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Welcome to the 3Rivers Archer's Den

Archer's Den

Welcome to the Archer's Den. Here you will find a gathering of traditional archery stories, tips and techniques, trophy animals taken with traditional bows, and plenty more. Stay a while and learn something. We hope you enjoy and even submit a trophy of your own, or leave a comment on a post.

Tag Archives: learning archery

Shooting Methods and Learning to Shoot Traditional Archery

Archer shooting 3 Under method of shooting

Whether you’re aiming for the gold or placing an arrow in the vitals of a whitetail, you need to learn the basic shooting methods for traditional archery. After learning the basics, you then need to decide on a style that best fits you. There are many different styles for shooting traditional bows and it can often be an overwhelming obstacle for the newcomer. Which one is the right one, or better yet, which one is the right one for you? In this segment, we’re going to discuss the different shooting methods. We’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of each style to help you decide the best system for you.

Tab or glove:
Berlin Style Deerskin Glove
Berlin Style Deerskin Glove
Split Finger Cordovan Leather Tab
Split Finger Cordovan Leather Tab

The first question is usually deciding whether a glove or a tab is the best choice. For the most part, it’s a personal preference. One of the benefits to using a tab is that it keeps all three fingers together on one surface. This allows the string to clear the tab with minimal effect preventing errant shots.

A glove has more of a natural feel to it, almost like a part of the hand. During cold weather, it can be more beneficial to the bowhunter. A simple trick is to cut the ends off the fingers from a regular glove and place your shooting glove over the top for added warmth.

Shooting methods for traditional archery

Three Under vs Split Finger:
String Walking - note arrow location in relation to tab
String Walking – note arrow location in relation to tab
Split Finger
Split Finger

Three under is the practice of placing three fingers under the nock of the arrow. Split finger is placing the index finger above the nock, while the middle and ring fingers are below the nock. There are pros and cons to shooting three fingers under or split finger. However a good release can be accomplished with either manner.

Split finger is a preferred technique when long range shooting is involved, such as Olympic Shooting. Using this method places the back of the arrow lower than the point. This gives a more natural sight picture for the arc of the arrow. It takes a bit more practice when first learning as most beginners tend to pinch the nock when using split finger. A deeper hook and spreading the fingers apart will usually help resolve this problem.

Three under works well with traditional gear as the shot distances are often closer. It can be a good choice for string walking and fixed crawl shooting methods as it gets the arrow closer to the line of sight with close range targets. Most beginner archers will find this style a bit easier to learn.

 Instinctive Shooting:

Many of the purists in traditional archery feel the only true form of shooting is instinctive shooting. Instinctive shooting is the most natural of all shooting techniques. In essence, you simply look where you want to shoot and shoot where you are looking. Unfortunately, it can be the hardest of the shooting methods to learn, yet the most rewarding to the bowhunter.

The best way for me to describe it is to imagine throwing a baseball. Most likely the first time you picked up a baseball and tried to throw it you were inaccurate because you hadn’t learned the basic techniques. Yet in a few years, it becomes second nature after learning the mechanics.

Instinctive shooting is similar, it takes a lot of practice, but once learned, it becomes a deadly method. Shooting your bow over and over, learning the arc of the arrow at varied distances will become second nature. After a while, you can visualize the shot in your mind. Just like playing shortstop in a baseball game. The player catches the ball and throws to first base, never thinking about how hard they are throwing, the arc of the ball, or the distance. It just becomes a learned process where the mind can subconsciously determine the arc of the arrow, the distance, and how to hold in relation to the target.

Once learned the bowhunter can take advantage by never thinking about the distance of the shot and instead focusing on where he wants to place the arrow. The disadvantage is that it is nearly impossible to become as accurate as some of the other methods. Become the Arrow book by Byron Ferguson is a great source of information on the subject of Instinctive Shooting.

Gap Shooting:

One of the most efficient shooting methods (without installing a sight) is called Gap Shooting. This style uses the point of the arrow, as if it was a sight, and adjusting for different ranges. Most gap shooters start by learning the “point on distance.” The point on refers to finding the distance where the arrow point is on the intended target and after releasing, the arrow hits the target at the intended spot.

From there, the archer moves to different distances to learn how much lower (or how much higher) to place the point of the arrow on the target and still hit it. Gap shooters can be extremely accurate, but it doesn’t lend itself to bowhunting. It’s an unnatural feel to hold so much lower than the target, which is a live animal in a hunting situation. It takes a longer thought process when the moment of truth is suddenly in front of you.

For those that want to learn instinctive shooting, this method can often be the first step in learning the process. It’s a very effective system at known distances, but more suited for the target than the woods.

String Walking:
String Walking Shooting Methods- note arrow location in relation to tab
String Walking – note arrow location in relation to tab
Counting Strands for String Walking
Count the number of strands under the nock point.
Move tab to new location after counting strands for string walking
Move tab to new location

As in gap shooting, this method involves using the arrow point as a sight. The primary difference is that you will always place the point on your target no matter the distance. In order to achieve this, you place your fingers at different locations on the string, which changes the angle of the arrow. Where gap shooting is raising and lowering your front sight (arrow point), string walking is raising and lowering the rear sight to effect the imapact.

Once your point on distance is learned, you begin practicing at different distances. By moving your fingers up or down the string, you figure out the position for the arrow to still be point on. The string is then marked for each particular distance and the tab is placed there when drawing the bow. Some archers count the serving wraps, others will mark their tab for different yardages making it quick and accurate to find the right location on the string. The Bateman Cordovan Tabs are great for this style of shooting. At one point, target archers were able to become so accurate using this style that rules had to change and new classes evolved from it.

Chin Anchor Point
Chin Anchor Point
Three Under Anchor
Three Under Anchor

A variation of sting walking is called “Face Walking”. The concept is much the same, but the major difference is instead of placing your fingers on different areas of the string, you simply change your anchor point. It requires learning new anchor points that will raise or lower the arrow. For example, you may place your ring finger in the corner of your mouth for one shot and your index finger at the same location for a different shot. For extremely long shots, you may find anchoring beneath your chin to be effective.

