Aim Only at the Target
Welcome to the Complete Guide to Archery! This is the first of my "Commandments" posts. These aren't actually commandments, and they're not from any organization related to archery; they're just rules that most ranges have, and some common sense things we all need to remind ourselves of.
This is Commandment #1, because it's the most important---in fact, it's a matter of life and death:
Commandment #1: ONLY AIM AT YOUR TARGET.
Let me say that another way:
Don't ever point a bow at anything or anyone that is not the target you want to hit.
Archery may be a hobby, but a bow and arrow is---and has been for all time---a deadly weapon.
Accidents happen. They happen all the time, and we are not ready for them---that's why they're accidents. An arrow being shot out of a bow---no matter how dull it is---is a deadly weapon. Keep that in mind at all times.
"Of Course I'm Not Going to Point at Someone at the Range..."
For most people---especially those who have been to a firing range---Commandment #1 is common sense. Of course you're not going to point a drawn bow at someone or something you don't want to hit. It's unthinkable.
But here's the thing: when you're at the range, you don't always have full knowledge of what everyone is doing. Some archers are shooting at targets 10 yards away, some are shooting at targets 20 years away, and some may be shooting at targets even farther than that---and because all of those targets are staggered and spread out over the entire range, you view of the entire range may be impeded. You may not see that someone hasn't returned over the line after retrieving their arrows. The administrators at your range do their best, and almost all of the time, everyone is back over the line, safe and sound. But---and this is sad but true---the administrators at your range are human. They make mistakes.
Whenever you are drawing a bow, be aware of your surroundings. Know who is on the line with you, and make sure everyone is accounted for when it's time to draw. If you have to check twice with the administrators or range staff, do so. It's better to be the guy at the range who's too safe, than the guy at the range who is wildly irresponsible.
My First Arrows, and Why Even Old Pros Need to Pay Attention
I still remember the first time I bought arrows: they were Easton Jazz arrows, and they had beautiful feather vanes. They were bright purple, and I named them Jokers, because what else I would I name them?
The thing that surprised me most, though, was how sharp they were. I had been using rented arrows at the range close to my home, and those had the dull arrowheads that you get at your local club. These suckers were sharp.
And then I had a moment of panic: my niece and nephew were coming over later that day, and I'd have to put these things in a safe place. It occurred to me, very clearly, that I had purchased weapons, and that if I wasn’t careful, the people I love would be in danger.
I've always tried to keep that fear in me, because it's when you forget that fear that you get sloppy.
Case in point: I read a study once that said the majority of crashes by airline pilots happen not when the pilots are new and inexperienced. As it turns out, when pilots are new and inexperienced, they're very very careful about flight checklists, protocol, and safety precautions. It's when pilots have been flying for a few years that they become sloppy: they think they know everything and they think they don't have to obsess about safety.
My point is---no matter how long you've been an archer, you need to be cognizant and aware of your surroundings, and never point a bow at a person or a target you don't want to hit. It's not just new archers that need to be on high alert.
Just to Drive the Point Home...
If you're under the impression that arrows aren't dangerous, click here for a few videos of arrows passing clear through elk, deer, and other living things. Clear through!
Yes, I may be overdoing it, but I want to prove a point: your bow and arrow are dangerous, and you need to respect them.
You Get the Picture
Listen---there are people who practice archery their entire lives, and they're 100% fine. At sleep away camps all over America, kids are taking archery classes, and everybody is 100% OK.
And chances are overwhelmingly strong, if you're careful, you'll be perfectly safe throughout your entire archery life, as well. But to be safe, you always need to keep in mind...
A bow is a WEAPON. An arrow is a WEAPON. If you're new to archery, you need to keep this in mind at all times---and if you're an old pro, you've probably got years of safe practice under your belt---but that means you need to pay attention, as well!
Next commandment: Thou shalt not dry fire!