Patrick Meitin has degrees in journalism and range and wildlife management. He’s been an outdoor writer, specializing in bowhunting, for more than 20 years. An expert with both traditional and modern archery equipment, Meitin lives in northern Idaho with his wife, Gwyn, and their two Labrador retrievers.
Shooting Form: The Perfect Release
At its base, how you approach the aiming process, in direct relation to the release, makes or breaks every shot with the bow and arrow. Proper execution also heads off bad habits affecting your shooting down the road.
Aiming takes place in three parts: alignment, acquisition and actual aiming. The entire process is often misunderstood. Alignment becomes part of the anchoring process, settling into your established anchor, simply aligning peep and sights (centering the round pin guard in the round peep sight). After this is accomplished, the aligned sights and peep are placed on target – acquiring the target but not actually aiming just yet.
Actual aiming starts with “picking a spot” – archery’s No. 1 mantra. This means separating the smallest point you can possibly discern on the target face – a single arrow hole or a single hair on a deer. This should become your all-consuming focal point while aiming, temporarily concentrating on only that spot with all your existence. Forget surrounding distractions; forget that buck’s antlers; the spot is all that matters.
As you hit full draw, aligning sights and acquiring the target, suck in a deep breath while settling into the shot. Now relax, release half that breath, and let the correct pin float on spot. Don’t fixate on the pin itself, but only the spot, and don’t attempt to aim too finely. You can’t hold a bow pin on spot like a bench-rested rifle. Just relax, allow the pin to float over the spot, burning a hole through it. It should center itself, nearly automatically given enough concentration. And simply allow the release to happen, willing the arrow into the spot through sheer concentration. This is a trick, of course. You’ll likely miss your spot by a small margin. But while that spot’s only a half-inch in diameter, a deer’s vital area comprises an 8- to 10-inch circumference. You’ll miss the spot but cleanly claim your prize.
The finger release differs from a mechanical release. Cutting the shot with fingers is a matter of slowly, even subconsciously, relaxing the fingers as the shot comes together, the string sliding away seemingly of its own volition. It should never become a “one, two, three, now” exercise. Triggering a release seems to cause more problems. The idea is to slowly squeeze the release trigger as the shot comes together, striving for a close approximation of surprise. The shot, again, seems to happen on its own.
But the shot’s not finished yet. After the shot explosion, even after the arrow is away, continue to burn a hole through that spot, holding everything steady as if deploying a wire-guided missile, until the arrow appears in the target or blasts through game. This is called follow-through and is many an archer’s undoing. The natural inclination is to jerk the bow away to watch the arrow fly, which can ruin an otherwise perfect shot by flinching the shot off mark. Resist this impulse with all your being. Follow through thoroughly and there will be no losing your arrow – it will appear on spot and the perfect shot will have been executed.
The trick is perfecting these techniques one at a time, not attempting to absorb it all in a single shooting secession. Heed this advice, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an efficient archer and deadly bowhunter.