Compound can cause injury if shot improperly, and even just by drawing the bow. If you wish to shoot compound for the first time, please seek advice from a coach or senior. Currently Jay is the designated ‘compound person’, so please speak to them.
The compound bow was invented in 1966 by Holless Wilbur Allen to increase the speed of arrows without requiring a significant increase in bow poundage.
Compound bows use various systems to achieve a mechanical advantage – the most common system being cams consisting of a wheel-and-axle design with the draw string rotating a cable of smaller radius. Other systems exist such as pulleys or belt drives.
They’re now one of the dominant forms of archery (especially in the United States).
Before You Shoot
It’s important that you are strong enough to shoot compound. The peak draw weight of a compound is not at full draw, it is earlier in the draw. Since you’re not holding much at full draw, many compound bows have high peak draw weights compared to recurve. You need to ensure you are strong enough to smoothly draw the bow over the peak and into the letoff valley.
For example, the club’s compound bows have a minimum peak draw weight of 35 lbs, and that’s considered a junior compound. It’s hard to find a target compound that’s anything below 45 lbs peak.
If you wish to see if you are strong enough to try the club compounds, then speak to Jay. They have a rubber band test.
Most compound archers do not attempt to push their arrows through the bow similar to recurve, due to the cables being in the way. Find a way that’s comfortable for you.
Some compound arrow rests require setup before use. Drop-away rests typically require you to prime them, usually by flicking them to the correct position.
The ‘grip’ on a compound is noticeably more vertical than a recurve, so it may feel unusual. The principle is the same, you’ll be pushing it against the bone, with your knuckles at a roughly 45° from the side.
Ensure that your release aid is appropriately locked onto the D-loop before attempting to draw the bow.
Hold the bow up just above eye-level, with the arrow perfectly parallel with the floor, with your hand on your release aid. Look towards the center of your target.
Attempting to draw the bow similarly to recurve is likely to cause injury. Unlike recurve, you’ll want to start your draw with your shoulders out-of-alignment with the target.
While maintaining your gaze on the center of the target and keeping the arrow parallel with the ground, draw the string slightly off to the side of your face.
If this is your first time, you should absolutely have a coach or compound senior present. You will have to provide a lot of power to the draw, and there will be a SUDDEN decrease in the weight on your fingers. Keep in mind that the opposite effect is true. Relaxing the draw will result in a SUDDEN increase in weight, and will yank your hand. Part of the process is learning the bow and let-off, so you can expect this.
You’ll be drawing beyond your chin, to the side, before pulling it tight against the side of your jaw into your anchor.
Compounds take a little longer to come down than other types of bow. The first step is to point the bow slightly towards the ground. Then, remembering the let-off will suddenly increase the weight, carefully decrease your draw while keeping control of the bow. If this was for a fast/emergency call, remove the arrow and step off the line.
You should practice coming down frequently during your first sessions with compound.
This advice only applies to compound archers using handheld thumb trigger or back tension release aids. We generally advise you don’t use wrist release aids.
Once your draw hits the draw stop, pull your draw hand – with your knuckles facing you – against your jawline. The anchor depends on your draw length and release aid, but as an example I (the editor) press the space between my index and middle knuckles into my jawline.
If appropriately set up, you should be able to easily press your nose tip against the string, and the peep sight will ‘magically’ line up with your eye. If this isn’t the case, then you may need to change the position of the peep sight, or the draw length on the bow.
If you have kept your eyes on the target, and your sight is well set-up, then it’s likely your sight will only be slightly off the target. While maintaining appropriate bow pressure and anchor, slowly align the sight with the target and trigger the release aid when in the center. Ensure you’re on the correct target too, especially with multiple spot targets.
While starting with compound, it’s fine to press the trigger as if it’s a button (it is a button, but that’s beside the point). This is often referred to as punching the trigger and while it does work for some archers, it’s generally not great technique – similar to how opening your fingers for recurve release isn’t good technique.
It’s hard to describe how to do this, as it comes naturally with practice and coaching, but you should trigger the release without consciously thinking about it. A surprise action.
An easy way to get this to happen is to move the the position of the trigger further back on the thumb, towards the part where it joins your hand, and to make the trigger more sensitive (with time – having a sensitive trigger isn’t advised for a new compound archer). This makes it harder to punch the trigger and more likely to activate it on the fast-twitch muscle.
You’ll notice your arrows will stick into the target a lot more. If you haven’t got a good arrow puller nor good arrow-pulling technique then you will likely struggle, and could damage your arrows. As with normal arrow pulling, ask for help if you need it, but it’s worth practicing pulling arrows specifically for this.
Compounds can be annoying to pick up and put down during each end, especially when there are many other bows behind the waiting line. Try finding an area with less bows, ask others to pick theirs up first, or get used to picking up your compound from a weird angle.
Some people and resources suggest resting the compound on the stand and the cam. Please don’t do this. It pains me to see, but most importantly it can damage the cam if you’re not careful.
The most annoying thing about compound is other people.
I’m partly kidding about that one, but do expect a lot of bad jokes, incorrect information, and judgement from other archers. As a kindness, I have listed a few you may hear:
- “… Training wheels …”
- Usually from other non-compound archers, poking fun at the usage of cams.
- “It’s a gun.”
- Also from other non-compound archers, referring to (usually) the release aid and the complexity of the bow in comparison to other styles.
- “… Rambo …”
- Rambo – played by Sylvester Stallone – used a custom-built Hoyt Spectra, a model of compound bow. Due to the rarity of compound bows in the UK, a lot of people familiar with the look of a compound have seen it from Rambo.
The best way to overcome this is to just talk to other archers at the range. Tell them if you’re uncomfortable with the “jokes”.