So many areas to cover. Eyes, left hand, right hand, arm position and stance. So lets cover all the areas of shooting a longbow in brief here with further explaining on their effects on accuracy on separate pages elsewhere.
How to Shoot a Longbow?
As far as aiming goes, there is instinctive shooting, gap shooting, face and string walking and a host of other ways to shoot a bow without using pins and lasers like some of our metaled up friends.
We’ll write from a right handed perspective. The shooter is mostly a traditional archery or is into primitive archery. In your right hand you will have some sort of finger protection. Some people use tabs of rubber, leather, and others like finger padded gloves that are usually three finger. You’ll appreciate the padding when shooting a higher powered longbow for a longer period of time.
There are many grips you can use to draw back on the string. Some people shoot the long bow “three under” and others shoot “split”. This is simply the number of fingers you use in relation to the nock point on the arrow and string. If you have your index finger above the nock (non pointy end of arrow) and the other two below, then you are shooting split. You you have all three fingers (pointer, middle and… whatever that one is) under the nock, then you are shooting three under. Some people use releases but you don’t usually see that with traditional archery so I won’t even get into it here.
You left arm is straight out from the shoulder. You head is turned looking down your arm over your hip, perpendicular to the target. Like you were punching someone beside you.
You don’t death grip the longbow when shooting it. You want to have the bow resting in the meaty part of your thumb, while letting the draw tension of shooting, pull the bow snugly into your grip. Then just close your pointer finger around so you make a ring with your thumb. The rest from there is up to you. Shooting a longbow has some guidelines but there is of course a ton of variation.
The longbow shooting stance is typically body perpendicular to the target. Your left hip will be square onto the target. Depending on the poundage of your longbow, you may have to be a little more flexible with your foot position when you draw back on that puppy. I.E a big nasty wooden war-bow.
After you get that stuff down, you need to get into your anchor points. This will keep your shooting, or target picture consistent when you aim. Done over time, using the same anchor allows your brain to aim and hit the target, without specifically aiming per se. This is instinctive shooting. It’s not like lining up cross-hairs but more like throwing a baseball. You get more accurate and it just happens the more you practice.
Instinctive shooting is not the only way to shoot a longbow though. Gap shooting is another method we will talk about on another page.
UPDATE: Well, a few more months have passed and some deer have walked under the stand. From these experiences, shooting a longbow has changed a little for me. I now shoot three under, with a combination of pure instinctive and gap.
I’ll explain a little more. I’ve seen a lot of great archers shooting a longbow three under and that’s where I’ve settled too. I like it because I can do it in winter with thick gloves on and it just feels comfortable to me. My anchor point is made this way. I touch my thumb to my pinky nail, then pull back and lock that into the corner of my jawbone with the index finger lined up resting on my cheekbone. I then touch the nock of my arrow with the tip of my nose.
How I aim when shooting a longbow is a little different. For up to 25 yards, it’s pure instinctive and that works well for kill zone on deer sized animals. I stare at the target and shoot. It ends up where I want it now. From 25 and up (of course these are seat of the pants judgements and style will vary depending on the length of time I have to shoot) I will close one eye and shoot point on target. Once on target I “de-focus” and come back out to do the release. As the area I am shooting at gets further out I instinctively shoot a bit higher above the animal.
Hope that helps and let me know how you’re shooting a longbow.