The downside is that you still need to accurately judge distance and correspond it to the markings on the string or which anchor point to use.

Fixed Crawl:

The fixed crawl method is quickly gaining popularity and incorporates different parts from the Gap shooting and String Walking shooting methods listed above. It involves placing another nocking point below the nocking point of the arrow. You will want to get back from the target at approximately twenty five yards and find where you need to locate your hand on the string so that the arrow is point on at that distance.
Once you have achieved this, you place a nocking point at that location and practice with the point on with ranges less than twenty five yards. The idea is that most bowhunters rarely shoot beyond this distance, so effectively the arrow because a sight that needs little (if any) adjustment at ranges up to twenty five yards. Basically, you are just looking down the shaft and placing the point where you want to hit.

This shooting method is quickly becoming popular with traditional bowhunters. It gives a fast and easy reference without having to think much about the shot. But probably not a method for a true target shooter since the range is limited. It’s a great method for IBO with shorter distance like 35 yards and less. String walking is preferred for the 70 meter courses.

Fixed Sights:
Simplex Adjustable Sight
Simplex Adjustable Sight

While not as popular in the world of traditional archery, fixed sights have been around for a long time. However, it is a probably the most accurate of all shooting methods and very common in target and field archery. Most bows can be setup with some sort of sighting mechanism, the most common being a pin sight. Usually there will be several pins set at different yardages and located above the arrow point.

The archer keeps his eye in line with the string while placing the pin on the target. This is a highly accurate process that is usually fairly easy to learn. There isn’t much downside to the target archer, but in low light conditions it can be problematic for the bowhunter.

The important thing to remember is that you need to find which of the shooting methods work best for you. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. Try the different methods and see what you like and don’t like about them. Eventually, you will most likely settle on one and then it becomes a matter of practice. The one thing they all have in common is that each method requires consistency with a solid anchor point. The Masters of the Barebow DVD series is an excellent resource for learning different methods from the top shooters in the country.

By R. Strong


Learn the Basics of Shooting Traditional Longbows and Recurves

Shooting Traditional Archery

Trying to focus on the target, I could hear the voices in the background, some were encouraging, but the loudest were intended to rattle my nerves with the hope that I would miss the shot.  We were shooting traditional bows and the stakes were high adding pressure to the shot. I did my best to concentrate and recall the shot sequence I had developed and practiced all summer. As I did, everything slowly disappeared, except for the aspirin sized target I was focusing upon. The string slipped from my fingers and in an instant the feathered shaft streaked towards the target.

People gravitate toward archery for different reasons, but many find traditional archery a relaxing and therapeutic sport since it’s one of the simplest forms of archery. While shooting traditional archery can be addicting, it can also be frustrating at the same time. If you have trouble hitting your target, the enjoyment you first had when picking up a bow can quickly turn to discouragement. However, learning the basic steps will put you on track to developing consistent accuracy.

Consistency sums up most everything in archery. There are many methods and variations all designed to make you a better archer. Just keep in mind the most important thing to remember, regardless of the style or method is to remain consistent shot after shot. Without consistency, it will be difficult to gain the precision needed to master the sport. Above all things in archery; stay consistent.

While there are books and videos dedicated to becoming more efficient, I’ve condensed it into seven basic steps. These steps are for starting purposes only. In time, you most likely will tweak and/or change as you feel necessary. Following these steps will get you started in the right direction when shooting  traditional equipment.

Learn to shoot traditional archery
Beginner’s Guide to Traditional Archery Book
Masters of the Barebow DVD Set
Masters of the Barebow DVD Set

Steps for Learning How to Shoot a Traditional Bow

Note: These steps are for a right handed shooter, a left hand shooter would mirror the process. Illustrations by D. Echterling

Proper Archery StanceStance: Start by facing 90° to the target with your feet set and spaced shoulder width apart. Keep your head centered while standing upright and your weight evenly distributed. I prefer to open the stance by rotating the left foot slightly towards the target.

Proper Archery GripGrip: Hold the bow with your left hand by placing the dished part of the handle on the webbing that is between your thumb and index finger. Using a light grip, rest your palm, section right below your thumb, on the bow and lightly wrap your fingers around the handle. Keep your knuckles at an approximate 45°. You never want to grip the bow too tightly as this can cause torquing and throw off the shot.

Archery Finger PlacementNocking the Arrow and Finger Placement: Hold the bow in your left hand in front of you and approximately at waist level. With your right hand, hold the arrow about eight inches from the nock end. Rotate the shaft so that the cock feather is pointing out and away from the riser. Snap the throat of the nock on the string under the brass string nock locator. Position the three fingers of your shooting hand on the string with the index finger above the nock and the middle and ring fingers below the nock. Keep the fingers located on the string just in front of the first joint approximately 90° to the string.

Archer AlignmentDraw Sequence: Raise the bow so that it is in a vertical location. Keep your bow arm elbow rotated so it’s pointing straight down during the draw sequence. With the drawing arm parallel to the arrow shaft and your head in an upright position begin the draw sequence. There are two thoughts on drawing, one is keeping everything in line while drawing back, and the other is the rotational draw. The rotational method uses more of the back muscles as the drawing arm and elbow rotates around while keeping the elbow more or less at the same height and is the recommended method. Keep light tension on the draw fingers to help prevent any torque during the shot.

Archer's Anchor PointAnchor: The anchor point is a position of reference where the draw sequence ends at a specific location. There are many different versions of anchor points and what works best, but it comes down to personal preference. The most common is the side anchor, where the index finger is tucked into the corner of the mouth. The problem with this method is that the corner of the mouth is soft tissue that moves.

The best anchor is to have a minimum of two reference points (preferably hard bone) for repeatability. For example, use the ‘eye tooth’ (tooth right below the eye), then thumb base knuckle behind the jaw bone. This hard bone two point reference system gives the same sight picture every time. It can’t be  over emphasize the importance of an exact point of reference.  Being off by the smallest amount will have a drastic effect on where you hit the target.

