An Olympic Archer's Advice on Improving Your Shot

When a man with an olympic gold medal in archery and a room full of trophy whitetails talks about bowhunting accuracy, you listen.

OLYMPIC ARCHER ROD WHITE has a gold medal (1996), a bronze medal (2000), and a wall full of trophy whitetails. So when it comes to slinging arrows, you might assume he's unusually gifted. "Nah," says the affable Iowan. "Shooting a bow well is actually very easy. I can teach the proper form to almost anyone in minutes. Beyond that, it's all desire and practice." We're guessing you desire to never miss a whitetail, so here's White's crash course on shooting form, plus four drills you can practice at home.

The Technique

PROPER SHOOTING FORM ****yields consistent arrow flight, which translates into accuracy. To achieve proper form, imagine looking down at yourself in shooting mode. The target lies north on an imaginary compass. Your body faces east. Your left arm (if you're right-handed) points north and holds the bow straight out. As you draw, you move your right elbow south until you reach full draw and the bow hits its back wall.

From here, your right elbow and right shoulder will continue to move, but now they're heading west, toward your spine. "Most people call this 'back tension,'" White says, "but I call it back motion, because your elbow and shoulder blade are moving toward the spine. The release finger is held firm, like a hook, and as you continue moving your right elbow toward your spine, that hook engages the release and the arrow is shot."

This system works so well, according to White, because it places all the work on large muscle groups (arm, shoulder, back) and none on small muscle groups (hand, wrist, trigger finger). "Typically, archers screw up in one of two ways," White says. "They try to hold the pin steady on the target by moving the wrist or hand of their bow arm, or they try to squeeze the release trigger with their finger. If these small muscle groups get control, they immediately sabotage the large muscle groups and the arrow is off line."

When White practices, he focuses only on perfect form. "Learn that and accuracy will take care of itself."

The Drills

1: Take the sight off your bow. Stand 10 to 15 feet in front of a hay bale without a target on it. Shoot a dozen arrows into the bale, focusing only on proper form and not on where your arrows hit. Repeat for three to four sessions.

2: Install the sight. Stand 10 to 15 feet from the same targetless bale. Pick an imaginary spot to shoot at. Don't try to hold the sight pin dead still on the spot; rather, let the pin "float" over it. Shoot a dozen arrows this way and repeat for three or four sessions.

3: Have a friend stand behind you, watching carefully. Now shoot several arrows with your shirt off (women can wear a sports bra). Your buddy should see the shoulder blade of your release arm moving toward your spine after you hit full draw.

4: Once you've mastered proper form, begin shooting at a 3-D animal target. Ignore any marked bull's-eyes or vital zones. Decide on an acceptable "kill" area and strive to put your shots within it. Concentrate on form and let your sight pin float on the kill zone; your arrows will follow.