A lot of archers are quite overwhelmed when they first practice the sport. You may notice that archery is a lot harder than you thought initially and you might believe that you will never learn it. Don’t worry though, a lot of new archers experience this. It just takes a long time to learn the technique. In this article, I will explain in more detail what you can expect when you start with this sport. No time to read on? Read at least the summary below, for an answer to the main question in the title.
It takes about 2 months to learn how to properly shoot a bow. This is on average how long it takes for archers to learn the correct techniques and develop consistent form. In the next months, you will start to refine the technique and start to become more consistent.
I have to say though, this answer is a bit shortsighted. Most archers will feel quite comfortable with a bow after 2 months of regular training, but this also depends on how much you train. Additionally, some pick up archery faster than others.
Also, what does it mean to learn archery? Is your goal to just launch an arrow? Or do you want to be laser-accurate? It all depends on what you want to achieve. Therefore, I will discuss what progress you can expect depending on your training schedule.
What you can expect
To give you a realistic timeline I have made a table of what you can expect if you train at least 2 times per week. These averages are observed at my local club for archers that are shooting a recurve bow with a sight and stabilizer. It’s not scientifically gathered data, but it will give you a rough sense of what you can expect.
|Time since started with archery||Average score (1-10)|
Note: based on observations from my local indoor archery range (20 yards, 18 meters) while shooting on a 40-inch target face. Training 2 days per week, at least 60 shots per training.
Don’t be let down if you fall behind these averages. Every archer progresses differently. Sometimes it just clicks in your head, which causes the scores to improve dramatically. In general, men learn the basics of archery faster than women. But in the long run, the differences tend to become less apparent.
It’s also interesting to plot these observations in a graph, which I have done below. Because you start to develop the basic form and technique in the first few weeks, you see tremendous improvements. But once you start to shoot better, it gets more difficult to improve even more. Therefore, when you are shooting for years, you will see only very minor improvements.
The timeline in more detail
Alright, you now know what you can expect in terms of scores. Most archers start archery as a recreational activity, they just want to have fun. These scores won’t matter much for these archers. Therefore, I wanted to give an overview of what you will experience in terms of progression and what it will feel like.
In the first month, you will learn the basic technique and start to get familiar with a bow. You might still have trouble nocking the arrow correctly and it often happens that the arrow falls off the rest. Therefore, this month is mainly to familiarize yourself with how the bow feels and how it works.
Some archers get used to the bow rather quickly which allows them to shoot more comfortably and accurately rather quickly. But for most archers, this will take about a month. Don’t worry if it feels clunky or if you are doing a lot wrong. That is normal and it is part of the learning experience.
At this point, it is very helpful to read the article below. It describes how to properly shoot a bow in 10 steps:
Month 2 - 6
After a month, you will feel a lot more comfortable with your bow. Once you are used to nocking the arrow and drawing the bow, you can start to work on your technique. Most beginner’s courses will start working on this directly but it’s often quite hard to focus on this when you are still worrying about the basics.
Most archers often shoot with poor form the first month. You either shoot with a bent back or lean away from the bow. In the next months, you can focus on these issues and start to develop a routine.
Therefore, in these months, you will see a huge improvement in your overall consistency. In the first month, you might be rather inconsistent with your anchor point, but after six months you will have a consistent point you hit every time.
Since this phase is all about improving your technique, you might want to go back to the 10 steps to shoot a bow and read the in-depth articles. This helps you to perfect these steps to further improve your accuracy. You can see all in-depth technique articles here:
Month 7 - 12
It often takes a long time to train your muscles to consistently draw your bow. In most cases, you will achieve this after about 9 months of training. You also start to feel that the draw feels lighter. All this training helps your muscles to draw your bow more efficiently. And of course, you will also start to build up upper body muscles.
At this point, you start to become very comfortable with handling your bow. You get used to the feel and sound of the bow. When something is off you will notice it rather quickly.
If you have started with beginner gear, at this point you might notice that it starts to keep your back. Your sight might not give you a clear enough sight picture or your tab might not feel right. If this happens, you might want to experiment with different gear. This allows you to tailor your gear to your shooting style. If you are at this point, you might want to check out my in-depth buyers guide on archery equipment.
Month 13 -24
You will never fully master archery, no one ever did. We can only get closer and closer to perfection. But every time we improve, we find new things to improve. It’s also quite common for your progress to stall for a few months.
When you are just getting started, it’s often very easy to spot major inconsistencies in your technique. But when these issues get smaller, it’s often near impossible to identify the issue. Therefore, you often have to experiment before you find the culprit of your inaccuracy.
On a more positive note. Most archers that practice archery at a club start to participate in local competitions. This opens you to new challenges because you must shoot while a clock is counting down with way more pressure behind each shot. Therefore, apart from mastering archery, you also need to master your nerves.
At this point, basic tuning also starts to become more important. Especially a consistent brace height, arrow clearance, and center shot are important. If you don’t know how to tune your bow yet, this is the time to learn it. Otherwise, you will have to visit an archery shop every time you suspect something is wrong.
Month 25 and beyond
From this point, you start to become a real archery expert. You now learn that archery isn’t as clear-cut of a sport as some archers make it seem. There is no one best technique and what works also depends on your body and setup.
If you are a recurve archer, you have probably started to shoot with a clicker. If you are a compound archer, you might experience target panic and start to shoot with a hinge/back tension release. Traditional archers on the other hand will start to experiment with different arrow shafts and point weights to optimize the arrow's flight.
In general, archery starts to become more and more complex, and you learn more about the dynamics of archery. Therefore, you might enjoy following archery blogs, commenting on forums, and joining Facebook groups.
At this point, you have probably accepted the fact that you won’t see huge improvements in your scores. Since you are already hitting the dead center of the target with most arrows. You might increase the distance to make it more challenging.
Shaking things up
Some archers practice one form of archery for their entire life. They enjoy the exercise. The feeling of the bow and what to become the best they can. They may also compete in high-level competitions and train other archers.
Other archers decide to switch to a different bow type. This is what I did after shooting 4 years with my recurve bow. I barely improved and got demotivated. I am shooting compound for at least 2 years now and I am still happy with my choice.
If you have only practiced target archery so far, you might also want to check out other archery forms, such as biathlon archery, archery tag, 3D archery, or mounted archery. All these different archery forms have unique challenges that refreshen the hobby. Especially if you start to get demotivated, I thoroughly recommend shaking things up!
Tips to speed up the archery learning process
Achieving your first arrow in the bullseye is very satisfying. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to get all three arrows in the center of the target. Below, I will give you my three most important tips to increase the archery learning process.
1. Take a beginner’s course
If you are just getting started, there is so much to learn that it can be rather overwhelming. There are so many things to focus on that it’s often helpful to get some guidance. A beginner’s course will teach you the basics within a few hours. The combination of listening and doing makes it way easier to remember everything.
As a beginner, it’s impossible to get your form right when you are just getting started. Since you can’t look at yourself it’s very difficult to see what you are doing wrong. Even if you would use a mirror, you need to know all aspects of the technique to evaluate what you are doing wrong. Getting the basic technique right from the get-go will give you a huge advantage in the long run.
Taking a beginner’s course is simply the most stress-free and most effective way to get started. But if that isn’t possible or if you want to learn it on your own, I recommend reading the article below. It gives you a full overview of all the techniques used.
If you want to learn archery by yourself. I also recommend this book from Steve Ruis. He is one of my favorite authors and I regularly read his articles in Archery Focus or on his blog for archery coaches. This book is a great start to learn the basics of archery.
2. Shoot as many arrows as you can
If you want to get better at something you need to do it a lot. Practice, practice, practice; is the advice! This might seem obvious, but a lot of archers forget this along the way. Even practicing on short ranges, your garden, for example, allows you to practice your technique. Also, dry practicing (drawing the bow without shooting) can help you to practice technique and strength.
There is only one way to master archery - by shooting a loads of arrows!
I even recommend decreasing the draw weight if this is a limiting factor. If you notice that you can only shoot 60 arrows with your current draw weight. You might want to decrease it with 2 or 4 LBS to shoot 90 arrows or more.
Once you build up muscle mass you can always increase the draw weight again. Another option is to start training your back muscles, as I explain in this article.
3. Read, learn, and watch archery content
Archery is a rather technical sport. There are a lot of different aspects of the bow you need to understand to correctly tune and maintain it. Therefore, you should invest some time to learn about this sport. Luckily, there are several ways to do this. You can either read books, blogs, or forums; but you could also watch archery tutorials and discussions on YouTube.
Especially if you are getting stuck, you might want to do some research. It can give you some clear pointers on what you should work on.
Let’s get started!
When you decided you want to give archery a shot, you have to make a lot of decisions. How do you want to learn archery, with a beginner’s course, a coach or, self-taught? But even more important, what kind of discipline would you like to shoot, traditional, recurve, or compound? There is simply a lot to consider and a lot to learn to get started.
To help you get started as smoothly as possible I have written a full article on how to get started with archery. I that article I will guide you from choosing a discipline to your first day shooting your bow. I also discuss buying your first bow, so it’s worth a read.
I hope this article gives you a clear timeline on what progress you should expect when learning archery. Although this differs highly per person and how often you train, it gives you an overview of the learning process.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t see the same level of growth in each phase. Some archers start off slow and see tremendous improvements later. Every archer learns and progresses differently. But one thing is certain, the more effort you put in, the better you will shoot!
Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions. You can leave those in the comment section down below. I will reply to any comments as soon as possible and I will send you an email notification.