Cartel Plate Magnetic Clicker
Clikety-Klicker Draw Check

Some archers will also use the aid of a draw check device letting them know they have reached full draw. These devices are very useful and can help in many ways. One of the most common uses is to help overcome tragic panic.

Release: Once you have reached anchor, you want to focus on the spot you wish to hit by using your sighting method. There are many different sighting methods which will be explained in other articles coming soon. Whatever method you choose, you should only focus on the target for a couple of seconds, anymore and your concentration will probably be broken before releasing.

The release is probably the easiest of all steps to understand, yet probably the most difficult to master. Unfortunately, archers work a lifetime perfecting their release. Simply stated, the release means to relax the fingers to let go of the string, known as the ‘dead release’. Today, more shooters are using back tension and getting better results. This form of release is an action where you expand during the shot by pushing the elbow back further using back tension until the shot goes off. If you do this properly, the string merely rolls off the finger tips without any conscious effort and your hand continues back touching the shoulder.

Archer Follow ThroughFollow Through: The best way to describe follow through is to prevent any unnatural movements. After the release, the hand continues to the shoulder, but you want to prevent any unnecessary movements. It is so important not to move after the release. Most people will have a tendency to “peek” at the arrow to see where it hits. Preferably, you want to remain as still as possible. I always recommend that you wait until you hear the arrow hit before looking to see the results. Any bit of movement at the release can throw the arrow off course.

Shot Trainer to learn how to shoot traditional bowsThe Shot Trainer is a great device that helps you maintain proper form and release with or without an arrow.

There you have it, seven steps to get you started shooting traditional archery. The most important thing is to practice and then practice some more. Keep these seven steps in mind and work on them individually while practicing. In our follow up series, we will get more in depth about the different shooting styles, like Instinctive, Gap Shooting, String Walking, Fixed Crawl, and many others. Oh… and about that bet at the beginning, that was back when I was a young teenager and the bet was between me and one of my buddies. I made the shot and he still owes me a Pepsi today…

By: Sam Strong

Become a Better Archer with the Shot Trainer

What is the Astra Shot Trainer, and What Will it do for me?

For those of us serious about shooting their bows, the shot trainer is for you. The Shot Trainer helps with building ‘shot muscle’ in order to improve your accuracy down range or chasing big game. The Shot Trainer delivers excellent warm-up before hitting the hunt and can keep seasoned hunters working smoothly on the range and in the tree stand.

The Astra Shot Trainer looks a little different than standard bowhunter kit, and might even draw some curious looks from salty old hunters when you’re pulling it out of the gear bag at the range, but it represents huge value in what it can offer when worked into a normal practice routine.

Using the device is kind of like Babe Ruth putting a few weights on the end of his bat and swinging it around before taking them off and stepping up to the plate to slam a home run.

Use the Shot Trainer from Astra Archery with you
Use the Shot Trainer from Astra Archery with your bow for the best improvement of your form.

The Shot Trainer is very simple to set up and use.
The Shot Trainer is very simple to set up and use.

How The Shot Trainer Works

The Shot Trainer wakes up the body by reinforcing what needs to happen in the shot – supercharging the muscle fibers and brain response – as demonstrated by the body’s response to the first shot after removing the connecting strap. When you release the bow string, the kinetic energy of the bow is transferred to your elbow, forcing you to maintain back tension strength and direction through the shot sequence. The first shot is the most dramatic, but you can see the benefit after the first 10 minutes of use, and with long-term and regular use the results will radically improve your shot confidence, stability, and accuracy.

Pliable, strong parachute cording loops around the bowstring forming a rock-solid connection that won't damage your string serving.
Pliable, strong parachute cording loops around the bowstring forming a rock-solid connection that won’t damage your string serving.

The adjustable center strap allows for easy adjustment in seconds to the specific archer.
The adjustable center strap allows for easy adjustment in seconds to the specific archer.

How to Set up and Adjust the Astra Shot Trainer

Wearing, adjusting, and using the Shot Trainer is a pretty simple affair. Slip the sleeve over the arm (offered in two sizes) and adjust the slack while the draw fingers are curled, similar to full draw but not holding the string – about 1” slack is a good starting point. When adjusted too short, the string won’t move when released, too long and the slack in the material can cause a whip action on the arm or neck, which stings a little. To avoid the ‘Kiss of the Shot Trainer’, it is better to sneak up on the right adjustment by starting too short and gradually increasing the length.

Always refer to the owner’s manual and understand all warnings. Full instructions for usage and adjustment can be found at the 3Rivers Archery web site.

The Shot Trainer guides and strengthens the large, archery-specific, lower trapezius shooting muscles in the back by harnessing the draw weight that would normally disappear from the archer’s draw-hand/arm/shoulder as the arrow is released. The feeling of being tethered to the bow string is unique and you have to be ready for it, so be ready to hold technique while catching the draw weight of the bow.

After putting the sleeve on and adjusting to the proper range, start slowly and get used to drawing and holding at full draw for a comfortable beat before letting the bow down gently. This a great way to start out and use the training aid as a safety catch or dry-fire preventative in case the string grip slips while drawing and letting down the bow during warm-up.

The Shot Trainer can handle any bow weight but standard recommendation for archers is to start with a bow in the teens to twenty pound range for draw weight, or even a stretch band. This is simply to avoid injuries and help an archer understand the proper adjustments and feel before moving onto that custom 75# longbow or other potent shaft launcher and being painfully humbled by the heavier draw weight. Compound shooters will also get all of the same benefits as any other archer, but remember to never use the Shot Trainer on a compound bow. If you’re a compound shooter that wants to use the Shot Trainer but doesn’t have a non-compound bow to practice on, there are a great deal of tutorials online for how to make a hardware store PVC tube bow for a few dollars. This solution will work the same as any other non-compound bow with the Shot Trainer.

