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How to Aim a Bow Without Sights – Complete Guideline

Quick Summary

Even if it’s going to challenge archers each time they shoot, more archers are going back to the traditional archery which makes them feel like they are living in medieval times. They use a bow without sights, stabilizer, scopes or different types of new gear and accessories. I believe it’s because we are unable to satisfy our instincts with the current kind of bows being sold today. That’s why here in this article, we are attempting to supply the answer to the question: How to aim a bow without sights?

how to aim a bow without sight

 I’ve searched A LOT. There weren’t enough article of quality to explain everything about shooting without using sights: only some poor videos and lots of garbage discussions in archery forums. So, I went more in-depth into my research for you and present my findings and additional helpful information to you here.

In-depth: How to Aim a Bow Without Utilizing A Sight

Here’s the big problem. We’re not growing like our ancestors. We always try to use every innovation technology presents us.  So, even if the traditional archery is a relaxing type of sport, it can also be frustrating. 

With the right methods, ANYONE can be very accurate without using a sighting mechanism.

anyone can accurate in archery

 In this article, we’ll present some different methods for aiming longbows or recurve bows. You can try each method of aiming and decide which way is best for you.

Which Types of Archery is Recommended?

Traditional archery primarily consists of two types which are instinctive and aimed shooting. Instinctive archers are usually using recurve bows and longbows. However, on the other hand, aimed shooters normally use a compound bow with different types of sights to aim easily. We cannot count them as a traditional archer because they use compound bows. By the way, if you’re using a compound bow but want to shoot within a more traditional way, you have some options, too. For instance, you can determine a spot on your bow and use it as a sight. To describe aimed shooting traditional archers,  we can only count the archers who shoot with recurve or longbows and use something else other than a sight for aiming.

  You can check our article about types of archery to find out which one is perfect for you.

Aiming Tips

Following are some basic archery tips that you should teach yourself to help train your subconscious to be successful at how to aim a bow without sights. If you want to avoid the most commonly made archery mistakes, preview this article before you begin to learn how to fix or prevent these problems.

Warning! Two things can affect the accuracy the most. The bow setup and the draw weight. So, it’s important to be sure that your bow is set up properly and has the right draw weight before you start.

Archery Form

The archery form is the most critical part which affects your shot. So, before you shoot, be sure that you warm up enough and relax your tense muscles (shoulder, upper back, neck, etc.)

Both Eyes Open

◊ First Mistake to Avoid! Most beginners want to start aiming with one eye. They close the other eye and aim with just one of them. This is another common mistake. It is important that you know that EVERY top archer keeps both eyes open. This behavior will also help you to maintain your posture and keep your bow in a vertical position. It is easier to aim, and it will be much more comfortable.

both eyes open while shooting

It’s important to emphasize not to start aiming until drawing the bow in your anchor point. You should focus on your body getting it into position before you start focusing on your aim.

Stance

Regardless of which type of archery you use, your stance is one of the most critical parts of your shot. Every shot cycle starts with the stance. First, stand in the same way every time. Secondly, stand at approximately 90 degrees to the target with your feet positioned shoulder-width apart. After that, the balance of your weight should be between your feet and shouldn’t lean in any direction. If you have trouble with leaning, you can turn a little bit toward the target.

 Warning! Remember that you can change a little bit of your stance. It doesn’t have to be as described above. You can find your own stance; whatever works for you. Just be comfortable and have consistency in your stance. These are the keywords for a good stance.

Your Bow Hand Behaviors

You should hold the bow gently like the bow only resist gravity with the tense of the string. Otherwise, it’ll affect your accuracy incredibly.

bow hand shape

The Shot Sequence

Another important archery tip that I can give you is the consistency of your shot sequence. I gave some step-by-step methodology in the instinctive archery chapter about this. However, it’s really important to nock the arrow in the same spot and draw the bow to the same anchor point.

Unfortunately, it’s something only you can improve yourself with LOTS of practice until it becomes a habit. You have to train your subconscious mind to do this automatically.

How to Aim a Bow without Sights? (Traditional Techniques) 

There’s a LOT of aiming methods and hundreds of different ways out there to shoot a bow. So, that gives us an individualized feature. This is the reason why so many people have a passion for traditional archery. Nevertheless, there are some commonly used aiming techniques without using sight. But other than instinctive shootings, these are not going to be our focus in this review. I’ll just give you the basic info about these methods.

traditional archer holds the bow

So, I’d like to review very different aiming styles that traditional archers use.

Gap Shooting

Just imagine a vertical line crossing through the center of the target. At close distance, you’re aiming the arrow a little bit below the bullseye. But, when you move away from the target, you start to aim directly through the bullseye, and at far distances, even higher from the center.

The adjustment at each distance depends on the draw weight, arrow type, fletchings and all the parameters that you can change. So, consistency is the keyword of aiming without sight.

Physics Behind the Arrow Trajectory

arrow trajectory and point on distance

Little Note! I became a much better instinctive archer after I learn the physics behind the trajectory of the arrow.

