Getting Started in Archery

If you are looking for a new and passionate pursuit then the sport of archery may be for you! Archery is a discipline that can be taken to any level that you choose. You can shoot on your own, with friends, or in a club - you can hunt, compete locally, nationally, or on a worldwide level. Archery is also a sport that is enjoyed by the entire family and within our association you will find many families that shoot together.


Tom Rose

9/2/20137 min read

Here you will find resources such as advice on how to get you and your family started, where the archery shops and clubs are, what the Minnesota State Archery Association can offer to you, and short bit of history on the sport and art of archery.

Taking the first step

You have to be the one to take the first step, and that involves taking the time to lookup one of your local sellers of archery equipment. You can call on one of the larger chains or you can head to one of several specialized shops.

The larger chains sometimes have more of a selection but often do not have the expertise on hand to handle custom issues - although this is becoming less and less the norm. The specialized shops generally have the staff and expertise to give you individual attention and to get you heading in the right direction right away. If you are just starting you should try one of the specialized archery-only shops, and then later use the larger chains once you have experience and can solve the riddles for yourself. A partial listing of shops contacts follows this section.

There are some caveats related to the choosing of archery equipment and it might be wise to go to the shop having an idea of some basic requirements. You should know as well that shops sell complete bow and arrow packages that will have just about everything that you need. Of course they also sell everything required separately as well and will have the advice on how to put a bow and arrow package together for you.

Equipment Requirements

You will need at a minimum:

  • A bow - recurve or compound.

  • 6 - 12 arrows.

  • A sight (both on the bow and in the string) - unless you are planning to shoot instinctively, without sights.

  • An arrow rest that mounts to the bow and supports the arrow while the bow is being drawn back.

  • A string release mechanism - either a glove, tab, or mechanical release.

  • A case for the bow - bows must be transported in a case.

  • A stabilizer - not required but does as it says, adds stability.

  • An arrow quiver, or holder - not required but nice to keep your arrows together and handy.

Important questions that should be answered by the shop:

  • What can I get for how much money I can afford to spend?

  • Does the bow that I am interested in buying feel right and natural in my hand - is the grip right for me?

  • Does the bow seem too heavy?

  • Is the draw length set correctly?

  • Is the draw weight right for me?

  • Is the bow suitable for my release style - fingers or a mechanical string release?

Bow Styles

There is some variation in equipment, now a days most archers shoot compound bows but some shoot recurve bows. You can differentiate a compound from a recurve by the cams and wheels on the compound and by the total absence of anything like that on the recurve. On the compound bow (see the compound bow figure) the object of the cams and wheels is to let off the draw weight when the bow is drawn back.

Pick up and draw back the string on a compound and as you draw the string nearer your body you will feel the draw weight increase until the cams lobe over and the draw weight reduces by as much as 80% - that means that most of the energy of the drawn bow is stored in the limbs and that you are holding only 20% of it! You can imagine how beneficial this letting off must be while hunting, but it is also a great advantage to the target archer who with a compound bow can take a little more time concentrating on aiming rather than just getting it to full draw and releasing it because it cannot be held without strength for very long.

A compound bow is adjustable too. Everybody is different, and because of that everybody pulls a bow back differently; some pull it a little shorter, and some pull a little longer, because of body traits like longer arms, smaller torso, etc. To some degree most compound bows can have their draw length adjusted and this helps to get the bow fit personally for you. A compound bow can also be adjusted in draw weight - meaning that by making the draw weight adjustment the bow can be easier to draw back or harder. Of course with a decrease or increase in draw weight the energy that the bow has to propel arrows is changed correspondingly.

As already stated the recurve bow (see the recurve bow figure) is a little different than a compound bow, it does not have the cams and wheels, it is not adjustable in draw weight, and it does not let off the draw weight - you pull the entire weight of the bow throughout the drawing of it. A recurve archer starts aiming as they draw the bow back and releases a lot quicker than a compound archer would or has to.

