Monthly Archives: May 2013

When to Put on a Clicker

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This wasn’t so much a question that was submitted as a search someone made, namely, when should a clicker be introduced to an Olympic Recurve archer?

I have some fairly strong opinions on this, but others do as well. I will explain mine.

I think beginners should shoot barebow until they have fairly consistent form. Then, if they want to shoot a clicker, or I think they are ready, we do a test. It goes like this: the student draws on target and settles in. When their arrow stops moving (back, only back; if it saws back and forth, they aren’t ready) I put a dot opposite their rest hole/plunger with a suitable marking pen (silver Sharpie, whatever). Then they let down. I ask them to relax, take a breath and we repeat. This is done 5-6 times resulting in 5-6 dots on the arrow shaft. I then show the student the shaft. What I want to see is the farthest dots no more than a half inch apart. If they are more than an inch apart, the student is not ready for a clicker. Between the half inch spread and one inch spread, it is your call. If the student is in a rush to be a champion, I’d make him wait. If the student is diligent, patient, and hard working I’d tend to go ahead with the clicker.

“I have some fairly strong opinions on this, but others do as well.
I will explain mine.”

This is obviously a test for draw length consistency. I do not want to introduce a clicker until an archer has a fair degree of form consistency because if that is lacking, trying to learn a clicker will be very frustrating. If you know any clicker stories, I will bet dollars to donuts they center on the frustration of using the danged thing.

Next a good starting point for the position of the clicker needs to be selected. And an excellent place to put the clicker is where the arrow point is when the spread of dots on that shaft is centered on the plunger. Voila! Adjustments, of course, will need to be made but you already have a good starting point

The situation I am trying to avoid is a student with a one inch or longer spread in arrow point location, because about one sixth of the time, the clicker works as we want it to, but one half of the time the student pulls right through the clicker on the way to anchor and another one third of the time, the student is so short at anchor that they can’t get through the clicker at all and have to let down.

I want them to practice succeeding using the clicker and five failures out of six tries is not good practice. And the frustration can deter an otherwise eager archer.

This works for kids, adults, everybody and I recommend it to you.

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Teaching The Finger Release

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A friend and fellow coach Tammy Besser asked for some advice on teaching the finger release. She commented on one young man who was shooting a compound bow with “fingers” and was a real “plucker.” Once she tried to correct him when he plucked wildly and his response was “But I hit the bulls-eye.”

This is a not uncommon problem. It is exacerbated in this case and many others by the fact that the young archer will receive advice from all and sundry, much of it being conflicting. I fervently wish that all well-meaning archers when tempted to give unsolicited advice to either refrain or ask “Do you have a coach?” first. Since I do not believe in miracles, we teach our students what to do when they receive unsolicited advice. We teach them to say “Gee, thanks, Mister/Ma’am, I’ll tell my coach the next time I see him/her.” This phrase is magical. It gets the youngster off of the hook in that they don’t have to immediately take the advice of a senior, and it satisfies the advice giver, possibly because somebody is working to help the young archer.

Back to the issue at hand: how to teach the release to youngsters. Here is what I recommend.

“I fervently wish that all well-meaning archers when tempted to
give unsolicited advice to either refrain or ask ‘Do you have a coach?’ first.”

When working on the release:

Don’t Work on the Release Yep, don’t even mention it. Work needs to be done on what will result in a good release, namely good alignment and relaxed hands. So, is their elbow in line? If not, how can they get it in line? That needs work. A “flying elbow” guarantees a pluck, while an elbow “at or past line” almost cannot result in a pluck. You can try asking them to rotate their elbow back around at full draw and you will touch it as a signal that they can release the arrow. Getting them to focus on the elbow will result in progress. Focusing on the release almost never does, because it creates an urge to “do something” with the release hand which is not what is needed. What is needed is the relaxation of the muscles in the forearm that are creating the finger hook. You can’t address that intellectually with a young archer, so you have to get them into a position where a good release will happen automatically.

Develop Their Awareness Young archers tend to focus on all of the wrong things. (How could they know what the right things to focus on are?) Typically when they release an arrow they are focused on where that arrow lands. (All beginners shoot arrows to find out where they will land. Experts know where they will land once shot.) But archers need to develop the awareness to know, for example, where their string hand ends up after the shot (and bow arm, too). If they learn to recognize when their string hand ends up in a wrong position, they will realize that they made a mistake (probably an alignment one) they need to correct. This requires a great deal of reinforcement in the form of questions: Where did your release hand end up? Did you notice where your release hand was at the end? etc.

Take the Target Face Down! Beginners think a good shot is one that goes into the center of the target face. When working on any part of their shot, they need to shoot “blank bale.” The target gives feedback that cannot be ignored (not by them, not by you, not by me), it must be removed. Then the young archer has to evaluate what a good shot is without an arrow score. This will move them into developing their body awareness.