The picture above shows us the typical arrow trajectory. The point of your aim and the point of the arrow impact depends on every parameter of your shot. So, remind yourself that every bow is UNIQUE before looking for an answer on how to aim a bow. You should find that spot by yourself. In general, that distance is about  40 yards.

Let’s say, the point of distance is 40 yards, and the archer stands 25 yards from the target, The arrow will be nearly at its highest level of flight. So, at 25 yards, if the archer holds the bow in same sight picture as he shot like when he was on the point of distance, the arrow will arc up and impact higher than the spot where he aims in the sight picture.

How to Adjust Aiming Point?

shape of point of distance

Aiming low is the easiest way to change your launch angle. At 25 yards, you have to measure between the spot on the target you want to hit and the arrow impact on the target. At that distance, it might be 20-30 inches on a typical archery target. So, the archer should stick the tip of the arrow 30 inches below the target and release. The arrow will go up, draw an arc and rise into the spot they want to hit.


◊ Tip for gap shooting exercise! You can begin at 10 yards from the target and shoot a dozen arrows until you find the perfect spot mentioned above. Then, you can move back step-by-step. That will train your subconscious. As a result, you’ll improve the accuracy and most importantly consistency.


 All aiming methods other than instinctive archery are based on learning the point on distance of bow setup. This point is where the shooter’s line of sight and the trajectory of an arrow meet like below. This point varies from one-to-one. So, you have to find this by yourself. Remember! All parameters that can affect your shot, also affect this point.

Pick a Point

One method of gap shooting is to pick a point. Let’s say the target is 20 yards and the point on distance is 30 yards. In this case, the shooter knows that if he places the arrow on the bullseye, the arrow will impact the target nearly 12’’ above from the bullseye. So, if he picks a point 12’’ below the bullseye and shoots through it, theoretically, the arrow should hit the bullseye. In essence, archers are using this spot to try hitting a spot they really want to hit, and the trajectory carries the arrow above or below the spot.

drawing of pick a point

Gapping With the Shaft

Using the arrow’s shaft diameter is another method of gap shooting. Archers mainly use the shaft as measuring the gap size. So, how to aim a bow with this technique? Well … With a lot of practice at various distances, archers can learn how many shafts should be above or below the target are needed for their aiming adjustment. It’s not much different of a measurement method than the pick a point.

drawing of gapping with the shaft

String Walking

In this method, you’re moving your fingers along the string depends on how far you are from the target. While you’re shooting from 15 yards and 30 yards, your sight picture will be the same. You’re just going to make small movements on the sting. So, at closer distances, walk your fingers down a little bit on the string. But, conversely, walk your fingers up a little bit when you’re shooting at farther distances.

Warning! It’s critical to draw back while your finger is still at the same anchor point so the nock end of the arrow will be up high or down depending on your distance, and your arrow tip will always show the bullseye. Your sight picture will always be the same no matter what distance you are from the target!

Why String Walking?

String walking is the most accurate way to shoot a recurve or longbow. Also, it’s one of the most popular methods used in international competitions. String walking is very effective in various disciplines.

I’ve read and heard from lots of archers that this is a far better technique than the gap shooting.

 If you’re hunting, the string walking may not be the best choice for you. The animal you want to hunt might be at 25 yards. You get ready to shoot with the finger adjustment on the string. However, the animal can take another five steps closer during this time. So, how to aim a bow? In this case, you have to reset your bow and draw it again for 20 yards. The problem is the animal will always be on the move.

drawing of point on distance

Point on Distance

You can also make your own point on distance just by crawling down the string. For hunting, I recommend using a 25-yard fixed crawl. This is the same arrow setup as the previous example. What we have done is crawl down the string at 25-yard crawl.

The benefit of the fixed crawl is that we know at 25 yards, the arrow will hit the spot we want. By changing the point of distance from 40 yards to 25 and changing the launch angle of the arrow will allow us to reduce the gaps drastically. In this case, every distance below the 25 yards, makes your gaps more manageable.

Face Walking

In this method, the spot where you grip the string is the same. But you change your anchor point each time you shoot. In my opinion, that will ruin the consistency of your shots. For me, changing the anchor point is not a suitable method.

◊ Warning! If you’re preparing for a competition, most of the organizations do not allow face walking and string walking. You should check it before!

Split Vision

Split vision is very similar to the instinctive shot. It’s really hard to catch the differences as a third-person. It’s like looking at what an instinctive archer does but from the outside.

Instead of just focusing and seeing the spot on the target, what split vision archers do is they’re also aware of the arrow tip. In this method, vertical adjustments aren’t as precise as harder references system like gap shooting. It doesn’t have a specific unit of measurement rather than it can be described as a visual-feel based reference system.

Archers specifically say like, I’m 15 yards from the target, and I need to place that arrow tip here. Their concentration is 80% on the spot; wherever they’re aiming. In full draw, they’re using the arrow tip for the last alignments. But, for most of their shooting process, they’re relying on muscle memory as instinctive archers.

Instinctive Shooting

When someone says something about traditional bows or shooting with recurve or a longbow, they instantly think of instinctive aimers.

Instinctive Archery takes reputation. A significant barrier awaits for those compound archers who leave their modern technology behind.

