How To Nock An Arrow: Step By Step Guide

How To Nock An Arrow: Step By Step Guide

If you’ve heard that you need to nock your arrow, you might’ve wondered what on earth that means.

Well, it’s simple – nocking an arrow means putting it on your string. The place where you put your arrow on the string is called a nocking point.

What accessories do you need to nock your arrow?

You’ll probably need a nock locator, depending on the bow you have. This nock locator is a small metal clip that will fasten the arrow on the string and keep it in place. Sometimes a nock locator is called a string nock.

Let’s look at why nocking your arrow is important as well as how to do it.

Why Should You Nock An Arrow?

Arrow Nock

Although it might seem like nocking an arrow isn’t necessary, it really does have many benefits, whether you’re using your bow and arrow to hunt or to do target practice.

The reason for this is because nocking your arrow allows you to be consistent. Your arrow will be placed in the same place on the string every single time you shoot your bow.

In archery, consistency is key to success!

Once you’ve found something that works for you and enables you to hit your target, then it’s important to maintain it.

This is also why nocking your arrow is an important step for beginners to take early on: it helps them to get into the habit of being consistent.

Now, some people might hear about nocking an arrow and think it’s too complicated to do, but that’s definitely not true.

It can be done really easily. With that in mind, let’s look at the part of the arrow called a nock as this is important to define before we start the process of actually nocking the arrow.

Arrows you’ll purchase for your bow have what’s called a notch or nock. This is located at the bottom of the arrow’s shaft.

You can spot it because it’s a little bit curved and when attached to your bowstring it will pinch it and keep it in place.

The nock does this to prevent your arrow from becoming loose on the bowstring, which can be dangerous or just make you miss your shot.

The nock also ensures greater accuracy when you shoot the arrow because it will remain in place until it gets released by your bow.

Right, now it’s time to look at how to nock your arrow in a few easy steps. 

Take Your Arrow From Your Quiver

Arrows In Quiver

If you’ve stored your arrows in a quiver, which is a pouch to keep them safe, you’ll want to retrieve one to nock onto the bow string.

It’s probably a good idea to pull an arrow from your quiver before nocking it so that you get into the habit of nocking your arrow in this way.

This is especially important if you’re a hunter as you want to be able to retrieve and nock an arrow swiftly and smoothly during a hunt, so the practice is good.

Now, before you nock your arrow, take a look at the arrow a bit more closely. You’ll see that it has three vanes that can either be made of feathers or plastic.

One of them is a different color from the others. This is not done by accident! This odd vane is called an index vane or feather.

If you’ve ever looked at the vanes on the back of the arrow and wondered why one of them (the index vane) is in a different color to the others, it’s because it’s meant to help you nock your arrow.

Who knew?! We’ll look at how it helps you nock an arrow in a bit.

But first, now that you’ve got your arrow, make sure you hold it correctly, which takes us to the next step.

Use Your Dominant Hand To Hold The Arrow

With your dominant hand, take the arrow and hold its shaft with your index finger and thumb.

You want to hold it near its nock and behind its fletching (the feathers).

The reason why you should carefully hold the arrow in this way is that if you hold it too firmly, you can damage its nock. Yes, it’s very delicate so treat it gently.

Use Your Other Hand To Hold The Bow

Woman Holding Bow And Arrow

You should use your non-dominant hand to hold your bow.

Make sure that the bow is parallel to the ground and that its string is facing you.

Be careful. You should always make sure your bow is facing down towards your target as much as possible.

This is an archer’s safety protocol and must always be followed so that it doesn’t pose a risk to anyone who’s around you.

Position The Vanes Or Feathers Correctly

Place the arrow on the bow’s arrow rest.

Depending on the type of bow you’re holding, the way you position your arrow on its rest might vary.

Here’s a quick breakdown – and the vanes we talked about earlier will help you!

  • If you’re using a compound bow, the index vane should be facing upwards.
  • On the other hand, if you’re using a recurve bow, the index vane will be turned away from your bow.
  • Generally speaking, your arrow’s index feather should be faced away from the bow string.

Are you still confused about this?

Consider this tip: When your arrow has been nocked and the bow lifts, the index vane feather should be pointing to the left if you’re right-handed, as Hunter Ed explains.

The cool thing about the index feather is that when you’ve positioned it to point away from the bow’s string, the other feathers can’t come into contact with your string, throwing off your shot.

Bear that in mind as that will help you to set the arrow correctly.

What About The Arrow Rest Of A Compound Bow?

Using Arrow Rest

A compound bow can be a little trickier than other bows at times, so it deserves its own section here!

If you’re using one of these mechanical bows, then you’re going to have one of three different arrow rests.

How you place your feather will vary depending on these rests. The three arrow rests are:


This rest is attached to a cord that pulls the rest into position when you draw your compound bow. In this setup, your index feather of the arrow needs to be pointing towards the ground.

Whisker Biscuit

This arrow rest makes use of bristles with a hole in the center and your arrow fits into that.

This is the easiest one to remember because, for this arrow rest, the feather can be pointing anywhere.


When placing the arrow on traditional arrow rest, you should ensure that the feather is pointing towards you.

Set The Nock Into Place

Nock Into Place

This is a very important step. You should click the nock at the end of the arrow into the string of the bow, on the nocking point.

The nock is basically the area on the arrow that takes all the energy from the bow when you shoot it, so it’s important to use to improve your accuracy when shooting.