There are more advance techniques, but those probably aren’t appropriate for beginners.

Tammy, I hope this helps!





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Tab or Glove?

Beginners often start archery without using either a tab or a glove and this is fine because if their bow’s draw weight is quite low, which it should be, the pressure on the fingers is quite low, so the chance of harm to the archer is also quite low. Our rule of thumb for beginners is we will give out a tab if an archer complains of finger soreness (or they just want one).

To be clear, the reason to use “finger protection,” that is tabs or shooting gloves, is not just to protect the fingers from the pressure of the bowstring. It also provides a slicker surface for the string to slide off of and helps the fingers act together, in concert, when coming off of the string.basic tab

We strongly recommend tabs for beginners rather than shooting gloves because the fingers of a shooting glove are not tied together and can act independently. Having the string fingers linked helps them come of the string as a unit, as I say “as a chord and not an arpeggio.” This doesn’t mean they can’t use a glove if they have one, it just means that they may encounter less success with one. Since the bows beginners use are light-drawing, there is little tension on the string, which means the string fingers can distort the shape of the string quite easily. This is a source of inaccuracy. If the string fingers act together, rather than as three separate fingers, this “sting torque” is minimized.

shooting glove

Good archery tabs have a fairly sturdy and stiff body that assists in keeping one’s fingers together while on the string. Simple tabs are often just one thickness of leather (or, ew, synthetic leather) and don’t perform this function well at all. Traditional archers often prefer such a tab, but they have practiced long and hard to make sure it does not handicap them.

Olympic Recurve archers often use a tab with a metal plate for a body, which shows you how important they think that stiffness is. We recommend the Wilson Brothers Black Widow Tab for a number of reasons. It comes in a wide variety of sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL) to fit archers hands. (A tab that is too small or too large is more trouble than it is worth.) It is adjustable (it has a Velcro band that fits one’s middle finger) and it is inexpensive, costing typically about $10. Fancy tabs run from $30-75.

Tabs need to be broken in and if you or your archers are really competitive, we recommend you buy two and alternate their use. In this manner, if you lose your tab, you have a spare. Or if you are shooting in the rain, you can switch to a dry tab after a while. If your “back up tab” is not broken it, it will perform quite differently from its broken in predecessor, which is why we suggest you alternate using the two. Each will have about the same amount of wear.

Tabs can also be adjusted by trimming away excess material with scissors or a very sharp knife. If your hand is “between sizes” but the next larger size and trim it down.

The Black Widow Tab

The Black Widow Tab

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Helping Them with Stabilizers

If you are following the AER Curriculum or not students will get interested in stabilizers at some point. Either a student joins the class who already has one, or a student sees a YouTube video, or. . . . or your student reaches that point in Stage 2 of the AER compound or Olympic recurve curricula.

What you can do to help is the topic of this article.

What Stabilizers Do
In archery, a stabilizer is anything that makes it easier to hold your bow steady while at full draw. Most non-traditional bows come with a hole in the “back” of your bow to allow a stabilizer to be fit. The holes are the same size with the same threads no matter where the bow as made, so you can install just about any stabilizer you get your hands on.

A popular short stabilizer amongst target archers.

A popular short stabilizer amongst target archers.

Typically stabilizers are either “short” or “long.” Bowhunters prefer short stabilizers because they are less likely to get tangled up in brush or a tree stand. Consequently all of the shooting styles that are based on hunting require that you use a “short” stabilizer (NFAA styles: BH, BHFS, BHFSL). The last we checked this meant under 11˝ in length (measured from the surface of the bow). Short stabilizers can be really short ~3˝ up to the max, just less than 11˝. Long stabilizers may be any length you want and people have tried stabilizers that have been ridiculously long, but most are somewhere between 24˝ and 36˝ long.

All the stabilizer does is spread out the weight of your bow. The more spread out the weight of the bow is, the harder it is to move, which means once the bow is in position at full draw, it will resist the forces trying to move it during the shot. (Think about it—aiming is putting the bow into a position which will cause the arrow to go where you want. Any movement after that is moving the bow where you don’t want it to be.)PSE Nova One Bow

If you hold a broom by the middle of its handle, you will find it easy to hold and move around. But if you hold it by one end, you will find it much harder to move in two important directions: left-right and up-down. (Try it.) It is still easy to move the broom back and forth along the line of the broom handle, though. If you were to think of a broom being attached to your bow (sticking straight out) it would make it harder to swing the bow left or right or up and down. You would still be able to push the bow in and out toward the target, but that doesn’t create much a problem when shooting arrows—swinging the bow left and right or up and down does. There is also one other thing you can do easily with the broom attached and that is to rotate the bow around the shaft of the broom handle. (If you think the idea of the broom on a bow is crazy we know an archer who used a golf club for his stabilizer!)

