How to Shoot a Compound without a Release

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Do You Use a Release When You Shoot?

Shooting with fingers can be an advantage in many bowhunting situations. (Patrick Meitin photo)

Finger shooting is rapidly fading from popularity. Something I find difficult to understand. The numbers I saw on a recent New Archery Products' website survey suggest from 75 to 80 percent of bowhunters now employ release aids. Compound bows are growing shorter every year, the average now running around 32- to 34-inch axle-to-axle. In finger shooting, anything shorter than 38 to 40 inches (hinging largely on draw length) is difficult to impossible to shoot well because of the acute string angles created at full draw and the resulting painful finger pinch. That's the biggest factor in the equation today. 

I guess another facet is bowhunters have become so gizmo-oriented. The bowhunting media and the advertisers who drive them have been quite successful in convincing us we need more and newer accessories to assure continued success. A release aid's just one more item to add to the list of "must-have" gear.

Just for the record, when equipped with an appropriate bow, I shoot just as well with fingers as release -- including extreme shooting to 100 yards. That said, I'm certainly not anti-release. When it's cold and I'll be sitting long hours, they're easier to operate with numb, frozen fingers. If I'm bowhunting from pop-up blinds or sitting flat on my rear during turkey season, which calls for a short compound, I'll shoot a release for reasons already established. 

Still, I prefer bowhunting with fingers (and E.W. Bateman's Cordovan finger tab). When running and gunning bugling bulls, especially, stalking mountain mulies or similar game, shooting fingers gives me more control over the arrow, shot timing and my bow. I can nock an arrow in a flash (without taking eyes off game) and draw instantly. If my arrow's bumped from the rest while drawing I can torque it back into place with my fingers nearly automatically. If I lose my tab ($12 vs. $50 to $100 for mechanical release) I can still shoot reasonably well without it. In short, shooting fingers makes me more fluid and less mechanical in dynamic bowhunting scenarios. Bowhunting's not traget shooting; I'm only interested in one-shot groups into 8 to 12-inch vital areas, not quarter-sized 12 rings one after another. 

I also prefer bows that allow efficient finger shooting. For me, that's a compound measuring around 40 inches axle-to-axle (30-inch draw length at 70 pounds). These "slow" (most of mine shoot around 280 fps with 450-grain arrows), long, "heavy" (4.5 instead of 4 pounds) bow models are steady in my hand, extremely forgiving and easier to shoot. They're the models most professional 3D shooters choose -- while shooting a release -- for these very reasons.

Mastering the finger release requires a tad more practice, sure, but in my opinion there's much to be gained while bowhunting. Just ask Chuck Adams. Finding a viable finger bow today might prove more difficult. Models such as Hoyt's Vantage LTD, Mathews' Conquest Apex 8, Alpine Concord or Elite Archery's Tour are some of the last of a dying breed.

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Editor's Note: This was originally published on March 14, 2012.

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