Until very recently, I thought I would never be physically able to shoot a bow.
You see, as a child I broke my left elbow in three places and being that I was a very active 7-year-old, properly immobilizing my arm was next to impossible. Consequently my arm did not mend correctly, which left me with a seriously hyper-extended elbow. The first time I drew back a bow and fired it the string struck my arm with such force that I was left bruised from my upper left arm all the way down to my wrist.
Try as I might I could not find a way to shoot a bow without painfully damaging my arm and this was enough to convince me that archery was out of the question. Then I met Dee Nystrom, former owner of New England Archery Center and current general manager of Sportsman's Paradise.
Explaining my limitations to Dee, she assured that there was a way to overcome my handicap and she could teach me how to shoot a bow without leaving the length of my arm with welts and bruises. A slight alteration of my shooting form would be all it would take to ensure my shooting safety. By keeping my left elbow slightly bent and placing my right foot slightly forward, for the first time in 20 years I drew back a bowstring and let an arrow fly. To my amazement and delight, the arrow hit its mark yet, and left my arm unscathed!
Working On Form
Now that I had finally conquered the problem with my elbow, next I needed to refine my shooting form and then there were strength issues to address. I quickly discovered that I am something of a wimp and feeling a bit discouraged, Dee jumped to my rescue again. She told by me that the muscles one uses to draw a bow are rarely used and it would not take me long to develop them where drawing a bow would not be quite so difficult.
With Dee's confidence building, I was convinced I could overcome these hurdles in time. Dee recommended I begin working on my form by shooting a simple recurve bow. She provided me with the use of a PSE Optima bow equipped with a single pin sight and a draw weight of a mere 25 pounds.
Each time I stepped up to the shooting line I mentally went through my checklist:
1) Draw the bowstring to a solid anchor point;
2) Put my nose against the string
3) Put my left shoulder back;
4) Move my right foot slightly forward
5) Keep my left elbow slightly bent;
6) Line up the sight with the target;
7) And release the string.
Before I knew it, I was hitting the target from the 20-yard mark every time and in the process I learned how to properly adjust the sight. I also soon found I could shoot more and more arrows without becoming fatigued.
Feeling confident, I was now ready to handle a bow with a little more power and speed, and again sought Dee's expert advice in regard to selecting a compound bow. Dee suggested I work with a bow that would have a draw weight of 35 pounds and as my strength improved it could be turned up to a higher poundage.
Selecting A Compound Bow
First, however, there was more I needed to learn about selecting a bow. I had no idea that archery was such an individual sport and it was more than picking out a bow that appealed to me. Dee explained that I would need to be fitted to a bow in order to shoot it properly. In addition to draw weight considerations, I would also need to have my draw length measured to make sure I would be able to get optimum performance out of the bow.
Finding a bow that fit my needs was not difficult and after installing a peep sight, cutting arrows to fit my draw length, and providing me with that all-important arm guard, the real work of converting me into an archer had still only just begun.
With the compound, I used a three-pin adjustable sight and a caliper style release. This bow had a lot more speed than the recurve. I am determined to reach my goal of becoming so proficient with my bow that I am able to hunt with it.
With each day my strength continues to improve, I have yet to smack my arm with the bowstring and I look forward to going hunting!