When adjusted in the proper range, the device might tug a little for some archers as they’re raising the arms and hands to draw the bow. Once the draw is started, the tugging is usually gone for most archers; this depends on the adjustments of the device, body size and shooting style.


The first shot after taking the Shot Trainer off is a profound experience and just a few minutes of use is capable of providing this remarkable effect. The archer will feel a well controlled, powerful release that’s as clean and precise as a match trigger. This can be witnessed, but to truly be appreciated, must be felt.

The Shot Trainer is all handmade in the USA and built with durable and comfortable materials. The whole rig barely weighs anything and takes up a tiny piece of real estate, so it’s easy to throw in the truck, bag, or box for a few warm-up shots before hitting the trail or doing some range work.

Some of us barely warm-up or stretch at all prior to shooting and adding another step may be outside of habits or preferences, but with a tool that offers so much with minimal investment in time and money – the Shot Trainer is right on target.

Astra Shot Trainer in use
Buy the Astra Shot Trainer here at 3Rivers Archery

By Tyler Domenech and Astra Archery (modified by 3Rivers for use) Learn more from Astra Archery Astra Archery Facebook page or at their Astra Archery web site

How to Layer Hunting Clothes for All-Day Comfort

When you layer hunting clothes you control your core temperature in any weather

This story has been re-published with the permission of Core4Element. The link to the original story is no longer available.

One of the most important things a hunter must consider before going out into the field is choosing the best hunting clothing for the conditions. But even the best gear is useless without knowing the best way to wear it. The Core4Element line of hunting clothes is designed to be used as a system of three layers: a base layer, a mid-layer, and an outer layer. Dressing in layers like this allows you to control your core temperature in any weather, which helps you stay focused on the hunt instead of your clothes.

Layering allows you to prepare for all weather extremes, but there is a right way to do it. The first thing you need to keep in mind when creating your layering system is to abandon the thought of wearing cotton on your hunt. Cotton is a light fabric, yes, but it also traps moisture and chafes after wearing it for a long time. These are not ideal conditions for anyone, especially hunters competing with the elements for long periods of time.

Merino Wool Base Layers

Begin your layering system with a base layer. This layer will have direct contact with your skin, so you’ll want to choose something relatively lightweight, breathable and comfortable against your skin. At Core4, we create our base layers with 100% Merino wool, which is soft to the touch, anti-microbial, and has moisture wicking capabilities. Base layers should fit snuggly to make the most use of the wicking technology and allow for other layers to be put on top without bunching up. Depending on the climate of your preferred hunting area, you may want to consider heavier (thicker) or lighter base layers. Since base layers are pretty much impossible to remove once you’re out in the field, do your best to anticipate the weather conditions of your hunting grounds so you can choose the appropriate weight.

Versatile Mid-Layers

Mid-layer hunting clothes allow for a little more versatility than base layers because you can either wear one or several, depending on your comfort level. Mid-layers tend to be looser than base layers, but they do not need to be baggy by any means. The mid-layers are where you really control the body temperature. Adding multiple mid-weight layers for colder temperatures will better protect your from the cold than a heavy, bulky outer layer. Core4Element hunting apparel is tailored to an “athletic fit” to maintain contact with the base layer in order to optimize wicking capabilities. This will keep you warm while still being moisture and odor free. Mid-layers typically have special features to provide maximum comfort and breathability. Core4Element mid-layers often have underarm zippered vents and extra long front zippers for superior ventilation on all-day hunts. Layer the Mid Mountain Vest over the Selway Zip for extra warmth or use the Pivot Shirt as your mid-layer on warmer hunting days.

Protective Outer Layers

The outer layer of a system is going to be the most important layer in terms of protecting against the elements. Whether hunting in rain, wind or snow, Core4 has the high-performance, high-quality gear you need for creating the best final layer to your system. The key to the most effective outer layer is durability. Your pants and jacket need to be able to stand up against tree branches, rocks and whatever else you may encounter in the woods or backcountry. All of our pants and jackets are treated with Durable Water Repellent (DWR) to provide maximum protection against the elements. This is exactly what you want in an outer layer. Pay attention to the weights of the pants and jackets, as some are made for colder conditions than others. Pay close attention to the moisture in the weather. An outer layer protected by a DWR treatment will keep the rain and snow out for a while but if heavy rain or wet snow is in your future you’ll want a fully waterproof outer layer like the C4E Torrent jacket and pants. Torrent is waterproof, breathable, and just as important on the hunt, quiet.

When building your layering system, be sure not to neglect your head, hands and feet. Core4 offers Merino wool or synthetic options to keep you as comfortable as possible on your hunt. Be sure to keep your head covered on bitter hunts, as heat leaves most quickly through the head. Keep extra pairs of wool socks in your pack in case your boots do not protect your feet from water, as they should. Nothing ruins a hunt faster than suffering from soggy socks. Choose a pair of gloves that provides warmth, grip and mobility.

Layering is one of the smartest choices you can make on a hunt. Using the right method, you won’t have to worry about your clothing and comfort for the rest of your hunt, and that’s how it should be. Stay dry, warm and odor free when hunting with the Core4Element layering system. Ready to turn your hunting clothing into a system of specialized gear? Build your system now.

But How do I Bowfish?

Bowfishing from a boat

By Jason D. Mills

You know what bowfishing is, and you’re interested in trying, but you’re still not quite sure how or where to start. Bowfishing is unique in the world of archery in that it can be practiced day or night, on land, while wading in the water, or on a boat.

To get started you’ll need a bow, a recurve is best simply because smaller bows are a bit easier to manage while bowfishing. There is no need for sites because of refraction and because they can’t account for depth. You’ll probably want a bow that shoots 45 pounds or greater in order to have sufficient force.

Bowfishing rig

You will also need a reel and special bowfishing arrows; typically, bowfishing arrows are heavier, use barbed broadhead, don’t have fletchings, and are longer than traditional arrows. They are also attached to a fishing line. On that note, never tie a line to the back of an arrow, it should always be attached to the slide near the front of the arrow. If tied to the back, the line could get tangled in the bowstring, causing the arrow to snap back at you, resulting in facial injuries and even death.

