Target panic – in some form or another, everyone that shoots a bow will struggle with it. For some shooters target panic means that they cannot hold their pin steady on the bullseye. For other shooters it may mean that they can hold steady all day long, but they can’t force their pin on the bullseye (often holding high or low). Other archers will simply have anxiety at full draw and rush through their shot, punching arrows off left and right.
One of the most common recommendations for shooters that struggle with target panic is to try a hinge, or “back tension”, style of release. This is often an intimidating recommendation, because many archers and bowhunters don’t fully understand what a hinge release is, or how they work. All these shooters know is the stories that they have heard of people giving themselves black eyes or losing teeth by accidentally punching themself in the face while trying a back tension release.
The fact is, hinge-style releases are very helpful for all archers and bowhunters, and they aren’t hard to use! In the video below I explain how a hinge release works, and how I use one to execute my shots. Disclaimer: there are several different ways to “work” a hinge release and make it fire; what I have recommended below is simply what works for me!
If you are interested in shooting a hinge release, here a few points to consider…
- Don’t punch yourself – Absolutely, positively do not try to figure out how a hinge release works by shooting a bow. Build a training aid (as seen in the video above), and be 100% comfortable working with the release before you try to shoot with your bow.
- Click! Some back tension releases have a click, some do not. My personal recommendation is that beginners shoot with a click, at least while they are learning.
- Slow and steady – Hinge releases are adjustable. They can be setup “hot”, meaning that very little movement or pressure is required to make the release fire, or they can be setup “cold”, meaning that the release is slow to fire. This adjustment can be made by rotating the angle of the “moon”, which effects how the sear is engaged and released during the shot sequence. Start slow!
- Shooting blanks – The worst thing you can do during the process of learning a back tension release is to try and shoot for accuracy. Focus on learning how to use the release and execute a shot; don’t focus on where your arrows are going, or even on aiming at all. Learn to shoot a hinge release by “blank bailing” – get close to your target, so close that you can’t miss, and just shoot. Don’t aim, don’t focus on a spot. Releasing and aiming are two different processes, which leads me to my next point…
- Forget everything – The goal of using a hinge release is to take the “shot” out of your shot. It is impossible for your mind to 100% focus on two things at the same time. The ideal way to shoot a bow is to be 100% focused on aiming, and not distracted by thinking through all of the steps it takes execute a shot. While you’re learning to shoot with a back tension release, you’ll be thinking of a million things – how to hold the release in your hand, where to anchor, how to apply pressure in your back muscles, how to relax your hand and let the release rotate, when the release is going to fire, etc. However, the ideal is to forget all of that and have the release process become subconscious and automatic. Forget about shooting…just aim.