How To Shoot A Compound Bow: A Detailed Guide

How To Shoot A Compound Bow: A Detailed Guide

You’ve bought a compound bow, but now you need to learn how to shoot it.

Chances are if you’re a beginner you’re feeling a little worried, and no one can blame you.

At first glance, a compound bow looks highly complicated, more like a piece of machinery than a bow!

How does a compound bow work?

A compound bow works by means of cables and pulleys to bend the bow’s limbs. Although it might sound strange, compound bows are remarkably easier to shoot than traditional bows.

Here’s everything you need to know about how compound bows work as well as how to shoot them.

Read on to discover how you can be more accurate when shooting and enjoy the process. Once you start getting to know your compound bow, you’re sure to fall in love with it.

The Compound Bow: Its Cams Are King

Man Holding Compound Bow

Without getting too technical about compound bows, one of the main aspects of this beautiful bow is its cams.

These are discs found at the ends of the compound bow. They form part of the bow’s pulley system.

So, the bow moves around the cams and then creates more pressure that gets transferred when you release the arrow.

The big reason why compound bows are easier to use is that the cams enable the weight to be decreased for the archer, so you won’t feel that the bow is difficult to shoot when you’re ready.

Why Compound Bows Are Great For Beginners

Although they look scary when you don’t know much about them, compound bows are certainly not reserved for skilled archers.

They’re a great bow for beginners who are just starting out. There are many reasons for this. Let’s take a look at them.

Compound Bows Are Easier To Handle

Some beginners choose recurve bows, but these are actually much more difficult to use than compound bows, even though they might seem simpler.

Compound bows have a pulley system that prevents the archer from having to use a lot of energy to draw and release the bow.

Recurve bows, on the other hand, aren’t mechanized and therefore rely on the archer’s physical upper body strength to be drawn and released.

This, then, can make a recurve bow more difficult to handle, especially if you’ve never used a bow before.

Compound Bows Prevent Hunters From Getting Tired

Holding Compound Bow

Compound bows are a popular choice for hunters, and there are good reasons for this.

Not only do compound bows enable the hunter to shoot arrows at further distances, but it’s all about that release!

When the bow is drawn, the tension in the bow is released.

This prevents the hunter from getting sore or tired muscles, and this can ensure greater success when hunting.

Compound Bows Have “Let Off”

Let’s look at that release a little closer.

When you’ve fully drawn your compound bow, you don’t have to hold all the energy that’s accumulated in the bow.

Instead, when you let go of the string, the compound bow’s cams unwind and then move the string faster than the weight that you’re holding, and this is known as bow let off.

It’s discussed in greater detail in “What Is Bow Let Off?” Let’s just see how that let-off translates when you shoot the bow:

If your bow is 70 pounds of draw weight, that means that you’d have to hold 70 pounds when you get ready to release your arrow.

That’s no easy feat, especially if you’re a beginner.

However, if your bow has a 50 percent let off, that means you’d only be holding 35 pounds of energy, which is a huge difference and can help you to make a more accurate shot.

That’s the benefit of compound bows: they make use of technology to enable you to have a smoother, more accurate and easier shot.

A Compound Bow Is Smaller In Size

Compound Bow On Wooden Table

Although they might look complicated, compound bows aren’t really that large when compared to other popular bows like the recurve bow.

A compound bow will be roughly 30 inches from one end to the other, while a recurve can easily be double that size!

Having a smaller bow means that you can hold it and carry it easier, like when you’re doing target practice outdoors.

This can help you become more used to holding and using a bow.

You Can Make A Compound Bow Yours

Some of the compound bows you’ll find on the market can be adjusted when it comes to their draw weight and even draw length, simply with the use of a tool so that you can change the cam’s position.

That’s amazing and definitely something beginners will appreciate because it means you can start with lower draw weight and then move your way up when you can take on more, instead of having to purchase a new bow when you want one with a heavier weight.

How do you increase draw weight on a compound bow?

In order to adjust your bow’s draw weight, you have to add or remove stress on the bow’s limbs, and this is achieved by either tightening or loosening the bow’s limb bolts.

To increase the draw weight of your compound bow, you’ll have to tighten the bolts in a clockwise manner.

When the limbs are tight and you can feel that they’re tight against the bow’s riser, you’ve hit maximum poundage.

How To Shoot A Compound Bow

Now that we’ve looked at why a compound bow is a solid choice for beginners, there are some steps you should follow when shooting a compound bow so that you do it successfully.

Install A Peep Sight

Compound bows usually work with a peep sight.

Now, to make sure yours has been set up correctly to increase your shooting accuracy, use your dominant eye to correct the peep sight.

It’s easy to do this.

Draw your bow in the same way you would when preparing to shoot an arrow, then close your eyes and open your dominant eye, whether it’s your left or right eye.

The string you see in front of you is where your peep sight should go so that it’s in the perfect position for you.

Nock Your Arrow

Now, you might think you can pull back the string and release it without an arrow, but this is a bad idea.

It’s called dry-firing and it can break your bow after just one attempt! Always nock your arrow.

This means putting the arrow on the string. A string nock is a little piece of metal that you place on your string where you attach your arrow.

It can help to do this because setting this nocking point means that you’ll put your arrows on the string at the same place whenever you shoot.

It’s a consistency that matters and increases your chances of hitting the target.

Basically, to nock your arrow you want to first place your arrow on the arrow rest. Then click the nock into the bow string so that it makes a click.

