How To Shoot A Bow | A 7 Step Shot Sequence

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Every experienced archer will tell you this: your shot process is one of the most essential things to need to form to be accurate. I think that good posture combined with a proper shot sequence is the best recipe for success. In this post, I’m going to detail what a good shot process should include.

Following a shot process is important because it will enable you to give full attention to different aspects of your shot. It will also help with remembering everything. It all becomes automatic.

Books have been written about proper shot processes, but let me try to make a concise guide to help you out. There are a few key points you need to know, while other things are more nuanced and shouldn’t concern you as a beginner.

Whether you’re just starting out with archery and aren’t sure how to start, or you’re more experienced and need refreshment, this post is for you. I’m going to discuss every essential step of a good shot process, and detail everything you actually need to consider.

The key steps of a standard archery shot sequence

  1. Assume your stance
    Choose either the square, open or closed stance. Have your feet at shoulder width, and equally spread your weight between them.
  2. Set your grip
    Light grip on the bow, using the meaty part of your hand, under your thumb. You shoulder “grab” the bow with your fingers but let it rest on your hand.
  3. Nock an arrow and draw the bow
    Properly position your arrow and pull the bowstring with your fingers or release aid.
  4. Anchor
    Anchor using a consistent spot. You can use the bowstring to face anchor or hand to jaw, for consistency and easy aim.
  5. Aim to the target
    Float the pin around the center of the target. Try to relax and put more focus on the target than on aiming, and don’t time the shot.
  6. Release
    Press the release aid, or simply relax your grip on the bowstring.
  7. Follow-through
    Keep the bow up until you hear the arrow hitting the target.

Though I consider these steps to be the bare essentials, every archer is a bit different, and there’s a lot of room to play around and see what fits you. Many archers add, combine, and leave out some of the steps, but as a general guideline, I think these will fit most archers out there.

I’ve actually discussed many of these steps in great detail in previous posts, which I’m going to link to. Be sure to read them if you want to dive deeper into a topic, or hear a different aspect to it.

So without much more introduction, let’s go over the steps.

1. Assume your stance

The first thing you should do while preparing to shoot at your target is to position yourself and stand correctly. Before you even pick an arrow up, you will be set up to a good shot. To assume your stance, you’ll need to position your feet correctly and distribute your weight on them.

It may surprise some beginners, but the positioning of your feet is really important for your accuracy. Since they’re the base of your body, planting your feet correctly in the ground will help you be more balanced throughout the shot process.

I’ve actually covered how to perfect your archery stance in my post about archery form that you should consider reading. It will help you avoid the common pitfalls that archers fall into regarding their stance. But let’s discuss the basics here as well.

The main 3 stance positions are the square stance, open stance and closed stance. They all have different pros and cons, but in the end, deciding which to use is up to your preference. Most archers use the square stance.

The basics are the same for all of them though. You should stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, spreading the weight equally to both feet. You shouldn’t learn to either direction and should feel comfortable and grounded in your position. Your bow hand’s side should be directed at the target, while you’re facing 90 degrees from it.

The square stance is the most common type and for a good reason. It’s pretty easy to learn and can help you achieve great results. Both your feet should be faced forward, perpendicular to the shooting line. The target should be closer to your front foot.

Almost as common as the square stance, many archers are using the open stance. People usually say it feels more natural to them, because it’s basically the way many people naturally stand. In the stance, your back foot will be perpendicular to the shooting line, while your front foot will be slightly directed at the target. Most archers turn it about 30 degrees from its position in the square stance.

A less common position is the closed stance. It should be discussed because many archers find that they’re able to put much more force into their shots with it, and have great results while using it. Here, you’ll have your front foot lined up with the shooting line, while your back foot will be turned away from the target. The easiest way to think of it is by mirroring the open stance.

By using the correct stance for you, you’ll find that you have a good base to shoot from. Try them all and see which one fits you best.

2. Set your grip

After you’ve assumed a proper stance and balanced yourself, you should correctly grip the bow. This step is really important because even small things can mess your grip up and reduce your accuracy.

The main issue with most archer’s grip is that they hold the bow too tightly. The correct way to hold the bow is light, without clenching or using too much force. The other thing to notice is the position and orientation of your hand – you should feel stable without introducing torque to the bow.

I’ve actually detailed a great process for correctly gripping your bow in my post about archery form. Following this process will enable you to easily set your grip without thinking about it too much and continue with the sequence. But here we’ll dive a bit deeper and explain the principles of proper grip.

The proper positioning of your hand on the bow is where the bow contacts the heel of the thumb. It’s the meaty part of your palm, located under your thumb. Your thumb should create a 10 degrees angle with the bow.

