Shooting the Stickbow, 2nd Edition is a new book on classical archery, written in four sections.

Section one contains information for the new archer on what to look for in buying a first bow, arrows and necessary accessories followed by detailed instructions on how to set up the equipment for efficient and safe use. The following chapter describes in detail, a proven method of establishing the foundation the new shooter will need to become a proficient archer. A chapter is devoted to common errors, their causes and how to correct them. The section concludes with three chapters on tuning the equipment for optimal performance. The first tuning chapter presents the physical techniques to tune a bow. The next chapters explain the Physics behind bow tuning and arrow dynamics The last chapter delves into Olympic style tuning.

Section two departs from the techniques of shooting and explores the design and construction theories of "stickbows" beginning with a simple 2x4 piece of lumber and gradually morphing it into a full blown target bow and finally a compound bow with cables and pulleys. Various design features are examined and their functions are explained. The next chapters look at arrow design and the materials used in their construction. The pros and cons of each material are explained. A chapter is devoted to arrow building and decorating. This section concludes with a chapter on bowstrings. As with previous sections, the materials and construction methods are clearly shown and the reader is taught to build two types of bowstrings.

Section three is the heart of Shooting the Stickbow. For the first time, an explanation of the various aiming methods is presented in clear and precise terms. Each method blends into the next or more advanced methods, giving the archer several avenues, to not only find the best method or methods, for him, but to extend his shooting range and ability. Following the aiming chapter, the reader is given a practical understanding of back tension and breathing during the shot sequence. Exercises are given to enhance the archer’s understanding and performance of these processes. The next two chapters provide an in-depth analysis of both the physical and mental aspects of the game. This section concludes with a brief overview on teaching and coaching.

Section four is a historical perspective on the "Golden Age of Archery", the 1960's and 70's. There is a review of the major production bows (and arrows) of the era, as well as a section on buying and restoring vintage bows. The last chapter is devoted to Earl Hoyt Jr. Earl, who more than any other bowyer / manufacturer, set the standard for the modern recurve bow. A time-line of Hoyt Archery is included from 1938 to present.

Appendices include math, measurements and standards for archers and an arrow and bowstring reference guide.

A brief introduction to Shooting the Stickbow

Archery - the use, or rather the skill, of shooting the bow and arrow is as old as recorded history. Its historical accounts have filled hundreds, if not thousands, of volumes throughout the ages with documented findings, conjecture and folklore. The use of the bow and arrow as a means of putting food on the table or waging war has its roots in nearly all cultures and civilizations. Truly, the history of archery is the history of mankind.

This book is designed to teach the fundamentals of archery, shooting the bow and arrow, and to give the reader a better understanding of the actual processes involved. It assumes nothing but that the would-be archer has reasonable physical capacity, mental keenness, and the desire to learn to shoot a stickbow and shoot one to the best of his ability.

We will first create a solid foundation emphasizing correct shooting form and a basic understanding of the equipment we will be using, as well as its configuration and tuning. Then we will build on that foundation to allow the new archer to refine his shooting form and tune his equipment so he may go on to whatever aspect of archery he finds most intriguing or challenging. That aspect may be target or Olympic style target archery, bowhunting, or just walking through the forest with bow in hand, shooting at leaves or tree stumps, and being able to hit them. It is my hope that after reading this book, the archer will be able to pass on what he has learned to others and help keep the spirit of archery alive.

Table of contents

Basically what the book is about, what to expect and how it’s being discussed.

Preface to the second edition
Why we have a second edition!

About the author
A brief bio, see below

Part 1 Basics of Shooting the Stickbow

Chapter 1 Equipment fundamentals
Review basic equipment requirements and nomenclature. Advice is given on what new shooters should look for and what to avoid when making their first purchase. Archery safety at home and at the range is also discussed.

Chapter 2 Basic equipment set up
Detailed instructions are provided for a “textbook” equipment set up and configuration. This type of setup will serve the new shooter well for a number of months.

Chapter 3 Elementary shooting form
How to develop efficient shooting form, literally from the ground up! A few options are provided for special cases and the chapter concludes with a discussion of problems new shooters typically have and how to correct them.

Chapter 4 Common errors and how to correct them
A continuation of chapter 3, with emphasis on cause and effect. An analysis of arrow strike patterns is provided to help diagnose specific form flaws.

Chapter 5 Tuning the bow and arrow – the first steps
Physical techniques of tuning a bow and arrows and more importantly, when to begin tuning. Several methods are discussed and compared. Data analysis and corrective measures are provided.

Chapter 6 Tuning the bow and arrow – beyond the basics
Since we now know how to tune a bow and arrow, this chapter goes into detail about the how and why the tuning techniques work. The archer’s paradox is explained and the reader is shown how to use it to his advantage.

Chapter 7 Tuning with gadgets – an introduction to Olympic style shooting
Although the theories remain the same, additional techniques employed with Olympic style bows are discussed and explained. Various tuning accessories are shown and options are presented.

Part 2 Equipment – a detailed view

Chapter 8 Bow design – building a virtual bow
The steps for building a virtual bow, beginning with a 2x4 piece of lumber and ending with a modern compound bow. (Compound mechanical details are not discussed in this book.) The reason for each step in the process is explained and options presented.

Chapter 9 Arrows
Various arrow (shaft) materials are discussed along with their strengths and weaknesses. Arrow properties and components are described and contrasted.

