Archery: Beat Target Panic For Good

Deck: If your carbon slinging has been a struggle, don’t fret, there’s still time to make a change. 

There’s no worse feeling than target panic. The heart rate increases the second you grab your bow followed by a twist in the gut as you struggle to put your pin on target. If you don’t take action now, your fall will be filled with errant arrows, and the joy of shooting will fade entirely away. The good news: Follow this tried-and-true plan, and you can bank on a season of freezer-filling and plenty of grip-and-grin photos.

Don’t Shoot!

You have to be willing to give up control. You have to believe your compound and the accessories it wears will do what they were designed to do. Next, you have to let the release do what it was designed to do, and that’s fire the bow. You must give yourself entirely over to the process and focus on the art of aiming and executing the best shot possible each time you pull the string back.

Get a foam or bag target — it doesn’t matter which — and use a can of spray paint to cover the entire face of the target. You don’t want a single aiming point. Now stand 10 yards from the target, draw your bow and let your pin float left, right, up and down on the target face. Relax and breathe. Just aim. Hold until exhaustion and then let down. Do not fire an arrow. Focus on getting a consistent anchor — tip of the nose on the tip of the string — and drive your bow arm into the target. As you push hard into the target, imagine someone standing behind you, and you want to move your elbow into their nose. You want to develop a consistent strong in the front and strong in the back routine. If your worried you will fire an arrow, set your release heavy. Over the day, repeat this a total of 40 times, and do this routine day-in-and-out for five days.

Standing 10 yards from a target with a blank face and holding the bow to exhaustion will boost muscle memory and teach you to trust your pin float.


After five days of drawing, holding, aiming and letting down, your muscle memory and muscle control will increase. On day six, stay 10 yards from the blank target and go through your shot process. Only now, as the pin is floating on the target, execute a shot in which you let the release fire the bow. This means the shot, when it breaks, should take you by surprise. It doesn’t matter where the arrow hits because you’re not aiming at spot, dot, or vitals. You’re simply trusting your float and executing.

The first few times you do this, I recommend that you have a friend or spouse stand next to you to manipulate the trigger. The process is straightforward. Your job is to get into your grip, draw smoothly, crawl into anchor, start aiming while pushing and pulling. At different times during this process, your partner’s job is to depress the trigger on your index-finger or thumb-activated release. If you’re shooting a hinge, have your partner, after you settle into anchor and get into your hinge, swipe the ring finger (three-finger hinge) or pinkie finger (four-finger).

From day six through 10, this will be your routine. No further than 10 yards, and no shooting at anything but a blank target. You’ll begin to notice a sense of confidence in your training, and your shots will break with you doing nothing more than aiming, staying strong in the front, strong in the back while breathing and relaxing. It’s a fantastic feeling, and in just 10 short days, if you trust the program, the joy of shooting will start to come back.

With no dot or visual aiming point on the target, you can simply focus on shot execution and learn to let the release fire the bow.

Feeling Lethal

Naturally, you’ll start to feel the urge to move back, but this process must be done delicately. You will, again, be using the blank face target. Why? Because it doesn’t matter where you hit. Your job is to aim and trust your pin float.

Starting on day 11, you’ll shoot three arrows — not groups where you’re trying to hit other arrows in the target — but just groups on the target face. Shoot three arrows at 20 yards, and be honest with yourself about how you executed. Were you strong in the front and the back? Did you trust your pin float and let the release fire the bow? Honesty is paramount. If the answer to any of your questions is no, move back to 10 yards. If you execute at 20 yards, repeat the three-arrow process at 30 yards. Again, evaluate the process. The object is to fire three perfect arrows each time, and by perfect, I don’t mean slapping shafts. I mean executing every aspect of your shot process and letting the release fire the bow. Lastly, repeat the process at a distance of 40 yards. Repeat three-arrow groups at 20, 30 and 40 yards as long as you’re feeling good and shots are breaking on their own. You will repeat this process daily for five days. At the end of five days, if you’ve done everything right, you will be feeling confident and lethal.

Focus, aim and execute — don’t worry about where the arrow impacts. Rather, focus on staying to true to each and every shot.

Time for a 3-D

Staying away from any dot shooting is still critical, and for this reason, you need to move to a 3-D target. These targets have gotten extremely affordable over the years and aren’t going to cost you too many greenbacks.

Starting on day 16, stand 10 yards from your 3-D target, go through your grip, draw and anchor, and then, with your pin floating on the target’s vitals, execute. Nothing changes. The release should fire the bow. Shoot a handful of arrows at 10 yards and then start moving back from the target. No shot should be further than 40 yards, and each shot should be executed flawlessly. Again, this doesn’t mean a kill shot. This means staying true to the process, letting the pin float, and letting the release fire the bow. Keep this process up from day 16 to 21.

Shooting 3-D targets is a great way to learn to trust pin float and shot execution. There is no dot. You’re simply letting your pin float on the target’s vitals while going through your shot execution process.

Let It Loose

Countless studies have been performed on the length of time it takes to break a habit. Most scientists agree it takes 21 days. Guess what? You did it. You’re there. You took the step most archers and bowhunters refuse to take, and that’s mastering the art of letting your bow, bow-mounted accessories, and release do what they are designed to do. You’ve given control to the process, and aren’t trying to will, hope, or force the arrow into the target. From this point forward, don’t look back. Feel free to stretch your yardage as far as you feel comfortable. I recommend practicing at twice the distance you expect your maximum shot to be. Just remember, as you move back from the target, NOTHING changes. If you feel any anxiety or start to manipulate your release with your finger, thumb, or by jerking on the hinge, move back in. And, it never hurts to take one day a week and do nothing but stand 10 yards and execute shot after shot on a blank target face.

As long as you’re executing properly, don’t be afraid to start moving back from the target. Just remember the shot you make at 80 yards is the same shot you make at 20 yards. Keep to your process and let the release fire the bow.

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