Traditional Archery Shooting Styles

Gabriel ArcheryThere is more than one way to shoot a bow.  Figuring out which shooting style is best for you is a matter of knowledge and practice.  Your mentors shooting style may not be meant for you, but that doesn’t mean that you should not learn it.  Like anything else in life, knowledge is power.  That is also true in archery.  Sometimes we find that what we don’t like can teach us more about the things that we do like.  Here are several shooting styles that fall under the Traditional Classification.  Which style did you choose?

Instinctive Shooting
The practice of Instinctive shooting has been explained, or attempted to be explained by countless others.  I only hope that my explanation does this practice justice.  Instinctive shooters do not aim in the literal  sense of the word, “Aim.”  Instinctive shooters look down the shaft of the arrow without focusing on the arrow itself.  Their focus is directed on the target itself.  Not the whole target, but a minute spot within the target.

An instinctive archers precision and accuracy comes from a subconscious calculation in the mind that directly correlates with their muscle memory giving them the proper elevation and lateral placement on which they will release the arrow.  The most common analogy for this method is that of a baseball pitcher. When a pitcher throws his ball into the strike zone he does not aim before he throws the ball.  It is an instinctive action that comes from a lot of practice.

This does not mean that an instinctive archer can disregard all the other aspects of his/her form.  The basic form practices are still needed to provide for accuracy.  Even the slightest of variants will have an adverse effect on their shot.

Gap Shooting
Gap Shooting is the process of using references on your equipment to aim at your target.  A gap shooter will use different reference points depending on the distance that the target is from the archer.

Some gap shooters will use their arrows as reference.  Depending on the how far away the target is will affect where they place the tip of their arrow to aim.  For example:  At 20 yards the archer will use the tip of his arrow to aim directly at the center of the bulls- eye.  At 30 yards that same archer will use the tip of his arrow to aim 1 inch above the bulls-eye.

Other gap shooters will use the riser on their bows as a Gapping reference.  For example:  The archer will use the peak of their riser to aim directly at the bulls-eye.  At 60 yards, that same archer will use their arrow shelf to aim at the bulls-eye.  At 30 yard, that same archer will use the center of the riser (half way between the arrow shelf and the top of the riser) to aim at the bulls-eye.

Face Walking
Face Walking is considered to be illegal in many competitions, but it is a very effective style.  A face walker will use different anchor points on his/her face depending on their distance from the target.  From these anchor points they may also incorporate a gap shooting method.  For example:  A face shooter may use his cheekbone to anchor for a 20 yard shot and aim with the tip of the arrow directly on the bulls-eye.  They may anchor at the corner of their lip for a 40 yard shot and aim with the tip of the arrow 1 inch below the bulls-eye

String Walking
String walking is a very accurate shooting style, but is also considered illegal in many competitions.  During the process of string walking, an archer will use the same anchor point and the same point of aim for every shot.  The archer will move their string hand closer or further away from the nock point on their string depending on their distance from the target.

String Walkers generally use a finger tab with a solid back plate for string placement consistency.  Their finger tab will have small marks next to the solid backing to mark the placement for each range.  They will then place the tab on their string right under the string nock.  They will count the markings on the tab until they reach the desired marking for their range.  They will then place their thumb where that marking meets the string and move their tab down to the spot marked by their thumb.


UPDATE: 2/10/2013

The information mentioned above is based off of personal knowledge of NFAA Rules.  I have been informed that FITA does allow Face Walking and String Walking in the Barebow Classifications for competitions.

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About rasherquivers

Owner/Operator of Rasher Quivers
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9 Responses to Traditional Archery Shooting Styles

  1. fslack says:

    Another excellent clarificaton and explanation of terms.
    Do you by chance have any videos that demonstrate these different techniques?

  2. I haven’t made any videos on these subjects, but there is a set of 4 videos called, “Masters of the Barebow.” Great set of videos.

  3. Seifgard says:

    These are actually more of a aiming methods than shooting styles and spectator usually can’t tell the difference between instinctive/gap. Shooting style is more than just aiming. Its how you pull your bow, when you aim, how you anchor and also what kind of stance and grip you are using 🙂 Pardon my english.

  4. dorji says:

    m a compound bow archer and can’t see the shaft of the arrow nor the tip of the arrow while aiming the target ……so pls…..can u suggest on it……

  5. Great, and concise explanation, that should assist many, as those questions are repeated. Thanks for the follow, I too will be checking your most excellent blog!

  6. Steve Ruis says:

    If you would like to expand this article a bit, I would love to publish it in Archery Focus magazine. We do pay our authors. If you are interested, email me at

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