Compound Technique

Compound archery originated in America to hunt game. Since then, compound bows have developed beyond recognition from their forefathers, and are now very high tech pieces of engineering. They’re very powerful pieces of kit, and require a lot of skill to shoot properly and safely. The main difference between one of these beasts and a recurve is the use of cams. These reduce the poundage on your fingers to a fraction of the peak weight but because of this, a compound has to be set up for your drawlength: you can’t just overdraw a compound like a recurve. Also, by shooting compound unlimited you get to use a release aid and a scope, which makes aiming and proper form much easier. There is also a ‘limited’ form of compound, which is pretty much barebow compound, but there aren’t a huge number of target tournaments for it in the UK.

Safety  If you wish to shoot compound or any bowstyle for the first time seek advice or guidance from a coach or senior, the notes and summaries given below are merely an outline of the different techniques. In particular care should be taken when drawing the bow with a release aid, as triggering the compound early could cause injury.

Techniques and Methods

Image: Pierre-Yves Beaudouin, [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Anchor Points

  • The main point here is to find an anchor point that you are comfortable with. There are several main points on the face that one can anchor with. The primary one tends to be a point on the jaw line, but I’ve also seen people anchor with the underside of their ear/earlobe. If your drawlength has been correctly set up then it shouldn’t be too hard to find a place on your jaw or around there that is comfortable.
  • You can also change the direction of the anchor point. What I mean by this is you can shoot with a vertical release aid (like most compound archers) or a more horizontal one. Again it comes down to preference and how consistent you can be when doing this. It’s definitely a good idea to play around with different anchor points to see what works best for you, but be aware your peep sight can change dramatically. For instance, if I swap from a vertical release to a horizontal one, my peep moves up by about 5mm up, which means dropping my sight a fair bit between the two different techniques.


  • For compound you have a scope, so it’s usually fairly easy to aim on the target. However, it is quite easy to ‘overaim’. This means you focus on the crosshair/dot in the middle of your sight trying to pull off the perfect shot, and then forget the rest of the shot routine leading to a poor shot execution. You will find it works best if you just concentrate on technique and concentrate more on the target face than on the dot (it’s not easy I know!!)

The Bow

  • Compound bows are usually shot with a fairly long/weighty long rod, simply due to the amount of power in them. Most archers use at least a long rod (except for limited/hunter versions which can have shorter hunting rods), but unlike recurve archery there is a debate about side rods, extenders and weight elsewhere on the bow. Usually a compound sight is quite heavy and balances the bow to one side after a shot. Therefore, it is very common to see compound archers with a long rod and a single short rod offset to one side opposite the sight. Personally, I prefer two with a slight inbalance in weight opposite the sight, but I’ve also tried with short rods directly back and that seems to have a similar effect for me. As with all bowstyles, weight and stabilisation is a very personal thing so you need to approach it slowly and consider each option before deciding on one.
  • The cams can be very different. You have soft, medium and hard cams, aggressive/spongy cams and single/double cams and even “cam and a half” cams. Whilst it may be confusing at first, they all at the end of the day do the same thing, but it’s the feeling the archer gets when they draw the bow and shoot the arrow that changes. For instance, a hard cam will be faster and feel more aggressive to the archer as it will tend to have a smaller valley. A soft, gentle cam will have a large valley so one can relax more easily into it, however this can sometimes lead to sponginess at full draw, where you don’t have a well defined wall to draw into and extend your back muscles. I won’t go through all the details as it comes down to experience and ability. If you’re new to compound archery I would seriously suggest one which isn’t too aggressive, otherwise it will have too small a valley and be very unforgiving to any small mistakes.
  • Compounds tend to have a neutral tiller. This is because you’re usually not using your fingers, but a release aid instead. This means the pressure acts equally on both limbs and therefore means both limbs should work as hard as each other to propel the arrow forward. However, some geometries – e.g. Hoyt’s before the Pro Comp – had a slightly higher grip to change this. Again, bow choice can really make a difference here due to the different geometries on offer, but a good archer will be able to shoot pretty much anything so it’s a personal preference thing again.

Extra Tips

  • Be strong. To shoot compound well you need to be physically strong enough to get over the peak and not be out of breath when you finally get into the valley. You need to have a good amount of stamina as you can take a bit more time over your shots than more recurve archers will due to the let off. But possibly more importantly is that you have to be mentally strong. So many of your arrows will go into the middle that you need to not let a bad arrow affect you. Similarly you need to not get too excited about a good arrow.
  • Sort your release out! This bow type will really separate those who use their back muscles properly and those who have a tendency to flinch and be a bit too aggressive causing too many muscles to be involved in the shot. Relax, though not too much
  • Sort your front end out! Similarly, making sure you set your front end the same time every time will give you much better groups. A small difference in your hand position can cause groups to move left and right all day long without you realising.