Press the nock against the string until it snaps into the string.

You might hear that the nock clicks into position or you’ll just see that the nock has been secured tightly onto your bow’s string.

A word on nocking points: the nocking point of your bow might not look like the ones you’ve seen on other bows.

The reason for this is because they can be made of different things. You might find that the nocking point is just a string or a rubber band that’s been attached to a string.

Others are made of plastic and you just snap them onto your string.

Whatever the case, they’re not difficult to use so don’t let a nocking point that looks different from what you’re used to throwing you off.

As you can see from the above steps, it’s really easy to nock an arrow!

However, there are some important tips to bear in mind when nocking arrows, and about arrows in general. Let’s take a look at them. 

Maintain The Consistency Of Your Arrows

Aiming With Bow

Once you get more nocking practice under your belt, you might find that some of your arrows snap easily into the bowstring without needing you to do much, while others require you to really push them into place.

This is problematic because it means that your different arrows will fly through the air a little differently, and that can bring you shooting inconsistencies.

It’s therefore very important that all your nocks are the same size!

This might seem strange, but it’s worth pointing out here that you can find nocks of different sizes for strings of different sizes.

Pay Attention To Your Bowstring’s Center Serving

Your bow’s center serving can affect your nocking success and throw off your shooting ability, so it’s something that you need to consider when nocking your arrows. 

The bow’s center serving is found right in the center of the bowstring, as one would imagine, close to the nock-set or D-loop where the arrow will be attached.

You’ll notice that this part of the bow has some material that’s wrapped around the bowstring.

Got it? That’s your center serving. It can suffer wear and tear over time, and if you don’t replace it you risk your arrow nocks not fitting securely enough.

So, if you’re battling to get a nice and tight nock, the problem could be the bow’s center serving and that’s worth looking into before you continue struggling to nock your arrow.

Don’t Nock Your Arrow Too Tightly

Adjusting Arrow Nock

Although it’s of the utmost importance to ensure that your arrow is safely and securely attached to the bow string (you don’t want that flying around when you don’t want it to, especially when others are around), you also don’t want the arrow to be too tight and rigid.

This might sound confusing, but to understand why this is the case, it’s important to understand that a nock has two sections in it: what’s known as the throat and the groove.

Now, the throat is a little bigger than the groove, and this is an important detail.

When your nock clicks onto the bow’s string, there should be a bit of room there so that it can move around a bit.

If it’s way too tight and it can’t wiggle just the slightest, that can actually make your arrow not fly as well as you want it to.

So, when checking that your arrow has properly clicked onto the bow’s string, it should have the slightest bit of leeway while still being secured onto the string so that it won’t detach.

How To Practice Nocking Your Arrow Faster

Sometimes time is of the essence. Imagine that you’re hunting game in the outdoors and you need a new arrow from your quiver.

You can’t take your time to nock the arrow as you would when you’re in the comfort in your backyard or at your local archery range because you need to act fast.

Now’s not the time to rush through the process and risk injury, either, though!

So, it’s better to practice nocking your arrow faster before you’re in the above situation.

Group of People Practicing Arrow Nock

You can do this with something that’s known as the rail principle, and it can train you to become quicker at nocking your arrow.

The rail principle is based on the idea that a rail guides something along to the right place.

You should use the rail principle when learning how to nock your arrow because it gets you into the right mindset: that mindset is about taking smooth, fluid actions.

So, think of how your hand can reach for an arrow from your back quiver and then once the arrow is in your grasp, your other hand will slide along the shaft to find the notch.

By practicing this movement, you’ll be able to do it quickly and without even looking down at your arrow.

Similarly, as pointed out by archer Petr Kavan on the Rychlá lukostřelba website, who came up with the rail principle, “In every way of nocking, there is always something that slides on something else [or leans against something.]

Example – when nocking by a push from the inside, you start by leaning the arrow on the bowstring. The bowstring then works as a rail that guides the arrow when pushing forward.

After the bowstring skips below your thumb, the sides of [your thumb] and index finger then work as a rail guiding the [bowstring] to the arrow nock.”


It makes sense and with practice, this strategy can really help you to nock your arrows much quicker while staying safe.

You’ll also be able to master the smooth movements of a pro archer.

Is It Okay To Carry Your Arrows In Nocked Positions?

Arrow In Nocked Position

Your bow doesn’t have to be drawn for your arrow to be nocked, but it’s never recommended to nock your arrow or draw your bow if someone else is in front of you as this can be dangerous.

If you’re hunting and getting closer to the game that you want to kill, then it’s safe to carry your arrows in a nocked position. That said, it’s still important to be careful when doing this.

Related Questions

How should you carry your bow when your arrow’s nocked?

To be extra careful, it’s always a good idea to point your bow towards your target.

Not only does this prevent accidents from happening, but it can get you into the healthy habit of nocking an arrow while hunting and getting nearer to your game safely. 

What should you do if your arrow can’t seem to snap onto your bow’s string?

The problem could be that your nocks are too small or your bow’s center serving material is too thick. You might want to try switching to one with a smaller strand size.


Although it might’ve intimidated you in the past, nocking an arrow is really simple and easy to do.

Although it might feel a bit clumsy when you first try it, keep on practicing and you’ll become confident with doing it!

The important thing is to take your time and learn slowly, before increasing your nocking speed.

That way, you’ll learn all the important steps and soon they will become ingrained in your mind, making nocking something really simple to do whenever you need to do it.

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