Fun, addictive, and dare we say…healthy–archery is a fast growing sport that is accessible to any and all comers. Archery is a way to challenge you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Where does one start, however, when getting into the hobby of archery? Do you just pick up a bow and some arrows and fire off into the woods? Do you need to be more disciplined?
These questions and more will be answered in our guide to Archery for Beginners.
What Is the History of Archery?
A man with a bow and arrow goes back millennia. Scientists have found evidence of arrowheads dating back nearly 70,000 years.
The man needed to hunt and developed the bow and arrow system to achieve their goals.
This simple piece of engineering changed the way we live and transformed the man into the world’s top intelligence.
Throughout the ages, different civilizations have built their own bow and arrow designs. Each with its own unique materials, style, and design.
The needs of a particular group of people were taken into account during their development.
While firearms have overtaken bows and arrows as the primary source of shooting sports, archery still holds a place that is near and dear to the hearts of many.
Bow-hunters, Olympians, and archery clubs are testaments to a traditional hobby that has existed for thousands of years.
How Do I Start?
The first step to beginning your journey into archery is to know how you’re going to shoot. Archery can be separated into three main categories: sport, hunting, and cultural.
Let’s take a look at each of these disciplines and ask yourself the questions as you read to determine where you are in your adventure.
Looking to get into competitive shooting? Want to shoot at long distances at tiny targets like Robin Hood? Want to develop consistency and accuracy? Like rigid and strict rules?
Does taking down an animal with the skills your ancient ancestors had sound appealing? Looking for an extra challenge to developing your skill?
Want to connect with your heritage? Enjoy staying calm, cool, and collected? Looking to use archery as a way to meditate by focusing inwardly before shooting?
Once you’ve answered the questions of why you want to shoot, continue reading to uncover what you need to get started.
What Type of Bow and Arrows Should I Purchase?
The discipline you choose–sport, hunting, or cultural–can have a lot of bearing over what type of bow you purchase and the type of arrow that you use. The decision should be researched and you should be comfortable with your purchase.
Types of Bows
The bow decision is one that plagues many first time archers. There are three main bow types–recurve, compound, and traditional. Let’s analyze what that means.
Recurve bows are the most popular type of bow today. They are reliable, accurate, and easily fired. They look like the traditional bows used throughout history.
In fact, they took the top spot on the popularity chart from the similar longbow once it fell out of fashion.
Used by both beginners and Olympians, recurve bows are low maintenance, versatile, and have a standard draw weight or peak amount of weight when archer pulls on the bow. They come in a variety of pricing options from affordable to very expensive.
Some negatives about recurve bows are their lack of adjustability and the fact that they aren’t great for game hunting.
Type of Archer: Sport
Relatively new to the scene, compound bows were developed around the mid-60s.
More mechanical than a recurve bow, compound bows can fire arrows more quickly and accurately than others. It’s a highly efficient, well-engineered option.
One of the main benefits of a compound bow is that the weight of the draw lessens when pulling it back.
While you have to hold the weight the full time of your shot with a recurve bow, the compound bow lessens your effort allowing you to focus on the shot at hand.
While lighter and more compact, the compound bow does have some drawbacks.
They’re expensive and consistently need adjustment when beginning. They are also prone to maintenance issues leading to more headaches.
Type of Archer: Hunting
Some may just feel that they want to connect to their ancestors through archery. You may want to learn about primitive bows and arrows to empathize with the past. Whatever your reasons, there are many that share the same feelings.
Some competitions do exist when using cultural weapons in modern times. They are mostly recreational so if competitive it might be better to look elsewhere. They are a romantic way to fall in love with the hobby of archery.
These bows are tricky to use and have a high learning curve (no pun intended). They are high maintenance and take tons of practice to shoot accurately and consistently.
Type of Archer: Cultural
Types of Arrows
The type of arrow is also a highly personal choice based on your preference. The best advice is to shoot a number and wide range of bow and arrow types so that you can gain a feel for their ability.
