Compound Bow Basics – How to Aim a Compound Bow

By Alan Murdock

Manasquan, NJ –-( In this series I’ve been going over the fundamentals – measuring and setting draw length and weight, how to take care of your string and cables. In this article, I’m going to address aiming.

With a traditional bow, (and we are looking in this next video at one of the earliest bows, the longbow) the archer uses “natural aim.” You draw the string and arrow, anchoring the nock of the arrow (where the arrow attaches to the string) to the corner of your mouth. This position is directly under your eye, so you are looking down the shaft of the arrow at your target.

With the natural aim, you aim by orienting the arrow to the target somewhat intuitively. For short distances, you will need to aim slightly below where you want the arrow to hit. Remember, the arrow is anchored to your mouth, three to four inches below your eye. For medium distances, I cover the center ring of a circular target with the tip of my arrow, and for long distances, I raise the tip slightly above the bullseye.

When aiming a bow with sights (most compound bows are set up in this format), you are into a different game. Aiming is much more like shooting a rifle with a peep sight. You have a circular disc to look through attached to the string at your eye level. At the front, you have a sight with one or more pins. The pins can be adjusted for distance and windage.

The archer makes adjustments so each pin is oriented to a particular distance. If you are at 30 yards you simply select the 30-yard pin, draw and anchor the arrow to the corner of your mouth, and align the 30-yard pin in the center of the circular rear sight and the rounded end of the pin (the glowing fiber optic part, if your sight has this feature) directly on the bullseye, exhale and release the string.

Over time you will learn to be less and less reactive upon release of the bowstring. A friend that recently started shooting a bow has over a short three months developed to the point he can shoot tight, fist-sized groups or smaller and even hit an occasional “robin hood,” splitting the arrow he just shot with a second arrow shot from the same distance.

The discovery and enjoyment of this learning process is amazing, and I believe you will thoroughly enjoy it once you get started.

A digital demonstration of aiming a bow with sights.

About Alan Murdock

Alan Murdock is a lifelong shooting enthusiast. From youth he has shot firearms and archery. Today he is a certified NRA basic pistol instructor and Utah Concealed Firearms instructor. His blog on shooting and personal defense can be found at

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The first time I shot, I was making the mistake of aligning the peep sight with the post… I determined shortly thereafter that that was probably wrong, but it was surprisingly hard to verify. A lot of resources online take that sort of thing for granted and give a higher level overview. Good video here, thorough and complete philosophy and practice.


*Pin, not post.


Good article and thanks for sharing! If you or anyone else is interested in more on the subject, you can check out this beginner’s guide I wrote on selecting a bow sight.

David Ross

The most refreshing, concise and helpful summary of aiming ….philosophy I’ve seen yet.
Thanks from Montreal, Canada.
Respects and regards
A flaming neophyte.