How to Shoot a Recurve Bow

Recurve BowMastering the use of a recurve bow takes practice and patience. Before you can begin learning how to shoot a recurve bow, you need to be familiar with the structure of the bow and the bow parts. Once you familiarize yourself with the various bow parts, you can have an easier time understanding guides and instructions explaining how to use the bow and bow shooting techniques. Before going into the steps for shooting a recurve bow, let’s examine the anatomy of a recurve bow, the different parts of the bow, and the purpose of each part so you can have a greater understanding of how recurve bows work.

Recurve Bow Anatomy

A recurve bow is shaped like the letter D in reverse when you hold it in your hand and aim it at a target. The bowstring runs from an upper limb straight down and tightly to the lower limb. At the end of each limb is an arrow nock or self nock (depending on the bow’s design) where the bowstring fits tightly into place. The body of the bow has a recurve design, hence its name. The working limbs are affixed to a nonworking handle and grip area called the riser. The working limbs create, by design, a continuous arc that curves from the portion of the riser all the way up to the tip of the limbs. Once the archer braces the bow, the string touches the belly of the upper and lower limbs.

In the riser area of the bow, there is a sight window, an arrow self (for resting the body of the arrow when the arrow is put into the nock position), and the grip. About 1/8 of an inch above the arrow shelf on the bow string the nocking point where the arrow nock is attached to the string.

Draw Weight and Length

Now that you know the basic parts of the recurve bow, you need to consider both draw weight and length. The term draw weight refers to the amount of force you will have to use in order to draw back the bowstring to the anchor point or anchorage. The anchorage/anchor point is the side of your nose, cheek, and mouth, with the arm and elbow pulled all the way back. The best draw weight when using a bow that requires about 75 percent of your total strength to pull it back. As a newbie, you might do well with a lighter bow so you can reduce the likelihood of muscle strain or injury. Consider that a bow with a heavier weight will tire your muscles more quickly, and this could minimize the amount of practice time you can get in target shooting. If you are a youth, you might also benefit from a lighter draw weight.

Draw length is a factor used to consider the arrow length you need. For this, you will need the help of another to assist you in measuring the distance from the tip of one middle finger to the opposing middle finger on the opposite hand when you are standing with your arms parallel to the ground. Your body forms the letter “T” for the purposes of this measurement. Make sure your back is straight, feet are slightly parted, and your shoulders are back while you are being measured. The measurement is divided by 2.5 to find out the draw length. You can add up to one inch extra to get the correct arrow lengths for your needs.

Selecting Arrow Weight

The weight of the arrow will determine how the arrow flies and the amount of penetration the arrow is capable of achieving. Many arrows are crafted out of carbon or fiberglass materials so they remain quite light. Aluminum arrows are a bit heavier, so are better when hunting animals because the arrow has a better flesh penetrating potential. For target shooting, fiberglass and carbon arrows remain ideal options. You can get arrows made out of wood and copper as well, but these arrows are prone to breaking and splintering. Copper arrows are costly as well.

Equipment Extras

You may not think you need accessories, and ultimately you don’t. You can forgo accessories and simply master recurve bow shooting with a bow, arrow, arrowheads, and your own skills. However, you can really enhance your shooting experience with an investment in some simple accessories. One highly recommended extra is an arm guard. The piece of gear is placed on your forearm of the arm that you hold the bow with, and it helps protect your skin from the backlash of the bow string. Likewise, a finger tab can protect your fingers from wear and tear during practice sessions and hunting. Other shooting extras you might want to consider include a clicker: A tool that lets you know when the arrow is drawn back far enough to offer you an ideal pull. A sight can help improve your aim. Finally, you can create your own target with a couple of hay bales, or you can invest in an archery target to create your own makeshift shooting range right in your back yard.

Shooting: Stance and Form

When you are preparing your stance, you need to have your feet should width apart as you straddle the imaginary shooting line. The side of your body will face the target: Your head, shoulders, torso, and hips are all perpendicular to the target. This is when you take up an arrow, nock it by attaching the nock to the bow string, and then elevate the bow into draw position.

Note that you are standing perpendicular to the target. If you are left hand dominant than your right hip is facing the target first, and vice versa if you are right-hand dominant. If you are ambidextrous and comfortable shooting either way, it makes no difference which side you choose to put perpendicular to the target in question. Keep your posture straight and do not lean in or away from the target. As you straddle the invisible shooting line, do so while keeping your feet firmly in place. You may want to put one first about an inch ahead of the other. When you are ready, turn your head toward the target in question. Keep the rest of your body in the same position and only turn your head.

Make sure you are holding up your bow with your non-dominant hand. Keep the bow firmly in the air. Keep your gripping wrist relaxed and do not grip the bow too tensely: It will affect the accuracy of your shot. With the arrow in the nock, the rest of the arrow should be perpendicular to the ground; you need to place the end of the arrow shaft on the arrow rest.
Keep the arm holding up your bow locked at the elbow: Doing this protects your forearm during the shot and makes it easier for you to draw back the bow to full draw.

Before doing anything else, double check and make sure your path of the trajectory is free of people, animals, and other undesired targets. Using the muscles in your back instead of those in the upper arms, pull back the string to the anchor point. Hold into position and use the sight on your bow (if you have one) to take aim. If you do not have a sight, simply close your non-dominant eye and take aim by viewing your target through your dominant eye.

Shooting the Bow

You do not have to pull back the string to release it. When you are ready, simply pull your fingers from the string as gently as you possibly can; this will ensure that your shot remains straight. You are simply relaxing your fingers and letting them fall from the string rather than letting the string go or pulling back more and letting go. Remain in position until the arrow you have fired strikes its target: This gives the released arrow the time it needs to be released from the string, accelerate off and away from your bow, and it prevents accidental disruption of the shot you’ve made.


Practicing your shot is what will perfect your shot. By repeating the same actions again and again, you’ll strengthen the back muscles you need to make a good shot with the bow and arrow. You will also improve your stance, concentration, aim, and release techniques.

Additional Resources:

Archery360’s How to Shoot a Recurve Bow, Simplified. Website. URL:

Hunting with Andrew McKean’s, “How to Shoot a Proper Recurve Bow,” Tips for Proper Grip. URL:

wikiHow’s How to Shoot a Recurve Bow. Website. URL: