Skip to content

The Complete Guide to Archery

Man Shooting Bow

Archery is a fun, accessible sport with a rich history. Whether you’re looking for a new method of hunting, a way to get some light exercise, a competitive league sport, or a fun activity for the whole family, archery can provide. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about archery to start you on your path.

Getting Started

Man Setting Up Bow Gear

You don’t have to buy all of the gear in order to find out if you like archery. Just call your local archery or sporting goods store: they’ll be able to show you the bows, and you may be able to sign up for a few lessons if you’re interested. This shop will become your resource for all of your archery questions, and the associates can help you select the right equipment for your unique needs.

If you’re taking lessons, you’ll likely be able to rent bows to use. Even a single introductory lesson can get you started and help you understand the basics of archery. Group lessons can be a cost-effective way of taking lessons, and you’ll meet other people who are interested in archery just like you are.

Check out our article on how to get into archery for more information on getting started.



There are many bow options on the market, and you’ll need to get to know your own archery needs and style in order to select the right one. Most beginners use a recurve bow, which requires less strength for the speed of the arrow. The compound bow is also quite common, though its complex system makes it more of a challenge for beginners.

Experienced archers sometimes use longbows (also known as traditional bows), which are the medieval Robin Hood-style bows you’ve seen in the movies. These require quite a lot of strength, and generally don’t have the many additions that modern bows have. Some archers use crossbows, as well.

For more information, check out our article on the different types of bows.

When it comes time to purchase a bow, head into your local archery or sporting goods store. They’ll measure your draw length and take your height in order to find the right types of bows. Then, you can shoot different bows and decide which one feels the most natural for you.

You’ll also want to invest in arrows, a sight, a quiver, arrow rest, and more accessories. Check out our guide to essential gear for beginners to decide what’s most important for you.

Parts of an Arrow

Parts of an Arrow

There’s some basic vocabulary you need in order to understand arrows. The shaft is the body of the arrow. The nock is the part that clips onto the bowstring. The fletchings are the wing-like things next to the nock, and they help your arrow stay on course.

Many archers prefer carbon fiber arrows for their strength and light weight. These are very durable, and stay straight even if you have to squish them into your pack for your next trip. Carbon arrows can crack against rock or metal, so check your arrows if they hit something hard. If you see a crack, or hear cracking sounds while flexing it, you’ll have to retire it.

Aluminum arrows are cheaper than carbon fiber, but they are not as durable. They still shoot consistently and can be a decent budget option.

Wooden arrows are less durable and less consistent, as wood will warp due to humidity or other damage. Some archers prefer the nostalgic, historic feel of wooden arrows.

Fletchings will usually come either as plastic or feathers. Plastic fletchings (called vanes) are durable and waterproof, and are usually preferred for compound bows and modern recurves. Feathers are great for indoor competitive archers who need to maximize their arrow’s stability.

How to Practice

How to Practice

If your backyard is big enough, you may be able to practice archery there. You can buy targets from the store, or make your own with balloons or other markers.

Stump shooting is a very fun way of getting outside and practicing archery. As you walk through the woods, choose stumps and other spots as targets, and aim for them. Make sure stump shooting is legal in your area before doing this on private lands, and of course exercise caution.

Indoor archery ranges can offer a great solution for the winter months, and there are even indoor archery leagues. stability.


Man ready to hunt

Bow hunting can be a very rewarding way of taking to the back country. You’ll need to get closer to your targets than you do for rifle hunting, so it will test your abilities in stealth, camouflage, and ability to track.

Check out our bow hunting gear checklist before your next trip, and learn more about specific targets through our guides on bow hunting deer, turkey, elk, and bear.

The most important thing is to get started! Don’t get bogged down in gear and other issues until you are confident in your archery style and goals.