You might also want to bring a pair of hip waders, some gloves, sunglasses (if you’re fishing during the day), sunblock, and a hat. If you’re fishing at night you’ll probably want to bring a decent flashlight or spotlight.

If you have the option, and if you’re shooting from a boat, you’ll probably want to use a flat-bottom vessel, so you can take it into shallower water. Like sport fishing and hunting, individual states regulate bowfishing, so you will probably have to pickup a fishing license.

When you’re bowfishing on fresh water you’ll be looking for fish like carp, eels, suckers, perch, catfish, gars, or even alligators. If you’re saltwater bowfishing you’ll probably target fish like dogfish, sharks, and stingrays. The exact type of fish that you’re allowed to bowhunt legally is regulated by the state, so check on your local regulations.

Something that seems obvious, but should also be mentioned about bowfishing. there is no catch-and-release in this sport. Bowfishing kills the fish.

If you decide to give bowfishing a try, but you don’t have access to a boat, then you’ll be limited to wading or bank bowfishing. You’ll want to do this kind of bowfishing in the spring, while the fish are spawning, before and after the spawn the fish can be harder to find. If you’ll be bowfishing from a bank, you’ll want to target lakes, rivers, and ponds with shore access. If you’ll be wading, you have the option of heading to a marsh with tall grass, where the fish feel safe.

If you’re having trouble narrowing down a good spot for your first bowfishing trip, just give your local DNR fisheries biologist a call and tell them you are looking for heavy concentrations of carp, eels, suckers, perch, catfish, or gars.

If you’ve got a few places in mind, but you’re still not sure about the perfect spot, the most important thing you should consider is the consistency of water depth and overall water clarity – clear water that is between 3-4’ deep is ideal for bowfishing.

Now, if you’re like me you don’t hunt what you won’t eat. That said, many of the fish that you’ll be after (such as carp) can contain contaminants, so it’s a smart idea to contact your local DNR office and ask about fish advisories before heading out.


When you finally do get to your fishing spot, the main difficulty that most new bowfishers have is refraction. When light waves pass through water they are deflected, which makes things look like they are where they are not. This is most easily demonstrated using a straw and a glass of water.


To compensate for this, you’ll want to aim about 10” below the fish you’re aiming at; keep in mind this is just a general rule of thumb and you should be prepare to miss quite a bit your first time out.

DIY Traditional Archery Targets

Yellow Jacket Supreme 3 Field Point Archery Target

For the traditional archer, high quality archery targets are awesome, but they can get expensive quick. Personally, I love my Yellow Jacket Supreme, but there are many people who love traditional archery because of the DIY aspect, which seems to accompany the sport. It’s for those reasons that I’ve decided to do a DIY traditional archery target blog.

Note: These DIY projects are meant as traditional archery targets; although they may work, they are not meant for compound or crossbow shooters.

All supplies are not created equal, for this reason I recommend taking a few practice shots at close range at half draw to make sure the target is stopping your arrows. Slowly increase your draw until you’re at full draw at close range. If the target is still doing its job, then feel free to enjoy your new DIY traditional archery target.

The Dressed-Up Bag of Mulch

Difficulty level: 1/10

Cost: Less than $15

Time: About 5 minutes

Morrell Polypropylene Target FacesThe name of the game for this project is “Cheap.” We’re keeping costs down while maintaining functionality. For this project you’ll need a Polypropylene Target Face and a bag of tightly packed mulch or peat moss from your local hardware store. You want the bag of mulch or moss to be at least 12” thick and VERY TIGHTLY PACKED. I prefer moss because it’s less likely to mess-up your arrows. This target is great because any mess that’s created will benefit your lawn, so there’s really no impact on the environment when the target starts to fall apart.

After you’ve got your supplies, simply affix your burlap target face onto the front of the bag of mulch or moss (unopened). You’re done. What’s bad about this target? It’s not going to stand the test of time. So, although it is cheap and easy to make, be prepare for it to break down quickly.

For a more lasting target, you might consider putting your mulch or moss inside of the U-Fill It bag target or, for an even better (self-healing) target, put your bag of moss inside of the Replacement Cover for the Yellow Jacket Supreme. You’ve just made a long-term, outdoor target that is good for your lawn for less than $25.

The Saran Wrap Filled Box

Difficulty level: 1/10

Cost: Less than $10

Time: About 10 minutes

Peel & Stick RealGame® Target Face

If you saw the Dressed-Up Bag of Mulch and thought that the price was still a bit much, then this is the project for you. You’ll need an empty box, a bunch of used plastic wrap (enough to fill the box), some duct tape, and a Peel and Stick Target Face.

Note: If you ask a local business (try a superstore or hardware store) you might be able to get the box and plastic wrap for free, which would really keep the cost down. You could also try factories, as they have a ton of excess plastic wrap from shipments.

The bigger the box, the bigger the target – however, the bigger the box, the more plastic wrap you’ll need.

After you have all of your supplies, stuff the box with the plastic wrap. Stuff it in until it’s impossible to fill it anymore. Just like the Dressed-Up Bag of Mulch, you want this target very tightly packed. After you’re sure it’s packed, close it up and tape it shut with the duct tape. Finally, stick your target face on the box and voila – you’re done.

This project is not only easy, but it can be nearly free for those traditional archers who can easily come by the supplies. However, cardboard will not hold up in the rain (or in any wet conditions) and it will break down quickly if you use it often (as it is not self-healing).