Let’s get rid of the broom (but remember what you’ve learned from it). One of the ways to reduce the ability to rotate the bow around the stabilizer is to add what are called “side rods.” Archers typically use a “V block” which is inserted between the long stabilizer and the bow. A V block has two threaded holes in it to attach shorter stabilizer roStabilizer + V Barsds on both sides of the bow (see photos below). This is the typical stabilization setup used by Olympic Recurve archers.

Cartel Carbon StabilizersIf you look closely, many compound archers who use side rods use only one rod. This is because the bowsights used on compound bows are significantly heavier than the bowsights used on recurve bows. The one side rod is used to balance the extra weight on the other side of the bow caused by the bow sight.

And most people shoot for quite a while with just a “long rod” before they then try side rods, so you don’t need the whole setup all at once. And do realize that there is a large number of gewgaws you can screw into your stabilizers: weights for the shaft, weights for the tip, vibration dampeners (Doinkers!), etc. These are used to adjust the weight distribution of your bow or too absorb vibrations left over after the shot (so that you don’t). (If you don’t think vibrations can make you tired, talk to a jackhammer operator sometime.)

Helping Them to Learn to Shoot with a Stabilizer
We recommend that when a student decides to try a stabilizer, that they borrow one. We have a half dozen “loaners” that we let our students use, but you may not have stabilizers for them to try, so they will have to borrow one from another student. Remind that they are not obligated to lend any piece of archery gear, so the person they ask may say no and that’s fair.

If their “style” requires a short stabilizer, then they may be stuck with a short one, but urge them to go ahead and try short and long stabilizers. If they really like what a long one does for them, they might want to switch styles!

Tap and WrenchStart by having them carefully screw the stabilizer into the hole designed for it. This must be done carefully because a number of things can go wrong. If the bow is brand new, there may be construction debris in the hole (metal shavings, paint, etc.). This may cause you to “cross thread” the stabilizer, which is to get the screw threads misaligned. If you force this, it can mess up the threads on both the stabilizer and the bow, which can be an expensive repair. If they encounter a great deal of resistance, we suggest they ask you for help. If the bow is old, a previous user may have cross threaded the hole and not told anyone. We carry a tap wrench and tap the same size as the stabilizer hole so we can “chase the threads” that is run the tap in and out and it will clear up the threads if dirty or only slight damaged (see photo). We don’t recommend doing this unless you are familiar with tap wrenches.

In all likelihood, the stabilizer will screw in easily.

We then recommend you have the student(s) take some shots at short range into a blank target bale. The bow will feel different. For example, bare bows generally rock with the top limb toward the archer during the followthrough. With a long enough stabilizer the bow will rock top limb away from the archer. Because of these effects, if you haven’t introduced a shooting sling of some kind, now would be good. You can find the specifics in the AER Recreation Archery Curriculum Coach’s Guide.

Also because of these effects, they will find that all of their previously determined points of aim or sight markings will now be different (not hugely so, but different). Don’t have them “sight in” again because they may be switching to another stabilizer to try or they may decide they don’t want to shoot with one at all and they will be right back where they were. When they have decided on what kind they want and have acquired their own, then they will need to “sight in” again.

Acquiring a Stabilizer
When they have some idea of what they want they will need help in finding the one they want. If you have a well-equipped pro shop in town, you can just send them there. If you don’t, we use catalogs to give them an idea of what they want at what price and then send them off, probably to the Internet, because big box sporting good stores are unlikely to have much in the way of stabilizers to choose from (short stabilizers are way more likely to be found than long).

While stabilizers help them hold their bows steadier while shooting they also add weight to their bow, so if their bow is already a little heavy (this is typically true for most beginning youths shooting compound bows) they will need to find a very light stabilizer.


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What Age to Start?

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I just got an email from Paulette Krelman asking “Could you please let me know what is the age recommeded for a child (boy) to start with archery?” This question comes up very, very often because, well, how would a parent know? Here’s the answer.

The rule of thumb for starting kids in archery is the age of eight. This involves the child having not just the physical maturity to handle the activity but also the emotional and social maturity to be in a group and to be able to follow safety rules.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Having said that we know of a child who started shooting at the age of two (really). But this was a case of the child having archer parents. So there are kids who arile they shoot. Since this is not possible in a group class setting, you may want to attend such a class and ask the instructor, either before or after the class, whether your child is “ready.” The instructor may have your child sit in on a class session or may ask them some questions or may try teaching them how to shoot or some combination of these, but they are likely to spend only a few minutes making the assessment. There is no formal process for doing this, so their estimate is just a estimate, but at least it is an informed one.


I wrote a book for parents of archers or potential archers covering such questions (and more, like how do you know you have a good class/instructor, what about buying equipment, etc.) and I recommend it to you (A Parent’s Guide to Archery). It is available on

APGTA Cover (color)

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