That tells you that it’s slotted in properly.

Now, this might not make a sound on your specific bow, so always check that the nock is properly attached to the string of the bow.

Set Up Your Arrow Correctly

Arrow Nocking

You want your arrow to be touching two spots on the bow: the tip should be on the bow’s rest and the nock clips should be on the string in the space between the D-loop knots, as Outdoor Empire explains.

“The D-what?” you might be asking.

After you’ve nocked your string, it should have a small area on it that has an extra string on it in the shape of a semicircle.

This is called the D-loop. Placing your arrow on this straight part is essential, and then you’ll use the curved line to pull back the string.

Get Your Body In Shape 

Archery is a full-body activity. It’s not just about having strong arms in order to draw the bow. You need to engage your legs and back, too.

Remember that even though a compound bow is more mechanized than other bows, you still have to maintain the correct form when shooting – this will directly influence your shot!

The correct form is everything when preparing to shoot your arrow.

So, with that in mind, you should stand with your feet in line with each other and you should stand with your body facing your target at a 45-degree angle so that you can strike the target with greater precision.

Try not to hold the bow too tightly as this can actually cause your shot to miss the target. You want a relaxed, but firm, grip.

Remember, you are handling a weapon so you don’t want to make any mistakes, such as by holding it too weakly.

Treat Your String Correctly

Adjusting Compound Bow String

The compound bow string must be placed correctly to improve your chances of hitting your target.

Draw the string and ensure that the string is placed against the side of your face. This is called the anchor position.

If you are right-handed, your hand and the bow’s string will both be on the right side of your face. The opposite rings true for left-handed archers.

It’s a good idea to place this string under your chin, but your anchor point could be anywhere on your face that feels comfortable.

For some people, it’s at the corner of their mouth, and this is a common spot for beginners to master.

Try it out and see what works for you. You want to feel in control of the shot while also comfortable to use that anchor point.

Once you’ve found that anchor point, you should make sure you touch that point whenever you draw your bow.

With archery, consistency is the most important thing!

Get Ready To Shoot

Hold the string firmly between your fingers. Point your bow directly at your target and then pull the string.

Once the bow is extended to its maximum point, you want to pull back the string so that it’s also fully extended.

Try to aim for the area just above your target, but remember that fine-tuning your shots will take some practice.

When you release the bow, you want your fingers to be relaxed.

This is an important point because having tight or stiff fingers can result in you not sending the arrow where you want it.

You’re Not Done Yet!

Flying Arrow

You might think that you’ve completed shooting the arrow once you’ve released it, but you should still maintain the correct position and hold your bow while looking at your target as your arrow strikes it (or misses it).

This is important because it helps you practice on a mental level when it comes to holding the bow correctly and seeing where your shot ends up.

It’s also a mental thing that can help you to visualize striking the target in the future.

This process is called follow-through and basically means following through with the shot until it strikes the target.

Keeping your eyes on the arrow until that point also teaches you to focus on the target instead of looking down at your bow, which can throw you off with the wrong form and mindset.

Beginner Mistakes To Avoid When Shooting A Compound Bow

Now that we’ve looked at the steps you should follow when shooting a compound bow successfully, it’s important to feature some common mistakes that beginners make.

Nip these in the bud so that you prevent them from becoming bad habits in the future that can ruin your shooting success.

You Wait Too Long To Shoot

Man Shooting With Bow

Your practice shots don’t have to be perfect! Understand that getting the right form and hitting your target with the arrow will take time, so one of the biggest mistakes you can make is waiting too long before you shoot the arrow.

It’s said that the ideal amount of time to take before shooting your arrow is about six seconds.

The reason for this is because sticking within this timeframe will teach you to shoot with momentum.

If you take too long, you’ll lose momentum and probably also get distracted by noise or something else in your environment that will throw you off.

Your Draw Weight Is Too Heavy

If you’re battling to fire the arrow accurately, it could be that the bow’s draw weight is too heavy.

This reduces its power and makes it harder to be accurate because if the weight is too heavy you’ll battle to maintain your form when shooting.

So, start with low draw weight, such as 15 or 25lbs and then work your way up as you get more comfortable with it.

Although everyone wants to start with heavier draw weight, this won’t make you more successful. In fact, it will set you back!

Related Questions

What kind of compound bow should I look for?

If you’re a beginner, choose a bow with a long, heavy design as this will help you be more accurate while feeling solid and sturdy.

If you’re already skilled choose a shorter and lighter one as this will be faster. Focus more on comfort and form before you think about speed. Accuracy matters!

Should I buy a bare or ready-to-shoot compound bow?

If you’re a beginner, it might be better to buy a ready-to-shoot bow that comes with the accessories you need to be included, such as an arrow rest and bow sight.

A bare bow doesn’t come with anything, which means you have to take time and spend money to gear it up before you can start shooting with it.


A compound bow might look complicated to use, but it actually is easy once you get the hang of it. It’s also a lot of fun!

In this article, we’ve looked at some important facts about compound bows and what makes them a great beginner bow.

We’ve also looked at the steps you should follow when you want to shoot your compound bow, and it’s clear to see that there’s a lot more involved than just drawing the bow – you have to ensure you have the right form and technique.

Although how to shoot a compound bow can seem intimidating at first, once you set aside enough time to practice it, it will be much easier and your movements when drawing and releasing the bow will be smoother.

By following the steps in this guide to shooting a compound bow correctly, you’ll be well on your way to hitting your target every time!

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