String alignment for consistent archery shots
Aligning the bowstring in your sight picture is critical to consistent shooting. How archers do that varies – especially among the different archery disciplines.
Let’s get compound archers out of the way first, because their alignment process is the simplest. Almost all compound archers use a peep sight.
This is a small circle or tube that is set into the middle of the bowstring, between the strands. The height of the peep is set based on the archer's anchor. Most archers will draw to anchor, touch their nose to the string, and then have someone slide the peep up or down so that it matches their eye height.
Look through the peep and line up the sight so it’s in the center. Ideally, the edges of the peep will perfectly match the edges of your scope housing. If it doesn’t, just make sure the sight is in the middle of the peep, and you’ll know you're aiming the same way for every shot.
Some bowhunters opt not to use peep sights for various reasons – one of them being hunters fear not being able to see through the peep in low light conditions. These archers might use a bow sight with optical alignment built in, or they use the string in some fashion to line up their sight pins in order to achieve a consistent aim. Perhaps they make sure the string aligns against the riser side of their scope housing, or the bow riser itself.
(Using a peep sight is much simpler, and it’s going to be way more accurate. The time you might sacrifice in failing light is more than offset by the huge gains in accuracy.)
Olympic recurve archers – those who put sights on their recurve bows – usually have a three-point system for string alignment to ensure they’re looking through their sight the same way for each shot.
These archers hook the string with one finger above the arrow nock and two below. With this grip, they will then anchor the top of their index finger under the jaw at full draw. Doing this sets their eye height at a consistent spot in relation to the bowstring.
Next, they will touch the tip of their nose to the string and then move their head until their view of the string and sight is set. That string will be in a consistent spot time and again – often along the vertical edge of the riser's sight window or on the right edge of the sight housing for right-handed archers and the left edge for lefties.
Regardless of where an archer aligns the string, if the string drifts from that spot, the archer will notice the alignment has moved, and correct it by simply turning his or her head slightly.
Barebow archers, who shoot without sights, often refer to “string blur.” It's the blurry image of the bowstring right in front of their eye, which they see while aiming or focusing down range. Some pay attention to string blur during shot alignment, often lining it up in relation to the arrow or riser.
Others, like world champion John Demmer III, count on the string blur to be set properly based on their anchor. Demmer said if he notices his string blur, then he knows he’s out of alignment, because it should be “attached” to the riser from his perspective.
Also, barebow archers who are string-walking as they shoot different distances, like on a 3-D shoot or field course, will move the string blur left and right to move their point of impact left or right, depending on the distance.
Whether you shoot Olympic recurve or barebow, it takes a lot of practice to get consistent string alignment because there is no definitive object – like a peep sight – to give you a precise reference point.