Like I mentioned before, you should avoid forcefully grabbing your bow. Your fingers should just rest on it. This doesn’t feel very stable when the bow isn’t pulled, but at full draw, the force of the bow will push your hand back, creating a stable base.

When you position your hand correctly, this force will push through your hand into the upper parts of your arm. A bow’s weight can be pretty significant, and you won’t be able to shoot a high draw weight with improper grip.

After you have your grip correctly set, you can shift gears to the next step, and begin nocking and positioning your arrow.

3. Nock an arrow and draw the bow

This step seems simple, but it does involve a lot of different movements combined, which makes it a bit harder. In this step, you’ll simply take an arrow and position it in the correct location. If you’re using a release aid, you’ll now clip it, and if you’re finger shooting you’ll position your fingers. Then you’ll draw the bow. Pretty straight through. Let’s discuss the details.

When archers say “nock an arrow” it basically means to position the arrow on the bowstring. Most bows have a string nock, which indicates where to place the arrow. Though it’s just a small piece of metal, it’s really important because it can be hard to consistently and accurately nock every time you shoot.

It’s really important that you make sure you’ve properly nocked the arrow. Arrows that aren’t properly nocked are the most common cause of dry firing the bow, which can cause a lot of damage, and is overall dangerous to everyone around you. Read more about how to avoid accidentally dry firing a bow in my post.

Now that your arrow is nocked, it’s time to hold the bowstring. Most compound archers use a release aid, while traditional archers finger shoot.

Let’s discuss finger shooting first. Most traditional archers use either the split-finger style (also known as the Mediterranean method) or three-under style. They’re both pretty simple to use and utilize the three middle fingers in your hand. The only difference between them: with the split-finger style you’ll have your index finger above the arrow, while with the three-under all three fingers will be… well… under the arrow.

The important thing about both methods is that you place the bowstring in the last crease of your fingers (the joint near the top part of your finger). It will give you a lot of control, while still being able to hold the weight.

If you’re using a release aid, things are a bit less complicated. You need to clip it on the bowstring, properly position your fingers and you’re ready to draw the bow.

Now is the point where you actually draw the bow. The entire process should be with your bow pointed at the direction of the target, right in front of you. Some archers like to start high and draw the bow at a downward motion, but I really suggest you just keep things simple and safe, by pulling the bow with minimal up-down movement. Straight at the target.

To properly draw the bow, you’ll need to use your back. You should feel your shoulder blades coming together. If you’ll use too much of your arm muscles, the weight you can put on the bow will be limited and you won’t be able to aim as well. It should be your main concern regarding form.

There are a few other things you should make sure you’re doing right. Throughout the entire movement, your shoulders should be relaxed. The arm holding the bow should be straight, but without locking the elbow. Your drawing hand will travel from your front all the way to the back wall, where you’ll anchor and hold it.

To be able to properly perform the movement, you should make sure that your draw weight is set correctly. Drawing with a high draw weight can completely destroy your form, which can actually hurt you. I’ve made a post about measuring and setting your draw weight, where I outline everything you need to know. I recommend reading it.

Now you know how to nock the arrow, position your hands and draw the bow. But you’ll need to anchor to achieve true consistency. Let’s discuss what anchoring is and how to properly do it.

4. Find your anchor point

When archers discuss anchoring, they’re talking about a consistent reference point where you always draw to. There are a lot of different options for anchor points, like a spot on your nose the bowstring touches, or a point on your chin that your hand touches. The goal is always the same: increasing the archer’s consistency.

If you draw to a different point every time you shoot, even if you aim to the same point, you won’t hit the same place. It will make it hard to form a tight group. So as a part of your routine, you should choose an anchor point where you alway draw to.

I quickly discussed proper anchoring before as one of my top tips to increase archery accuracy. This comes to show how essential anchoring is for archery precision. Here, we’ll dive a bit deeper and try to understand the different methods of anchoring and the most important things to consider.

The most common anchor point archers use is the bowstring to the nose. When you’re pulling the bowstring towards your face, you want the string to simply touch the tip of your nose. It should be subtle, where the string isn’t tight against your skin, but just barely touching it, so you don’t disturb the path of the arrow.

Another common anchor is the hand to the jaw. Here you’ll have your index finger touching the side of your jaw, or simply located a bit under it. Your thumb should be under your chin.

Using a peep sight can make anchoring much easier. If you have a peep sight installed on your bow, you’ll anchor with one of the methods I described, then before aiming, align the peep sight with the circular mounted sight of your bow. It makes a much more accurate point. If you don’t know what a peep sight is, or want to learn more, I’ve previously made a post about peep sights where I detail all the essential information.

Having the bowstring might be a bit intimidating, but it’s something you’ll eventually get used to. Many archers feel this way at the beginning, but get more comfortable with it after a while.

