Typically, in a regulation target archery competition, athletes are given 30 seconds wherein they can set up their shot and fire their arrow (or round of arrows). Those competitors who have trained using the National Training System used by the Olympic Archery team use a 12-step process for setting up each and every shot. While this may work fine in target competition, when hunting or field shooting, the archer rarely gets so much time. Instead, these archers must rely on their instinctive archery training to run the shot set-up routine and shoot the arrow off quickly.
What is Instinctive Archery
Instinctive archery was practiced long before archery was relegated from its primitive roots of hunting and combat to shooting at static targets. When hunting or fighting, primitive man would often have less than a second to make a successful shot. Instead of taking time to think about all 12-steps of the shot individually, the archer had to practice his shot until his body instinctively knew what to do and minimal time was required for aiming.
It can be difficult to imagine shooting an arrow without first aiming it. Instinctive archery does not mean that you fail to aim the arrow, it just means you do so quickly and intuitively. A good analogy is similar to how you throw a baseball. You simply look at where you want to throw, point your foot and body in that direction, and follow through in the same direction with the throwing arm. A bow and arrow, similarly, can become an extension of the body as well.
How to Shoot Instinctively
Before you can begin to shoot instinctively, there are a few pre-requisites. In particular, you need to make sure the bow you are using matches your dominant eye. Just like one of your hands is usually dominant, the same can be said of your eyes. With both eyes open, your line of sight is directed by a single eye, the other eye simply provides greater background, detail, and clarity to the image.
When shooting at a target, you can simply close your dominant eye and aim with your non-dominant eye. However, with instinctive shooting, both eyes need to be open so that you can gain more information about the particular scenario you are shooting in. If you try shooting a left-handed bow and are right-eye dominant, you will almost certainly miss the target if you shoot with both eyes open. This is because your eyes are roughly 3 inches apart. Although your non-dominant eye is lined up behind your bowstring, your line of sight originates with the other eye, obscuring the line of sight.
Additionally, before beginning instinctive archery lessons, it is critical that you have at least the basic technique down pat. You should, at the very least, have a firm stance, a smooth draw, and a consistent anchor point. Having a firm grasp on these fundamentals will not only keep your training safe, but will help you focus on drawing, aiming, and releasing quickly since you will already have the mechanics mastered.
To Shoot Instinctively
If you have mastered the fundamentals and you have an appropriately fitted bow, you are ready to begin improving your subconscious ability to aim. First, try this exercise. Pick a point 10-20 yards away from you and point at it. It is fairly easy to point at something with accuracy without much trouble. This is similar to how you will aim in instinctive archery.
With a bow and arrow in hand, limit the amount of time you spend aiming to just a second or two. A common training aid is to use a metronome, and allow four beats per shot: the first to nock the arrow, the second to draw, the third to aim and the fourth to release. By forcing yourself to move through these processes ‘on beat’ you will naturally be forced to rely on your training in the fundamentals and your subconscious instinct to hit the target.
Finally, try to lean into the target when you are shooting. Focus all your attention on the point you are trying to hit, down to the smallest possible increment of space. For instance, if you usually focus on hitting the entire target, try focusing on just the bull’s eye. If you usually focus on the bull’s eye, focus on a one-centimeter spot within the bull’s eye. As you practice, you will gradually learn to see faster, allowing you to aim quicker and allowing your body’s natural instinct to align itself behind the arrow for maximum accuracy.