stance and watch the arrow hit its intended target.

How to Start Shooting

Once you have learned the fundamentals of how to shoot a compound bow and have developed the proper technique, you can start shooting at targets to improve your skills and accuracy. Here are some tips for getting started:

  1. Start at a Close Range: It’s best to start shooting at targets from a relatively close range, such as 10-20 yards. This allows you to focus on your form and accuracy without worrying too much about the distance.
  2. Use a Simple Target: When you’re first starting out, it’s best to use a simple target such as a standard bullseye or 3D target. These targets are easy to aim at and provide a clear visual target for you to aim at.
  3. Practice Regularly: Shooting a compound bow for archery is a skill that requires practice and repetition. Aim to shoot at least a few times per week to improve your skills and consistency.
  4. Gradually Increase the Distance: As you become more comfortable and confident with your shooting, you can gradually increase the distance of your targets. Start by moving back a few yards at a time and continue to practice at each new distance until you feel comfortable moving back further.
  5. Mix Up the Target Types: To improve your skills and challenge yourself, try shooting at different types of targets such as foam targets, animal targets, and field targets. This can help you to develop a more well-rounded set of skills and prepare you for different types of archery competitions.
  6. Focus on Quality over Quantity: When practicing, it’s important to focus on the quality of your shots rather than the quantity. Take your time with each shot, focusing on your form and accuracy, rather than rushing through your shots just to get more practice in.

READ: Conquer Target Panic: Expert Techniques for Bow Hunters

Remember that everyone progresses at their own pace, so it’s important to be patient with yourself and not get discouraged if you don’t see immediate improvement. With regular practice and dedication, you can become a skilled archer and enjoy the many benefits that come with it.

Shooting at a target at close range to learn the fundamentals of shooting.
Start shooting at close range to master the fundamentals and zero your bow sight.

Compound Bow Shooting Drills

To improve your shooting, try these drills:

  1. Blank Bale Shooting: This drill involves shooting at a blank target. The goal is to focus on your form and technique, rather than hitting a specific spot on the target. With blank bale shooting, the target has to be big enough and you should be close enough, that you do not have to worry about aiming.
  2. Group Shooting: This drill involves shooting multiple arrows at the same spot on the target. The goal is to “group” your arrows as close together as possible. I recommend shooting three arrows at a time when grouping.
  3. Distance Shooting: This drill involves shooting at targets at various distances. The goal is to improve your accuracy at different ranges.
  4. Timed Shooting: This drill involves shooting a set number of arrows in a certain amount of time. The goal is to improve your speed and accuracy under pressure.

Compound Bow Hunting Tips

If you’re planning to use your compound bow for hunting, here are some tips:

  • Practice with Broadheads: Broadheads fly differently than field points, so make sure to practice with them before you go hunting.
  • Know Your Game: Understand the anatomy of the animal you’re hunting. Knowing where to aim can make the difference between a clean kill and a wounded animal.
  • Be Patient: Hunting with a bow requires patience. Wait for the perfect shot before you release your arrow.
  • Follow the Laws: Make sure you understand and follow all hunting laws and regulations in your area.


Shooting a compound bow can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Whether you’re shooting for fun, competition, or hunting, the key is to practice regularly and always strive to improve. Remember, the journey of becoming a skilled archer is a marathon, not a sprint. So, take your time, enjoy the process, and most importantly, have fun!

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