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How To Get Into Archery Professionally & For Beginners

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Tim Rhodes

We want to help make it easy for enthusiasts of all levels, especially beginners, to get into archery.

We’ve put together a list of considerations for you to look at to help ensure your immersion into archery is as smooth as possible.

There’s something here for all archers, regardless of their skill level.

Beginners may want to read from start to finish, but I think there is something for experienced archers in each section as well, so feel free to browse through whatever topics strike your fancy.

How To Get Into Archery Professionally And For Beginners

Without further ado, here’s how to get into archery professionally & for beginners.

A Little Bit of History

Archery dates back to the age of Cavemen and was initially used for hunting to provide food for the tribe and ensure their survival.

The idea was to kill something either before it could be spooked and run away, as in the case of a deer or antelope-type thing, or before it could kill you, as in the case of a lion or predator-type thing.

Archery allowed people to kill at a distance, an amazing concept that contributed to our ability to not just survive but thrive as a species.

Unfortunately, the logical next step seemed to be archery being used to kill other people for various reasons, but most commonly during a war.

If you were an excellent archer and could hit your mark from a distance, then you were in high demand. 

You would be needed both as a hunter to provide food for your family and community and as a soldier to improve your side’s chances of winning whatever war you were fighting.

This strive for excellent marksmanship gave rise to tournaments where archers would compete to see who could hit the target from farthest away.

Before the rise of guns, archery was the killing-at-a-distance tool of choice for thousands of years.

It has remained popular due to the skill involved as well as the ability to hunt quietly, sneaking up on your prey and not scaring everything within a 20-mile radius away with the loud boom of a gun.

The tournaments are exciting to watch, and the draw is not only the skill level but the opportunity to be solely responsible for the outcome, not relying on teammates or being brought down by an opponent.

It has been part of the Olympic Games since 1972 (it was also part of the games between 1900 and 1920 and was contested several times before being removed between 1920 and 1972).

This is a noble and ancient sport that requires discipline, strength, concentration, and lots of practice.

Whether you’ve never held a bow or are experienced and looking to up your game, you’ll find the information here helpful and interesting.

So let’s go through what you need to consider if you want to get into archery.

1. The Type of Archery You Interested In

The first thing you’ll want to think about is why you want to get into archery?

You need to figure out if you’re more interested in the competitive side of archery or the practical hunting and fishing application.

Having said that, even if you’re interested in hunting and fishing with a bow, if you’re a beginner, then targets are still going to be the best way to get started.

Targets will allow you to practice and work on your marksmanship and technique before trying these skills out in the real world.

Types of Archery

There are several types of archery, including Target, 3-D, Traditional, Field, and Bow Hunting.

Target, 3-D, and Field archery all involve shooting at targets, albeit different types of targets.

Target archery is the one with the ringed target that most of us are familiar with and is the type you will see in the Olympics due to the ease in regulating distance and difficulty.

Field archery also uses a target, but instead of standing in one spot, the courses are set up into three types of walking courses: hunter, animal, and field.

The target distances vary in Field Archery depending on the type of course, and all the targets are 2-D, including the animal targets.

3-D archery involves – you guessed it – 3-dimensional animal targets, which are set out at a variety of distances and angles to provide for a more authentic hunting-type experience.

Traditional archery is about getting back to basics, with basic recurve bows, and out in nature shooting at whatever the target is. 

It could be walking or even on horseback.

Bowhunting is real-world hunting where you are using a bow rather than a gun and might be considered a goal rather than a place to start, with many of the above options giving you a chance to practice and improve before you head out in the wild.

2. The Type of Bow You Want To Shoot

There are arguably two main categories of bows to consider: recurve bows and compound bows.

There are also longbows (favored by traditionalists) and crossbows (which are somewhat controversial in the purist archery world) that will not be discussed here as they are more specialized and not generally used for competition or by beginners.

If you’ve never shot a bow before, it’s a good idea to head to your local archery club or archery store and practice with different types of bows before purchasing your own.

Because recurve and compound bows are so different, you generally won’t see them used together in the same competition; instead, the competition will be specific to the bow type.

Recurve Bows

The recurve bow is the more simplistic type of bow that you may think of when you think of archery.

It has a riser, which is the handle and where the arrow rests, the upper and lower limbs, and the string, which connects the limbs and shoots the arrow.

These can come with removable/changeable limbs in the case of takedown recurve bows or as a solid piece, which we’ll learn more about in the “Measurements” section below.

This is your typical Robin Hood or Katniss Everdeen bow and is the only type of bow you will see in the Olympics.

Compound Bows

Compound bows have the same parts as a recurve bow, but they also use a pretty complex lever system to increase the force that moves the arrow.

