Being Katniss Is Harder Than It Looks: My Attempt at Archery


While I was in Maine on vacation, my sisters and I decided to take a course from L.L. Bean’s Outdoor Discovery Schools, and we chose archery.

I personally had one singular motivation for choosing archery, and I’m not about to hide it. Come on now, who wouldn’t want a chance to develop some awesome bow skills just like our favorite Girl on Fire? Katniss’ Archery skills are crazy good, and she makes it look pretty easy:

Not that I thought that archery would be a breeze, but I still have a good deal of arm muscle from Varsity Tennis last Spring. So ya know, I thought maybe I’d have a leg up.

Eh, not exactly.

The first thing we had to do was put on all of our protective gear: sunglasses, an arm guard (so the bowstring doesn’t painfully whip your arm, not that it ever came close), and gloves (that only cover the three bow fingers). Take a good look y’all: this is the only time you’ll ever see me wearing camo. I hope.

Then we had to take a simple test to determine whether we were Right or Left-eyed, a.k.a. with which eye are we dominant. Curiously, this does not necessarily coordinate with your hand dominancy — and for Archery, you will end up shooting with whichever hand is one the same side of your body as your dominant eye. This means that a right-handed person may have to shoot with their left hand (!) if they are left-eye dominant, if they hope to get the best results. Luckily I tested as right-eye dominant (though I have my doubts, I felt myself using my left eye a little during shooting).


Me about to shoot, looking fierce 😉

So after I received my right-handed bow and chose the length of arrows that fit my (admittedly) short stature, we headed to the range. We rested our arrows in an ground holder, and the instructor began to tell us how to shoot. Here is an abbreviated version of what I remember:

  1. While holding the bow in a proper grip (see above photo) in the left hand, grab and arrow with your right hand and bring it over the bow to the left side.
  2. Insert the nock of the arrow into the arrow nock on the bowstring of the bow, and let the arrow shaft rest on the arrow guide, near the grip (a rubber part only used by beginners, I suspect).

  3. While keeping the thumb of your right hand curled in, place your fingers splayed on the bowstring on either side of the nocked arrow: pointer finger above, middle and remaining finger below (Ignore the pinky finger. Sorry, pinky!).
  4. Draw the bowstring back with your right arm. You must bring your elbow pretty far up;  you can measure this by trying to align the fingers of your right hand, and continuing to draw back the bowstring at this height. Your bowstring should rest against your nose. (Again, see my photo above).
  5.  With your dominant (right) eye, seek out a spot significantly  below the center of the bull’s eye to aim your arrow. (You can barely see it in my photo, but it’s the black spot below the target). When shot, the arrow will go higher than where you aimed.
  6. Trying to keep the bow as steady as possible, let go of the bowstring. *Thunk* And you’ve just shot, yessss! (That was the sound of the arrow burying into the target, by the way.) Remember to keep the pose a little after the arrow leaves the bow; this is kind of like “following through” with the shot and will ensure that the arrow goes ahead straight, not off to the left or right.

Whew. That was a lot of steps, I know, and we received even more instruction. We learned that there are two techniques for shooting: traditional and instinctive. He showed us both, but we used mainly traditional. Instinctive is a more relaxed  and advanced stance, basically just drawing the bow naturally and shooting. I suspect this is Katniss’ style, especially while hunting in the woods.

IMG_2278Aaaaand I’m pretty sure the first arrow I shot missed the target, but it was still on the board! That’s what counts, right?

But I did gradually progress over the course of the class. I even ended up getting one arrow in the yellow center of the target! (The second arrow in the yellow is one the instructor shot. But it makes my shots look better, doesn’t it?)

Of course, there was also that arrow I shot that hit the bottom side of the board and ricocheted off into the woods. But let’s not focus on that one, hmm?

Overall, archery was waaay tougher than it looked. My arms were sore and shaking, and every once and a while I felt the need to take a break. Of course, this might have been because I was having trouble keeping my grip as loose as instructed — my instinct was to use all my strength to grip it. And afterwards, I could see how A LOT of practice was needed to get good at shooting.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you archery is not a sport!

And no wonder Katniss won the Hunger Games! Bow skills like hers don’t develop over night, or even relatively quickly for that matter. She is absolutely deadly with a bow. Katniss, you have earned earned my utmost respect, if you didn’t already have it. You rock.

Have you ever tried archery, or do you want to? Admit it: were you inspired by Katniss? Tell me how much you love our Girl on Fire!



  • I’ve always wanted to give archery a try, and Katniss definitely makes it look easy. My eye hand coordination has never been good though, so I’m not overly optimistic about being able to hit the target. LOL Glad you were able to cross it off your bucket list!
    Carmel @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Stompin’ To The Beat with Celia Breslin + Giveaway #StompvsRompMy Profile

  • haha! I’m glad you had fun learning archery. I’ve tried before, but I had trouble pulling the bow string back. It is hard! Good job!
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…Red Rising NetgalleyMy Profile

    • Yea, it really is! I think I had the most trouble keeping my grip on the bow loose; when it takes so much strength the pull the bowstring back, it feels paradoxical to have such a loose grip on the bow!

  • […] admits being Katniss is harder than it looks when talking about her attempt at […]

  • Jackie says:

    I went with my boyfriend to a family summer camp the summer following my senior year of high school, and I was obsessed with archery for the week that we were there. I was down at the archery range every day, and it was the first time I had ever tried the sport. There was a challenge where you had to shoot 10 different arrows and make them hit the bullseye. And they were messed up arrows– heavy beads at the end, no feathers, split at the end– goofy stuff like that. I didn’t end up getting all bullseyes, but I still had a lot of fun 🙂

    Katniss makes archery look effortless, but I couldn’t even imagine hitting a moving target.
    Jackie recently posted…Book Buying WoesMy Profile

  • My high school and college actually offered archery for PE classes, although I’m sure the instruction you got was better. I liked it in high school so I took a whole semester of it in college.
    Jenna @ Rather Be Reading YA recently posted…Weekly Rewind: August 17-23My Profile

  • Meryl says:

    Aw…Archary lessons sound amazing!

    Hope you guys had fun 🙂

  • Oh ahah! I tried archery when I was in primary school and it was a school thing. 😛 WAS SO BAD. Kinda like you when you started.

    JOKING!! 😉

    But, seriously, it’s not as easy as it seems and the arrow is pretty heavy. Your improvement is fantastic!!

    I love it when books or movies make us try new things. 🙂
    Lola @ Hit or Miss Books recently posted…Book Blitz (Excerpt + Giveaway): Orenda (Orenda #1) by Ruth SilverMy Profile

    • That’s so cool that you got to try it in primary school! I wish my school had introduced more obscure sports to us (I sure got to know dodgeball well enough :P).

      And I WAS bad when I started, no question about it! It is SO much harder than it looks, and drawing back the arrow takes a very specific grip and a good deal of strength.

      And it takes a special book/movie to make me want to try new things — just reading about it usually isn’t enough. The author has to be pretty compelling!

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