How to Get Started with Archery

State champ Emily Yang leads Minnesota’s new generation of archers—and teaches us how to draw a bow

Emily Yang grips a compound bow at Pig's Eye Archery Range in St. Paul.
Emily Yang grips a compound bow at Pig’s Eye Archery Range in St. Paul

photo by nate ryan

How did you spend spring break as a junior in high school? After a near-flawless performance at Minnesota’s annual National Archery in the Schools Program tournament, Woodbury’s Emily Yang was a state champ fielding questions from local news anchors.

Yang’s performance in NASP’s Eastern National Tournament put her in the top 4 percent of female high school archers east of the Mississippi, but she says she won for persistence over raw talent. A rising senior at St. Paul’s Open World Learning Community who began competing in seventh grade, the 17-year-old Yang seems more proud of her incremental improvement than her peaks.

“[Archery] is an individual sport that’s less about beating others and more about you beating your personal best,” she says.

This is true whether you hunt with a compound bow—involving more technology, like cables and pulleys—or simply ping backyard targets with a modern recurve bow, which more closely resembles what hunters have used for centuries. It’s  discipline based on consistency and mental fortitude over strength.

“When you look at the [number of archers at tournaments], you can tell that there’s a few more guys, but the girls actually shoot better in my opinion,” Yang jokes. (Her NASP score was tops across genders.)

She’s got Olympic chops, but Yang’s sights are set on Minnesota State University-Mankato, where she hopes to start an archery club. She has seen archery’s power uniting athletes from diverse backgrounds, but acknowledges her uniqueness.

“Every once in a while I see another person of color, but it’s rare,” Yang says, noting her team has three Hmong girls, herself included. “It’s exciting to think that me winning state has inspired girls of my own race and girls in general.” 

Tips and Techniques


Point non-dominant shoulder toward the target. Place feet just shy of shoulder-width apart, at a right angle to the target.


Hold bow with non-dominant hand and point downrange. Place arrow in bow’s rest, pull back until the arrow “knocks” into small, D-shaped cord (the D-loop) attached to bowstring.


Raise bow arm until parallel with ground, pull bowstring back while pushing bow toward target. “Anchor” your draw, holding at a fixed point close to your jaw.


Smoothly release bowstring. Follow through by watching arrow’s path to target, and let bow’s momentum carry it forward.

Gear Up for Archery

Diamond Infinite Edge Pro compound bow.
Diamond Infinite Edge Pro compound bow ($399,

photo courtesy diamond archery

The Bow

Yang uses the compound Genesis Bow competitively, per NASP regulations, and a different compound bow when bowhunting with her dad. Compound bows like the Diamond Infinite Edge are good for beginners because they let the archer adjust the bow’s “draw weight”—the amount of force needed to pull the bow—to suit arm strength. Their mechanical cams (the reels at either end of the bow) take a large percentage of the bowstring’s tension for the archer, to enhance accuracy. Traditionalists prefer the simplicity of the non-mechanical recurve bow, currently the only style of bow allowed in Olympic competitions.

Gold Tip Velocity Valkyrie arrow.
Gold Tip Velocity Valkyrie arrow ($74.99-$114.99,

photo courtesy Gold Tip

The Arrow

Carbon-fiber target arrows with plastic fletchings are the competitive standard. Aluminum arrows are budget-friendly but can lack durability. Hunters use sharp broadhead arrows to ramp up impact damage. More important than the material is calculating the correct arrow length for your draw. Purchase accordingly.

On Your Body

Most ranges will have space to stash your arrows, but many archers prefer a hip-mounted quiver for easy access and, let’s face it, the cool factor. Yang recommends a short-sleeve shirt and an arm guard, which will protect your forearm from the bowstring’s recoil.

Easton Micro-Flex stabilizers and side rods.
Easton Micro-Flex stabilizers and side rods ($121.99 and $45.99,

photo by easton archery

Accuracy Aids

With multi-pin sights, archers can dial in more-accurate shots at a variety of distances. Drop-away and containment rests keep the knocked arrow straight during your draw. Stabilizers help counterbalance the weight of the bow and its accessories. Release aids are small trigger systems that ensure a more consistent release of the bowstring.