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Columnists : Frank Addington
Last Updated: Aug 6, 2010 - 1:11:39 PM
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Visit Frank Addington Jr. on the web. On Frank's Monthly Columns and Frank's Straight Talk Interviews. And at

Shooting Instinctive
By Frank Addington, Jr.
Nov 30, 2007 - 11:37:24 AM

Instinctive shooting behind his back, Frank shoots baby aspirin out of the air.

Instinctive Shooting

Are you interested in instinctive shooting?  It is an exciting, traditional style of archery if you are you among a growing trend of today's archers. First we'll examine a few pros and cons of this often misunderstood shooting style. 

    The sport of archery has been pretty popular in the United States for a long time.  When most archers used traditional tackle and cedar arrows the sport had somewhat limited participants.  When the compound bow and aluminum arrow came onto the scene, along with sights, releases and other technical advances, the sport experiences unparalleled growth. 

    I was shooting during the early 1970's when Fred Bear's "BECOME A TWO SEASON HUNTER" campaign was in full swing.  Thousands of gun hunters bought or borrowed bows to get into the woods earlier and hunt longer.  It was a huge success, and although Fred preferred traditional tackle he saw that the sport would boom due to the compound and aluminum arrow shafts.

    Sights and releases allowed new shooters to become accurate quicker.  The letoff of the compound also allowed many who couldn't pull those heavy traditional bows to get active in archery.  You also saw more women and youth picking up the sport.  Suddenly there was an explosion of archers shooting, hunting and having fun.

    Somewhere along the line instinctive shooting fell far behind as a shooting style.  Why?  In my opinion it was time, equipment and changes in the sport.  For one thing a purely instinctive shooter couldn't really compete in archery tournaments on paper targets with a "GAP" or point of aim shooter.  Although a "snap shooter" or instinctive shooter could more than hold their own on animal rounds in competition or in hunting situations, it was tough to compete with the GAP shooters on the field courses. 

    The time it takes to master instinctive shooting was also a factor.  Life just seemed to be busier and few folks had the time to shoot a bow a few hours a day to hone their skills instinctively.  They could take the time to set up and sight in a bow with sights and after the initial sighting in just do a little maintenance shooting once in awhile and be ready to hunt or shoot.  So time was a major factor.

    The new equipment also wasn't always the most user friendly for instinctive shooting either.  Although I shoot a compound instinctively it took years of practice when I was younger to get it down.  Even today the trend in most bows is shorter and faster, and there aren't as many finger friendly bows out there.

    Shooting distance is also a factor. I have also often pointed out that instinctive shooting is basically a short range method of shooting.  My father proved me wrong many times on this thought, he practiced and could often take game at longer distances instinctively.  However, when he was shooting instinctively he shot heavy tackle and practiced long shots.  So there are exceptions to the rule but for the most part I think it is a short range shooting style for me personally. 

    Several years ago my father set the then Governor of West Virginia up with a bow.  It was a Mathews and had the latest and greatest gear.  Within an hour or two the Governor, who had never even drawn a bow, was burning up the bullsyes in our indoor shooting range.  "This is much easier than I imagined" he told me.  "No Governor, you just have the right equipment set up and tuned professionally.  Had you started with traditional tackle instinctively it could have taken years for you to be this good.." was my reply.  But you know what?  The Governor had very limited time.  At least with this set up he was ready to hunt if this shot was 20 yards or less.  With a few more practice sessions he did get in a stand and bowhunt.  And he was hooked on archery!  We have many fond memories of him sitting around the fireplace at the store sharing pizza and hunting stories.  He also filmed a bowhunting safety commercial PSA at our place. 

Frank with bowhunting icon Glenn St. Charles author of 'Billets To Bow' and 'Bows on the Little Delta' two must have books for every archers library.

  That was one example of why not everyone is meant to shoot instinctively.  What I have noticed in my years in archery is that often times once someone "masters" shooting with their compound, they will want the challenge of attempting traditional tackle and instinctive shooting.  They then can switch back and forth as the situation merits.

    When you look at some of the cons, instinctive shooting has some drawbacks.  It is basically a short range shooting style, it is harder to master and in the early stages takes a lot of maintenance shooting to keep your skills sharp.  Also, if you get into a "rut" with your shooting, it isn't as easy to find someone to give advice with this style.

    Having discussed the cons, here are some pros to my style of shooting.  It is a great feeling to simply look at a target, draw the bow and release and nail the target.  One quick fluid motion.  There's that feeling when everything comes together and you can't miss, even on seemingly impossible shots.  To me it's a rush to hit small objects with a bow & arrow.  If you have seen my stage show, you know I am having a good time up there.  I would walk off stage tomorrow if it stopped being fun.

    There's also a little history here.  Fred Bear.  ISHI.  Glenn St. Charles, Rev. Stacy Groscup and so many more.  These great men were some of the best instinctive shooters in the sport's history.  Fred Bear was probably the main reason I shot instinctively as a kid.  I would see him on TV or read articles and pretend to be Fred on some great adventure.  To this day when I see golden autumn leaves I smile and think of my friend Fred.  He had a huge impact on me.

Pages 84& 85 Billets To Bow.

Pages 86 & 87 Billets To Bow.

Pages 88 Billets To Bow.

   By now everyone knows Rev. Stacy Groscup was my instinctive shooting guru.  He was the master of this style of shooting.  He did amazing shots with recurves, longbows and compounds.  I once saw him take a Mathews MQ-32 out of the box, have my dad set it up, and he hit an aspirin out of mid air the 2nd or 3rd shot with the bow in front of a TV news camera.  I was there.  He was amazing.

The Groscups with Amanda Addington.

    So this often misunderstood shooting style is my choice for archery.  It's the only method I know and have used for 36 years.  But it doesn't have to be yours. 

    I love archery.  As long as you pull a string, I don't care what style or method you use.  Ask yourself a few questions. Am I having fun?  Am I accurate?  Who cares if you use traditional tackle, the latest or greatest gadgets, or an older model compound.  Remember that you owe it to the animals you hunt to be proficient with the equipment and style you use.  We are all archers.  Nothing bothers me more than someone looking down at another archer because of a brand, style or method.  We need to help the sport grow and not get petty about it. 

    Archery and instinctive shooting are very personal. Next time we'll look at a few shooting tips that can help a new shooter learn how to shoot instinctively.  Until then enjoy the autumn seasons and be sure and take your family outdoors for some family time.  
Until next time, Adios & God Bless.

Shoot Straight,
Special thanks to Glenn St. Charles.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED; For those interested in purchasing Glenn's archery best sellers, 'Billets To Bow' and Bows on the Little Delta' please contact:  

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