How To Aim A Recurve Bow Without Sights: Instinctive Archery

By Andy Ryan


Updated at
archer on an outdoor target range practicing shooting his bow

When I first got into archery I was tempted to get all the bells and whistles like expert sights and anything techie I could find. Fast forward to a few months later I was starting to rely on my sight and devices and when I borrowed a friend’s basic bow I couldn’t make a simple shot.

New tech is great but sometimes you need to start off with the basics and there’s nothing more basic than aiming a recurve bow without sights using instinctive archery. It takes you into the world of our ancient ancestors where bow hunting was practiced based on instinct and muscle memory rather than relying on tech.

Below we’ll go through how to aim a bow without the tech help of sights and how to perfect instinctive archery. 

In general, to aim a bow without sights you need to use instinctive archery which is the process of aligning your stance, your shoulders, and your eyes with the target and consistently practicing groupings from different distances until your muscle memory adapts to your shots and you become better. 

Below we will cover the more in-depth steps to aim your recurve without sights and how to improve your shots.


What is Instinctive Archery?


The concept of Instinctive Archery dates back several millennia. An instinctive archer uses no scope or pin sights to zero in on their target; instead, the archer uses his instinctive abilities to aim at the target and shoots without actually aiming.

If you’ve not realized this already, such a form of archery is the most primitive style. It is as close as you can come to practicing traditional archery, which requires nothing but just a bow and arrow and the technique and practice of the archer. Imagine taking a 50-yard shot and putting it on your target with no help of sights, the sense of achievement in that is immeasurable, and it also speaks volumes about the finesse of the Instinctive Archer.

Before you begin practicing instinctive archery, it’s best to know the theoretical concepts of this sport. Theoretical knowledge will help you in getting your shots right in practice. Here is everything you need to know about instinctive shooting. (1)


How to Shoot with Instinctive Archery (Step By Step)



The trickiest part of instinctive archery is aiming a recurve bow at your target without any scope, or pin, to zero in on the target. While aiming accurately with no sights is possible, it requires a lot of practice and patience, but above all, it requires a good aiming strategy. Here’s a detailed guide for you on how to shoot a recurve bow instinctively. (2)

If you’re a beginner, read this step-by-step guide. If you already have some experience but are willing to make some tweaks in your overall technique, stick with us till the end so you know in which areas you could make some improvements to improve your overall accuracy and performance. 


Step 1: Practice Good Stance 



The stance is very important in archery, as is the case with many sports. Your stance plays a critical role in how well you shoot and how accurate your shot was.

The rule of thumb dictates that the archer stands at 90 degrees to their target. Before you begin shooting the arrows, it’s best to practice stance and improve your form.

You should stand in a way that your target is aligned with the outside edge of your secondary or non-dominant foot. The non-dominant foot varies for right-handed and left-handed people, so keep this point in mind while determining your ideal stance.

Your feet should be rooted about shoulder-width apart. As a beginner, just keep these pointers in mind, and practice your stance.

If you’re worried about shooting in the wrong stance, you could hire a professional Archer to teach you the basics of archery. Once you’ve mastered your stance, you can self-tutor yourself the fundamentals of instinctive shooting.


Step 2: Other Fundamentals



To master instinctive shooting, you must work on some fundamentals of traditional Archery. Here are two things to keep in mind while working on your shots without any sights. 


Determining an Anchor Point


To begin with, you need to practice and figure out your anchor point, among other things.

It’s important to release the arrow in the right way, and since you don’t use recurve bow sights for instinctive shooting, aiming a recurve bow without a scope becomes exceptionally tricky.

If you end up releasing the arrow a bit rough, you may risk messing up the shot and miss the target by a mile. It’s best to choose a high anchor point, one that aligns with your eyes and is near your upper jaw, so the arrow remains in your line of sight.


Grip, Draw, Aim, Release


To become an exceptional instinctive archer, you need to be familiar with the mantra of the shooting technique: Grip, Draw, Aim, Release.

While you must already be familiar with the grip, draw and release steps of shooting, the aiming part in primitive archery, as we discussed above, is largely instinctive, since you’re aiming a recurve bow without sights.


