5 ways to shoot vehicles are similar to bows and commercial bows

Compound braces have been popular for decades, and their performance is better than ever. In recent years, traditional shooting has seen a revival in popularity, with many shooters trading their wheels and cams for “longbow” (longbow and recurve). Traditional bows are generally accepted as more difficult to shoot, and many hunters embrace this challenge.

I did it somewhat in reverse. I’ve been throwing bows all my life – I usually use them on chariots and long bows without sights. I bought a new complex when I was 18, but it was not used very often. I started shooting longbow and back to back exclusively in 2011 and have never looked back – until now.

After a few years working with Tom Clum, a Level 4 coach at NTS, I decided to start working my way up the coaching certification ladder myself. The NTS (National Training System) method of bow throwing changed my shooting life, and I have an insatiable appetite to learn more about it. NTS is a standard biomechanically based bow shooting method and was developed by National Trainer, Kesik Lee.

After I got my Level 3 degree – and at the invitation of Clum – I decided it was wise to get a composite and learn how to shoot it too. Compound shooters need to train just as regular shooters do, and the NTS method is applied to recurves, longbows, and compounds.

I got a Hoyt Highline compound to match the length of the pull, and soon I started shooting. Most people think that because commercial vehicles and bows look so different, shooting them would be completely different, too. Many competent compound shooters struggle when picking up a recurve because they do not apply many of the concepts that translate between compound archery and the traditional bow.

Sure, they’re different styles of bows, but you’ll be amazed at how skill and movement translate from one to the other.

Shooting Compound Bows vs Shooting Trad Bows: What’s the difference

Conventional vehicles and bows are completely different in appearance and performance. With cams and cables, a compound bow is more effective than a long or curved bow—and much more powerful at the same weight of draw.

Vehicles are generally easier to fire efficiently – primarily due to leakage and the use of aids at all. It is these two things that cause the most significant differences in compound shootings versus conventional bow shooting.

Release utilities such as the trigger, thumb button, and hinge that hook or clip on the “D-loop” string with precise, consistent pressure on the string, releasing the string in a highly repeatable manner. Curves and long arcs are usually drawn and edited with the shooter’s fingers. This can be done very precisely, but it requires more practice. Using the release tool differs from fingering in how the thread is grabbed and released, but it also changes the shooter’s anchor.

With the arrow pointed straight at the target, this is a good starting point for the right-hand shooter’s position. Tyler Friel

The boat drawing course is different from the traditional bow and requires a slightly different approach. The weight of the repetitive pull increases smoothly with the bow pull, and the bowler rotates their shoulders into alignment as they raise the bow and finish the pull with the back muscles. The more the thread is pulled back, the greater the weight of the pull. The opening in the boat causes the peak towing weight to be up front in the towing cycle, and very low at full towing. For this reason, compound shooters raise the bow, and then pull it back with rotation and back muscles at the same time.

Shooting Vehicles vs Commercial Shooting Bows: Similarities

Despite the very different look, a lot of the shot is the same or the same – whether you’re shooting a traditional arc or the latest major compound. The basic mechanics of throwing a bow accurately and correctly are the same. After a decade-long hiatus from just capturing a compound, I’ve found that the elements of operating a good, accurate shot are the same.

posture and position

Posture and posture are very similar. If you switch from a composite to a reflection, you don’t want to automatically start with humps and short drawing. A stable posture and a strong connection to the ground is important to both – as is your posture. You want your feet to be shoulder-width apart and slightly open—which means your hips are slightly pointing toward the target, not perpendicular to it. This gives your upper body room to rotate in alignment and use of your back and core muscles for drawing.

In full drag with compound bow and back
The position and the stabilizing position at full towing are very similar between vehicles and reversals. Tyler Friel

muscle drawing

Although the drawing cycle and specific movements of drawing vary from compound to commercial arc, you are using the large, powerful muscles in your back and core to draw the arc – not your shoulder. To draw both arcs in this way requires basic rotation and involvement of the back muscles. One of the most common mistakes in drawing both vehicles and common bows is using the shoulder muscles to draw and release the bow. Oftentimes, this can lead to long-term injuries.


Grip angles and shapes usually vary between bow styles, and there are some nuances to the optimal grip for each bow. However, whether it’s shooting a boat or a commercial bow, many of the principles of good grip remain consistent. You don’t want to put pressure on the bow grip or focus the pressure on the wrong part of your hand.

The best place to start is to place the net of your hand in the fist ring and then roll it down onto the handle. The handle should be fully pressed against the thumb pad, completely inside the lifeline. You want a strong structural connection to the arch. When pointing to a target, your knuckles should slope downward about 45 degrees with your index finger pointing down and resting on the front of the fist. Your thumb should be directed toward the target and under tension. All pressure should be on the thumb pad.


A bow is a bow: 5 ways that archery vehicles and traditional bows are the same
Larry Wise

Some terms in archery are defined differently depending on who is doing the speaking, but as the NTS method of archery sees it, alignment refers to the relationship between the shoulders and the hand holding the bow. The goal of good alignment is to stabilize the weight of the bow on the skeleton of the shooter by aligning the shoulders and bow hand in a straight line. The goal of NTS is to achieve an optimal stabilization position with minimal stress and fatigue on your muscles.

Good alignment is key to shooting both vehicles and commercial bows consistently. Poor alignment is particularly detrimental to throwing long and recurve bows because they carry much more weight on a full pull and this strains the muscles severely. It’s easier to get away with less-than-ideal alignment when shooting a compound simply because there’s less weight and less pressure for your body to get over it on a full pull. Regardless, good alignment is important, and you’ll be more stable, comfortable, and accurate with it.

Photography with increased tension

Losing tension or falling apart is one of the greatest accuracy thieves in commercial bow shooters game. What I mean by the loss of tension is that their muscles relax a bit in the stationary position at full draw, as the archer is aiming and about to fire the arrow. Instead of pulling the string more forcefully, the bowler slowly backs away. It is impossible to break the shot with constant tension when it bleeds – this hurts accuracy.

Vehicles are easy to manipulate when it comes to shooting with increased tension. The low stability weight on the body makes it easier to withstand the force of the bow, and many successful shooters hold the full pull and manipulate the release with their hand—particularly wrist strap trigger releases. But I find I prefer shooting with increased stress, just like recovering.

In general, the most accurate shots are fired with unconscious or unexpected firing, with heightened tension. This increase in tension may not be visible to the naked eye, but it is important. This is why you will see every Olympic archer increase the tension with his shot, using what is called stretching to pull the arrow the last millimeters through the clicker before firing it.

read the following: Shooting Injuries: Are You Ruining Your Shoulder?

Adding tension through the shot is critical to achieving consistent accuracy with a commercial arc, and I find it very effective in composite photography as well. Although the length of pull is consistent with the compound, if I don’t activate my release by adding tension (pulling more forcefully) with my back muscles, my accuracy deteriorates—especially at longer distances. I quickly find that one of the easiest sources of inconsistency with compound is simply holding the full pull and activating the release with a hand motion, rather than keeping a rigid hand and pulling through the release with a rear tension.

Free compound shooting
Like trad bows, vehicles must be fired with increased tension—even with the help of the trigger release. Tyler Friel

Skills that translate

Whether you’re shooting compound and traditional bows, want to switch up, or just try one or the other, all of these principles run through. If you’re a good compound shooter, you don’t necessarily need to change your shape completely – use the shot process you’ve already developed to create a consistent, repeatable shot with a commercial arc. Good posture, using core rotation and back muscles to draw, achieving good alignment, and adding tension during the shot will help with any bend.

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