The Compressed Carpet Target

Difficulty level: 3/10

Cost: Less than $50

Time: About 2 hours

Whitetail Deer Paper Archery Target

If you’re a bit more adventurous and you’re not afraid to spend a few extra bucks then this is the target for you. For this project you’ll need to visit your local hardware store and pick up a pressure treated 2x12x8 (should be about $12), four 36” x 5/8” standard threaded rods (about $6 each), eight 5/8” x 1-3/4” zinc-plated standard flat washers (less than $0.20 each), and eight 5/8”- 11 zinc-plated standard hex nuts (less than $0.20 each). You’ll also need a decent target face and some target face pins. Finally, you’re going to need a whole lot of scrap carpet. This is really the biggest variable in price for this whole project. If you’ve got the scrap laying around then you’re going to save yourself a lot of money. However, if you have to buy it, try and find the extra carpet from you local big-box hardware store, you should be able to buy a lot of it for not a lot of money.

For tools, it would be best if you had at least two pipe clamps or some ratchet straps, but if not, then your elbow grease will have to do. You will also need a knife, saw, measuring tape, drill with a 5/8” drill bit, and a 5/8” wrench.

You’ll want to cut your 2x12x8 in half, which will give you two 2x12x4s. Drill a hole in each of the four corners of both boards. You’ll want to make sure each hole is 1” away from the end and side of the board. After you’ve threaded one side of each of your standard rods with a washer and hex nut push each rod through one of the holes on one of your boards (use your measuring tape to make sure the same amount of rod is sticking through each nut).

Now, you will want to cut your carpet in 12”x3’ 10” sections (you’re not cutting them 4’ long because your holes are 1” deep on both sides, which effectively makes your target 2” smaller). After you’ve cut your carpet, start stacking it on top of the board that has the rods threaded through it. Stack it as high as you can – ideally until it’s almost at the top of your rods.

Next, you’re going to put your second board on top of your pile of carpet. Thread the screws through the holes you drilled earlier. Put on the washer and the hex nut – make sure the hex nuts are all finger tight. Gently lay the target on its side and pack it down with your feet to make sure the carpet on one side of the target is flush. Stand the target back up and tighten the boards down with your pipe clamps or ratchet straps. Get them as tight as you can and then re-tighten your hex nuts. If you don’t have pipe clamps or ratchet straps, then you’ll have to tighten the hex nuts with your wrench as much as you can. If needed, you can sit on the target, or apply pressure with your knee to aid in compressing the carpet. After you’ve gotten the hex nuts as tight as they’ll get, use your measuring tape to make sure an equal amount of the rod is coming out of each hole.

Now you’re ready to apply your target face and send some arrows down range. This target is great for those traditional archers who want a target that will last a long time and are determined to make their target themselves.

Clear as mud, right? If you’re having trouble visualizing it, then the below video might help

The Sandbox Archery Target (great for broadheads)

Difficulty level: 5/10

Cost: From $110 (if you use only plywood instead of 2x6s) to $150 (if you use 2x6s)

Time: About 4 hours

Rinehart Woodland Series 3D Targets

So, you want a high-quality target, something that’s going to last a long time AND you want to be able to shoot broadheads into it, but you still want to build it your self –because you’re a masochist.

Although I’m not a masochist, I do love DIY projects and this is one that I think just about anyone can do. What makes it cool is the fact that you can shoot just about anything into it. Yes, that means you can shoot this target with broadheads. However, this is a sand target, which means it can make your broadheads blunt – no problem if you have a few that are for practice anyway or if you know how to sharpen them.

For this project you’ll need a saw, measuring tape, and a drill. You’ll also need to visit your local hardware store and buy six 2x6x8s (about $6 each), one 5 lb. box of 3” screws (about $23), two 4x4x8s (about $10 each), one sheet of 3/4″ pressure treated plywood (about $35), 10 50 lb. bags of all purpose sand (about $3 each).

As this build is a bit more complicated, I’ve made a graphic (above) to help out.

First, cut a 4’x2’ section out of your piece of plywood – this will act as the floor for your new Sandbox Archery Target. If you want to keep costs down, you can cut your plywood into four 4’x2’ sections and use it for the floor and three walls – otherwise, use the remainder of your plywood as a backstop behind your target.

Then, cut one of your 4x4x8s into four sections and screw them onto the bottom of your 4’x2’ piece of plywood 1’ apart from each other. Cut your other 4x4x8 in half and attach it to the other side of your plywood (as shown above).

Next, cut four of your 2x6x8s in half. Cut your remaining two 2x6x8s into four 2’ sections.

If it were me, at this point I would cut two holes in the ply wood, so that you could slide a 2x6x2 down into it – helping hold the sand. Affix the 2x6s together as shown above. Next, simply fill with sand and get shooting.

A good idea would be to staple a rugged outdoor target face to the front of your new Sandbox Archery Target, so you have something to shoot at.

The below video shows what a Sandbox Archery Target should look like after it’s completed:

DIY 3D Style Target

Difficulty level: 8/10

Cost: Less than $20

Time: A weekend

That’s right; I’ve saved the best for last – a DIY 3D style target for less than $20. However, this one is the most time consuming and can be the most technically difficult. Expect this project to take at least one full day if not a weekend. If you value your time, you might want to stick to a traditional 3D archery target. However, if your times not worth that much, or your pretty budget conscious and don’t mind tedious work, this is the project for you.

You’re going to need a sheet of plywood (about $15, but if you want to go all-out get pressure treated plywood for $35), a pencil, tracing paper, a ruler, a computer with a printer, and a jigsaw (if you want it to look a bit more lifelike, then get some paint as well). An old school projector would also be a huge help with this.

First, find a picture of an animal that you would like to turn into a 3D target online. Print the picture, make  sure that it will fit in a 4”x8” box (if you don’t have a printer, use the tracing paper to trace the image one the screen – don’t press too hard, you don’t want to puncture your monitor). Next, use your ruler (or measuring tape) to measure out a 4”x8” box on your tracing paper. Next, make 1” squares in that box, making a grid pattern. Next, lay that tracing paper on top of the picture you printed out earlier. Trace the outline of the animal onto the paper. If you have an old school overhead projector, now would be the time to put your outlined image onto it and project it onto your plywood. If you don’t have a projector, then lightly (using pencil) draw your grid pattern (except instead of 1”x1” squares they will be 1’x1’ squares) onto your plywood and transfer the image onto the plywood that way. After you’ve traced your image onto the plywood it’s time to cut it out using your jigsaw.

