We teach aiming before we teach sighting so once beginning archers can group their shots we teach them the “point-of-aim” system as a first aiming system. If they do not want to move on to a physical bow sight, we next teach them stringwalking. To help you help you help them learn this, we provide an excerpt from the book “Archery Coaching How To’s.”
General Background Information
Stringwalking was invented less than a century ago, but since archery’s history hasn’t been codified, that is debatable. Basically stringwalking is gripping the string below the arrow, the farther below the arrow the string is gripped, the less far the arrow will fly (in effect the bow is being tilted down). Target distances can be mapped onto the bowstring quite exactly. Since only a small range of distances is covered by these “crawls” down the string, various anchors are used for ranges of distances. Long distances require low anchors while short distances require high anchors. Some archers also switch between using the arrow point to aim with to using other parts of the bow (typically the sight window shelf).
Since no shooting rules allow marks to be put upon bow string, bow, or tab, most archers use either the ordinary marks available on some tabs, for example a line of stitches (see photos), or use a center serving material like monofilament serving that will allow them to count down “wraps” of serving. This is typically done by running one’s thumbnail down from the nock locator, counting each click or bump along the way. Each distance that corresponds to a shooting distance is called a “crawl.” Some organizations allow these to be written down, others require them to be memorized. Beginners are urged to take notes so as to minimize mistakes. If their crawls need to be memorized, they can do that later.
Stringwalking is usually only seen in field archery because target archery involves only a few quite long distances (the exception being indoors target archery). Field archery involves shots at many different distances, quite a few of which are at shorter distances.
How Do I Know My Athlete Is Ready Learn Stringwalking?
This is an option for any student wanting to shoot barebow. Stringwalking is only allowed in a few shooting styles so check to see if your student’s “style” is allowed in the competitions they are interested in. The only preliminary skill needed is the ability to shoot off of the point
How to Get Started (Stringwalking)
Basic Setup If the archer knows his “point on target” distance (in the vernacular “point on”) that is the best place to start. Have her warm up until she is grouping nicely. Then take five paces closer to the target and have her shoot using the same crawl (zero because of the three-fingers under string grip). The arrow should hit high. Then ask her to stick the tip of her draw hand thumbnail into the string about a quarter inch down from where the tab is touching the arrow and then slide her tab down until the upper edge of the tab is lined up with the point her thumbnail is touching the string. Then the bow is drawn and the shot taken with the same point of aim. The arrow should hit lower.
If the arrow didn’t hit in target center, if it needs to hit lower a larger crawl is in order; if higher, a smaller crawl. Once a crawl that works is found, the distance and a description of the crawl are written in the student’s notebook. The crawl is described either as a number of wraps of center serving or number of stitches (and fractions thereof) on the archer’s tab.
This process is repeated until a number of crawls are discovered.
Advanced Setup Once a number of crawls are determined work with your archer so they can see that the crawls are linear, for example if one stitch crawl equates to four yards closer than the archer’s point on, a two-stitch crawl will be eight yards, a three stitch crawl 12 yards, etc. Since the crawls are linear, the archer can interpolated between them, for example, in the previous example a one-stitch crawl was 4 yards inside of the archers point on and a two stitch crawl was 8 yards inside her point on, a one and a half stitch crawl (halfway between the one stitch and two-stitch crawls) should be 6 yards inside of their point on.
Crawls are limited to about two to three inches down the string as drawing the string this way detunes the bow.
Going Farther Go back to your archer’s point on distance, this time walk back five paces and shoot the same crawl (zero). This time the arrow will hit low. It should be obvious that crawling will not solve this problem as a crawl will cause the arrow to hit the target even lower. One can combine other aspects of shooting off the point by choosing to “aim off” here. If the arrow landed at 6 o’clock in the blue, your archer could aim at 12 o’clock in the blue to compensate, but soon your archer would be off of the target so a better solution is needed.
What the archer needs is a lower anchor. Most string walkers get by with a high anchor (index finger in the corner of the mouth) and a low anchor (Olympic-style anchor) but some use other variants (middle finger in the corner of the mouth for very short shots, etc.). Each anchor has it’s own “point on” target distance and a set of crawls for distances down from that distance.
Initial Stages New anchors have to be trained in. All are best addressed blank bale. Coaches need to give feedback so a good start can be had.
Be aware that clickers can be used to train with, even though they are often not allowed in competition or are just impractical (when stringwalking the distance the arrow is drawn varies with the crawl). New anchors are best trained in with a zero crawl.
Later Stages After some practice with a new anchor has occurred, the archer’s point on target distance with this anchor has to be found, along with all of the crawls inside that “point on.” Notes are taken so each set of crawls and their distances can be compared.
Fine Points When a complete set of crawls (five or so, from which the others can be figured) for both anchors is available, check to see if the two sets of distances overlap. If they do, your archer has all distances covered from her low anchor point on to her high anchor biggest crawl. If there is a small gap between the two sets of distances, then the aiming off technique discuss prior using the high anchor no crawl setup may fill that gap.
Advanced Training (Stringwalking)
Archers are oriented to target center but at farther distances with smaller aiming rings, the arrow point can cover the entire aiming dot. Consequently string walkers have adopted a slightly different target picture. They line up the top of the arrow point with the bottom of the central aiming ring creating a kind of “figure eight.” This creates a very fine position for aiming. Additional rings below the center can also be used as alignment points as can rings above the center but, since the curved lines go the same way, it is harder to get an exact positioning of the arrow point.
An Alternative to the Low Anchor Some archers struggle with the low anchor or the low anchor doesn’t give enough distance. In this case an option is to “shoot off of the shelf.” This involves positioning the target’s central scoring ring so that it touches the outside of the arrow and the top of the bow’s arrow shelf. This creates a great deal more distance as it raises the bow a great deal, but it also aims the arrow off to the right of the target (the target center used to be right on top of the arrow now it is to the left). This is compensated for by either aiming off or moving the string in the archer’s string picture quite a bit to the right (how much so must be determined by experiment). See the sidebar “String Picture and Windage.”
All variations must be trained in with repetition.
Potential Pitfalls (Stringwalking)
1. Available Crawls Do Not Cover Competitive Distances
Sometimes archers can’t seem to cover all of the distances they need to shoot with the anchors and crawls they can master. Consequently different equipment parameters are needed. Typically these involve more draw weight (which gives higher arrows speeds and more “cast” or distance) and/or lighter arrows (which does the same).
Sidebar – String Picture and Windage
Most beginning archers are unaware that their bow string can be seen at full draw through their aiming eye. Careful positioning of the image of the bow string against the background of the shot can add consistency to an archer’s shot. (Compound archers using a peep sight do not have to bother with this as they can look through a peep hole straight through the string.)
To help your archers explore their “string pictures” and the effects of “string alignment,” have them play with it using a very light drawing bow at very short distances. Some archers line up the string with their arrow point (not a good idea if you are using the point to aim with). Others use the inside edge of the riser, or the outside edge, etc. What someone uses depends on the shape of their face and the kind of anchor they employ. A different string alignment may be needed for each anchor. When “shooting of the shelf” a right-handed archer may have to move his string in his sight picture a couple of inches to the right.