Look at that bulls-eye!
I'm hanging with Melody Scott, the instructor for my certification class to teach level one archery, in front of the Olympic-sized target.
Archery is enormously fun - and it might just be the trick that turns your heroine form victim to victor.
Archery is a sport of repetition. Your character might have
* taken classes at school and been on
their archery team
* taken classes at a camp as a child
* learned as a scout
* learned as part of a country lifestyle/ family tradition
You might want your heroine to use a bow and arrow if -
* she is trying to poison dart the bad guy
* the villain wants to tranquilize your heroine from a distance
* she is a special agent taking out the bad guy, and there can be
no noise from a weapon (remember guns with silencers are NOT
silent; they are suppressed. They make noise - attention getting
noise. Now, since she is a fabulous shot - I'm talking
Hawkeye-on-steroids good, the villain will fall silently to the
ground - but otherwise, the victim is going to do some screaming.
Maybe that's a good thing. Hey, I don't know what you need to
have happen next in your story line.
So let's start with some basics. There are four main types of bows.
These are pretty rare. Chances are, this is not going to be the weapon you choose(unless you're writing about the Greco-Roman and Middle Ages), mainly because it doesn't shoot very far.
|Shooting with sports-crossbow 10m (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Now your character may have this on hand if they are reenactors or live in olden times. But too, if your heroine is in a do-or-die situation and must fabricate a make-do bow and arrow set, it's going to be like the longbow.
One of the ways that the longbow differs from a more modern construction is that there is no "window" of cut out. In order to see the target, the shooter must turn the longbow to the side - sort of gangsta-style.
|(Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
A third kind of bow - and one that would have been used in most training/education programs so the more likely that your heroine will have some facility with the use - is called the recurve.
|Fiona Quinn shooting a recurve, Level One Instructor Certification|
* The draw (pulling back the string) is done by the shooter with no
* If your heroine is buxom, she may have to open her stance a little
to get the string away from her girls. Because it hurts, just sayin'
* Harder to maneuver in tight places, in and out of trees etc.
* Can become fatiguing after about 20 shots or so, depending on
the upper body strength of your heroine
* Does she have enough arrows? Or do they keep magically
appearing like they did for Catniss in Hunger Games?
* Just like a gun, she has to have enough ammo to get the job done.
* Unlike a gun, if she misses - there is the potential for finding the
arrows and firing them again. Heck! Even if she hits her target, as
long as the arrows didn't bend against bone, or whatever, then she
can pull them out and shoot them again.
Another modern and frequently owned bow is the compound bow.
|(Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
* It looks darned
complicated, but it's pretty
easy to use.
* The pulley system helps
the shooter by supporting
some of the weight of the
draw (pulling back the
* In some of the more
expensive models, once
the string is drawn, the
mechanism holds the
weight so the shooter
doesn't tire and can spend
more time trying to aim.
This is especially helpful
to hunters and trying to
shoot moving objects. For
example, if she's trying to
take down a Yeti with a
tranq so she can do some
* Depending on the model,
it is about half the length
of a recurve, this is better
for moving in small spaces
and working with
* This is also a cheaper
weapon than the recurve
so it is more likely that
someone would own it.
There are ten steps to shoot a bow and arrow.
1. Stance - the shooter should have
` feet parallel, shoulder width-apart
` a balanced frame so they look like a flat "lower-case t" when
their string is engaged.
`They should stand perpendicular to the target
2. Nock or nocking the arrow
|Reflecting on arrows (Photo credit: PeterThoeny)|
on the feather-end (vane or
fletching) of the arrow
that needs to be clipped
onto the sting.
` There is a nock locator on
the string that was carefully
measured and placed to help
the shooter find the right
position for the arrow. If
your heroine is constructing
a make-do bow,
she could use dental floss or
string to put this in place.
3. Set - the archer will pick up the weapon by the grip. It settles
into the meaty part of the hand and is held between the thumb
and first two fingers. Everything on the pinky-side of the hand
from the life-line over is off of the grip. This allows the bow to
move properly with the arrow. Your shooter wants the bow to
4. Set-up - raise the bow up string hand should be by the nose.
5. Draw (also called loading)
` pull the string straight back using the back muscles.
` the elbow should be directly behind or a little higher than the
arrow. If it's lower, then your heroine might be using her bicep
because she isn't strong enough to pull the weight of the string
with her back. The weight can be considerable. Each bow is
different. On a compound bow - the weight is easily adjusted if
the character has an Allen wrench. But some of the hunting
compound bows might have a 70 lb draw weight. On a recurve,
the only way to adjust for weight is by changing limbs (the ends)
- so that's probably not going to happen in your story.
` The archer uses the middle three fingers and rests the string at
the first joint of the ring and index finger and on the pad of the
middle finger. The thumb and pinky are tucked out of the way.
`Note the lady below has two finger below her arrow and one
over. This can cause the archer to pinch the arrow so that it will
not fly correctly.
|(Photo credit: ninahale)|
`The fingers touch the face - usually the cheek or chin
`The shooter always tries to put their fingers in the exact same
space each time.
`When the string is in place, the shooter takes a moment to adjust
the weight of the bow from the arm to the shoulder and back.
`The arms stretch in opposite directions and the chest expands
` The drawing hand continues back to the neck.
` The shooter should also have a spot that they always end.
` Follow-through is maintained until you hit your target.
So now I'm going to show you a very quick video of my shooting.
* In the first shot, I wasn't aware that I had an audience and was
focused. Look at my form: my stance, my arm levels. Bulls-eye!
* After I did a little victory dance, I realized I was being taped.
Pressure! And on top of that, hubby asked me to do a cognitive
chore - list ten items in order. This requires different brain centers
than pure shooting (memory, speech, etc.). With these
distractions, watch my elbow go up past my ear. Look at how that
torques my body. I still got a bulls-eye. But honestly, I didn't
deserve it, and I was a little shocked. All of that is to say, if your
heroine is trying to function amidst havock, she will have to be
darned good, or you should write her failing.
Video Quick Study (16:00) Waaaaay longer than you need to watch, but I thought you would like to see a compound bow in use. Note that the women are using a clip that acts like a gun trigger, so they do not actually pluck their own bows at this level of competition. Also, the long metal polls help to stabilize the bow.