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What's the Best Release Aid for Bowhunting?

To help bowhunters gain a better understanding of the various release-aid options, we posed this question on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

What's the Best Release Aid for Bowhunting?

A wrist-strap, index-finger release such as the TruFire Edge seen here is the most common style employed by bowhunters. (Photo courtesy of FeraDyne Outdoors)

This question generated quite a bit of debate among our social media followers. After all, deciding what release to hook onto your D-loop is a highly individual choice. I thought one of the best answers came via Matt Showman (@mds599 on Instagram), who had this to say:

“The best release is personal. I can’t help but punch a [thumb]-button or index-[finger] release so bad that my arrow never goes where I want it to. So, while they might be the best if executed properly, they’re not for me. For me, a hinge is most accurate and properly executed. It’s my hunting release of choice.”

There’s a lot of truth and wisdom in Matt’s response, and I’ll start at the top. As Matt notes, the best bowhunting release aid for you is a personal decision. There really is no wrong answer — as long as the release aid you choose is properly activated using back tension to create a surprise release of the bowstring. That’s the real trick, and you should seek out a release that lets you consistently achieve that, shot after shot, on the range and in the field.

There’s no doubt that, among bowhunters, the most common type of release used is a wrist-strap model with an index-finger trigger. In fact, I’d bet 90-plus percent of new bowhunters start with an index-finger release, and of those, probably 90 percent never use anything else. Again, that’s OK, as long as the release is used properly. Based on my own observations and personal experience, however, that is often not the case.

If you don’t believe me, stand behind the shooting line at your local pro shop or archery club and spend time watching others shoot. In the majority of cases, the only movement I see from index-finger trigger users when releasing the bowstring is the shooter’s index finger! Basically, they are squeezing the trigger like they’re shooting a gun. They are not employing any of the tension in the bow arm or release arm, or the back muscles, to activate the release.

Most archers can shoot fairly well this way, at least for a while. But for many archers — me included — repeatedly shooting with conscious movement of the trigger finger leads to conscious anticipation of the shot that eventually manifests itself in “target panic.” Common symptoms include severe flinching while aiming, an inability to place the sight pin on the bull’s-eye and trigger punching. Needless to say, none of those are conducive to consistent accuracy.

Years ago, I suffered from severe target panic and struggled to hit a target at 20 yards. My pin would freeze below my aim point, and in frustration, I’d jerk my bow arm up, hammer the trigger and watch in horror as the arrow sailed into the woods beyond the target. Obviously, this was a problem, and the only way to fix it was to tear my shot process down and rebuild.

Doing so was accomplished first with the help of handheld, hinge-style release that forced me to employ “push-pull” tension between my bow arm and release arm as I allowed increasing tension to fire the shot. And because hinge releases have no trigger, my mind was free to focus on the sight pin and watch it float on the spot until the shot broke. After several months using a hinge, I switched to a resistance-activated release. Similar to a hinge, a resistance release requires an archer to “pull through the shot” until sufficient tension is achieved to spring the D-loop hook free and release the bowstring. The amount of tension required to activate the release can be adjusted to the shooter’s personal liking. I find a resistance release superior to a hinge for hunting (personal preference), and I’ve been carrying one afield for about a decade now.

If you are a veteran bowhunter, you probably have a favorite release you’ve been using for a long time. That’s fine, as long as you’re shooting well and your confidence is high. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

If, on the other hand, you know you aren’t shooting to your full potential and struggle with bad habits such as punching the trigger or the inability to consistently aim where you want your arrow to go, give a hinge or a resistance release a try. Even if you decide to return to your “old, faithful” release for hunting, you’ll use it more effectively and enjoy more accuracy in the moment of truth.




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