A Bowhunter’s Selfie: Photographing Yourself to Analyze Shooting Form

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…

Full-Draw Photo

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.

1) Posture

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.

Archery Shooting Form Analysis

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.

3) Shoulders

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.

Nock Position on Face

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.

Release Arm Angle from Above

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…

Hunting As Pilgrimage

This quote by David Petersen sums it all up for me.

Hunting Pilgrimate Quote by David Peterson

While many hunters are simply pursuing hero shots and wall decorations – either of which I’ll gladly accept if they come my way – at my core, I’m pursuing something else.  Hunting is my pilgrimage.  Hunting provides me with the space to find myself, a challenge to test myself, and the quietness to escape myself.

Friends, I hope that hunting is more than just bragging rights for you, too…

“Cutting The Curve” in Extreme Elk Magazine

I pulled into the driveway after work, parked my car in the garage and walked to the mailbox.  I pulled a stack of paper out of the mailbox and flipped through it all – bills, junk, ads, bills, hunting magazine.  Woo hoo!    I was excited to get the latest issue of Extreme Elk – as I always I am – but this time it was different.  I flipped back to the “Antler Tips” column, and there it was…my article!

My Article in Extreme Elk Magazine

It all started back in October, as I was debriefing on my Colorado elk hunt, and talking with other elk hunters about my experience.  I wanted to summarize the incredibly helpful information that others had poured into me, and share the lessons that I learned (and am still learning) for other “up and coming” elk hunters.  Thankfully, Corey Jacobsen, the editor of Extreme Elk (who is also a 7-time world champion elk caller, founder of Elk101.com, and accomplished do-it-yourself elk hunter) liked my idea.

Many thanks to Corey and the rest of the crew at Extreme Elk, not only for publishing my article in this issue, but more-so for providing the most informational, entertaining, and certainly best-designed elk hunting magazine out there.

This statement has nothing to do with my article and has everything to do with the fact that I am a reader first, and have been a subscriber of Extreme Elk since day one: If you’re an elk hunter, you will absolutely love this magazine.

If you’re not a subscriber, you’re missing out.

 

4 Ways That Archers Can Measure Their Draw Length

What’s your draw length? Are you sure? How do you know? We will begin to answer those questions today.

Even if you think you know what your draw length is, I encourage you to read this post (and the next one) with an open mind. The number of archers and bowhunters that I see shooting a bow with an incorrect draw length is astounding.  That’s not to say anything bad about those shooters; after all, they’re probably just doing what they’ve been told to do.

The fact is, you can shoot a bow that is too short or long in draw length, but your form, comfort, and accuracy will suffer. If we want to be more accurate archers, and more effective bowhunters, then it’s critical that we shoot a bow that’s setup with our ideal draw length.

Measuring Your Draw Length

A good archery pro shop can find your draw length and help set you up with a bow that fits you.  But sometimes even archery shops have a “that’s close enough” mindset, and don’t measure people properly.

Thankfully, there are several easy ways that you can measure your draw length at home, with the help of a friend. Let’s look at the methods, and then we’ll discuss the differences and see which one is most accurate.

1) Wingspan / 2.5

Draw Length Measurement

This method is no doubt the most popular. Begin by standing up straight, and extending (but don’t over-stretch) your arms out to the side, so that they are in line with one another at shoulder height. Have your friend measure your wingspan – from the tip of one middle finger to the other – and then divide that number by 2.5.

2) (Wingspan – 15) / 2

Draw Length Measurement

This is a variation on the previous method, but instead of dividing your wingspan by 2.5, you subtract 15 from your wingspan and then divide that number by 2.

3) Buttons to Base

Draw Length Measurement

In this method you once again stand straight up and extend one arm out at shoulder level. However, this time you’re looking to measure from the center of your chest – the spot where you would button-up a dress shirt – out to the end of your wrist, below the palm.

4) Fist to Mouth

Draw Length Measurement

Get near a wall and pretend that you’re holding a bow. Stand with full-draw form and make a fist with the hand that would be holding the imaginary bow. Scoot up to the wall so that your fist is now touching the wall and you are still in a natural “full draw” form. Then, with good posture and shooting form, focus your eyes on your fist and have someone measure from the top of your fist to the corner of your mouth.

Which Method Is Most Accurate?

My results from the 4 measurements are…

  • 30.3”
  • 30.4”
  • 30.7”
  • 31”

It’s interesting to me that the first two methods involve a finger-to-finger wingspan, but your fingers have nothing to do with your draw length.  Someone with short or long fingers could have their numbers skewed by the wingspan measurements, but this method still seems quite accurate for most folks that try it.

The “buttons to base” measurement doesn’t involve the fingers/hand length and is an easy way to measure.  The final method, “fist to mouth”, makes a ton of sense, but I have found that it’s hard for some people to use proper form and posture, which can dramatically skew the results.

If I average all of my results together, I get 30.6”.  I have been shooting a 30” draw length for several years, but accounted for a little extra length with the way that my release and d-loop have been setup.   I recently tuned one of my bows out to 30.25”, which felt great.  I also have a 30.5” bow on order, and I am anxious to see how that feels.

My recommendation to new archers would be to try all of the methods mentioned above, and average all of the results.  For you archers and bowhunters that have been shooting a while, I suggest having someone take some photos of you shooting and then analyze your form for indicators that your draw length is correct, or needs to be adjusted one way, or another.  That’s exactly what we will do in the next post…

HOW TO: A DIY Archery Target For Your Home

My buddy, Jerud, has researched quite a few “DIY” archery targets, but he was never fully satisfied with the designs that he found.  Taking matters into his own hands, he came up with a durable, functional, easy-to-build field point target, and offered to share his design and instructions here, with you.