This allows the arrow to fly further, fly faster, and hit the target harder.

These are more expensive as they are a bit more complicated, but because they allow for a more powerful and arguably more accurate shot, they are a great choice for bowhunting.

3. Your Measurements

Now that you know what type of archery you’re interested in and what type of bow you want to start with, you need to know what size of bow will work for you.

The two main measurements are draw length and draw weight.

Draw length is how far back you can pull the bowstring, which can be determined by dividing your height in inches by 2.5 (or you can have a bow tech measure you at an archery store).

Draw weight is how hard it is to pull the bowstring back, measured in pounds of weight and can vary from an easy-to-pull 10 pounds to a much more difficult-to-pull 50 pounds (or higher).

I think it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that you’ll likely have to start with a lower draw weight to first develop good form, and then you’ll be able to increase it as you build strength.

Some recurve bows have a set draw weight, which means buying a new bow when you are stronger, while others allow you to switch out the limbs to adjust the draw weight (see “Types of Bows” above).

Compound bows have adjustable draw weight by design, so no need to buy limbs or purchase a new bow; you can adjust as you build strength.

Your best bet is to have a professional fit a bow for you; that way, you won’t be wasting your time and money with an ill-fitting bow that could injure you or become damaged.

4. The Arrows That Are Best For Your Skill Level and Type of Archery

Of course, you will also need other equipment, such as arrows!

It’s important to note that you should not shoot your bow without an arrow called “dry-firing” and can damage your bow.

Ideally, you should buy your arrows along with your bow for the best compatibility, and the rule of thumb is that the arrows should be about 2 inches longer than your draw length (see “measurements” below).

This is very important as shooting arrows that are too long for your bow will be awkward and interfere with accuracy, while shooting arrows too short for your bow could cause you to shoot your bow hand by accident!

Types of Arrows

There are three main types of arrows: wood, aluminum, and carbon.

Wood arrows are traditional and have that old school wow factor, but might require a bit more experience to avoid breaking them.

A crafty person could even make their wood arrows, which is a different topic entirely but pretty darn exciting.

Aluminum arrows are lightweight, durable, and quite a bit cheaper than carbon or wood arrows, which is fantastic for beginner archers when you’re more at risk for breaking or even losing arrows.

Carbon arrows are strong and durable with less flexibility than aluminum, which makes them very light and more accurate.

Carbon arrows are a favorite of bowhunters for these reasons, although they are more expensive than aluminum arrows.

5. Other Equipment That Might Come In Handy

There are additional equipment that you might not need right away but is recommended once you have invested some time and money into your new favorite sport.

Armguards and chest guards protect you from the bowstring as it snaps back or even breaks, which could be quite painful and cause injury.

These extras help to protect your fingers from the bowstring as you draw it, which might not seem completely necessary until the 500th time you draw that string, ouch!

A good bow case and quiver will protect all this expensive equipment while you’re storing or transporting it (no one needs a bunch of loose arrows rolling around in the car, am I right?).

Targets that are the correct type for the bow you have chosen, rather than a paper target tacked to a hay bale, are important so that you don’t damage the targets and end up having to replace them frequently.

Bow sights are great in particular for beginners to help with your aim to hit your target more often.

6. What You Need To Maintain Your Bow

There are also some pieces of equipment that you might find handy for maintenance, although having your bow serviced at an archery store is an excellent idea, especially for beginners.

If you have a bow with this option, having different bow limbs will allow you to change your bow’s draw weight (see “measurements” below) as your form and strength improve without having to buy an entirely new bow.

Consider always having a couple of extra bowstrings on hand to replace a broken string so that you aren’t left holding a bow you can’t shoot in a competition, on the range, or in the wild.

A bow stringer is a handy piece of equipment that will make the bowstring mentioned above change much quicker and easier, and help to ensure you don’t damage your bow in the process.

7. Where To Practice

Alright, you’ve decided what type of archery you’re interested in, what type of bow you want to shoot, you’ve been measured for your bow, and you’ve bought all the fancy equipment to go with it, there’s just one question left.

Where the heck can you shoot this thing safely?

Archery clubs are found all over the US and Canada (seriously, just google “archery clubs near me,” you will not be disappointed). 

They generally have indoor and outdoor ranges with various targets and events for whatever type of archery you’re interested in.

You can also check with local colleges or high schools, which often have archery clubs and may have a safe area for you to practice.

If you are considering shooting on your private property, make sure you have safety measures in place to avoid hitting anything or anyone accidentally.

It’s also an excellent idea to take lessons from a professional, no matter how much natural talent you think you have from all those viewings of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Check with local archery clubs or stores or look online for archery instructors near you.