Chapter 10 Fletching – the art of building an arrow
This chapter teaches arrow building and repair. From head to nock, the reader is given step by step instructions on how to choose the right components to produce an efficient arrow for his bow and his goals. The chapter concludes with a section on cresting.

Chapter 11 Bow strings
First the necessary properties of bow strings are explained and various string and serving materials are described. The reader is then taken through a step-by-step process for building both Flemish splice and Endless loop bow strings.

Part 3 Making the shot – theories and practice

Chapter 12 Aiming
Five aiming techniques are compared and contrasted. Practice exercises are provided and special cases are discussed.

Chapter 13 Back tension, breathing and related topics
The theory and practice of using back tension during the shot are described and tests/exercises are given to help the new shooter get off on the right foot. The difference between efficient and inefficient breathing is described and backed up with physiologic and empirical evidence.

Chapter 14 Variations in technique
While options have been presented earlier in the book, this chapter discusses what parts of the shot are negotiable, which ones aren’t and why!

Chapter 15 Physical fitness
Basically a course in anatomy and physiology for the archer. How muscles work, which muscles do what during the shot sequence are described and training exercises are provided. While not really necessary for accurate shooting, the more an archer understands what he is actually doing, the better he can exploit his physical strengths and weaknesses.

Chapter 16 The mental game
While the physical aspect of the shot must be understood and perfected, the real difference between a string of successful shots and not-so-perfect ones often is the shooter’s mindset. This chapter discusses mental preparation techniques and shows the shooter how to cope with less than perfect environments. This chapter concludes with a discussion on coaching, both what to look for in a coach and how to look at a shooter from a coach’s perspective (both for adults and children).

Part 4 Memories and musings

Chapter 17 The golden age of archery
A brief history of archery in the US from the 1950s through present day. A section on vintage bows describes their design, where to find them, what to look for and how to do minor repairs. A number of vintage bows from the author’s collection are showcased.

Chapter 18 The life and legacy Earl Hoyt Jr. – the father of modern Olympic archery
Hoyt’s early days are recounted along with his accomplishments through the years. A time line of Hoyt bows is also provided.


Appendix A Math, measurements and standards
Equations for the archer, as well as AMO (ATA) standards.

Appendix B Bowstring and arrow references
String and arrow materials and specifications.

Appendix C Resources
Books, websites and references for further reading

Appendix D Frequently asked questions
Questions typically asked by new shooters with correct answers!

Appendix E Glossary
Common and some not-so-common archery terms.

About the author

In the summer of 1968 the author was 11 years of age and as luck would have it, he saw The Adventures of Robinhood with Errol Flynn on television one Saturday afternoon. Something clicked, and later that year he acquired a solid fiberglass bow, three wooden arrows and a few archery accessories by selling Christmas cards to family, friends and neighbors. Without any formal training, the three arrows didn’t last very long, especially since he was shooting into a concrete garage; this was Brooklyn after all, not exactly the wide open spaces. Happily, several sporting goods stores in the area carried archery equipment, and “kid’s” arrows weren’t that expensive, so replenishment wasn’t too difficult. By the next year he was able to purchase a “real” laminated recurve bow, well, an entry-level semi-recurve anyway. Weather permitting, archery practice was every day after school and almost all day, every day, during the summer months.

This continued for a few years, and with no signs of losing interest, he finally had the bright idea to ask one of the sporting goods storeowners whether there were any archery ranges in the area. Yes, it took him nearly four years to think of that. He convinced his father to drive him to the range one very snowy night. (The Comanche Bowmen Inc. Archery Club in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, about five miles from his house.) His father wasn’t happy about driving to an archery range in near blizzard conditions, but the kid was determined! One look at the place, and he was hooked!

He soon after joined the club as a junior member and made the half-hour bus trip, two, sometimes three, times a week. With proper instruction, his skill developed and he began competing in the adult classes at age 16. Thereafter he became the youngest Range Officer the club had to date, began teaching with the club’s JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) program, and instructed local Scout troops and the PAL (Police Athletic League) members that regularly used the range.

In his twenties, he (out of necessity) became an expert fletcher and string maker, and was competing at state and regional levels with an NFAA “AA” barebow (without the use of bow sights) rating. He became one of the range’s senior range officers and a certified New York State Bowhunting Safety Instructor. He also gave archery demonstrations in the 1970’s and 80’s at the New York Renaissance Faire at Sterling Forest (as Robinhood, of course) and did trick shooting on the CBS daytime soap opera “As the World Turns” and the children’s cable TV show “The Great Space Coaster”.

Taking a small hiatus from archery in the late 1980’s and early 90’s to learn rifle marksmanship, the author achieved Masters’ ratings in both International and Conventional Hi-Power rifle styles of shooting. The two disciplines (archery and rifle marksmanship) worked well together, and lessons learned from one were easily transferred to the other.

The author completed his undergraduate studies at New York University, with a BA in Biology and continued his graduate studies there in Physiology. That knowledge helped him to understand the mechanics of shooting and the processes of many of the theories presented in this book. Although no longer competing, he shoots three to four times a week at local ranges and has moderated an archery forum on the Internet. After over 40 years in the sport, he says, “It’s nice to be able to relax at the range, shoot and maybe pass along some of the things I’ve learned over the years to others.”