Step 3: Engage in Target Practice



To get better at archery, you need to go through Target practice as much as possible. In Target practice, all you have to do is set up a target in your backyard and practice shooting at the bull’s eye without any sights. The more you practice, the better you will get.

If you’re a complete beginner at instinctive shooting, choose a much bigger target, and a shorter distance to shoot, perhaps 5-10 yards. It’s difficult to miss from such a short distance, so it will give you a positive boost. If 10 yards appears to be too much for you (due to the target’s deviation from the natural line of vision), you can stick to 5 yards, but don’t get any closer than that, like 3 yards. That would be too close.


Step 4: Aim Small



Take baby steps till you get comfortable in this style of archery. It’s best to choose a small target that consists of just one goal, unlike a large target that has more than one spot to aim. You can use a white sheet for this, too, if you don’t have anything else.

Before you draw the bow, gauge the location of the target and your distance from it. Aim the target while drawing the bow. Keep drawing until you hit the anchor point. Pause for a second to get comfortable, and then release. The key here is the perfect mix of form and focus. These two things would only form a rhythm with practice. 

The more you practice your shots, the faster your focus, aiming, drawing, and anchoring will get. Make sure that before you aim and draw, your stance is perfect, that is, your dominant feet are rooted perpendicular to the target.


Step 5: Make it Consistent and Repetitive



Consistency and repetition while shooting are the only things that would bring you closer to mastering instinctive archery. When we say consistency, we mean that each time you aim, draw and release the arrow, your anchor point, grip, form, draw weight, and release should be identical. If each shot consists of identical shots, your hands, feet, and body will become accustomed to those specifications, and all your shots would display signs of consistency. You would become automatic, so to speak. The other factor is repetition; the more you shoot, the better you become. The same goes for every other sport.


Get the Right Bow



The first step undoubtedly is to select the right bow. The important factor here is to choose a bow with ideal draw weight and draw length to meet your needs, so you could shoot the bow without exerting too much. The bow’s specification should match your body’s frame.

This would guarantee that accuracy does not suffer while you take an aim without any aids whatsoever. In addition to buying the right bow, having the right kind of arrows is also essential. While buying arrows, you’d have to consider several things, including the;

  • Material type and quality 
  • Length
  • Spine 
  • Weight 

These are only a few things to name. In case that you choose to practice with carbon arrows, make sure that they remain undamaged after each practice session. If you’re a beginner, buy sets of arrows that consist of many arrows, as you’d be required to shoot many of these to improve your overall accuracy without sights. That’s what instinctive archery is all about; practice. 


How to Improve Instinctive Archery


Instinctive archery is all about programming your brain into shooting a certain way every time you release an arrow. Ever wonder how the Vikings took just a split second to aim their target and shoot? Yup, that’s what psychologically programming your way through repetitions does to you, it makes you adept and accustomed to performing a certain task, and after a while, you don’t even have to think about it much.

You just aim, and the arrow hits the target before you know it. The bottom line is, to improve instinctive archery, you have to focus on cardinal things, that is, consistency and repetition. 




As we mentioned above, consistency is important for instinctive archery. If you acclimate your brain to certain draw weight, grip, and form, after a prolonged period of practice, your body will automatically take that stance and shoot with absolute accuracy. When this happens, you’ve mastered Instinctive Archery.




Repeat your shots with consistency every opportunity you get to get comfortable behind a recurve bow that has no sights. Make sure that you don’t take a break from practice, otherwise, your subconscious mind may forget all that it has learned over that time, and you’d have to start from scratch. continue to practice, and work on your shot accuracy.

This way, your subconscious mind will correct you when you’re doing something wrong, and you’d be able to get things right with trial and error. 


Instinctive archery is indeed one of the trickiest forms of archery, but learning it is certainly useful. Once you’ve mastered aiming at an inanimate target without sights, you could take things up a notch and try hunting with no sight. Keep what you have learned during target practice in mind, including what we said about stance, focus, and swiftness.

Needless to say, hunting is a whole different ball game to target practice. You require much more focus, but when you’re comfortable with shooting arrows at a stationary target, there is no harm in trying instinctive hunting too. 


(1) theretical concepts –
(2) strategy –