One Exercise To Improve Your Bowhunting Accuracy

I practice with my bow year round. Over the course of all that shooting I have noticed that there are certain ebbs in flows in my accuracy and consistency. Sometimes I am in the zone; where shooting seems effortless, nearly subconscious, and the arrow effortlessly finds its mark. Other times I struggle to feel comfortable, to find consistency, and ultimately fight to put arrows where I want them to go.

Near the end of last year’s whitetail season I noticed that I had developed a bit of target panic. I took a brief break from shooting after the season ended, and when I picked up my new bow in February I was disappointed to find out that my target panic was still there.

Luckily, my target panic has been cured and I have been shooting absolutely lights out for the past several months. My problem, as bad as it was, was cured with one simple exercise.

Arrow Group at 40 Yards

The Symptoms

First, I want to say that nearly everyone has some level of target panic. The severity of the problem will determine how much of an effect it has on your shooting. Even if you think you don’t have any target panic, I urge you try the simple exercise below. You may be surprised at the results.

My symptoms of target panic were two-fold.

First, I just couldn’t seem to get the pin on the target. This would manifest itself most by the fact that I could pick a spot, and I could get my pin near it, but I would usually freeze just below the spot. For whatever reason it was as if, not matter which spot on my target I chose, I would lock-up and not be able to get my pin on that spot. This obviously led to a lot of low misses.

My second symptom was even worse – if I did get my pin on the spot I would rush, jerk, and otherwise react as if I was telling myself,

“Oh crap, there is the spot, release the shot…NOW!”

This clearly led to a variety of misses and an altogether uncomfortable feeling of anxiety about getting my pin on target.

To put it simply – I couldn’t get my pin on target, and if I did, I couldn’t comfortably hold it there and “settle in.”

At the time I couldn’t pinpoint my problem. I knew that my shooting was off, and I knew that I needed to make a change, but I didn’t understand the problem in the moment. It is only now, after I have been “cured”, that I am able to look back and see what happened.

The Exercise

The exercise that cured my target panic is also the diagnostic that I used to really discover what my problem was.

This is incredibly simple, and may sound pointless, but trust me – if you have any level of target panic, this simple exercise will show you.

Setup your target, grab your bow and arrows, and walk back to a distance that you normally shoot at. Let’s say you are at 20 yards. Now, begin your normal routine of shooting an arrow. Draw back, anchor, level your site, etc. Once you anchored and ready to begin aiming, keep your finger behind the release trigger. Go through the process of aiming, settling, and breathing, just as if you were going to shoot, but keep your finger away from the trigger and don’t shoot.

Were you able to put your sight pin on the exact spot you were aiming at? Were you able to keep it there? Did it feel comfortable? Were you able to stay relaxed and settled with your pin floating on your spot? Did your trigger finger jerk? Did your hand jerk? Did you shudder or otherwise drop your bow arm?

This simple exercise is a diagnostic that will show you any sort of panic or anxiety that you have about executing a shot.

I performed this exercise for days. At first I would jerk and pull and my pin would be going everywhere. I made some progress, and I slowly began to let my pin get on target. Once I was able to comfortably get my pin on target, then I would just work on remaining relaxed and keeping my pin on target.

If you have a friend available, you can also do an exercise where you draw, aim, and settle – keeping your finger away from the trigger – then, with your friend standing behind you, have him activate the trigger for you. You won’t know when he will release the shot, so your job is to remain settled and relaxed on target.

What we are looking for is zero anxiety. Zero jitter. Zero jerks. We want to stay calm, settled, and focused on the target. The shot should come as a surprise. Our release should be subconscious.

Try this exercise! You may think you don’t have any anxiety or target panic, but I have been surprised at how many folks do. If you notice any problems just keep repeating this exercise each day, until you work our kinks out and get 100% comfortable executing a well-composed shot.

The Author

Mark Huelsing is a regular guy with an irregular passion for bowhunting and the outdoors. Learn more about Sole Adventure or get in touch with Mark...

Email  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

 
  • WildAthlete

    Every archer owes it to themself to read “Idiot Proof Archery” by Bernie Pellerite.  This exercise along with many others are outlined in the book.  Short of a personal coach I can’t think of money better spent.

    • SoleAdventure

      I have heard good things about that book. Thank you for the reminder!

  • http://twitter.com/LockeStokNBarel LockeStockNBarrel

    Excellent post! I have passed this on to my first-year bow hunting brother, who cant seem to get his groups tight… 

    • SoleAdventure

      Good luck to him. I certainly wished I would have known to try this when I first started!

    • SoleAdventure

      Good luck to him. I certainly wished I would have known to try this when I first started!

  • http://twitter.com/JReid_PWL PushingWildLimits

    Everyone has a bit of target panic  This is a great exercise thanks for sharing 

  • S. Scott Johnson

    Very good advice! I’ve done something similar with shooting pistols. The instructor showed me my tendency to flinch by secretly removing a bullet from the clip. It was very obvious how much I flinched when I pulled the trigger and the gun didn’t fire. The instructor also stood behind me like you described and pulled the trigger for me once I had the sight lined up. He hit the bullseye everytime while I held the pistol on the target. He also suggested I practice pulling the trigger without bullets and get the feel of the trigger action. These exercises did help me become more accurate with the pistol. So it is very much a mind-over-matter kind of thing.

    • SoleAdventure

      Scott, that is actually where I originally got the idea for this exercise. I used to shoot pistols quite a bit before I started bowhunting.

  • thepathlesswoods.com

    Good advice, for sure. I think the sure-fire way to (nearly) eliminate target panic is to practice (or hunt) with a back tension release. It helps with target panic AND greatly improves your form. 

    • SoleAdventure

      Good point! A back tension release will certainly help eliminate target panic, but in my admittedly limited experience shooting with one, I can’t imagine hunting with one. Some guys successfully hunt with them though.

      • thepathlesswoods.com

        I am like you, I cannot hunt with one. But my two hunting partners both do and with great success. It can be done it just takes loads of practice and confidence in your abilities to handle one under pressure..

  • http://twitter.com/SoCalBowhunter Al Quackenbush

    Excellent advice and I will have to check out that book, too!

  • RasherQuivers

    Great Post!!  What you just described is an archery exercise I call, Aiming Drill #1.  I did a youtube video on it a while back.