Jamie Harris, part of the Paralympic Archery Squad, explains skills and tips on how to shoot in the wind. There are key factors to work with and against.
Shooting in the wind is one of the most challenging environmental factors an archer will come up against. Be it strong gusts, a persistent gale or even an inconsistent breeze, the many tricks the wind can play can throw even the most experienced archer off. Here are some tips that I have learnt to overcome the wind.
A useful first step is to identify how the wind influences your ability to put an arrow into the middle of the target. This can be broken down into two categories;
Caution should be applied when trying to address the effects of the wind on an arrow in flight. It is often considered that you could reduce the amount of time the arrow spends in flight by increasing the poundage, however, this comes with many drawbacks.
If you're not ready for the increased draw weight, you will tire quickly. Overall, chasing poundage is not a sustainable way to counter wind. It's best to accept that the wind will impact your arrow flight and therefore will move your grouping.
I have found the best approach is to plan to counter this by moving the sight or aiming off. My preference is to move the sight as this allows you to keep your focus on making the shot and should the wind stay consistent you only need to move the sight once.
Successfully sighting off does require a little preparation. On a calm day, experiment with moving the sight, make notes of how far you need to adjust the sight to get the arrow to land in the different scoring zones.
I have always focused on moving the sight left and right, however, there is no harm in seeing what it takes to influence the vertical position as the wind can also have a small effect on this, this is notable if the wind is blowing from in-front or behind.
These notes will become invaluable when the wind is blowing your arrows off-course. By doing the reverse sight adjustment you'll be able to get the arrows back into the gold. As a rule of thumb, I only move the sight if the group is forming outside of the ten-ring and when the grouping consists of three or more arrows.
Changing the sight after one arrow can lead to overcorrection, often sending the next arrow the other way, before you know it you're chasing the ten and making other mistakes in your shot routine.
A common distraction in bad weather is the over-eagerness to look through your targeting scope, wanting to understand where your last shot hit is great. However, your early movement can see you leaving the shot before the arrow has left the bow.
Always finish your follow-through routine, to be sure wait until the arrow has hit the target before you move to look through the scope.
As well as the effect the wind will have on the arrow, also consider the effect the wind will have on you the archer. At full draw, balance will easily be disrupted. Make sure all your work on a strong posture and stance isn't undone.
To improve your posture in the shot, set up with your legs apart as normal but move your back foot a third of a shoe length forward. By putting it out of line with your forward foot, this will create a slightly larger base without upsetting your posture and help improve stability. Above all, keep building your core strength to help maintain posture.
Due to the archers surface area being larger at full draw, the impact is most notable at this critical point. Often these conditions will result in one of two responses;
I release shots by applying pressure through my back, however, if I become unstable I may release the shot with my fingers. This action is inconsistent and 'snags' rather than giving a smooth release.
If I tightened up because of the wind my body will become out of alignment. I physically won't be able to release with my back and my arms will try to release the shot. This results in a bad follow-through and transfers sideways movement onto the arrow. The impact of this will cause the groups to spread out and at worst will lead to further outliers.
I have learnt that these reactions come down to confidence, often in bad weather, you will question your own ability to shoot through the wind. Confidence is key to shooting through the wind.
Treat it as if you're just shooting another shot, never change the way you release to account for the wind. Visualise the arrow cutting through the wind to improve your confidence. Focus on pushing your bow arm towards the target. This will take away the distraction of the wind. Most importantly it will help ensure your alignment is not thrown off.
If the wind is particularly blustery the push forward may not be enough to maintain your stability during strong gusts. If you feel you're about to lose balance or no longer have alignment, don't be afraid to drawdown. It's a lot easier to start the shot again then it is to recover at full draw, this doesn't take much longer and can save you from making a poor shot.
Knowing what the wind is doing will give you a big advantage in overcoming it. A small flag on top of the target gives a good indication of the direction of the wind. It doesn't always help you understand the strength of the wind. For that, you will need a larger flag or windsock.
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Flags and windsocks will always be a help. However, watch out for those times when the wind moves in multiple directions across the range. If the flag is moving in one direction and this contradicts what you feel, focus on what you know and disregard the flag.
If the wind comes and goes, you can always use the movement of trees as a warning of the wind returning. Above all, I warn against looking for patterns in the wind, you won't be able to find any.
Hopefully, these tips will be able to help you to improve how you shoot in the wind.
To summarise, if the wind is strong and consistent prepare to move the sight. However, if it's inconsistent you should focus on pushing your bow arm forward. Use flags to judge the wind but don't become reliant on them.
As with everything the best way to improve is to practice doing it. So as one final piece of advice, get out in the wind and test yourself. You'll be surprised by what you can achieve with confidence and a little know-how.