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.
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 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.