DIY Archery Target

This project should take about 3-4 hours, and only requires some basic building skills and tools.  Here’s what you need…

Required Materials:

  • Carpet or cardboard, or both; and lots of it
  • 2×4’s
  • (4) 3/8” x 36” all-thread
  • (8 each) 3/8” nuts, washers and oversized washers
  • 3 1/2” decking screws/wood screws

Tools:

  • Tape measure
  • Sharpie or carpenter’s pencil
  • Utility knife
  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Saw horses
  • ½” wood drill bit
  • Wrench
  • Arrow Puller (not for what you’d think)

Now that you know what you need, let’s get started…

For the remainder of these instructions I will be referring to the size of the target that I build, which is 36” wide by 23” tall and 12” deep, but you can modify these plans to build any size you wish.  For my target, the uncompressed stack of carpet was 32” tall. So, plan on a minimum of 5”-7” of compression for the carpet stacks (depends on type of carpet). Cardboard would be less, but I’m not sure how much less. My target is comprised of a 9’x8’ leftover piece of carpet, an 8’x6’ area rug, a handful of scrap pieces, and 1 box that was approximately 37” wide x 36” tall x 4” deep.

You want to make the most of every piece of material that you have, so take some time and carefully lay out your cuts to get the most useable material. Going 36” wide with the first piece of carpet (9’x8) was a no-brainer on the cut lines. The area rug took a little bit of thinking. I used 1 of my 2×4’s as a straight edge and a Sharpie to mark the cut lines. I made all of the cuts with a utility knife. You don’t need to worry about following the lines exactly – just start cutting and stay close, and it will all work out in the end. If you choose the cardboard route, I highly recommend a table saw for doing the cuts. (Note: Pieces not quite long enough or wide enough can be paired with other similar pieces to complete out a layer. Just make sure to overlap and place complete pieces before doing another “mixed” layer.)

Total time measuring and cutting carpet – 2 hours.

DIY Archery Target - Frame

I took a different route with the frame, compared to many other DIY target plans that are on the Internet. I turned my 2x4s on end and made a framework similar to a studded wall. Most other targets had used 2×4’s or larger lumber laying flat. This will cause the board to bow in the middle and loose compression on the target. Or, in extreme cases, the boards could fail.

One area of improvement would be to attach plywood to the side of each frame that will be in contact with the carpet. This is not necessary and will take up some of your available length of the all thread. I cut the main 2×4’s four inches wider than the carpet on each side. So for 36” carpet width, my 2×4’s are 44”. I cut the intermediate bracing 2×4’s eight inches, so the total depth of the frame is 11” compared to the 12” depth of carpet. For the holes in the 2×4’s for the all-thread, I measured in 2” from the end and drilled a ½” hole. Slide the all-thread through the holes and place oversized washer, regular washer, and nut on each end. Just get the nuts started flush on the end of the all-thread. All attachments were made with 3 ½” decking screws.

Total time cutting (power miter) and assembling (cordless drill) the frame – 1 hour.

Now it’s time to start adding the carpet to the frame. I laid the frame face down on the floor and started adding the layers of carpet. For anyone doing the math, my uncompressed stack was 32” tall and my available space in the frame is 29”. If you have help this is not an issue. I did not have help. Back to work. I started adding the carpet with the frame laying flat on the floor.  This corrects any errors in carpet cuts and makes the front flush. I ran out of room with about 6” stack of carpet remaining, so I started tightening the all thread down. I tightened it to the point that I could pick the frame up and the carpet stayed in place. I set the frame upright on saw horses and then removed the upper portion of the frame. This allowed me to add the remaining 6” stack of carpet, reinstall the frame and begin tightening it back down. The bottom all0thread I only tightened to about 4 threads showing. The top all-thread I initially tightened to about 5 ½” of thread showing. I let it set overnight – ok, I shot it up some then let it set – and then tightened it about another 1” of thread showing. How much you tighten it will depend upon your type of carpet. I would suggest compressing it about 5 inches and then shoot a “junk” arrow at the target and evaluate the results.

Total time installing carpet and tightening (wrench and arrow puller to hold all thread from turning) – 30 minutes.

Total build time 3.5 hours.

DIY Archery Target with Custom Target FacesI have been shooting and only one spot of target with no issues so far. My initial assessment is that I will get several years (even at 3,650 arrows a year) out of this target, along with the satisfaction that comes with building something useful yourself.

To give your practice more focus (and fun!) cover the front of the target with cardboard and then tape on any kind of printed target face that you want to shoot.

An optional addition…

I plan to make a 2×6” frame on casters for the target, so that I can free up my saw horses and easily move the target. I will install eyebolts in the top frame, so I can remove it from the 2×6 caster frame and hang it outside. Also, my arrows protrude through the back of the target a few inches, so I might add slot on the back using 2×4’s and plywood to allow me to slide in a piece of 2” pink foam insulation board. I am also considering just boxing in the back side with 2×4’s and plywood and packing it full/tight with old rags as a cheaper alternative. It’s really not a big issue currently, but I’m always tweaking.  (Tweaking as in “improving”.  Not to be confused with twerking).

Materials required for the addition…

  • Plywood ¼” minimum
  • 2” pink foam insulation board
  • 2” decking screws
  • 2×6’s
  • Caster wheels
  • Eye bolts

A warning for micro-diameter arrows…

This target will not stop my micro-diameter, Vicotry VAP arrows. The concrete wall behind my target is all that kept these arrows from a complete pass-through. (They hit so hard that the tip chipped the wall.) I can shoot Carbon Express Pile Drivers (476gr @ 279fps) with no problems, but the Victory VAP (401gr @ 300fps) will pass through.  To remedy this, I will be building a 4-6” deep rag compartment on the back, which should stop the micro-diameter arrows.