Tips from an Expert – Part 1
Posted on May 13, 2015
When it comes to dead-on accuracy, Ben Rogers is one of traditional archery’s best.
By Denny Sturgis, Jr.
In this column I’d like to introduce you to Ben Rogers, a noted archer hailing from California, and allow him to share some of his best shooting tips. Ben’s love of archery began in 1957 when he watched a man shooting a bow over a fence for seven days in a row. After a week, the 65-year-old archer introduced Ben to archery and mentored him. Six months later, he won his first tournament at 10 years old.
High school sports and college took up most of Ben’s time for a few years, but he got back into field archery soon after. He has practiced several disciplines and styles of archery. Just some of Ben’s accomplishments include 7 national NFAA championships in the bowhunter-class along with a couple Las Vegas wins. After injuring his left forearm, in 2009 Ben discovered that shooting his recurves did not aggravate the injury like the compounds. He has been shooting them ever since and recently won the United States FITA Fields Championships at the age 66. This allowed him to represent the USA in the world games 2013 in Cali, Colombia, which Ben considered a great honor.
Ben is also a bowhunter and says, “Target shooting or hunting — the goal is the same and that is to put the arrow where you want it to go. Of course, in hunting we have to have other skills that will make us complete.”
I met Ben on the internet archery forums and enjoyed his brand of humor, matter-of-fact posts and strong opinions. He is always looking for new ideas or tidbits of advice to try to become a better shot. He says, “You never know where the next great idea will come from; could be an old timer or a novice that just started out.”
Ben and I share a common friend, Larry Yien. I’ve written about Larry, an avid bowhunter and 3-time IFAA world longbow champion, several times in these columns. In fact, Ben was one of Larry’s mentors and taught him the deadly gap arrow/bow aiming system that he has used with much success. I’d like to thank Larry for setting up the first phone interview with Ben and for providing the pictures for this article.
The lion’s share of the rest of this column will be written in Ben’s words. Ben’s tips are not “the only way to shoot,” they are secrets that he has discovered after years of shooting, and he would like to share them to let other archers try them to see if they fit into their own shooting regimen. I know several of Ben’s tips have improved my shooting and shed new light in the dark corners of my shooting process. Without further adieu I give you Ben Rogers.
Angle Your String Fingers
When shooting three fingers under, always place your fingers on the string at about a 30-degree angle with your finger tips pointed downward. If you are right handed, place your fingers on your bowstring perpendicular to the string (at a 90-degree angle to the string). Then rotate your knuckles up so that your fingers will be pointing downward and to your left at about a 30-degree slant. This will make your first finger joints more in line, you will get off the string smoother, and most importantly, you will reduce your string twist to next to nothing.
As a test, stand facing a mirror, place your fingers on the string perpendicular as most people do, then pull the bow to anchor and see how much offset you create in the string where your fingers are. As you come to anchor, there is major twisting of the string going on as you fit your hand to your face. Try it again with your fingers angled before you draw. The angled finger placement makes your anchor fit on your face better. I cup my thumb and index finger around the back of my jaw bone as my anchor and put the tip of my index finger in the corner of my mouth.
Anchor is such an individual thing that is useless to say this way or that way is the best way. I personally try to angle my finger placement whether shooting split or three-under. The angle seems less with split because there is an arrow dividing your grip on the string. This approach to positioning your fingers on the string is for barebow applications where we anchor on our face. If anchoring under the chin, such as Olympic archers do, the hand does not torque the string nearly as much. Also, and this is going to touch a nerve with some, it’s imperative that you use a tab that does not have a stiff backing on it. Your tab should be soft and supple to enable your hand and fingers to more easily form to your face at anchor. I recommend soft-hair tabs. This, of course, if you are not shooting a glove.
String Wax Does Wonders
This has nothing to do with actually shooting. I was out in the garage tonight putting some field tips on my long indoor arrows when I remembered reading some posts on the internet about tips coming loose. Some things we just take for granted as we put together archery setups, but does everyone out there know that by scraping your field point threads over your string wax and then screwing them in will ensure they won’t come loose just by shooting them? The wax acts as a friction agent against unscrewing yet you can easily unscrew them if you need to change points. This works for screw-in broadheads as well.
Expand Your Release
The release has been a much talked about subject among archers, like the anchor, it’s a subject of individual preference, but I am going to state my case for the dead or semi-dead release. Again, this application is for barebow shooters who anchor on the face as it’s almost impossible to have a dead-release anchoring under the chin as Olympic archers do.
My anchor and release follows this pattern. I draw to anchor, cupping my thumb and index finger around the back of my jawbone and placing the tip of my index finger in the corner of my mouth. As I aim, I start to expand my draw before the shot and let the string explode from my fingers, keeping my hand tight on my face. This release always served me well shooting compounds; however, there has been a slight modification shooting my recurve. I have noticed that upon release of the string with a recurve, there is a slight backward movement of my hand on my face of approximately 1 to 2 inches. To me, it’s imperative that you keep the hand on the face after release. I find that if I don’t, I will inevitably shoot right arrows. The more the hand moves away from the face, the more right the arrow will go for me.
Expanding the draw should not be done by trying to draw farther. Try inhaling fully and, as you draw, let out about half of that air. As you aim and get ready for the shot, start to expand your chest by inhaling again, this will expand your draw without you trying to move your arms. I see many barebow finger shooters consciously opening their fingers to let go of the string. This usually leads to following the string with your fingers rather than exploding away from the string upon release.
Have a friend watch you release to see if your hands goes forward slightly upon release. If so, try expanding just prior to letting go of the string. I think you will start getting much cleaner arrows coming out of the bow.
I’m now going to tell you about one of my own release idiosyncrasies. I don’t follow the thought that you should relax your fingers to get a good release. Just the opposite for my shooting, I tighten my fingers on the string when I am ready to make my shot. Just that thought as I am aiming makes my fingers open and close so fast that it is almost like a spring working. Never let your fingers open slowly so that eventually the string slips off your fingertips. That one action will cause target panic faster than anything I know. It also creates a sense of lack of control of the string and is a major reason for plucking the string. The feeling I get upon release is that I am tightening my fingers at the moment of release, which seems to make the fingers come right back to the same position when the string is gone. Almost like the feeling of a piece of spring steel. I know it sounds counter to everything most people think but give it a try. You might get a surprise.
Tape the Nose
I hit my nose lightly on every shot with a recurve. I keep a roll of surgical tape with me and put a small piece on the side of my nose every time I shoot. Inexpensive but saves the nose, and with that thin barrier, I never even notice that I hit my nose.
…To be continued in the next issue of Bow & Arrow Hunting (Mar/Apr 14).