At Sentient Archery, as with many other clubs and archery schools, we teach our beginners to shoot with bare fingers first before transferring them onto some form of finger protection later on.
There are a few reasons why beginners should try learn to shoot without finger protection first.
Firstly, bare finger shooting gives an archer much more feedback from the bow. Using finger protection essentially places a thick piece of leather between your fingers and the string. This removes vital 'feel' and feedback from the shot. More often than not, bare-finger shooting will be more effective during your first lesson/s and therefore more enjoyable. Everyone likes shooting arrows into the middle!
Secondly, finger protection may mask a poor release. A smoother, more effective release will apply much less friction to the skin on your fingers, while a rough or 'plucked' release will apply much more friction which will most likely hurt a bit more. That pain is a very good sign that your release needs improvement. An archer with a very effective/smooth release can shoot a bow with a relatively high draw-weight, with bare fingers, simply because there is not as much friction on the skin. Even on a very light draw-weight an ineffective or rough release will probably hurt the fingers a bit. If an archer simply puts on a finger tab or glove, the leather padding will simply mask the error and the archer will likely not make the much needed improvements to his\her technique.
Lastly, by shooting bare finger, you will quickly toughen up the skin and strengthen the fingers, which is an obvious necessity for good shooting later on.
There are however some exceptions to the 'bare finger' recommendation:
If you are learning to shoot on a higher draw-weight. (We do not advise that archers learn to shoot on a high draw-weight, however, some archers do not receive or take heed to that warning.)
If you experience excessive pain it is simply better to use finger protection. Shooting through excessive pain is never a good idea and it will remove all elements of enjoyment from the lesson.
If you experience any numbness in your draw fingers.
Side note: Sometimes pain and numbness can simply be because you are loading the string onto a 'bad' spot on your fingers. Try moving the string placement deeper or shallower on the fingers and see if the pain/numbness diminishes. As shown in the below images.
Eventually, all archers should start using some form of finger protection. When used correctly, a finger tab is simply more effective and consistent than bare fingers. Also, as you increase draw-weight and practice more frequently, it is vital to properly protect your fingers. Learning good technique with bare-fingers will however make the transition to a finger tab much easier!