Get moving! (moving target shooting)

Moving targets are awesome. Practicing with moving targets does not only tremendously improve aiming ability, concentration and speed, but is also a *lot* of fun, and brings a fresh challenge and enthusiasm to the archery range. There are a number of different ways that moving targets can work, in this post I will talk about the types of moving targets, and my technique to shoot at them.

Categorising moving targets is helpful in terms of aiming strategy. Generally, any moving target can fit into one of the following categories:

  • Cyclic movement: This is anything that performs a repeated movement, such as a swinging target, a target moving on a fixed rail, or an unaware sentry pacing on the castle wall. The important factor is that the path is fixed and known, as well as the speed of the target at each point on the path.
  • Semi-predictable: In this case either the path or the speed are subject to some uncertainty, but the overall motion of the target still is not considered erratic. The best example would be thrown targets. The person throwing will not always throw the exact same trajectory, but since the target is in free fall once it is released, overall the motion is predictable.
  • Erratic: Erratic targets move around on a random, or seemingly random path. The motion of pesky flies is a good example.
  • Defensive: This target will not only move in an unpredictable way but also deliberately dodges arrows. A feasible defensive target for an archery range is a cheap RC flying drone made of polystyrene.
  • Hostile: The target not only dodges your shots but also shoots back, or attempts to attack in some other way. I recommend getting some foam ball tipped LARP or Tag arrows for trying out your war-archer skills. Since this doesn’t have much to do with actual aiming technique and such anymore, I won’t cover it in this post.

The essence of shooting moving targets is knowing the motion of the target and that of your arrow. The position of both depend on the path, and on time. Obviously in order to hit the target, the arrow and target must be at the same position at the same time. For that, the shot must be aimed and timed so take into account both the speed of the target and the speed of the arrow. Shoot at the position where the target will be by the time the arrow gets there!

That being said, the aiming process and shooting style for different types of moving targets will be different, as with each category more variation of motion must be taken into account.

First, cyclic motion targets: Shooting these is essentially like shooting static targets. There is no need for any change in stance or aiming technique. The only thing that needs to be kept in mind is timing. Find a position on the targets path that is convenient. If it has constant speed and the view is unobstructed then it does not matter where, but in case of a swinging target for example, the two ends of the swinging path are most convenient because the target is momentarily stationary there. All there is to do is aim at that position, keep in mind the arrow travel time, and release when the target needs the same time to get to the chosen location as the arrow.

With semi-predictable motion targets it becomes a little more challenging. At this point I recommend to switch to an open or oblique stance if you do not apply that stance already, as it allows for more horizontal aiming movements and string clearance. The best way to aim is to follow the target with the arrow tip/sight/whatever you use for a moment before aiming to the predicted position and releasing. Shooting speed is more important now, especially in the case of thrown targets where only the time it takes to fall down is available for the shot. Therefore draw the bow as soon as possible (as soon as the target is in the air, or even before if allowed/possible). The aiming process must also be as fast as possible, it should be “point and shoot”. Another way to go which is faster but needs much more practice before it becomes accurate, is to merge the draw, aim and release process into a single fluid motion. This way the aiming takes place at the same time as the draw. This can be difficult at first but with some practice can become just as accurate and precise, very consistent, and is also very impressive :3

With erratic targets the process is essentially the same, only since the path can be predicted only for a very small time ahead, shooting speed as well as arrow speed become critical. If the arrow takes too long to travel to the target, shooting erratic targets becomes impossible, so in this case appropriate equipment needs to be organised beforehand. Aiming can also not take long, so the more instinctive the aiming is, the better.

Defensive targets generally do not appear in target shooting so most of us will not have to be concerned about them… unless my disposable drone idea gets tried. Or some hornets infest the target area. True story. A band of hornets claimed my backyard shooting range and would not go away 0.o I did not dare to go closer, instead (me + my temper + my silly mind) I tried to shoot at them. I missed (was close tho), and needless to say achieved nothing, except that they were now angered and flying around and dodging my subsequent attempts, and I couldn’t train properly with them there 😡 fortunately they left after a while. Shooting defensive targets requires speed, good technique, concentration, and above all, instinct. To account for all the motion, including the dodges, and then shoot the arrow to the future position of the target, all in the fraction of a moment, requires a sharp archer’s instinct, which comes with lots of practice.

I definitely recommend shooting at moving targets from time to time. It is a great practice, to heighten concentration and improve aiming skill. A very simple swinging target can be constructed from practically anything, so give it a go! It will be fun :3

happy shooting to archers worldwide~

kitty hugs to all~


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