That being said, let’s look at the types of arrows that you’re most likely to see in the store or at a range.
If you want authenticity to match the archery you’ve seen in movies from Lord of the Rings to the Hunger Games, wooden arrows are your solution.
- Inexpensive – Today’s arrows are so technologically advanced that simplicity seems desirable.
- Authentic – The original arrows were traditionally made from wood.
- Hands On – It’s a joy to learn by doing. Creating your own arrows out of wood can give you a more substantial knowledge base of archery because you learn more about the physics of archery.
- Hands On – Yes, it’s fun to build your own arrows but they take forever.
- Weak – Wooden arrows can break and warp over time.
- Uniformity – Each wooden arrow is a little different than the last making your shooting inconsistent.
A favorite by archery groups and programs, including youth camps. They help to understand whether archery is the sport for you, or not.
- Inexpensive – A great starting arrow for the beginner. Fiberglass arrows are the cheapest of the quality arrows.
- Ready Made – You won’t be making your own fiberglass arrows anytime soon. These come premade so that you can hit the range ready to go.
- Consistent – Fiberglass arrows are almost uniformly consistent. They weigh the same and fly the same.
- Customization – Tending to come in standard sizes, you may find it difficult to acquire custom-size fiberglass arrows.
- Risk – Arrows made from fiberglass can splinter which can be dangerous.
- Limited – These arrows are designed for recurve bows only, if you have a different bow, fiberglass is not an option.
Competition may be your ultimate goal when getting into archery. If so, aluminum arrows are a great way to get a quality arrow without the expensive costs of the more extreme composite arrows.
- Customization – Archery manufacturers can customize aluminum arrows to match the size for you and your bow. They can also be colorized or wrapped for even more flair.
- Accessibility – Both recurve and compound bow archers can use aluminum arrows in their rigs.
- Uniform – Aluminum arrows are designed to be durable and last. They are uniformly straight with excellent engineering.
- Expensive – Aluminum comes with a high cost and its felt when purchasing these arrows.
- Soft – Aluminum is a “soft” metal and can be prone to bending, or what is called “canoeing” if they’re hit by another arrow
- Consistency – Individual arrows are built consistently but performance can vary depending on bow and weight of arrow.
Hunters will choose carbon as their material of choice for arrows in their kit. They are lightweight, durable, and fly through the air quickly–allowing you take down some of the larger predators.
- Long Lasting – Carbon is highly durable giving these arrows a longevity over its competition.
- Customizable – You can customize sizes of carbon arrows to match you and your bow.
- Lightweight – Carbon fiber is notoriously lightweight and fly straight and fast. Carbon arrows fit this description completely.
- Velocity – These arrows fly when springing from the bow but quickly lose that velocity while in the air.
- Expensive – These are professional arrows and are priced accordingly.
- Accessories – A limited amount of accessories are available for carbon arrows.
The hybrids of the group–composite arrows are a combination of both aluminum and carbon engineering. This is the choice arrow of Olympians and World Champions in the competitive scene.
- Quality – You typically will not find a better arrow on the market than a composite arrow.
- Long-Distance – As a professional choice, composite arrows fly straighter for longer than any other arrow on this list.
- Durability – These arrows will have to be put through extreme stresses to break or even splinter.
- Expensive – Buying a carbon arrow by itself is already a little pricey. Add in some aluminum and you’re looking at an expensive purchase to outfit your kit.
- Not for Beginners – Composite arrows need to be paired with the proper archer and bow. Talking with a professional is best before purchasing these types of arrows.
What to Look For
Bows are a major investment because their capabilities vary wildly. Looking at major retailers, a beginner archery package can be had for as little as $100 all the way up to well over $1,000. If you’re just starting out, it’s insanely difficult to narrow down your choice.
Now that you know more about the types of bows available. There are a few additional categories to look into before making your final purchase.
We call these the Four A’s–accessibility, adjustability, affordability, and availability.
- Accessible: Your new gear should be low maintenance and have clear care instructions.
