Perfection. Every archer wants to achieve it. But does the “perfect shot” even exist?
“That’s the interesting thing about archery,” says Guy Krueger. “You’re always competing against perfection. And perfection, whether you’re shooting at a target or an animal, or you’re talking about your technique, really isn’t attainable. We’re human, and no matter how close we get to the center of the target, the shot can always be a little bit closer. Really good? Yes. Excellent? Yes. Perfect? No.”
Krueger has been immersed in archery for more than 30 years now. He serves as the education and training manager for USA Archery, a position he has held for eight years. A Level 5-NTS Certified Instructor, he has worked for Team USA as the women’s head coach, assistant national head coach, and high-performance manager, and he oversaw the resident athlete program at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, for almost a decade. Personally, Krueger is exceptionally accomplished, winning numerous medals and seven national championships.
“Archery,” he says, “is a combination of mental and physical (components). They work hand in hand together — a physical process that’s driven by a mental process. In order to perform the shot process as close to perfect as possible, you need to follow the mental cues that are going to drive that physical process.”
Three phases of the process, he explains, have the biggest impact on the shot: 1) a strong anchor point; 2) bracing or holding at full draw; and 3) execution.
”Really good? Yes. Excellent? Yes. Perfect? No.”
“Your anchor point is your rear sight. Any small change to your anchor point could have a dramatic effect on where your arrow impacts the target,” Krueger points out. He teaches shooters to identify what, he says, is a “comfortable and repeatable anchor point,” and then monitor that anchor point on each and every shot. “Whether it’s a bandaid where your hand contacts your jaw, or a dot where the string contacts your face,” he says, “you want to associate that feeling with consistency to the point it becomes second nature.”
Bracing the bow is the second of the three. Archers will often say, “The sight was right, but when I released, I had a small flinch, and it caused the arrow to go awry.” Krueger says this “collapse” is the result of losing back tension.
“Imagine putting a 2x4 between the string and the grip,” he suggests. “The string is never going to go forward due to the 2x4 ‘bracing’ it. That’s what we want to achieve with bow alignment — back tension and bracing.”
Lastly, “execution” pulls all the elements together.
“You can have a consistent anchor point. You can brace the bow properly. But if you don’t have a strong execution, the end result will show in the (poor) flight of that arrow. It’s important,” Krueger continues, “that the follow-through be the same every time. It’s like a runner finishing strong, sprinting 10 meters past the finish line.
“Target archers and hunters both practice under very comfortable conditions. But to truly perform under pressure,” Krueger continues, “you need to move beyond that. You have to make training as uncomfortable as possible. Contort your body. Elevate your heart rate. Place targets in extremely difficult positions, even more difficult than you might ever encounter while hunting. The key here is to be adaptable. See the shot as a challenge. In time, you’ll become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.”