How to Get Started in Traditional Archery With a Lightweight Recurve Bow
You've Gotten the Bug ... Now What?
A few months ago, I was sick with the flu. I couldn't get out of bed for ten days and it was killing me. During that time, I watched some of my favorite movies—including Robin Hood. By the end of my hellish week in bed, I had cabin fever bad and needed to get outdoors to do something. "Archery looks fun," I thought. I figured it'd be fun to have a bow like Robin Hood and learn a skill which is as old as humankind.
But where to begin?
I started with a web search, which was disappointing. All the "starter programs" I could find were for kids and teens! There didn't seem to be much out there for adults who wanted to get into archery. So, I looked up where a local archery shop was and went on in. To my disappointment, the sport of archery has gone a bit high-tech since the days of Robin Hood. Most of the bows in the store were the common compound type, which has only been around for about 50 years and is more along the skill set of shooting a gun (with sights and even a "trigger" style release). I wanted a piece of wood with a string.
After being helped by an amazing sales guy (side note: the archery community is AWESOME when it comes to helping out newcomers), I was led to a small section of the store with some "traditional" recurve bows. Even these were carbon-and-fiberglass versions of the real thing. But they had more the look and feel of the style I was going for.
Choosing a Bow to Start With
Bows come in specific poundage, from 10 pounds all the way up to the high 100s. Typically speaking, you don't need much more than 35 to 40 pounds if all you plan on doing is target shooting. Bows of 50 pounds and up can be used for hunting. However, you need to work your way up to those weights.
I started with the Bear Titan (shown here) and absolutely loved it. It was a very cheap way to get started with archery. Without a huge investment, I got to test out archery and figure out some fundamentals of my shooting style before moving up to a more "big boy" bow. I found out I was left-eye dominant and had about a 28" draw length. I got to practice for hours on end without getting tired, and ultimately, fell in love with archery.
Start Out Very Light
The most common mistake when first starting archery is buying a bow that is too heavy for you! The Bear Titan only pulls about 22 pounds, so I didn't fatigue myself out on the range. A lot of people start out on a bow that is just too heavy. Instead of learning proper form and technique, they are just trying to keep their arms from shaking with the strain of holding back the bowstring. Your muscles will strengthen the more you do it ... so start out with a light bow and work your way up.
After about a month of shooting, I realized I was way hooked and wanted to find a better bow, so I started looking. I ended up with a 30# take-down recurve. This was a great second bow. Not only was it not too big an increase in weight, but a take-down bow allows you to simply buy new limbs for your bow so you can increase the poundage as you grow as an archer.
Eventually I will find the draw weight, style, look, and length of that bow works best for me, and at that time I'll most likely buy a single-piece bow which is fixed in its stats. But for now, I'm having a blast growing as an archer and meeting some really wonderful people.
The Bow I Started With
Where to Shoot?
After I got my first bow I was super excited to go shooting for my first time ... but I didn't know where I could go!
Most archery retailers also have a range on site. Here you can get tips and support from the other archers in your community, but ranges also normallly come with daily range fees normally. I just wanted to see if I liked archery, so I didn't want to spend a ton of money shooting at an indoor range. So I went home and did some research.
NOTE: Local laws differ, so check to make sure to choose a place to shoot that's legal.
It turns out that near my house were two public parks with designated archery ranges. Where I live in Oregon, you can't just go and set up a target in any public park, but you can shoot to your heart's content at a designated archery range.
Each range has its own rules, but a standard rule that everyone shoots from the same line and no one retrieves arrows while someone is still shooting. This can cause some issues when you're just beginning because your skill and your bow might not allow you to shoot from very far away. In my experience at these ranges, the other archers were very nice and enthusiastic about helping me get started and I had no problem moving up to a more appropriate range for my skill. The only rude people I ran into were some college boys who had just gotten Compound Bows and insisted on shooting at 80 yards. But even then I just waited for them to leave and continued shooting at my desired range.
Another option is a large backyard. I have a friend who has a nice-sized yard and he allowed me to move in some hay bales and set up a field target using his shed as a backstop (It's very important to have a good, decent sized backstop).
I have found that even shooting in a long garage is fine on cold, wet days. Just shoot at smaller targets.
Then there is "stump shooting" or "roving." This is where you head out into the backcountry and shoot at random targets while trudging through the forest. You can do this on most public forestry lands. Just make sure you wear bright clothing and never shoot in the direction of people or animals. I haven't done this yet, but I look forward to it this summer :)
Other Equipment You'll Need When Starting Archery
You'll need a few other things when you start shooting.
Arrows (see below).
A quiver. A small, cheap arrow quiver will make your day much more enjoyable.
A glove. A glove protects your fingers from the force of the string. Make sure you like the fit and feel of the glove and that it provides the fingers with enough padding.
An armguard. An armguard prevents your arm from being snapped by the bowstring when you release your arrow, especially when you start shooting and are still developing the proper form.
- Go to your local archery store: This is the best place to look at and handle the different types of bows, and the friendly people there will be more than happy to answer your questions and help you get started on your journey to become Robin Hood.
- Choose a bow that is within your skill range: Too many people buy a bow that is too hard to draw back more than a few times per session, and then they give up on archery. Their beautiful bow just sits around and collects dust. Get a cheap, light, inexpensive bow to start out with. You'll be more likely to have fun with your initial experience with archery and in a few months you'll be able to buy that "nicer" bow and enjoy it for years to come.
- Find a place to practice your archery: There are lots of places near you, I guarantee ... just look a bit! Get your friends involved and meet in each other's back yards. Go to designated ranges at parks on sunny days. Take hikes in the woods and shoot at stumps and logs along the way. Head to your local retailer and pay a few bucks to use the range for a day. Once you start looking, you'll find that there is always a place nearby to take your bow and hit some bulls-eyes.
I hope you have as much fun diving into the world of archery as I did.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.