Moving from the High Anchor to the Low Anchor

I just got an email from my friend Tammy Besser who I mentor from time to time in her coaching. She asked “We are working with a couple students (under age 12) who are ready to, really need to, move to the lower anchor point because they are shooting at 18 meters. While we’ve reviewed everything you’ve given us, are there any highlights, common errors archers make when making this change?

Interestingly enough, this question also came up during the Level 3 Coach training Larry Wise and I did just this last weekend, which reinforces my thought, namely: if you have a question, send it in because if you have that question, so do dozens and dozens of other coaches. (I don’t consider myself the ultimate source of coaching knowledge, just someone willing to share what he has learned through this blog, so here we go.)

Changing from High to Low Anchor—Reasons
Let me start by reinforcing why we start with the high anchor. It is not because it is easier to teach as some have claimed. We generally start students “three fingers under (on the string) and a high anchor” because both of those elevate the rear end of the arrow. Beginners shoot at quite short distances and if we started them with a low anchor (we could) with a split-finger string grip (we could there is just the problem of pinching the arrow off of the rest) and asked them to look at the center of the target and shoot, I can guarantee you that their arrows would fly way over the target butts. By the time they figured out how to get their arrows on the target, they would feel like they were aiming at their front foot and your arrow net would take a beating!

So, there are advantages to that high anchor.

And it is not just a teaching stepping stone to the low or Olympic-style anchor. Some archers never use a below the chin anchor.

But for beginners shooting barebow, there are definite reasons for doing this. When shooting off of the point at long distances, the point of aim gets so high that it distorts the archer’s form and/or creates a situation where there is no good point of aim. Just last week I competed in the ITAA State Outdoor Target Championships, shooting Barebow. At the 60m distance I was lining my arrow point up with the bottom edge of the wind flag on top of the target (using a high anchor by the way, the low anchor did not provide a suitable aiming point). But I was shooting a tuned rig and a tuned bow and arrow will have points of aim on a 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock line through target center. Kids shooting program equipment, do not have tuned equipment, so their points of aim are often off to the left or right and there are no wind flags in those places, so they are stuck looking for a clump of leaves in a tree in the background (or a hole in an arrow net indoors) to use as a POA.

Switching from a low anchor to a high anchor makes the points of aim very much lower, hopefully on the target face where they can use the clock system to memorize their point of aim (6 o’clock in the black or 9:30 o’clock in the 7-ring).

Changing from High to Low Anchor—When
The time to introduce the low anchor is when archers are struggling to make distance. This often occurs outdoors when much longer distances are introduced but can occur, as was the case with Tammy’s kids, indoors when they are using very low draw weight bows (always a good thing) at full distance, in this case 18m/20 yards.

Changing from High to Low Anchor—Teaching
If you can demonstrate a credible high anchor, do so. If not, bring in a photo of some really cool Olympian doing so. Sometimes an explanation helps but make sure it is age appropriate. The key points are: lowering the back end of the arrow while keeping the front end in the same place (lined up with a point of aim) will result in an arrow launched at a higher angle without having to tilt the bow so far that it is hard to maintain good T-Form at full draw.

Start blank bale up close, explain that they must hold their chin somewhat higher than for their side anchor (with a side anchor the head is level/balanced, with the under the chin anchor, their chin is tilted up slightly, meaning no more than an inch or so (can’t say exactly because it depends on the size of the head).

Use a light drawing bow (I favor a 10# bow, but whatever you have), have them close their eyes and draw to their new anchor, then they will be letting down, so tell them that up front so they know. While they are in full draw position, help them find their new anchor position. The bow string should touch the outside corner of their chin (no farther back) and their string hand should be relaxed and underneath and pressed up against their jaw line. We want good alignment so check to see if their draw elbow is “in line” when they get there. After they let down, ask them to do it again. When they can find that anchor position, with their eyes closed, 2-3 times in a row, then tell them on their next arrow they are going to shoot. Your job is to make sure they hit the target butt as they are used to holding their bow much higher than they will need to now.

Have them repeat this 2-3 more times, then have them repeat this 2-3 more times with their eyes open. All of this can be done in five minutes or so, maybe over three ends during a class setting.

Changing from High to Low Anchor—Transition to Free Shooting
If you have the capability, have them shoot their next three arrows with the target just a few paces farther away (you can add a target face if you think it will help, I do). Then move the target a few more paces away, shoot 2-3 or more arrows, then move it again. By doing this slowly, they will adjust their bow position to correspond to these new distances while their misses still hit the target butt. If you can’t afford the time or have a setup that allow this, as long as you have a good arrow net, you can just put them back on the full distance line and let them fire away (I have done this often enough that I can position their bow for the first couple of shots to get them on the butt quickly—be sure to tell them you will be moving their bow while they are at full draw, otherwise you may get a nasty surprise and an upset student!

After this everything is done exactly the same as you did when introducing longer shots while using a high anchor.

Changing from High to Low Anchor—Common Problems
There isn’t anything that stands out, but the same sorts of things happen when you introduce any new form element. Things to look for in this case are:

  • moving their head to the string rather than string to the head (always a “no-no”)
  • not pressing up against their jaw (which creates a floating anchor and inconsistency)
  • having their chin down where it was before (which blocks the hand from getting to the right position under the jaw)
  • focusing so much on their anchor that many other things fall apart (make sure they maintain their good alignment)

I hope this helps, Tammy!


Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “Moving from the High Anchor to the Low Anchor

  1. Don

    I had been wondering about this too. After shooting for 23 years with a high anchor, recently I started shooting a target bow with a sight and found a low anchor provided better ability to calibrate the sight at longer distances! I’m trying to really get a feel for both so I can teach both from some semblance of experience.


    • Great! The only difference in head position for the two anchors is you have to keep your chin up a tad with the low anchor. They both are after the same goal and that is getting the bowstring right in front of your aiming eye (so you can sight right along it).


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