A fit body and these exercises can help you be a better shot with your bow.
By Kathy Etling
A lady unfamiliar with archery can become intimidated the first time she watches another person shoot a bow. That’s especially true if the bow being shot is a compound outfitted with the latest high-tech gear.
A longbow or recurve just looks less intimidating, which is why archery introduced in schools, scouts or summer camps usually begins with traditional bows.
If you feel even slightly intimidated, begin with the simplest bow available. The goal is to have fun until you get the hang of archery.
Both archery and bowhunting, however, can involve much more than fun. Women who excel in both can earn good livings in the sports. Take Denise Parker of Salt Lake City, for instance. Parker began shooting at age 10, when her father took up bowhunting for elk.
Parker’s first experiences took place at a local range where she shot with a group of youngsters in wheelchairs. The first time she held a bow in her hands, the instructor told her to pull it back and let it go.
“I didn’t know which hand to let go,” Parker said. “I worried the arrow would bounce back and hit me in the face.” It didn’t, but several of Parker’s first shots hit the target to the girl’s right rather than the one for which she’d been aiming.
Parker, as it would turn out, was a right-handed shooter with a dominant left eye. The instructor suggested she switch to shooting left-handed, which felt extremely unnatural. But Parker was a gamer. She gave left-handed shooting a try, and it soon became apparent that Denise Parker was not only good, but she also had the potential to become great.
At age 14, Denise Parker won an Olympic bronze medal as a member of the U. S. women’s archery team. Her increasing fame led to numerous national magazine covers as well as appearances on TV shows such as Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show.
The Parker family wasn’t wealthy, but archery gave Denise a way to travel the world. Sponsorship money paid for attendance at a top-tier college she otherwise would have been unable to afford.
Any petite 12-, 13- or 14-year-old in training for international competitions that will pit her against women in their 20s, must improve her strength, so each day, Parker shot hundreds of arrows with her recurve at the competition distance of 70 meters, or more than 70 yards.
“When I wasn’t shooting I’d do exercises that targeted the shoulders, upper back and triceps to help me pull back more weight,” Parker explained. (In bowhunting, an archer must be able to pull through slightly more than her peak draw weight in order to comfortably hold on a target, like a whitetail, for long periods of time). “Leg and core strength are also important for steadiness, especially in windy conditions.”
Strength and steadiness helped make Native Americans exceptional archers, too. Any non-Herculean woman who remains concerned about her draw weight should consider that Native Americans used wooden longbows to shoot stampeding bison – animals many times larger than the average whitetail – and did pretty well.
Archer and historian Jim Hamm believes American Indians, when hunting, usually did not pull bows back to maximum draw and so rarely achieved maximum force. They preferred to shoot quickly and accurately over shorter distances. In war, however, longer-range shooting at maximum draws carried definite survival advantages.
Exercising to improve and maintain strength is important to both archer or bowhunter, but one item will actually aid you in becoming both steadier and more confident: the Cheater Bow Sling (quickmitt.com. Made of a tough, rubbery compound that stretches slightly when you draw, just slip the sling over your shooting hand, snug it against your body and under your arm, then pull taut behind your back.
The sling’s other ends snap around to the bow’s upper and lower limbs. When you draw, the sling’s benefit becomes immediately apparent as it adjusts to fit your body. You’ll feel much steadier and you’ll be able to maintain full draw for a longer period of time.
You also must diligently build up your shooting muscles and endurance level. Luckily, the best exercises require little more than free weights, rubber bands or rubber resistance straps (with stirrups or a door attachment).
Resources: Visit www.tenzone.u-net.com to learn more about strengthening muscles for bowhunting. Other resources include the Bowfit Archer Exerciser, as well as a video, Archery Fit: Strengthening Tips from the Pros. Both are available at www.bowfit.com.
This article was published in the August 2006 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.