Photographing yourself at full-draw to analyze your shooting form – it’s the only “selfie” that’s truly acceptable for bowhunters to take. If you’ve never done it, there’s a lot that you can learn by studying photos of your shooting form. But what, specifically, should you be looking for? What constitutes good form?
Not everyone has to look the exact same way when they’re at full-draw, but there are several things to look out for. Your form is intimately tied to the draw length that you’re shooting. As we have already discussed, shooting a bow with the correct draw length will enable you to shoot with proper form, increase your ability to hold steady on the target, will increase your accuracy. Shooting with an improper draw length will mean that you contort yourself to the bow, and lose both comfort and effectiveness.
Taking the Photo
The best way to analyze your form and draw length is to have someone take full-length photos of you at full-draw. Be sure that these photos are taken at a direct angle, and include your entire body – from head-to-toe. Make sure that you are standing on level ground and holding your bow so that the arrow is level with the plane of the floor. What you don’t want, for example, is to be aiming at a target that’s placed down on the ground, which would force you to have a lean or bend in your form. You want a photo like this…
I am far from being perfect in my shooting form – in fact I am working on some changes right now – but there are several areas that I have improved upon in the last few years. Let’s dissect my photo and look at key indicators of proper draw length and form.
One of the first indicators of an incorrect draw length and misaligned form is posture. You want to be standing straight up when you are at full draw. Your head should be over the center of your body, your neck should be straight, your hips shouldn’t be forward or back, and your body weight should be squarely over your feet.
Draw a straight line down your body and see how everything lines up. As you can see in my photo, I’m mostly straight. I do settle back slightly though, which is something that I could work on further.
2) Release Arm
Your release arm should be in line with the arrow. If you draw a line from the back of the release-arm elbow, through the arm to the release itself, then you should be able to continue that line along the arrow and towards the target. If your release-arm elbow is high in the air, or low behind the shoulder, then you probably need to change your draw length on the bow, where you are coming to anchor, or the way that your release is configured.
Your shoulders should be parallel with the ground (and the path of the arrow), and intersect with your vertical posture to form a perfect “T” shape. One of the most common misalignments that you’ll see are archers that drop or force the front shoulder down, or leave their rear shoulder high in the air.
4) Bow Arm
The bow arm should be extended, but not locked at the elbow joint. Although my bow arm might appear to be perfectly straight in this photo, I do have a natural, comfortable bend at the joint. You don’t want to fully lock the arm out, and you don’t want a deep bend in the arm – either one will lead to instability while aiming.
5) Nock Position
The most important aspect of how your form is connected to your draw length is analyzing where the nocking point comes to rest on your face. Ideally, you want the end of the arrow shaft (where the arrow shaft meets the nock) directly under your eye. This should also put the point where the nock meets the arrow string under your eye as well.
This is a critical point to analyze, but it can be “cheated”. If you’re contorting your neck, leaning way forward/back in posture, or raising/dropping your shoulders – then you can get good nock position with the wrong draw length and bad form. But, if you’ve followed the first 4 form points, then this 5th point should be true if your bow is set at the proper draw length.
6) Release Arm (Rear)
Another photo angle that can help you diagnose form and draw length is to have someone photograph you from above, or from the rear. What we are looking for in this photo is release-arm alignment with the trajectory of the arrow. If your release arm elbow is back behind the hand and pointing your arm out away from the body, then your draw length is likely too long. On the other hand, if your elbow is out away from your body, and the arm is pointing back in towards the body, then your draw length might be too short. I’m obviously left-handed, so that in mind when analyzing my photo above.
What do you look like?
Now it’s your turn. Have someone take a good photo of you and full-draw and analyze your form according to the points above. You might be surprised what you see!
And as always, let me know if you have any questions…