When on the course to develop these skills, some of the most-important areas to look at are your anchor point, peep alignment, form, follow through, trigger control and sight picture.
Here are some things to think about as you develop your own shooting technique:
Your anchor point should be something distinct and easily reproduced. I prefer to use the feel of bone, as it is much more concise than flesh. I use a double anchor with my thumb and index finger forming a closed "c." The first knuckle of my thumb is dug into the point of bone in the rear of my jaw, and the knuckle of my index finger is dug into the rear of my cheek bone. My third anchor is my string running across a spot on my nose that I've become accustomed to.
With this in mind, have your peep positioned comfortably based on YOUR anchor point, rather than looking through your peep and finding anchor points that coincide. Whatever you choose, if you can find two to three points to hit, you will develop more consistent shooting.
Your bow arm should be slightly bent and your elbow rotated slightly outward. This forms a sort of a triangle in your shooting form, and will allow you to hold rigid during follow through. It also gets your bow arm out of your string path, which can both hurt a bunch and, even worse, put your winter clothing in the way of your string.
Hold your form during follow-through. Remember, the arrow has to travel from full draw all the way through the bow before you can move your bow arm. Shooting with a stiff arm has a tendency to make you want to throw your arm to the outside following the shot. More of a triangle shaped form allows you to more easily hold your bow hand in one place rather than pushing straight armed against the draw.
Trigger control can be the difference between a good shot and a great shot.
Things to look for include are you feeling the trigger as you're aiming, or are you aiming and then abruptly jumping your finger in front of your trigger and slamming it. For even the best of archers, the latter can be a bad habit that takes concentrated practice to overcome.
One of the ways to help control this is to think of making the shot while you're aiming instead of aim and shoot. A good practice technique is to chant to yourself "aim, aim, aim, aim" while you're putting pressure on the trigger and making the shot. This not only helps you stay focused on the sights throughout the shot, but it also helps you develop good follow-through since the entire sequence is one process rather than two. Aiming and follow-through are happening while you pull the trigger rather than as a separate function.
And the last in technique tips is sight picture. Is it more important to focus on the target or on the sight pin? Which of the two has the biggest potential for slight error to cause a larger impact?
If you miss the "spot" on the animal, you're likely to miss it by only a couple inches, but still be safe in the kill zone. If the front or back of your bow is out of place by even a fraction of an inch, it could mean a clear miss.
My recommendation is based on rifle and pistol marksmanship training while I was in the Marine Corps. Focusing heavily on what's going on with your bow is the key.
Of course "picking a spot" on the animal is essential, and a common mistake of rushing the shot is to see brown and let it go; it doesn't work unless you aim.
Developing an aiming routine that entails bringing your pin into clear focus will do two things. It will ensure that you're, well, remembering to aim. It will also bring your attention to what's going on with your bow. Although we all strive to, and would love to, hold a perfectly steady bow, the fact of the matter is that the pin is sometimes tough to steady down. Subconsciously, you're going to pull the trigger when the pin crosses the X. Practice and ability will determine whether that wiggle room is 1/4 inch in diameter or 6 inches, and the best way to see when it's there is to be focused on the pin. If the spot you're looking for is behind that focused pin, you're much more likely to nail it.
Some of you might have some other tips and tricks that may be different from some of these suggestions, and if that's the case I'm all for doing what works for you and your style. On the other hand, if one or two of these suggestions might help a few archers looking for a few tips, I hope this helps you hit your mark.
Next time we'll talk about practice for bow hunting. Stay tuned.