November 21, 2023
I hadn’t seen my two hunting friends for quite some time, and what better way to catch up and reminisce about the good ol’ days than to grab our bows and shoot some arrows. Soon, my friends were uncasing their bows and launching arrows at distant targets in my backyard.
By the time I came on the scene, they were stretching the distance to 50 and 60 yards. In the weeks prior, I hadn’t shot much, so I doubted my capability a little.
However, when I drew back and aimed at the Rinehart 3-D target, I felt at ease. My 60-yard pin glided smoothly to the spot and then rolled around ever-so-slightly as my index finger hugged the trigger almost as if it weren’t there. I simply aimed and waited for the shot to break, while subconsciously tightening my rhomboid muscles. One arrow after another, it was the same result — smooth, effortless shooting, despite the pressure from nearby onlookers.
When I look back at that moment, it reminds me just how important it is to have your bow and release aid dialed-in to perfection. Mine certainly was that day. From the bow’s silky-smooth draw to the solid anchor against my face to the surprise release of my arrow, my entire setup acted as an extension of my arm and prompted exceptional shooting. To be honest, I was sort of shocked with my overall performance.
I attributed most of this smooth shooting to my release-aid setup. Let’s examine three things you should look for when selecting a wrist-strap release, and how you should adjust it for superior results.
Fit & Feel
How the release fits on your wrist, hand, and against your face are critical components for consistency. To examine the fit and feel of a release aid, you’ll need to test several models by using a “string bow.” This is critical, as a string bow will allow you to enter any good archery shop and “shoot” a multitude of release aids while standing in the aisle. No fuss, no muss — simply test-shoot to your heart’s content, without getting distracted or breaking down shooting form or muscles.
To make a string bow, simply take five to six feet of paracord, then tie an overhand knot using both tail ends, so its length accommodates your draw length. Be sure to allow ½ to ¾-inch length for the D-loop connection. Cinch it up nice and tight, then begin shooting by placing one end of the giant loop across your bow hand and the other to the release aid. It works like magic and serves as a great training tool for refining shooting technique.
When sampling releases, be sure to adjust the connecting rod or nylon strap, so the trigger rests between the first and second creases on your finger. This will help you “hook” the trigger peg solidly, to improve control and reduce the chance of punching the trigger. (Note: I’ll discuss this shooting method more at the end of this column.)
Next, pay close attention to your hand’s position against your face. Try “cupping” your lower jawbone by using the web of the thumb and index finger of your hand. Position the top of your hand (or fisted knuckles) perpendicular to your jawbone. Pay close attention to how the front part of your release feels against your jawbone. Does it press awkwardly into your face, forcing your hand to twist left or right to relieve the tension? Is your trigger finger completely relaxed and in a natural position, or does it feel like you have to reach outward quite a bit to engage the trigger?
Ideally, the release should feel like an extension of your hand — after drawing and anchoring, everything should line up perfectly, without you having to make a conscious decision about whether to move your finger/wrist a certain way to accommodate the release’s body/trigger design. You may also want to look at specific models that come with either a rigid or nylon-web connector. Try both to see which one feels best. Those with nylon-web connectors are more flexible and can sometimes provide a more natural feel.
Trigger quality is just as important as the release’s fit and feel. A poor trigger is one that creeps as it’s pulled. In other words, the shooter will perceive the trigger’s movement (or slop) before the arrow is released. Eventually, this sensation leads to anticipating the shot and causes a breakdown of proper shooting form. This often comes through punching the trigger, “drive-by” spot shooting, and freezing below/above or to the side of the target — all debilitating factors.
In most cases, the most expensive wrist-strap releases come with polished-trigger mechanisms to ensure smooth, unanticipated shooting. However, you can’t always trust just the release’s price, or go by another archer’s suggestion. Each release could have imperfections, regardless of the price or manufacturer. For this reason, test as many models as you can, before making a purchase.
I say this because I have collected a giant box of release aids over the years, and even two identical models will sometimes shoot differently. My favorite index-finger releases are those made by Carter. I prefer the Like Mike (now Like Mike II) followed by the RX2. Both have ultra-crisp triggers and an overall design that fits my hand and face perfectly, providing exceptional shooting. I use the Like Mike exclusively, unless I want to extend my draw length by a half-inch or more. In this case, I use the RX2. I prefer the Like Mike the most because it features a no-movement trigger, which truly accentuates a surprise release.
However, I’ve also had great luck with other models, including the T.R.U. Ball Short-N-Sweet Swept-Back Trigger, Scott Echo, and TruFire Edge. I’m eager to shoot newer models with noteworthy features, such as the Scott S2, Spot Hogg Tuff Guy, T.R.U. Ball Execution, and TruFire Exert Flex.
When testing different releases, you’ll probably notice that each is different in the way it attaches to your D-loop — some grab on fast and smooth, while others do not. For serious bowhunting, you’ll want a relatively fast hook-up, so you don’t fumble when things count.
There are three design traits that tend to impact how quickly a wrist-strap release hooks up.
The first is the degree to which the trigger is mounted — is it far back or far forward? Triggers that are far-forward can make it hard to position the hook/jaw on the D-loop for a fast grab. This is true when the release is adjusted, so the trigger rests deep between your first and second knuckles.
The second trait has to do with stem adjustments. I prefer models with rigid stems over those with nylon-web adjustments, because they make aligning the release’s hook/jaw with your D-loop easier, thus improving hook-up speed.
Lastly, releases with extra-large bodies or cases are often easier to grab between your index finger and thumb, allowing for faster positioning of the hook/jaw — especially with gloved hands. This is particularly true for models using a nylon-web adjustment strap.
Keep these design features in mind when experimenting with different models. Also, if you hunt with thin gloves, I encourage you to wear them when testing out various models, so you’ll know whether they will be a hindrance in a hunting situation.
In my opinion, the best way to trigger any release aid is by tightening your shoulder blades together until you feel a slight burn in the muscles located between them. This muscle contraction will cause your elbow, arm, and “hooked” finger to move straight back — effectively triggering the shot for you. This makes shooting more rock-solid, consistent, and very pressure-proof, as illustrated at the beginning of this column.
Dialing-in your draw and/or loop length, anchor position, and release-aid adjustments are critical for successfully shooting this way, so you engage the trigger just right and use consistent back-muscle movement.
One last point is this: The importance of trigger pull. Vary the trigger tension until you activate the shot in about four to six seconds. If the trigger tension is too light, the shot will break too soon, preventing good, unanticipated technique. Keep experimenting until you find the sweet spot in all these setup tunes. Once you do, you’ll experience smooth, effortless shooting, with extremely accurate results.