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Optimizing Arrow Release

Successful shooting hinges on your ability to release the arrow smoothly and consistently. Here are some steps to improve your shooting performance.

Optimizing Arrow Release

Just because the sight pin is on the bull’s-eye does not mean the aiming process should start. Instead, there should be a systematic process in place before you begin aiming and releasing the arrow. Three important steps that come before aiming are breathing properly, centering the sight pin with the peep sight or pin guard, and acquiring the target, then and only then should you start aiming.

Whether you’re a 3-D archer or bowhunter, how you release the arrow is critical to success. If your technique is somewhat quick and sloppy, disaster will strike soon enough, and you’ll begin blowing easy shots. Why? Because there’s no mental control behind your shooting routine. The best way to shoot is to be very methodical, with a set system in place for acquiring the target, aiming, and releasing the arrow smoothly and consistently.

After 30 years of archery and bowhunting, triggering the shot the right way has become my number-one focus. It’s that important to my shooting success. With that in mind, let’s look at several elements that are critical for shooting performance.

Bell-Arrow-Release-Coues-1200x800.jpg
Once your mind is conditioned to shooting correctly, it will perform very well despite lots of shooting pressure. The author arrowed this Arizona Coues buck while waiting in ambush. He aimed solidly, while allowing his body’s muscle memory to trigger the shot. He made a perfect 42-yard shot.

Improving Control

When you shoot, it’s important that you remain in control. If not, the release will happen prematurely, creating lousy accuracy and probably a wounded animal. To avoid all this, build a “new way” of shooting into your technique. There are three ways to do this.

Create a Reliable Aiming Sequence: Once you’re at full draw and the peep sight is centered with the sight pin or rounded pin guard, you should not be in “aiming mode.” Instead, consider this being properly aligned with your aiming system. That’s it. This is Step 1.

Once you move the sight pin smoothly on target — usually by coming straight up or down on the shooting spot — you have now acquired the target. This is Step 2. At this juncture, you should exhale some air through your mouth and then pause your breathing as you begin aiming with intense focus on where you want the arrow to strike. This is Step 3.

As you run through this aiming sequence over and over again, your mind will pick up on each nuance, making it a definitive step in the process. This greatly improves shooting consistently, control, and accuracy, despite shooting pressure.

Embrace Sight Movement: One key to shooting properly is to let the sight pin “roll around” the bull’s eye or animal’s kill zone naturally, until the shot breaks. This is Step 4. You should never punch the release as soon as the sight pin lines up with the target. Never! If you make this a habit, you’ll start anticipating the shot, leading to an array of shooting issues. These shooting problems include freezing below or above the target (not feeling calm about being in the center) or simply sweeping past the bull’s-eye as quickly as possible while simultaneously forcing the arrow to fire haphazardly, otherwise known as “drive-by shooting.”

Using Muscle Memory to Fire the Arrow

Perhaps the most important step in shooting better is allowing your subconscious mind to control the let-go of the arrow. In other words, when you are on target and the pin is slowly rolling around the bull’s-eye, all your conscious thought should be on aiming or tightening the muscles in your back — until the shot just happens. The “just happens” part is handled by your subconscious mind. This part of your brain is a super-computer and it can do multiple things at once, so don’t get in its way. Your job is to stay hooked-up in aiming and let muscle memory take over. This is Step 5.

Bell-Arrow-Release-Eyes-1200x800.jpg
Shooting close up with your eyes closed is one of the best things you can do to establish the proper muscle memory for triggering the shot smoothly while improving control.

How is this done? Well, it takes weeks of programming on your part, but boy is it worth it. I suggest this basic plan:

Blind-Bale Shoot: Shooting at a close-up target (preferably elevated at chest height) with your eyes closed will yield tremendous results. Why? Because doing this allows your mind to stay at ease, since there is no target to aim at and no chance of missing. This helps the subconscious learn the correct way of drawing the bow, establishing proper sight pin/peep alignment, and allowing the arrow to “let go” purely through muscle-memory progressions. After four-plus weeks of shooting this way, your mind will know what it needs to do to release the arrow consistently and smoothly, while you aim…aim…aim…until the shot breaks.

Bell-Arrow-Release-aid-1200x800.jpg
A release-aid with a poor trigger mechanism tends to cause anticipation problems, since the shooter will be distracted by trigger movement or creep. The author insists on shooting the highest quality releases, with polished sear mechanisms. Carter, Scott, TRU Ball, Tru-Fire and others make exceptional models to try. Pictured is the Carter Like Mike, one of the author’s favorites.

Use a Quality Release: During the blind-bale training, you’ll pick up on how the release’s trigger feels. If you can detect a fair amount of trigger movement, prior to the arrow discharging, you may want to consider a better release. A low-quality release with a lousy trigger is distracting and often leads to shot anticipation – a very bad thing. All your attention should be on aiming correctly while the arrow fires via the body’s auto-pilot mechanisms. Visit a well-stocked archery retailer and sample several brands and styles while shooting with your eyes closed. This will help you find a model with a smooth, crisp trigger.

Stay Strong on Every Shot: Adopting a motto like this is critical, because it programs your mind to take every shot seriously. In a tough tournament or bowhunting situation, you’re apt to give yourself a quick peptalk prior to shooting. Do the same during our shooting drills. This type of speech therapy will go a long ways towards improving your mental processes, so it delivers solidly when it counts most.

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Practice the Real Deal: The last suggestion is to imagine yourself shooting in a 3-D tournament or bowhunting situation, while delivering a perfect shot. This can be done during your backyard practice sessions or while sitting at your desk at work. Using visualization techniques can help strengthen your mind, so it’s more conditioned to perform in actual tournament or bowhunting scenarios. This technique, although sometimes perceived as mumbo jumbo, works surprisingly well when it’s applied on a consistent basis. Give it a shot before you shrug it off.

Also, don’t just practice at even shooting distances, such as 20, 30, 40, and 50 yards. Real 3-D or bowhunting shots are rarely at even distances. Be sure to mix it up by shooting at various “odd distances” to keep your mind flexible and ready for real life.

Don’t underestimate the value in how you release the arrow. If you do it haphazardly, without a smooth, dependable system in place, you’ll reap those efforts and achieve less-than-stellar performance, particularly when shooting under pressure. My advice: learn a new way of shooting, by allowing your subconscious mind to control the intricacies of the shooting process. Doing this will greatly improve your consistency as an archer and bowhunter, helping your deliver with amazing results, even in the most challenging shooting scenarios.




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