Q&A How Do I Make the Transition from “Non-sights” to Sights” and When?

Marcus Valdes
wrote asking “when and how to make the transition from ‘no sights’ to ‘sights’”?

Good question. There is no one “right way” to do this, but I will explain how we do it and why we do it that way.

You can start a student with a sight on the bow, but we feel that since a goodly part of an archer’s attention must be on their own body, and a sight takes away that focus and puts it on the target, so, we . . .

#1 Start with Instinctive Aiming “Instinctive aiming” is a misnomer, it should be “learned aiming” or some such. In any case, we just instruct students to “look at the spot you want to hit” which is typically target center. The advantage of this is that if (and it is a big if) they can get their minds out of the way, the simple desire to have the arrows land in the center will trigger subconscious processes that will “make it so.” This is an important lesson in itself. Interestingly, almost every student, young and old, goes through a phase where they try to invent an aiming technique, typically by looking down the shaft of the arrow (this is called “shotgunning”). And when they do, their accuracy and group sizes immediately go into the dumper.

#2 Once Grouping is Good, Teach the POA System Once a student can shoot reasonably sized groups (at short distances) we teach them to shoot using a point of aim (POA). The sign is “consistently good groups” because that shows the student has somewhat good basic archery form and execution. Then by adding POA aiming they can learn a great deal about the process of aiming without the expense or the fiddling around required to learn to use a sight. (In addition, POA is very draw length sesitive, so it gives amplified feeback on draw length with is determined by having good form. We think this is a plus.)

#3 Once POA Comes Naturally, Introduce a Sight The sight can be as simple as a piece of foam tape with a hat pin in it or a full blown target sight or pin sight. We have them put on their sight (and set it up), then continue shooting “off the point.” After several shots that way, we ask them, once they have their POA and their arrow point is on it, to look at where the sight’s aperture pin is . . . several more shots. We then move the aperture pin (if a target sight) until it shows up at target center . . . several more shots. Then we ask the student “Could you use the sight aperture in place of the arrow point to aim with?” They almost always say “yes” and we ask them to do that . . . several more shots.

In this fashion we establish, in short order, that the sight aperture and the arrow point are equivalent aiming devices. We go on to teach “sighting in.” This may sound laborious, but in reality it goes very smoothly. This is, in part, because this parallels exactly how we introduce point of aim.

In a class situation, we don’t teach sights unless the archer owns them (we tried “loaners” and they are more trouble than they are worth). This process has the advantage that students can go back to aiming off the point and shoot well and that it emphasizes the actual role of the sight, which is simply to position the bow so that if a shot is well executed, the arrow goes into the center. It also allows the student to focus on becoming reliably repeatable in his/her shots before becoming significantly focused on aiming. (Even so, when sights are introduced, there is some initial degradation of group sizes.)

Our general approach is to break things down into “doable” chunks to create a ladder of success and also to show students some of the variations in the ways arrows are shot from bows.


Filed under Q & A

3 responses to “Q&A How Do I Make the Transition from “Non-sights” to Sights” and When?

  1. Seán A Gleeson

    In the UK the general rule of training and the protocol for teaching instructors is to use POA, barebow, and when proficient go on to fitting a sight and using a mediteranean release, 1 finger above and 2 below arrow, as you use in ‘instictive’. As far as I know the ‘instinctive’ is not taught at all. However, the field archery fraternity who do not shoot target may use ‘instinctive’ but I do not know. I only came across this type of shooting when I first visited Canada where it is wildly used but many archers there shoot mostly 3D or hunt.


    • So, do they teach POA the first day or do they just have them “shoot a bit”? My point is that they need to shoot a little bit by feel alone before they start focusing on an arrow point or sight aperture. We get them shooting off of the point typically by lesson 4 or 5.

      Good to hear from across the Pond! If you have any Questions, please submit them as I would rather address questions people do have rather than those i think they have.



  2. great post, wish more coaches did this. many people i know have only ever known to shoot with sights, and if the sight is gone, their arrows go everywhere. also, many trad archers insist they are indeed “shooting instinctively” whereas they are actually delegating the aiming to their subconscious mind.


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