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Aiming Tactics

How To Defeat Target Panic

by Bill Winke   |  August 1st, 2011 6

We all fight target panic to some extent. How much we fight it depends on our technique. Ron Ellis from Shelton, Washington has this to say. “Target panic is driving me crazy. I’ve never been a great shot but I was just getting to the point where I was gaining confidence and then this comes up. I’ll shoot decent one day and the next it really goes to heck!” Ron, I feel your pain and hope I can help you out

I have read and heard many tips about how to deal with target panic. However, any solution short of creating a true surprise release is only a temporary fix. You can trick your brain into forgetting about the “Now!” command for a while, but then it will come back again and you will be right where you started. The “Now!” command itself is the problem; for some reason we eventually start to anticipate when the pin will be on the spot and we try hard to make the shot go at just the right time. Eventually, this degenerates into target panic.

Some people experience target panic by locking up just below the spot, for example. Sometimes a twitch creeps in as we try to time the shot. Regardless of the symptoms, target panic stinks and you have to deal with it harshly to kill it.

The solution is both simple and difficult. It’s simple because it requires only one achievement – creating a surprise release. However, it’s hard for many people to get used to doing this. It requires a complete reprogramming of the nervous system. There is only one brute force method to make it happen and that is what I recommend to everyone: use a pure back tension release for the next 8 months and by fall you will have forgotten what the words “target panic” even mean.

You can’t easily time a back tension release. You simply aim and pull as you naturally turn your release hand through the shot. You will hate it at first. It will scare you. For the first time in your life you will learn what a bow sling is really for! The shot is supposed to startle you when it goes off – at least at first. After all, it is “surprise” release. Within a few days it will stop scaring you. Switch back to your hunting release a couple weeks before the hunting season, but keep squeezing the trigger to duplicate this surprise release. In my experience, this is the only solution that works every time.

  • bob

    I have found concentrating on my left hand (grip hand), arm, and shoulder works for me. I am a right hand shooter. Don't concentrate on the release going off, concentrate on the feeling of the bow surging forward in your left hand while the arrow is being released and keeping your hand absolutely as rock solid as you can. I prefer to call it flinching, becuase my left hand,arm, and shoulder anticipate the arrow leaving the bow before it does, and I flinch. For me the flinch originates in my left shoulder. I fiind it is much more likely to happen the more tired I get. I typically shoot 6-10 arrows in a group. When you get tired, stop shooting for 5-10 minutes. Let your shoulder rest between groups if necessary. My 2 cents worth. bob

  • Dave

    I have been fighting this for the last couple years. When it was really bad, my pin would lock just below the bullseye as was stated in the article. Now, before I start shooting at my target, and when I first get into my tree stand, I draw the bow and hold it for 15-20 seconds. I also move and stretch my right shoulder (I am right handed). That warms my muscles and seems to help. With my bow now sighted in, I now shoot only 3 arrows: 40 yds, 30 yds, and 20 yds during each sessoin (3 or 4 times/week). I found that shooting too many in one practice session made the panic much worse.

  • gary

    I have fought target panic off and on for years. Back tension release was tough for me becaue I didn't have the patience. Aparantly you can't teach this old dog (shooting bows for 43 yrs) new tricks. What has helped, when it gets real bad, is blind bail shooting before and after practice sesions.

  • Tarron

    If you keep both eyes open while you aim and shoot your able to hold very steady and give you alot more confidence on your shot.

  • Joe

    The best drill I have found to eliminate this "phenom" is to get really close to a big target and shoot with your eyes closed, focusing on making a smooth release. Then with your eyes closed imagine the target and settling your pin as you release. Its a trick of the eyes seeing the target and your brain yelling "shoot". After a while you will learn to focus on your release and not your aiming . Good luck!

  • spencer

    im 16 years old and im in bit of a target panic stage. im left handed and when i draw im focusingon my trigger hand way to much so im rushing my shot and making bad shots. A drill that has helped me is have someone else pull the trigger for you. it may seem crazy but works. it keeps you more focused on where you need to aim.

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