Bridging the gap

By Larry Yien

When I chose the road of "Gap Shooting", I thought I was condemned for eternity to walk the path of yardage estimation, slow shots, and cryptic details . This method of aiming the arrow isn't well suited to hunting, where distances are unknown and the tempo of the shot is sometimes varied by the critters walking, running or freezing. Fundamentally, shooting gap correlates a known distance with a known gap between the spot on the target and the arrow point. I have shot the gap method of aiming for some time now and have appreciated the strengths and weaknesses of the system. As I have progressed along the road of the "gap shooting" I have found that the distances and gaps fade to the periphery, to a point where the conscious mind doesn¹t even figure them. Simply by feel and muscle memory, the shot and sight picture are right.

We as hunting archers like to hone our skills and simplify our wares as we bring them into the forest to take down prey. Granted gap shooting is a cumbersome system to bring into the forest. I propose that gap shooting is a learning tool to teach us to see. Picking a spot is primary. Having a periphery to give reference to the target is secondary. That periphery is the animal, trees, rocks, arrow shaft, bow, whatever is processed by the brain. As we practice gap shooting, it does not shackle us to the chores of calculating and measuring the shot. As a beginner we use our guides and parameters much like we used our fingers to add 3+5=8. As we advance by repetition it becomes an automatic thought similar to knowing that 3 and 5 are 8. Using the "gap" method at 20 yards the gap between the arrow may be 2 inches, yet we can progress to a state of focusing on the spot seeing the periphery and putting the arrow in the kill. No figuring of yardage and gap are required at a conscious level. The mental ruler falls away from the aiming process. What's left is an archer raising his bow by feel and delivering a shot into the vitals.

Can a gap shooter become an instinctive shot? I think so, if that archer is ready to molt his shrouds and fly into that free spirited shot which ebbs and flows as the water moves through a creek. It may look like instinct that enabled the shooter to place his arrow. But the path will tell that the shot was a result of the years of practice and calculation. Thousands of arrows had been shot as the archer learned, honed and simplified the shot.