Be sure to cut out the vital area of your new target. Place a box target behind the vital area of your target and you’re good to go!

If you opted to buy paint, now would be a good time to paint the target to your liking.

Here is a video that might help explain it:

 For even more great DIY ideas and toturials, check out the book “Bow Accessories” by Volkmar Hubschmann.

By Jason D. Mills

Spring Gobbler Hunting for Beginners

Jared Grewing displays the turkey he took with his Great Plains Long Curve and Zwickey Broadhead, 2013.
Jared Grewing displays the turkey he took with his Great Plains Long Curve and Zwickey Broadhead, 2013.

For the spring season, if you want to bag a turkey, you’re going have to scout, scout, and then scout some more. Expect this to take a good bit of time and effort. You’re scouting to find where the turkeys are roosting and where they feed or strut in the morning. Usually, they’ll keep to the same patterns in good weather.

When you’re scouting, you’re looking and listening for where the birds are, where are the hens going after they pitch down, what are the Toms doing, which Toms run together and where do they feed.

Go out at dusk the evening before your hunt and listen to where they are gobbling at sunset, use a call to get e response gobble letting you pin the roost tree. When you call and finally do get a gobble in response, do not keep calling.

Dusk Hunt

Turkeys do not call as much as you think. Yes, there are times when a hen will just crank away, but not all the time, in fact, she only does that in specific situations. Until you know why she’s doing that, your best tools are patience and knowing your land.

Get there about an hour before sunrise the next morning and set up your decoys in a spot about 100 yards away from the roost tree. You want to be roughly 15 yards from your decoys (or whatever distance you feel comfortable taking that shot), positioned so your back is against a tree or some brush. Remember to stay still; you don’t want all the work you’ve put in to go to waste just because you can’t sit still. That said, look at where you’re going to sit before you put your butt down on an ant hill.

Five minutes to light, make a tree yelp – resist the temptation to continue calling. Wait for about 10 minutes and see if the birds fly to your setup from the roost. When the turkeys fly down and head to your decoy, it’s time to bag your bird. If you have a bird come in, you wait until he is in full strut. As soon as he turns around and his fan is blocking all view of you, get in position and get ready to draw back on that bird as soon as he turns around again. This may take 5 minutes or an hour, be prepared to be able to hold your bow in an odd or uncomfortable position for a very long time.

However, if you don’t hear anything for another 10 minutes, make a couple more yelps.

Turkey Hunt

If they fly down, but not to you, try a few more periodic calls, but it’s probably not going to work out. If they flew down, but you’re not sure where they went and you’re not getting responses to calls stay where you’re at for at least an hour. About 80% of the time this won’t work; you, however, are hoping it’s the 20% that does work.

If, after an hour, you’re still coming up short it’s time to start hiking your hunting area. Remember, if you’re on public land it’s a good idea (and in many states it’s the law) to wear some orange while hiking; just remember to put it away when you find your next spot. Periodically you’ll want to stop and call to see if you can strike a gobble. If you don’t hear anything then keep moving. If you get a response, it’s time to quickly setup again (just like at the beginning of your hunt). After you get settled in, call again and listen to see if the Tom is coming your way.

If you think that everything is going well and the birds are getting close and then they go silent, be ready for them to show up in stealth mode. If, however, you’re pretty sure they’re gone wait 20 minutes after the last time you called before you either call again or leave. There is nothing more heartbreaking than thinking you’re done for the day, standing up and hearing the familiar sound of a turkey taking flight.

Remember, turkeys have nowhere to be and all day to get there. The hunting shows on TV cut hours of waiting to fit into their 30 minute show. Be patient and most importantly, have fun.

For some great shot placement tips, check out this video on turkey anatomy and proper arrow placement from Hoyt. It’s geared toward compound shooters, but the skills are pretty easily transferable to traditional archery.

By Jason D. Mills

9 Outdoorsmen Infographics You Will Love

You don’t have to be a hunter to love the outdoors, but it’s a safe bet that if you’re a hunter you are probably passionate about the habitat in which you hunt. Here are nine outdoorsmen infographics from around the web that the traditional archer and the outdoorsman alike might enjoy.

1. Wild Game Nutritional Guide from

Outdoorsmen Infographics - Wild Game Nutritional Gude

2. How Wildlife is Striving Because of Guns and Hunting from

Outdoorsmen Infographics - How Wildlife is Striving Because of Guns and Hunting

3. The United States of Turkey from
(Note: This infographic has mislabeled Mississippi as Alabama)

Sorry, this image is no longer available.

4. How to Fillet a Fish from

Outdoorsmen Infographics - How to Fillet a Fish

5. The All-In-One Mushroom Guide from
(Note: Please exercise caution when foraging for wild mushrooms, this graphic looks as though it was designed to be used with mushrooms from the grocery store)

Sorry, this image is no longer available.

6. Nine Things NOT To Do While Camping from

Outdoorsmen Infographics - Nine Things NOT To Do While Camping

7. Small-Pond Fishing Tips from

Outdoorsmen Infographics - Small-Pond Fishing Tips

8. North America vs. Africa Animals from

Sorry, this image is no longer available.

9. How to Remove a Fish Hook from

Outdoorsmen Infographics - How to Remove a Fish Hook

By Jason D. Mills

Building Your Own Custom Arrows

By Jason D. Mills

Arrow building, like bow building, can be extremely satisfying. Arrow building, however, is much cheaper and easier to get started than bow building. Besides, every archer will need more arrows at some point, and crafting arrows can give the archer one more way to be connected with their beloved sport and enable them to be the master of every facet of their rig.

Not all shafts are created equal. That said, this build-along should help DIY-ers turn most carbon shafts into true-flying arrows.

Choosing your arrow

There are a few things you need to know before starting to build your arrows. First, you must know your draw length and draw weight. These two numbers will tell you what arrow spine you’ll be looking for. An arrow’s spine is how much the arrow flexes during flight. You want your arrow to recover as fast as possible, which means you want the correct spine. Ensuring you have the proper spine is arguably the most important thing to consider when choosing an arrow.