Still, many archers hunt and compete using recurves - recurves are in fact the only type of bow allowed at the Olympic Games (compound are allowed at the Para-Olympic Games) - recurves are classic and many archers prefer the heritage, simplicity, and greater challenge of shooting a recurve bow.


Arrows now a days are made primarily from aluminum, carbon, fiberglass, or wood. Most archers shoot aluminum and/or carbon arrows. Aluminum tends to be less expensive while carbon costs more but is more durable.

An arrow has installed a nock that snaps onto the bowstring, feathers or vanes (a rubberized feather) glued to the shaft, and a field tip or broad head on the business end. The field tip is used for practice and for shooting at targets while the broad head is normally used just for hunting.


Sights are mounted in the 'sight window' (see the figure of the compound bow) and come in many different configurations. All sights adjust up and down (elevation) and in and out (windage) with one difference being whether a tool is required (usually an Allen wrench) to make the adjustment or with just a spin of a dial.

Other differences are the use of fiber optics and the use of optical scopes. Fiber optics gather light and because of it present a bright point of reference to place on the target. Optical scopes are like having a binocular on the bow, the scope makes the target appear closer so that you see it better. A very basic sight would have some pins with a little shaped metal ball on the end, more advanced will have a fiber optic pin instead of the ball, and even further would have a scope. Of course the further you take this the more it will cost.

There is also what is known as a 'peep sight' that most shooters have tied into their strings, so that when they draw the bow back they draw the 'peep' toward their aiming eye. The peep has a small hole through which the archer lines up his/her eye with the sight pin on the bow and then aims through to the center of the bulls eye on the target.

Keep in mind that you don't have to shoot with sights at all, and that in competition there are classes that have as a feature the absence of sights.

Arrow Rest

The arrow rest is something that you have to buy and either mount on the bow yourself or have the shop do it - it is not hard. The arrow rest is mounted just below the sight window on the bow and supports the arrow as it is drawn back.

Like sights, and it seems most other things, you can go to from a simple and inexpensive rest to a completely adjustable expensive one.


You will need to think about how you are going to release the string - will you use fingers or a mechanical release?

Kids when starting sometimes prefer the simplicity of fingers but a mechanical release will result in a more accurate and repeatable shot.

Again, another choice that has to be made but like the rest is not too hard. Listen to the advice of the shop and get started. Later, after your knowledge has grown you can think more about what it is that you really want to do.

Stabilizers, Cases, and Quivers

There are accessories that will make life a little easier.

Most folks use some form of stabilizer. A stabilizer screws into the front of the bow and sticks out anywhere from a foot to 3 feet. The purpose of a stabilizer is to set the bow up onto a plane where it is balanced in the hand and holds better on the target. A secondary effect of a stabilizer is that it takes up some of the arrow shock when the arrow is release - which quiets the bow and makes it more tolerable to shoot all day.

You will most likely need a case too. In most areas a bow is treated like a firearm and that requires it to be transported in a case.

A quiver as well is nice. A quiver keeps all your arrows together, and belted to your waist puts them right where you need them.

Shopping for Equipment

When you get to the shop and start looking at bows, do not be afraid to just go ahead and pick them up. Talk to the shop assistant about how to properly grip a bow, try several out, and when you do think about how the grip feels in your hand. The grip is a very important aspect and it has got to fit you.

Try a few bows until you find one that feels good in grip and in weight. Make sure that a shop assistant is helping you before you draw a bow back. Drawing a bow back is more a matter of confidence than strength but be warned that the first time you try it it may seem daunting, but after just a few times your confidence will grow and you will have no trouble at all drawing.

Talk to the shop assistant about draw length and make sure that they measure yours (they should have a measuring bow that does this). It is vital that your draw length is correct before you leave the shop with your new bow. Good shops will know this and it should not be too much of a concern, just make sure that it comes up.

If you choose, bow packages are available that will feature a pretty good bow with arrows, a sight, and a rest, all for no more than a few hundred dollars.