Archers: Beat Target Panic!

Target panic. Yuck! I don’t even like to whisper the words. Sadly, though, this archery nemesis affects most archers at one point or another. It comes in many forms and can creep in like a slow-moving cancer. 

In short, target panic is fear of aiming at a target. Some archers freeze high on the target and can’t let their pin float down. Others hang up on the target’s bottom half and can’t let the pin migrate up. In more severe cases, the archer can’t even settle his/her pin on foam. All are symptoms of target panic, all can cause massive anxiety, and all suck the joy right out of shooting a stick-and-string. 

Does the above resonate with you? Are you tired of not being able to go to the range with your buddies? How about being sick of missing and wounding game? If you want to rid yourself of target panic and have the most successful fall of your life when it comes to making clean, ethical kills, read on. 

Target panic can lead to a loss of shooting joy and create the desire to set the bow down for good. Don’t let this happen. Heed the advice to come and give target panic the one-two punch.

Get A Resistance Release

There are many on the market, and it really doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as it has a reliable safety and feels comfortable in the hand. My choice was Stanislawski’s PerfeX Resistance. The release can be purchased in a long- or short-neck version and each version comes with interchangeable finger options (two, three, and four finger) as well as a pair of thumb-barrel options. Options equal customization. The release feels great in the hand, and the resistance poundage is easy to manipulate via a screw located behind the thumb trigger. 

The release looks and operates much like a hinge-style release, but thanks to the safety (depressing the thumb-trigger during the draw-cycle), the worry of punching yourself in the mouth is eliminated. Stand five yards from a large target without an aiming point. Hook the release onto the bow, depress the thumb-trigger and come to full draw. Settle into your anchor and release the thumb trigger. This action will not fire the release unless you have it set ultra-light, which is not recommended when working to beat target panic. Read your manufacturer instructions and set the release fairly heavy.

A resistance-style release prevents one from punching the trigger and requires a focus on aiming and trusting the process of letting the release fire the bow.

Letting off the thumb-trigger releases the safety. Now, just aim and breathe and aim and breathe. It’s going to feel weird at first; just know that going in. Let your pin float on the target while pushing into the target with your bow hand and driving your release hand back. Pretend there is a wall a few inches from your elbow and you’re going to drive your elbow back into that wall. Relax while you’re doing this. Holding your breath and squeezing the life out of the grip will cause you to tighten up. Keep pushing and pull until the release fires. Repeat this process multiple times daily for at least a week from this distance. The goal is to get comfortable drawing, anchoring, disengaging the safety and aiming. You want to learn to let the release fire the bow. As shots start to break while your pin is just floating, the anxiety of shooting will begin to fade. Muscle memory will develop, and you will no longer worry about triggering the shot. Instead, the focus will be on the process of gripping the bow, coming to full draw, crawling into your anchor and pushing and pulling. 

As you become comfortable with the process, start shooting 3-D targets. I recommend 3-D targets over dots on a bag. Dots can cause anxiety, and we don’t want that. Start at 20 yards and focus on making solid kill shots on foam. Let the pin float as you aim, and remember, the best archer in the world can’t hold his pin dead-still on a target. That pin is going to float and bounce, but your subconscious mind is constantly dragging it back to the spot you want to hit. Trust it. Push and pull until the shot breaks and you’ll be pleased with your arrow placement.

Accuracy leads to confidence, and confidence leads to consistency.

Hunt With A Hinge

You’re grooving now. You’re comfortable with your resistance release and you’re target-panic free. The joy of shooting is back, and your confidence is soaring. Yes, you can stay with that resistance release for the fall season; I know lots of guys and gals that do. Personally, though, I would continue to take your shooting to the next level and make the switch to a true hinge-style release. 

Switching to a hinge-style release has allowed me to simply pick a spot on game animals and push and pull until the release just goes off. Trust the process and your success rate will soar.

Why go to the hinge? First, I like to set my hinge with a click. Some will argue this helps anticipate the shot. I disagree. The game won’t detect it, and it lets me know where I’m at in my shot process. I set my hinge so that I hit my click right as I crawl into my anchor. Then I just push and pull until the shot breaks. I also like to be able to see my hot/cold setting on my release and T.R.U. Ball’s Hot Tension and TRU-FIRE’s Sear both allow this. Being able to set and see your hot/cold settings allows you to make micro-adjustments quickly. Another reason I lean toward this pair of hinge-releases is that both can be attached to a wrist strap. A few season’s back, I missed an opportunity at a big buck because I was digging in my pocket for my hand-held resistance release. Later that year, I switched to a thumb-button release that clipped to my bowstring. During my stalk, something bumped the trigger and when I went to shoot, I had no release. 

T.R.U. Ball’s Hot Tension and TRU-FIRE’s SEAR allow total control over your hot/cold setting as well as your click setting.

I shoot my hinge year-round and have grown incredibly comfortable with it. I never thought my accuracy would be what it is today, and I never thought I could actually drawback on an animal and let my release fire my bow without me jabbing at the trigger. The good news: you can too. It takes work and dedication, but you’ll love the results!

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Alan Gross August 6, 2020, 12:29 pm

    In this day and age people seem to be too damn sensitive to everything or is it just a way for somebody to write and article to gain advertising clicks? Target panic? Really? What about 3D Buck Target Fever? Maybe we can get Federal Funding for the poor folks, with these maladies, to be able get the help they need!

    • David Lightfoot August 21, 2020, 4:55 am

      This is a very real thing! I’ve been an archer for 42 years, both bowhunting and competition. First encounter with target panic in the early 90s, and I switched from shooting with fingers to using a caliper release. Target panic resurfaced, forcing me to switch to the hinge-style release mentioned in the article. Target panic also carried over into my traditional bowhunting with a recurve, and I have worked through that using a string clicker (clickety-click brand.) Wish this article had existed in 1991.

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