Beginning in Archery

Beginning in archery comes with a wide variety of games to choose from, whether you want to start shooting on a target in your backyard, go to the Olympics or stock your freezer with some meat, archery has something to please everybody out there, from kids to grown-ups.

Archery has been around for a long time but let's be honest, today’s equipment, even the most traditional one, is nothing like the very first bow and arrow that was made over 60,000 years ago.

history of archery

Today’s archery is much more sophisticated and many options are offered to the overwhelmed beginner looking to get into the sport without choosing the wrong equipment or going broke.

In order to pick the right pieces of equipment to start shooting your first arrow, a little bit of research is required so you can determine the proper match according to your interests and needs.

This article is all about giving the complete information you need to wrap your mind around it and fast forward your introduction to archery without falling into common traps, unlike some other beginners.

One of the first assessments that need to be done would be about some physical characteristics of yours. Why? Because you want to pick the right bow length according to the type of archery game you want to practice.

You also want a proper length of an arrow, as well as starting with manageable draw weight and shoot from the right draw hand, which would ideally be determined by your eye dominance. 

Here is a table of content to help you navigate through the post. Feel free to jump to any part of the article by clicking on the topic of your interest.

First, let’s dig into the type of archery games you may encounter in order to give you a better understanding of what is available to you as an archer which will also influence the equipment you may need…

Types of Archery  

Field Archery

Field Archery 

Field archery is often enjoyed on a roving course set through the woods, with paper targets from 20 feet to 80 yards away.

This is a great discipline for those who love nature, as you’ll definitely do some hiking. Targets are often set at uphill and downhill angles. Indoor field archery events are also available. 

The National Field Archery Association (NFAA) oversees field archery in the U.S.

Target Archery

Target Archery 

Target archery is one of the most popular types of archery games and the one featured in the Olympics. It consists of shooting at the multicolored 10-ring target as close to the center as possible, the bullseye.

Target archers shoot up to 90 meters, depending on the archer’s age, the equipment style and if it is taking place indoors or outdoors.

Target archery features two bow styles: the recurve bow and the compound bow, though only the recurve bow is part of the Olympic Games. Still, the compound target archery is featured at the World Games. Both styles are part of the Paralympics. 

Traditional Archery

Traditional Archery 

Traditional archery means different things to different people. For some, it means shooting a longbow or a recurve bow, one-piece or take-down, without arrow rests, sights, stabilizers or other modern accessories.

Many traditional archers choose to shoot carbon fiber or aluminum arrows and use a string made from durable synthetic materials.

Others feel that to shoot traditionally, you must shoot bows and arrows only made from natural materials such as wood, horn and bird feathers. This is often separated in another category called primitive archery, where the archer would exclusively use one-piece bows, no take-downs.

No matter which you choose, there is plenty of activities you can participate with a trad bow: target shooting, stump shooting, 3d archery, and bowhunting are some of the popular ones.

3D Archery

3D Archery 

3D archery is not a video game or a movie of some sort. 3D archery refers to shooting at three-dimensional life-like animals, from small to big ones, made out of self-healing foam in situations that would mimic real-life hunting experiences.

Early use of the 3D targets was primarily for bowhunting practice, but over time, shooting clubs began setting up courses to challenge hunters which led to more competitive venues resulting in what we know of today’s 3D archery.

3D archery courses can be set in a variety of places: in the woods, in the fields and even indoors. There are two types of events, with marked yardage or not. When there is no marked yardage, the archer must guess the distance he is from the target and makes the best shot possible to achieve the highest score.


Bowhunting & Bowfishing 

Going out in the woods looking at the sunrise and get ready to gather your own meat has a strong appeal to many archers who adopted bowhunting, not only as an activity but as a way of life.

Connecting with the outdoors and bringing back home, a gift of nature. Some do it for sustainability, some for tranquility, some for the thrill, and others for all of those reasons and more.

It also applies to bowfishing which is growing in popularity and which can be done with pretty much any bow or crossbow equipped with the proper accessories.

With the right amount of power, trad bows, compound bows, and crossbows are all good means to hunt small to big games. 

Types of Archery Games

Determine your eye dominance 

Most people have a visual preference for one eye or the other, often without even realizing it. This is known as eye dominance.

The eye dominance will usually dictate your draw hand side (the hand that will be used to pull the string back), especially if you are to shoot with both eyes open, which gives a much brighter and more realistic field of view that you can't get with only one eye open.

If you prefer to position yourself as per your hand dominance while having the opposite eye dominance, then closing an eye would become important for your shooting precision.

Though, it would be highly recommended to position yourself according to your dominant eye; it may take some time to get used to it but will benefit you in the long run.

Eye dominance can be weak or strong and does not have anything to do with hand dominance.

For example, you might be right-handed but left-eye dominant. Studies show that about two-thirds of people are right-eye dominant, one-third is left-eye dominant and a small percentage of people do not favor either eye.

Here is a 5-step test so you can determine yours. 

5 easy steps to test eye dominance:

  1. Go where you can see an object that is at least 10-20 ft. away.
  2. Hold your hands out at arm’s length in front of you and make a circle about 1” in diameter.
  3. Keeping both eyes open, use the circle to frame the object visually.
  4. While making sure you can always see the object; pull your hands slowly back to your face.
  5. Your hands will come back naturally to your dominant eye.