- Adjustable: A solid bow will be adjustable and fit the archer rather than perform as a one size fits all solution. Arrows should be found in a variety of standard sizes so you can sample until you find what you like.
- Affordable: Archery can quickly become an expensive hobby. Your beginner bow and arrows should not be too expensive.
- Available: Bows and arrows that allow you to easily find parts to replace and repair are key to entering the hobby.
It’s important to remember that as you grow in the hobby, you will increase your investment.
Starting at a lower price point will give you entry and the chance to purchase better equipment down the line.
A solid bow and arrow kit can be had at a lower price point, so long as you remember the Four A’s.
Where Do I Start?
Now that you know how to start (you’ve chosen your discipline–sport, hunting, or cultural) and you’ve chosen your bow (recurve, compound, or traditional), you’re finally ready to begin shooting.
Of course, you can skip the choosing a discipline and bow and join up with an archery club or group to practice.
However, that’s probably what got you excited to dive deeper into the hobby anyway.
No matter what level you’re at (owning a bow or using another person’s) archery opportunities abound.
An archery range is where you’ll meet other archery enthusiasts who love to practice the sport.
You don’t have to join a club (keep reading though) to get the benefits of a range.
You can test out new bows, a variety of arrows, and different ranges to expand your abilities all without purchasing forever gear.
Many of your local archery clubs or organizations will have great relationships with archery ranges.
They might offer discounted pricing, amateur tournaments, or even free lessons.
Archery clubs are an invaluable source of information for beginners through experts often providing lessons for a nominal fee.
Setting up a backyard or indoor archery range is easier than ever thanks to the internet.
You have access to numerous targets including blocks, bags, 3D animals, and more at your disposal.
Get creative but remember to stay safe. The last thing that you want is the neighbor’s cat streaking through your range. Be thoughtful about setting up your area.
How Do I Know If I’m Any Good?
We all want to be great at what we do but remember that you’re a beginner. You also need to think about what your goals are for the hobby.
Your hobbies will guide your practice and that’s what you’ll need a lot of to become proficient in archery–practice.
Are you looking to become a professional? Are you trying to enter competitions? Want to take down a deer? Knowing your goals ahead of time will give you definitive proof of your progress.
These don’t just have to be long-term goals either. Before jumping into practice (not at all a bad thing by the way), determine a goal for the day.
Maybe you just want to hit the target consistently. That’s a terrific beginning place to start your daily practice.
Shoot with a purpose and growth will follow.
Practice Makes Perfect
Let your goals guide your practice. Looking to just start off–find tutorials on the internet and practice until you’re comfortable.
Looking at something more specific? Let’s say you want to hit a bullseye on the target from 15 feet away. Set up a target, mark 15 feet, and shoot until you can hit that bullseye consistently.
Looking to hit a moving target? Options are available in the form of targets on wires. Your local archery range may even have this available for you.
This is where archery clubs and organizations can be invaluable. They can recommend practice schedules to achieve your goals and become better at your new hobby.
While you build your skills you can now track your progress thanks to technology.
Several decent apps have hit the market allowing you to set sight marks, record rounds, and track progress.
While it may seem a little tedious to update the information into the app after each shot, it will help you become a better archer.
Some apps have even become a lot more creative with their builds. Essentially gamifying practice–they’ve made it where your information can be used in a virtual tournament.
Participating in these “tournaments” will give you practical experience that will carry over to the range.
Is That All? Do I Need More Information?
When beginning a new hobby or sport, the more information the better. It can feel overwhelming to research, learn, practice, rinse, and repeat, over and over again.
The benefits that you acquire over that time period will yield bountifully.
No matter where you are at in your archery journey, hopefully, this guide gave you a little more insight into this fun, healthy, and challenging sport.
Don’t get to bogged down on specifics and get your hands on a bow, some arrows, and let them fly.
Archery is one of the original sports and to take part in the adventure puts you in touch with your ancient ancestors.