Barebow Aiming

Aiming is difficult in Barebow Archery. It is a skill which requires very good understanding and execution of the 3 main types of barebow aiming methods i.e. gap, stringwalking and facewalking. Very often, a combination of 2 methods are employed and in a manner suitable for the individual archer.
The FITA (now WORLD ARCHERY) coach’s manual for barebow gives a very good account of these aiming methods. We extract them here as a resource:

Fita Front Page

3.4 Aiming methods
There are three methods of aiming in barebow shooting.
A combination of these methods can be adapted to suit the individual archer.
Gap shooting
Face walking
String walking
Face and string walking
String walking with gap shooting
All the above mentioned methods use the tip (point) of the arrow for height sighting and the string/bow window edge for windage sighting. Below are two pictures showing the most common sighting pictures. Development of a method of sighting for a barebow archer is a long process.

Anchor Point
3.5 Anchor point or ‘facial mark’
The anchor point depends on how the archer wants to aim. Preference for a particular anchor point usually is dictated by the facial contours and the type of shooting. It is recommended that novices in barebow start with string walking (which is the most accepted style) and a fixed point of anchor on the face, preferably the cheek bone, just underneath the eye. Anchor points/facial marks are usually described as being high or low on the face. An anchor point/facial mark on or under the mandible or jaw bone is termed low. An anchor point/facial mark on or underneath the cheekbone is called high. Both types of anchor points/facial marks can be used effectively for any kind of barebow shooting.
3.6 Gap Shooting
Gap shooting involves maintaining the same finger setting on the string and the same facial reference at different distances while sighting with the tip of the arrow on different points above or below the target centre. The correct gap (point of aim outside the target centre) has to be determined for various distances and under varying shooting conditions, which is time consuming and can be a frustrating exercise. The point of aim is usually below the target centre at shorter distances and above the target centre at the longer distances.
3.7 Face Walking
The anchor point (facial mark) changes (‘walks’) on the archer’s face depending on the distance of the target. The photographs below show the variation in contact between the hand and face at various distances.
The facial reference is closer to the eye for the shorter distances. Photos of LINHART Reingild (AUT), the 2002 World Champion Women Barebow in Canberra (Australia). The advantage of this method is that the tune of the bow does not alter with distance because the draw fingers are in the same position on the string for all distances. The disadvantage is that left and right variations occur due to the hand position following the anatomical shape of the face, that is, when the hand is located on the cheekbone it is further out with respect to the eye than when located at the corner of the mouth. Different facial references are not as reliable as a fixed anchor point and finding the exact reference point for each distance can be difficult to achieve making this method of aiming unreliable. Face walking is mostly used with the long bow.

3.8 String Walking
This method of shooting barebow is most common in field archery. String walking means that the archer’s fingers change their position on the string when changing the distance, while the anchor point (reference point) is constant. The closer to the target, the lower the archer’s fingers are located on the string, (the arrow nock is closer to the eye). The further away from the target, the closer the fingers are to the nocking point on the string, (the arrow nock is lower with respect to the eye).
The archer’s aim is over the point of the arrow. The point of the arrow is sighted on the centre of the target, whenever possible, while the position of the arrow nock is varied by altering the finger position up or down the string for the varying target distances, in other words walking the string means that the arrow point is constant on the target centre while the finger position on the string determines the elevation for the distance to be shot.
If thicker thread (0.5 mm) for the centre serving is applied, then string walking can be done by counting the threads, otherwise we use the tab. Start with the top edge of the tab touching the nock, then move the thumbnail down to the point on the string opposite the place on the tab which the archer has determined for the distance to be shot; keep the thumb nail on that point and move the tab down the string so that the top edge aligns with the thumb nail. Then place the draw fingers on the string in the usual way. Some barebow archers have a longer and straighter thumbnail for string walking.
With string walking the archer can shoot different distances with reliable aiming and with a lot of checkpoints. The standard grip on the string for string walking is with three fingers under the nock. The facial reference point is the tip of the forefinger touching the corner of the mouth while having the index finger located firmly underneath the cheekbone.
The following pictures demonstrate what is described above for a shot at a short distance of approximately 10 metres.
The following series of pictures shows the finger placement at the middle distance of 30 metres. Marking the distance with the thumb and setting the fingers at the right location, with the use of the tab and thumb.
The following pictures show the fingers placement for the longer distance of 50 metres. Marking the distance and setting the finger at the right location, with the use of the tab and thumb.
3.9 Combination of Face and String Walking
In this method of aiming the archer uses two or three anchor points and combines these with different locations of the fingers on the string. This method is useful forLong Bow archers. These bows expel the arrow at a much lower speed so that the archer needs more anchor points to achieve the correct elevation.
3.10 String walking with Gap Shooting
This method of aiming becomes more and more popular and is simpler than string walking. The archer has a table that maps each size of target face (20cm, 40cm, 60cm and 80cm) to a location on the string. This location corresponds with more elevation than is needed on the longest distance with the particular target face. We anticipate on the relatively straight flight of the arrow on these distances.

20-80cm tgt aimIt is important for the archer to know where their personal reference points for different distances are; these must be sorted out in practice by intense shooting. For example: At a 40 cm target face the archer places the draw fingers on the string as if the distance is 15 metres, shoot the first arrow on the shortest distance, say 10 metres. Aim into the middle of the target face, the arrows will hit the targetface at the top in the 1 or 2 ring. The second arrow the archer shoots with the finger on the same location on the string (15 metre mark) on the longest distance of the 40cm target face and the arrow will hit in the lower part of the target face (20 m). Now find out how much the archer has to adjust to come in the centre. If the archer got a high (1 or 2) he would then have to aim into the 1 or 2 ring low in order to hit the centre of the target face.
With this system the archers have a constant anchor point. They only use four markings on their string. This method is a lot easier than string walking, as the archer does not have to measure the distances. The archers has less points to keep in mind and therefore they can concentrate more on their technical part of shooting, such as keeping up a consistent draw length, aiming and release, which are highly important when shooting barebow.

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Draw point – Point on the string where the fingers pull the bow
Face walking – Method of aiming on the target centre over the arrow with fixed draw point, where the facial mark is chosen according to the distance to shoot
Gap shooting – Method of aiming over the arrow with fixed draw point and fixed facial mark, where the point of aiming is chosen according to the estimated distance to shoot, above or under the target centre.
Post – Place of shooting line in field archery.
String walking* – A method of aiming on the target centre looking over the arrow with fixed facial mark, where the draw point is chosen according to the distance to shoot.

*Note: Rick Stonebraker published “Tuning for Barebow” guide in 2018. It’s based on his “Tuning for Tens” but with special advice on tuning for string walking. Click on this LINK. It will bring you to the Texas State Archery Association page where you can find another link to download the PDF file.