Instinctive shooter draw the bow
Instinctive Shooter

◊ First thing, you should remind yourself is ‘’the more practice you have, the more accurate you will be.’’ Instinctive archer learns how to shoot by shooting hundreds of arrows to the same spot. And your mind will program itself. It will give you the ability to hit the spot you want based on angles, trajectory and the distance from the target. Remember, it will take a LONG TIME to be a master.

The Secret of Instinctive Archers

Instinctive archers just star at the target and allow their muscle memory to get their arrow to impact where they want it to go. Indeed, it’s going to be like throwing a ball after some time.

The keyword of instinctive shooting is the turn your subconscious to accuracy. You just need to shoot LOTS of arrows until you learn that instinctive shooting feeling. Unfortunately, this is the biggest con of instinctive archery. You will have to shot thousands and thousands of arrows at different angles and distances to be able to get your arrow to impact your aiming spot each time.

Step-by-Step Instinctive Shooting

But how to aim a bow with instinctive shooting technique? You can find a quick guideline and checklist below for how to improve your consistency in instinctive archery.

  • Start approximately 8-10 yards from the target.
  • Your foot (the side from which you hold the bow), must be at about a 45-degree angle toward the target slightly behind your other foot.
  • Nocking the arrow in the same spot every time you shoot is critical.
  • Grabbing point of the bow should be the same.
  • Gripping the string in the same spot with the same part of fingers.
  • Drawing the string in the same anchor point with the same way. Always be consistent.
  • Increase the distance from the target after shooting a dozen arrows and achieve making a small arrow group.

What are Tips for that?

To keep your arrows grouped, it’s essential that the archer thinks about how the steps of their shooting.

Any distance beyond 50 yards becomes difficult. The range limit is undoubtedly the most significant disadvantage of instinctive shooting. That’s why you have to shoot LOTS OF arrows to teach your brain to adjust to the location of the target. It will take a long time to used to it. But don’t give up. Eventually, your brain will take over. Then, you will begin to hit the target exactly where you want.


Remember when you shoot at long range, the wind will affect the movement of your arrow. So, don’t be concerned with shooting in the crosswind and when you notice your arrows are going left or right.


If you let your brain take over, you will see your groups of arrows going well. Just follow the simple steps and practice. There is no easy way to learn it. Start from a certain distance and keep shooting until you have can consistently group the majority of the arrows.

So How to Aim a Bow without Sight?

◊ Remind yourself! In reality, instinctive shooting is not so different from shooting a basketball.

Instinctive aimers focus on the spot where they want the arrow to hit and nothing else. Other things are not noticeable. These shooters simply consciously ignore all the external references. So, their sight picture is purely focused on the spot they want the arrow to go. Everything else around the target like the riser, arrow tip, the arrowhead is blurry.

What do most archers do? (Summary of LOTS of discussion in archery forums)

I’ve read LOTS of archery forums and discussed with my archer friends for you and found some tips that you can surely use.

  • Do not over-think, just practice over and over again.
  • Confidence is good to have if you don’t become overconfident.
  • Start at 3 or 5 yards from the target. Instead of aiming just LOOK at a very small spot at the bullseye. After tons of practice, you will start hitting where you are looking/aiming.
  • At first, try to have a group of arrows in your target.
  • After months of practice, you can shoot from random distances and random situations. That will improve your subconscious and change your habit of aiming. You won’t aim anymore; just look and shoot.
  • The keyword of instinctive archery is not only focusing on the target. If you only do that, your consistency will not get any better. You won’t see improvement. The most important thing is having a consistent and repeatable shot cycle which means you put everything you do together in a specific order when shooting an arrow. If you are willing to repeat all parts of your shot process, your consistency will become much improved.

Conclusion

There is no need to choose one of them and move on only with that. But don’t forget becoming good with instinctive archery is not going to happen overnight. All the practicing will become tiresome, and you’ll get MAD.

You can also try gap shooting and see which one works best for you.

◊ Lastly, whatever aiming method you use, I highly recommend you have some knowledge arrow trajectory. In essence, I believe the secret of getting more accurate lies in understanding what your arrow is doing at different distances.

References

Reddit / How to aim without sight and other general form

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/paleoplanet69529/how-to-aim-accurately-without-a-sight-t56053-s20.html?sid=0fa99e8f263e09c88f6fe1ac488712e3

https://www.wikihow.com/Shoot-a-Recurve-Bow-Without-Sights-Accurately

https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100610083227AAswuJg&guccounter=1

https://www.archerytalk.com/vb/threadloom/threadloom.php?query=aiming%20without%20sight&tab=869

Archery Newbie / How to Aim a Recurve Bow Without a Sight

Archery Dude / Instinctive Archery: How to Aim a Bow Without Sights

Lancaster Archery Supply / Traditional Archery Aiming Techniques (Youtube)

3D Archery / The Secret to Instinctive Archery (Youtube)

The Push Archery / The Push – A Traditional Archery Film (Youtube)

Tim Wells Bow Hunter / shoot without sights (Youtube)

ArcheryWinchester / Aiming a Recurve Bow (Youtube)

Charles Archery Blog / Aiming with no sight

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