With that in mind, every archer has its own anchor point. There’s no one right answer, you just do what’s most comfortable and consistent for you. I suggest you do some trial and error and see which anchor point is the best for you.

Another important thing with any anchor is that you both have your body aligned the same way every time you pull a bow. You should also make sure that you’re drawing the string to the anchor point, and not moving the anchor forwards.

Now that you’re properly anchored, you can get to aiming your arrow at the target.

5. Aim to the target

When everything is correctly aligned, aiming to the target becomes both easy and natural. Just look through the sight with your dominant eye, and align the proper sight pin with the center of the target. Of course, the sight pin you should use should be the one that was adjusted to distance to the target.

If you see a consistent error in your shots and suspect that your sight needs a tune, you should definitely read my post about adjusting a bow sight. It’s a pretty simple tune you can do yourself, but you should follow a guide to avoid making things worse.

If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably have a hard time holding the pin steady at the center of the target. Letting the pin wander around the center of the target is called floating. You can see a great example of floating in this video I found:

You should aim to minimize your float, so you’re always close to the center of the target. You can’t always be rock solid, because your muscles tire out, especially if you take a long time to aim. Even experienced archers float their pin a bit, but they do it really close to the center.

What a lot of archers get wrong is that they try to time their shots by hitting the trigger the second their pin is on the center of the target. This can limit your results and even cause target panic (which I wrote about in a previous post, you should definitely go ahead and read it).

The correct way to aim is to let your pin float around the target, but focus on the target rather than trying to time the shot. Relax and trust that if you’re in the area you want to hit, you’ll be accurate. Truth is, you usually miss because of flinching when you release the arrow and not because of floating the pin. With time, your muscles will grow stronger and you’ll be able to hold the bow more steadily.

So let’s discuss how to properly release the arrow when you’re correctly aiming at the target.

6. Release the arrow

The process of releasing the arrow is obviously a bit different if you’re using your fingers or a release aid, but we’ll address both. The same principles apply, with the same goal: a clean release of the arrow, without disturbing it from its path.

We’ll start by discussing how to properly release the arrow for finger shooter. The main tip here is to not overthink things, and to simply relax your drawing fingers, all at the same time. The energy stored within the bow’s limbs will do the work, you just need to allow it to.

You should let your drawing hand move back a little bit, with its natural motion. This is due to the tension release and is completely fine and natural. Don’t try to hold it static within the release. Notice is that you don’t pluck the string, but simply let go if it.

So while your drawing arm is free to move after the shot, you should aim to keep your bow hand from moving. It will probably move forward a bit, because of the momentum, but try to keep it still, and especially not move it in the up-down or left-right direction, which can disturb the path of the arrow.

Using a release aid is somewhat easier in that regard. Most release aid users find it really easy to achieve a clean release of the arrow. I’ve actually written a detailed post about properly using a release aid you should definitely check. But let’s quickly discuss it.

With all release aids, you should make sure the movement comes from the back. For example, the intuitive motion to shoot with an index finger release is the same as a gun trigger. But if you shoot this way, your results will be limited. This is especially true for hinge and resistance activated releases, which are designed to be triggered by back motion.

Another thing to note, for your safety, is that if you shoot a release aid with a trigger, you must keep your finger behind the trigger up until the moment you want to release. Accidental shots do happen, and they can be dangerous for you and others.

With that in mind, you know how to release your arrow towards the target. Let’s discuss the last step in the shot process – following through.

7. Follow-through

It might be the simplest step of all, but forget about it your results will definitely suffer. Following through means that after performing the shot and releasing the arrow, you only continue your natural motion, without lowering your bow or moving your arms away.

It’s only natural to want to see the arrow traveling to the target, but this natural tendency can easily disturb the path of the arrow. Most archers experience this in the form of unexplained occasional misses, downwards or to the side.

A really helpful video I found about follow-through details it really well

So to follow through, you’ll only continue natural movement paths that were created by the shot. For example, your drawing hand should move backward, because it’s the natural path the tension release creates. But you should not move it to the side. Try to keep you back engaged while following through.

You should keep your bow up until you hear the arrow hitting the target. Don’t peak to the side. A natural forward movement of the bow is okay, but try to minimize it as well.

Many experienced archers consider follow-through to be one of the most important aspects of a good shot, so make sure to keep it in mind. You can’t be consistent without it.


As I explained in this post, following a shot process is essential for your success in archery. Though every archer is a bit different, and it’s up to you to decide what you want to include in your shot process, I’ve detailed here what I consider to be the bare essentials. Including them in your sequence will ensure that you don’t forget anything while shooting.

I suggest you try to add and remove things as you go, and develop your own shot sequence. With some time you’ll see what fits you and what doesn’t.