Videos are another great place to get started if you’re having difficulty finding an instructor near you, but they should probably be considered only a short-term replacement for actual instruction.

8. If You are Thinking of Professional Archery

If you are already an experienced archer looking to compete or even make money at archery, there are several things to consider.

You need time to devote to practice, equipment appropriate to the type of competition you are interested in, coaching from someone experienced in competitive archery, and the personality and character for a sport that requires focus and attention to form and detail.

You also need to look at what type of archery you want to compete in.

Do you have dreams of Olympic gold, with a focus on target archery, or are you all about Field archery or 3-D archery (see “Types of Archery” above)?

Are you interested in competing locally or at national or even international levels?

The International Field Archery Association defines professional archers as archers who actively compete in the professional archery circuit (however, this is only relevant for Field Archery).

Other archery types don’t seem to have an actual definition for a professional archer

Still, some agree that they are archers who receive money for shooting and/or who shoot at a high level of proficiency.

9. Practice, Practice, Practice

You need to have a solid plan for where and when you’re going to practice.

If you have a coach or instructor (which you should if you’re considering going pro), you might be doing the bulk of your practice sessions on the archery range at your community, college, or high school archery club.

You can also practice on private property if you have space for this or access to private property, which will increase the time you’re able to spend shooting.

There are no shortcuts, so target shooting at a range with a coach or instructor for many, many hours is going to be the best way to become an excellent marksman.

Blank bale shooting is a great way to practice your form and technique without worrying about hitting a target. 

Many people will do this with their eyes closed to get into the feel of shooting their bow (although please make sure this is done in a safe space with no chance of accidentally shooting anything or anyone).

10. Get Strong

Upper body strength is key to successful archery and hitting your target.

Research on the muscles used for archery indicates that beginner archers rely more on forearm strength to pull the bowstring back. 

In contrast, more experienced archers use neck and shoulder muscles (deltoids and trapezius).

The use of these bigger and more proximal muscles means greater stability and accuracy for shooting and hitting the target.

Some would also argue that core and lower body strength will assist with stability and accuracy whether your target is a bullseye or a deer.

So while you don’t necessarily have to hit the gym to improve your archery technique, it certainly won’t hurt. 

Doing so will also increase the draw weight you’re able to pull, which is a bonus for speed and accuracy as well as for bowhunting, where you want to make sure you hit your target cleanly.

11. Learn How to Perform Under Pressure

Target Panic” or choking under pressure is something dreaded by all professional archers.

This occurs when someone who is typically a sharpshooter suddenly begins missing the target by releasing the arrow early, often as soon as they see the target.

The cause is thought to be either psychological – related to either extreme pressure and anxiety – or neurological – related to overuse of the particular neurons in charge of these particular movements.

While a recent study indicates that women may be affected more than men, this is not a new phenomenon. 

Most in the business admit that it will occur to almost every professional archer at some point in their career.

It should come as no surprise to archers at the top of their game that the personality traits of extroversion and neuroticism were found to be the most beneficial for coping with the psychological pressures of high-stakes archery competition.

These traits lead to less chance of stage fright or anxiety related to being in the spotlight while shooting and extraordinary attention to detail, which is vital in a sport that is defined by concentration and excellence in form.

Other ways to manage this issue include working with a coach experienced with target panic, adjusting your grip, switching hands if possible, and visualization techniques.

12. Don’t Quit Your Day Job Just Yet

While there are certainly people who make their living from full-time competition in archery, these folks are the exception rather than the rule.

Initially, you will need to fund your travel and entrance fees for competitions, and you will need to compete and do well for a while before anyone starts to pay attention.

Don’t expect sponsors to find you until you’ve won many tournaments and begun to make a name for yourself.

Most professional archers still have to work outside of the sport to support their passion, and if you want to do this for a living, be prepared to not just shoot well and win a lot but also to market yourself and your equipment to catch the eye of potential sponsors.

Besides lucrative sponsorship deals, other ways to make money as an archer include coaching, making your brand of archery products, and media/marketing platforms.

Final Thoughts

Archery is a diverse, exciting, and ancient sport.

There is a difference between doing this purely for fun or wanting to pursue competition and professional status, so I think taking into account how much time and energy you want and can dedicate to this is key.

Going pro is going to take a lot of time, some money, and most importantly – passion.

Archery for the joy of the sport, learning something new, and meeting others who have the same interests shouldn’t be underrated, so do what you love whether for fun or profit (or even fame).

No matter where your archery practice takes you, remember that you are now part of an activity that humans have been practicing for thousands of years, so have fun with it, and take pride in your accomplishments.

We do hope you enjoyed reading through this article on how to get into archery professionally & for beginners

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