One thing we all do as archers is aim. Some do this differently than others, but to shoot with any consistency we must incorporate some form of aiming into our shot. Several factors, including breathing, heart rate and focus, affect aiming. In one of my previous articles, I talked about aiming drills, but here I am talking about actual things that help or hurt how well you aim.
Breathing techniques are used quite often in archery competition but are normally overlooked while bowhunting. Sometimes we forget to breathe altogether when that big buck is coming in. Obviously, taking breaths while aiming causes your pin to bob up and down as your chest heaves; this is not ideal. I like to breathe as I draw and take a final breath as my pin settles on the target, holding that air in my lungs as I execute the release. Taking a breath too early can cause panic, and you will rush the shot. So, be sure to breathe up until the last few seconds.
One thing that affects aiming that we can’t really do a lot about is our heart rate. Adrenaline causes our heart rate to rise, which makes our arms, hands and entire body a little more shaky than normal. Knees knocking together can make aiming a lot more difficult, but I’ve been there many times! The most important thing is to put yourself in that situation as much as possible so you learn what your sight picture will look like and how to focus through that. I’ve found that when I’m under extreme pressure and my pin is quivering all over that if I just make a great shot on my release hand, nine times out of 10 the arrow hits the middle. Always focus on a small spot, and even if you’re shaking, your subconscious is bringing your pin back to that spot. I think it will surprise you how well you can shoot under extreme pressure if you don’t let it control you and you can make a clean, calm shot on the back end.
When it comes to aiming, I have good days and bad days, just like anybody. More times than not, on my bad days it’s because of lack of focus. My mind is elsewhere, and I’m not thinking solely about keeping my pin in the middle. To perform to your maximum potential, you have to get to a point where you are only thinking about aiming while at full draw. That should be your only thought. Everything else, especially the release, should happen naturally without having to consciously think about it.
Most people have a thought process that goes something like this at full draw: “OK, my pin is on the spot now, squeeze the trigger. Wait, my pin moved. OK, it’s back on, now squeeze. Crap, it moved again. Get it back and punch it!” I know that seems extreme, but it’s the truth. Your mind can only consciously think of one thing at time. So, when you take the focus off aiming, you are 100 percent focused on something else.
To be a great shot with a bow, you must be a great aimer. Three things that will either help you or hurt you are controlled breathing, heart rate and focus. All of these will take practice to master, so don’t pick your bow up the week before opening day and expect too much. How well you aim affects the rest of your shot. So, become a great aimer and you will become a great archer.