Heroine Skillz: Archery

katniss everdeen the hungar games  archery

Sometimes a girl just needs to shoot something. At the end of a vexing day there is nothing I find more relaxing than taking my bow and arrow down to the archery range. It’s not the violence that makes it so calming, it’s the ritual. Archery is really about doing exactly the same thing over and over. The repetition. The quiet. The satisfying thwack as an arrow hits the target. It’s my meditation.

movie archery heroine jane austen emma mr knightly

I grew up in Pennsylvania where hunting is quite the thing. Somewhere, there is a photo of me in a diaper holding an arrow. But I confess: it was Gwenyth Paltrow in the movie Emma that made the sport seem more appealing. What’s not to love about a sport one can do in a gown? In fact, there’s a whole new batch of shootin’ heroines coming up: Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games and Merida who shoots to win her own hand in marriage in Pixar’s newest, Brave.

For archery inclined heroines, here’s what you need to know…

girl archery recurve

Here I am shooting my recurve bow (instead of a compound which has all the weights and pulleys. I won’t get into the rivalry btw recurve and compound, that’s a story for another blog). Note the arm guard, which protects your inner elbow from being smacked by the bow string, which hurts like the devil. I shot without the guard once–I spent the next day terrifying everyone by saying “Oh, this massive bruise? Yea, I was shootin’…”)

Especially take note of the pink feathers on my arrows, which were custom made for me, since this is a sport where having equipment fit just for you is important. So very couture!

In this shot I’m taking aim (which is why face is all scrunched up) and gettin’ ready to shoot the target. In my head, I’m going through my checklist to make sure every shot is as consistent as possible. Is my nose touching the string? My lips? Is the arrow tucked right under my chin? How is my posture? Elbow back? Am I over extending? Feet in the same place? Is my site set on the gold? See, it’s hard to worry about your problems with all that going through your head.

maya rodale recurve archery release

Letting go of the arrow –“the release” (hehe)– must be done in a particularl way to ensure accuracy of your arrow. You’re not pulling the string, you’re just letting go of it. My coach taught me to simply release my fingers and go back to touch my shoulder, which ensures I’m not pulling left or right and sending my arrows off to the sides. In the picture to the left, I’ve just shot an arrow. Note my fingers brushing my shoulder.

Here’s the other thing about archery: you always set your sight on the gold. But your real goal is to get a really close “group” aka all your arrows all snuggled up together on the target. Once you’re doing that consistently, the sight can be adjusted to put your arrows in the gold. I find that very philosophical: in order to acheive your ultimate goal, you have to achieve something else instead. Ponder that!

Have you ever shot a bow and arrow? Ever want to try it? 


Mageela Troche

That’s great. I’ve always dreamed of trying it out. And you are inspiring Maya. And you look fierce in the full length picture. Love the bow.


A lovely friend of mine took me for an archery lesson last year. It rocked! Like meditation, but totally bad-ass!


Amanda “bad-ass meditation” is the best phrase ever!

Alisa B. Hilde

My sweetie’s prefered method of hunting (deer, bear at least) is with a recurve bow, but I have yet to try it. I love the idea that women were even encoraged centuries ago to have this as one of their skills–i think i would have preferred this to watercolor and sewing.

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