Finding your arrow length

Your draw length is the distance from the back of the bow (the point furthest from the shooter) at your grip to the maximum distance you draw the bow. Find your draw length by measuring your arm-span in inches from tip-to-tip of each middle finger and then divide that number by 2.5.

Pro-Tip: This is your draw length, not your arrow length.

If you have someone around to help, another, arguably more accurate, method you could use to find your draw length is by drawing back an extra-long arrow to full draw and having someone mark the arrow right in back of the handle. Measure the arrow from the mark to the deepest part of the nock groove. The measurement you get is your draw length.

Easton Draw Length Indicator Shaft

Finally, you could simply use the Easton Draw Length Indicator Shaft to check your draw length.

The next thing you need is your bow’s draw weight. If you don’t have hand held bow scale you’ll just have to go with what is written on your bow, which might not be the most accurate information. First, your bow’s draw weight can be as much as two to three pounds different for every inch of draw length. Second, bow manufactures are allowed to be two pounds off of what is printed on your bow, so your 45# bow could actually be 43# or 47#. This will affect your spine.

Using your hand held bow scale, draw the string until you hit your draw length and hold. Observe the weight on the scale. This is your actual bow peak weight.

Once you have determined your draw length and your actual bow peak weight you are ready to find your arrow length. It’s recommended that your arrow length be 1″-2″ longer than your draw length for the safety of keeping the arrow point outside the bow. Arrows that are less than the recommended arrow length can fall from the string, jam or otherwise cause damage to the arrow or the bow, and could even lead to personal injury.

If you had a friend help you mark the bow, simply add an inch or two to your mark and, voila, you’ve got your arrow length. If you used math to find your draw length, I’m afraid you’ll have to use math to find your arrow length too (that is unless you can find someone to help you mark an arrow while you’re at full draw).

Traditional Only Test Kit

Once you have your arrow length and actual bow peak weight, you are ready to select your correct arrow spine. For your benefit, we’ve created a handy chart for just that purpose. The 1/2″ marks over lap on the chart. That said, if you are on two different spines we highly recommend getting a test kit first.

Time to Cut Your Arrow Shafts

  • Wear safety glasses before cutting
  • Never touch the blade while it is moving

Lock your arrow saw in at your desired measurement

 Weston Precise Cut Arrow Saw

Pro-Tip: It’s a good idea to double check your measurement after each arrow, the lock can move

Ensure your nock is pushed flush against the lock at all times. Otherwise, you could end up with different sized arrows

As you cut your arrows, ensure you bring the arrow to the saw rotate it backward until it is cut all the way through

Squaring the arrow

Arrow Squaring DeviceFirst, lets square the arrow. The cutting process sometimes lead to an uneven edge. The blade can cause slight imperfections, which you won’t see until you put your insert into the arrow shaft or even when you go to spin test your arrows.

Pro-Tip: Let 3Rivers do the cut and mount for you when you buy your shafts. We can cut to length and mount inserts.

Place the arrow on your arrow square, putting the cut end flush against end of the square tool. Rotate each arrow for approximately 30 seconds.

Clean out the inside of the shaft to a depth of 1″ with a Q-tip and some clean water or acetone.

Glue the insert into the shaft Brass Point Inserts

  • Read warning and first aid instructions before use
  • Wear safety glasses
  • Do not handle inserts by gluing surfaces, doing so may lead to improper adhesion
  • Disposable gloves are recommended
  • Do not use heat directly on carbon

Bohning Insert IronWhile holding the insert, apply an even amount of glue onto the back half of the insert

Pro-Tip: You apply it to the back half because as you push the insert into the shaft it will push the glue forward onto the rest of the insert

Rotate the insert while pushing it into shaft

Pro-Tip: It helps to finish this process off by pressing the insert tightly against a table or other hard surface

Immediately clean off the excess glue

Installing the arrow wrap

Cap Wraps Arrow EnhancersInstall an arrow wrap for an instant arrow cap dips, but with no paint, no fumes, and no waiting. Arrow Cap wraps not only make your arrows look good, they make it easier to fletch and allow for easy re-fletching.

Peel cap wrap from backing

Place adhesive side up on a soft surface, such as a mouse pad

Align the edge of the cap wrap with the bottom of the nock

Press down and roll all the way through.

Fletching the Arrows

Bitzenburger Dial-O-Fletch Fletching Jig

In your fletching jig, nock down place the arrow firmly into the nock holder, if it’s not in the same place every time, you will end up with arrows with different fletchings

Holding the clamp in one hand, place the feather into the clamp Bohning Feather Fletching Tape– start the arrow about half way back in the clamp, open the clamp slightly and use your index finger to gently push the arrow the rest of the way into the clamp.

Line your fletching tape up with your fletching and cut to length. Apply the tape downward, the entire length of the feather. Use a knife beard trimming scissors to take off the fletching tape’s backing. Install the clamp onto the fletching jig and apply downward pressure. Repeat these steps to apply all of your fletchings.Bohning Fletch-Tite Platinum Fletching Glue

Although you have the option of using glue, fletching tape is cleaner and simpler

Time for the spin test

Large Spin Tester

Place your arrow on the spin tester and rotate the arrow backward. You will want to watch the broadhead end and the fletching end – you should see a perfect spin. If you see any wobble it means that something was off during the arrow building process.

Weigh the arrows

 3Rivers Digital Pocket Grain Scale

Turn on your arrow scale and place an arrow holder onto the scale; zero out the scale to ensure the holder isn’t included in your measurements

Arrow Holder for Digital Scale

Place the middle of the arrow on the arrow holder

Using a permanent marker, write the grain weight on your arrow

Pro-Tip: It makes sense to write the arrow’s grain on one of the fletchings or the wrap, so you can see it easily

Repeat this process for all of your new arrows

Congratulations! You’ve just built your own custom arrows.

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