Why Is My Bow Shooting High?

Why Is My Bow Shooting High?

Have your arrows been flying high? If so, you’re not alone. We can talk all day about gear, practice schedules, tournaments or hunting, and various takes on technique, but this all only matters so much if your arrows keep landing higher than you’d like.

The main common causes of bows shooting high:

  • Improper form: your stance, grip, draw, anchor and more affects where your arrows land, and can cause them to land high.
  • Out of tune gear: your sight and other parts of your bow can cause your bow to consistently shoot high.
  • Target panic: if you’re suffering from target panic you might be shooting before you properly aim.

In this article, we’ll address two factors that might be contributing to the common issue of having your bow shooting high: improper form (of many varieties) and the pervasive phenomenon of target panic. We’ll also suggest common solutions to these issues.

1. Improper shooting form

Is it my Stance?

Your stance serves as the foundation of your shot. There is any number of slight variations that ought to be tailored to your preference and technique, but general guidelines dictate that your stance should be focused on:

  • Stability
  • Target-orientation
  • Repeatability

A great example of a stable stance is the square stance. If you haven’t thought much about this aspect of your shot before, then here’s a quick primer on how to find and repeatedly use this classic setup.

Standing, place your feet at shoulder-width. Angle your body ninety degrees away from the target. If you are right-handed, then your left foot should be in front, nearest the target. Stand straight and tall and relax. During your draw and eventual release, your hips should not move at all, and your weight should remain evenly distributed. (Many archers find that placing too much weight on their back leg results in consistently high shots.)

Alternatively, you might consider the open stance. In this set-up, your front foot is moved laterally to the target, placing you closer to a seventy-degree angle to the target.

Play around with the exact angle to find what works for you. As the name implies, the stance is more open to the target than the square stance. Those who prefer this setup find it more comfortable and more natural. However, you do risk giving up some level of repeatability until you can find an exact front-foot position that works for you.

I actually have a complete guide to archery posture and form. It details the different aspects you need to consider, so make sure you read it if you think stance might be your problem.

Is it my Grip?

If your issue is not stance-related, it might be due to your grip. Make sure that your grip is firm but relaxed, and ensure that the elbow of your non-drawing arm is not locked out. You should not feel like you’re “choking” the bow. The sort of tension that results from such uneven pressure will only result in aim interference.

If you’re gripping it particularly tightly, you might also find that the tension from your arm translates into the bow, causing it to shake. Depending on the severity of this shaking, you may be able to see the bow visibly shaking, or it may be subtle enough to interfere with your aim without being visible.

You should always ensure that you’re holding your bow in as relaxed a grip as you can manage. Keep the grip between your pointer finger and thumb, with the meaty part of your hand taking the brunt of the bow’s draw weight. Fingers should be straight, curled, and firm, but relaxed.

Ideally, your grip should be relaxed enough that you might worry about your bow dropping from your grasp after you release an arrow. This level of relaxation ensures a steady hand and a lack of interfering tension and promotes high levels of consistency in aim. Many competitive archers pursuing this level of consistency choose to make use of a bow sling, which catches a bow falling out of a grip so relaxed that the bow cannot be held after the shot.

Bow slings allow you to minimize grip tension, but are not necessary for those just starting out, or even more intermediate archers. If you’re early on in your journey with archery, do not worry about the use of a bow sling. Focus on fundamentals here: have a solid grip on the bow, but aim to be as relaxed in this grip as you can manage.

Is it my Draw?

Of course, the issue may not be in your bow hand, but your draw hand (or both!).

When hooking the bowstring, it is critical that your finger position is consistent both in nock point and the degree to which your fingers hook around the string.

Like your grip, your hooking fingers should be firm, but as relaxed as possible. A too-tight grip will result in some level of lateral string motion which can affect your aim.

There are various schools of thought when it comes to the draw, but a good starting point is to place your index finger above the arrow and middle and ring finger below it. Keep your thumb and pinky fingers relaxed but clear of the path of the string.

Additionally, you should make sure that your nock point isn’t too low, as this will certainly result in a higher-than-intended arc of the arrow.

Is it my Anchor Point?

The final form check you can make is your anchor point. This is the place on your cheek or jaw where your drawing hand touches at the end of the draw and before the shot. Your hand and the bowstring should touch your face in the same location every single time you draw the bow. Find the position that works for you and your particular grip.

A lack of consistency in this regard means that your sights will do little good to ensure consistent aim. If you’ve altered your anchor point placement recently, consider changing your sights to adjust to the changes made.

If you’re having trouble finding a comfortable anchor point, I’ve detailed multiple options in my guide to archery sequence. There are a lot of options, so I encourage you to explore them and find one that feels right.

2. Unlevel sight

If you find you are consistently shooting high, you might also want to look at adjusting your sight. This is a simple fix and is worth ruling out before looking at adjusting your technique overmuch.

Depending on your bow, you may need an Allen wrench or just a few twists of your knob adjustments. Small adjustments are always better than large ones, so take it slow and steady here. You don’t want to put your sights so far out of adjustment that it’s difficult to put them back if they were fine to begin with!

As a rule, you should always make sure to “follow the arrow.” If you’re shooting high, then raise the sight. This will account for your arrow’s consistent miss-pattern. Do not make the mistake of adjusting in the opposite direction, or you’ll miss by an even greater margin.

If you need additional information to level your bow sight, try checking out my previous post about leveling a bow sight. It’ll walk you through the different steps, and detail why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Once you’ve made your adjustments, fire off a decent number of arrows to establish a baseline. A dozen or so should do it, though you’ll probably know if your adjustment was a good one before then. In this case, if you are over-adjusted, you’ll start hitting low. If you didn’t correct enough, you’ll still be hitting high.

Hunters will need to make further considerations if they are shooting from a tree stand. The angle of your shot and the forced changes in your stance will mean that your shot will not work quite the same in a more controlled environment. Take the time to establish the unique needs of your particular situation before depending on the accuracy of an untested shot.

3. Target panic

Target panic sometimes referred to as “gold panic” occurs in many sports. This is the panic associated with impending moments that determine success or failure: swinging a bat, catching a ball, or making a tackle. That said, the phenomenon is particularly noticeable in archery, as every shot is an opportunity for target panic to set in.

Do I suffer from Target Panic?

Sometimes, target panic’s effects can be quite clear. You’ll feel a small rush of adrenaline when you draw your bowstring and are about to release it – a nervous sensation related to your potential success or failure.

Though certain factors of technique can cause Target Panic (for example, significant changes in gear or technique), it is primarily a psychological barrier. Those who experience target panic all feel it somewhat differently, as it is a product of your thoughts, beliefs, and mindset.

Some theorize that it is caused by an instinctual need to brace oneself for the shot, a physiological need to flinch or prepare for the stimulus you are about to release. This might be similar to, say, jumping in cold water, or leaping from a height. Others believe it comes from a strong desire to release the shot and anticipation of the result.

Target panic is rather common and can happen for many reasons at any level of proficiency. Many archers need to face it and overcome it entirely to their next level of mastery.

The bad news is that you’ll need to take time to learn what causes it for you, and then you’ll need to take the time to learn how to deal with it and move beyond it. The good news is that you’re not alone, and whatever causes target panic for you has likely caused it for someone else. Talk about it with fellow archers and see what has worked for them. Odds are, you’ll find someone who was in your exact same spot and found a way beyond it.

Of course, if you need a game plan to beat target panic, I have a previous post that’ll walk you through. It still takes time, but it’ll give you the tools you need to start working through target panic.

In any case, I hope this post helped you figure out why your arrows consistently land high and gave you the right tools to prevent that from happening from now on.