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Beginners Guide To Traditional Archery

Beginners Guide To Traditional Archery

Say you have have been shooting a compound bow for a while and are feeling confident, accurate, and comfortable with it. Maybe you started shooting archery in the first place for the added challenge but are now hitting a rut. Or maybe a compound bow just isn’t quite your style. The sport of archery has much more to offer.

When I got into archery years ago, modern compound bows were really the predominate face of the market. As I delved deeper into the fantastic world of archery hunting, a new challenge presented itself to me. I took it, and I ran with it. For those die hard archery enthusiasts who want to take a step back from the technology that has made the sport of archery so accessible to all and experiment with equipment that is much more reliant on the skill of the user, look no further. Traditional archery, now referred to as the practice of shooting longbows, recurves, and other technologically limited equipment, is gaining popularity once again and offers archers and hunters alike a new challenge, level of focus, and satisfaction to wide world of archery.

For those looking to step out of the realm of modern compound bow shooting and take a step back to closer to the bows our ancestors used, read on.


Our ancestors discovered long ago the improved hunting efficiency archery could bring them. The ability to kill more game meant more time for advancement in other areas of their technology. For them, archery equipment was much more primitive, albeit no less effective when placed in their hands. Different styles of bows developed all across the world, varying lengths, styles, and materials. Though most bows were similar in that they were crafted from a single piece of wood and shoot wooden arrows fletched with feathers. In the modern world, our traditional archery bows and much more complex than our early ancestors bows. With the advent of technology, we are now able to construct simple sightless bows with multiple pieces of wood, fiberglass, and laminate to fine tune all sorts of details and performance.

Traditional Archery Bows

When I walk into a bow shop, I am often struck with a spell of dizziness as I try process the large array of compound bows on the wall. When I walk to the often small section of traditional archery bows, a sense of simplicity overcomes everything the traditional bows touch. In short, there are two different types of traditional bows available to the modern archery. These are recurves and longbows.

Both types of bows consist of a generally wooden bow, a shelf style arrow rest, and single string. These types of bows are meant to be stored without their string to and to relieve the bow of its tension. Traditional bows are generally shot without the aid of bow sights.

Recurves are the more modernized so to say of the two. Deriving their name from their recurved tips, the original design of the recurve was meant to enhance speed and performance. Though many modern day longbows come very close to the performance of recurves.

Longbows have a different shape and the string does not contact the bow limbs at any point beyond the bow tips. Some longbows are designed with more recurve style limbs. Like recurves longbows may also be bought in single piece or two piece take-down bows, which are suited well to traveling archers.

Release Device

Unlike modern compound bows which rely on the consistency of a mechanical release aid, traditional archery requires practice and discipline on the part of the archer to develop consist releasing technique by using their fingers, protected by either a shooting glove or shooting tab.

The shooting tab is simply a specialty piece of leather designed to be held on your fingers between your skin and the string to protect it from the high forces of the string. The release is controlled by simply “letting go” with your fingers and watching the arrow fly.

Another method, one that I have found to suit my shooting best, is a shooting glove. A shooting glove is no more than a reinforced leather glove that covers only your shooting fingers. To draw the bow is a simple process just like that of the tab, the release being controlled by you letting go of the string.

The key to both methods is to develop consist technique for consistent arrow flight. Unlike compound bows, which have consistency standard in the form of a mechanical release device, traditional bows rely more heavily on the skill of the archer, an aspect that has always drawn me to the sport.

Traditional Archery Arrows

I love the romance of a wooden bow shooting wooden arrows. However, the reality of the matter is traditional bows can shoot a large variety of arrows, so long as their spine (measure of flexibility) is well matched to the bow.

For most beginner archers, the durability and reliability of carbon arrows is hard to beat. Some companies even offer carbon arrows catered to the traditional archery.

Although wooden arrows often lack the durability and consistency of carbon arrows, many traditional archers shoot them still simply due to the heritage of it more than anything. Wood arrows when built well can easily match and often exceed the performance of arrows made from modern materials.

Bow Stringer

Traditional bows, which are generally made out of wood, are best stored without tension on their limbs to best preserve their integrity and strength. These bows are designed to be strung and unstrung by the archery on a regular basis with a simple tool known as a bow stringer. Several styles exist but they all perform the same function and generally come with precise instruction.

Lets Get Started

I enjoy the meditative state traditional archery puts in. I think many people could receive enjoyment out of the sport, particularly those who are already submerged in the modern archery world. The start up equipment is a little simpler than compounds, with the above aforementioned equipment, along with a target, you are just about ready to start shooting traditional archery and discover a new challenge that may have you hooked. If you are wanting to learn more, check out upcoming posts on shooting how-to and techniques.

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