In rare cases, a new archer will not feel a preference for either eye. When this happens, it is best to use the dominant hand to draw the bow.

Determine your draw length 

The draw length is the distance between the bowstring and the grip when you hold a bow at full draw. Having the proper draw length value is important when it comes to choosing the right equipment.

The most popular method for determining your draw length is the arm-span method, with three simple steps:

  1. Hold your arms out away from your body to form the letter, T.
  2. Use a measuring tape to find the distance from the longest fingertip on the right hand to the longest fingertip on the left hand. Ask someone to help you measure this distance.
  3. Next, take your measurement and divide the value by 2.5. This will give you a very solid estimation of your draw length. You can also check on the following chart.  

Beginning in Archery - Determine draw length

* Make sure that both arms remain parallel to the floor, and without pulling your shoulder blades together. This will give you the most accurate arm-span measurement.

Now that you have your value, you may wonder what you can do with it. Essentially, this will affect the length of arrows you must be chosen. Once you get your draw length, add 1 to 2 inches to that value and you get your arrow length

So, if you have 28" of draw length, you should pick arrows with a length between 29" and 30". This would not apply if you use a crossbow, arrows, also known as bolts, come in standard sizes depending on the model.

The other effect would mostly be seen on recurve bows used for target archery. The length of the bow in that discipline is very important and is based on the draw length of the archer.

Determine your draw weight 

Probably the most important aspect of a new archer is to ensure a good experience from the first shot. Draw weight will most likely define your first experience and influence whether it becomes a hobby or a passion.

First of all, everyone has different abilities and capabilities so many factors should be taken into consideration when you want to determine a beginner archer’s draw weight.

But quickly, let see the following draw weight suggestion charts below to get the big picture of what it should be like.

As you will notice, compound and recurve bows have their own suggested draw weights based on different ages and levels. Let’s have a look.

Beginning in Archery - Determine draw weight

Those charts will definitely help you find a starting draw weight that will be more convenient and better adjusted to yourself, therefore, enhancing your first experience as a beginning archer or future hunter.

I do suggest that you ask more questions to online stores or your local archery association if you are not sure yet of which draw weight you should pick before buying.

Don’t start over bowed

First of all, it’s very important to understand why starting off over bowed can ruin your progress and furthermore, your love for the sport! 

You do not need to stick with the same bow or limbs for several years, you can choose to upgrade when you feel an improvement in your steadiness and strength. 

Having in mind to shoot the same bow for many years might have you think of getting a higher draw weight from the start which would automatically lead to over-bowing yourself right off the bat.

Don’t think ahead of your actual experience and capabilities in archery, even though your ultimate goal may be bow hunting, which has minimum poundage requirements for certain games.

Recurve Bow

If you are into recurve bows, it might be a good idea to start with a take-down so you can only change the limbs and keep the same riser.

You won't need to buy a whole new bow when ready to move up in poundage. Limb prices may vary but you may be able to spend less than 70$ to get higher draw weights instead of going over 100$ to get a brand new bow.

Compound Bow

If your interest leans towards compound bows, consider choosing a versatile bow with a wide range of draw weight adjustments so you can grow with your bow. The Diamond Edge SB-1 is a great example of versatility allowing the archer to adjust the settings to his needs.


Longbows work a bit differently because the minimum starting draw weight is usually higher than other bows (recurves bows or compound bows). It is often seen as a challenge for archers when they start with longbows.

You might have to consider starting with an entry-level recurve bow to get an easier route to obtain a good archery form and then move up to a longbow eventually.


Although you don't have to hold the string with your own force before shooting and that it won't affect your shooting as such, crossbows have huge draw weight to pull in order to put them in a cocking position, especially if you go for a recurve crossbow.

Be sure to choose a model that you will be able to cock yourself and select the right cocking device that will allow you to do so. If you are on a budget and you think you can handle the poundage easily, you can opt for a rope cocking device (often included but not always), some are even optionally integrated to the stock of the crossbow at additional cost.

If you have more money to invest and that you want the cocking to be really easy, go for a crank cocking mechanism.

Bottom line and recommendations

By selecting a higher draw weight than what you can handle, it would be hard to correct your misalignment and defects and you won't be able to sustain proper training periods, leading to great discomforts.

Learn the sport one step at a time and your experience will be enjoyable and your progress will come along. Respect the learning curve!

As you become more proficient you can slowly increase the draw weight. Depending on each archer, you may go up 2 to 5 pounds regarding recurve bows and this amount of weight can go significantly higher with compound bows depending on the let-off. Slowly raise the poundage until you reach the desired draw weight.

With the let-off, you won't be carrying as much weight when reaching full draw so you can hold still before releasing your arrow for a longer period of time.

With that being said, choosing the proper draw weight for all kinds of archers is a topic that can be touchy.

Determining what is right for you depends on your level, strength, condition, and stamina as well as what you want to achieve in archery and the type of bow you are using or want to be using. Keep in mind, the more you shoot, the better you'll become!

Time to choose your bow

Now that you have been through some of the knowledge you needed to know prior to choosing your first bow, it is time for you to dig into the type you want. To do so, I highly recommend that you read one of the following posts according to your interest.

I hope it made things clearer for your introduction to archery and that you are on the right path to choosing the equipment you need.

Thank you for reading! Do not hesitate to leave a comment below or ask any questions.


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