Over many years of shooting — both in competition and in hunting situations — I’ve come to realize the importance of timing in my shot.
Release execution and aiming have to blend together perfectly for me to maximize my shooting potential. Timing, or rhythm, is crucial to the success of my archery game.
I’ve said at least 1,000 times that archery is made up of hundreds of tiny things you have to do over and over again in order to succeed. Well, “timing” is just all those tiny things working together fluidly. I’ve shot my bow at a high level virtually my entire life, so I know the fundamentals very well and don’t struggle with any of them individually. However, doing them all correctly at the same time and with a great flow from shot to shot is normally what makes or breaks me from one day to the next.
When my timing is off, there always seems to be one underlying cause — anticipation of my shot. There are many ways to help prevent this, from blank bale shooting to using multiple styles of release aids with multiple sensitivity settings on them. Anticipation is the cause of myriad shooting woes, so it’s imperative to keep it in check.
What do I mean when I say I’m anticipating the shot? Well, after shooting the same release for so long, I’m so familiar with its timing that I subconsciously know exactly when it’s about to fire. I then start to “freeze” on my shot and over-aim, throwing a monkey wrench into my overall shot timing. Blank bale shooting is great for working on timing, but it can actually make things worse if this is the underlying issue. So, my go-to cure is to carry two different styles of release aids.
I carry a Synapse thumb-button release and a SEAR hinge release, both made by Tru-Fire. After I shoot one for a while, I start getting a little sloppy, over-aiming and freezing when my shot’s about to break. When that happens, I switch releases, and everything suddenly starts falling back into place. I no longer subconsciously know when the release is going to fire, so I can focus on aiming and let the shot happen.
One of my heroes growing up was Randy Ulmer — one of the most successful target shooters and bowhunters our sport has ever seen. I remember Randy used to carry multiple releases of the same make and model. They all looked the same, but Randy set the timing differently on each. This forced him to focus on aiming because he never knew which release he had in his hand and couldn’t anticipate the timing of the shot.
Both my method and Randy’s will work. Regardless, if you’ve shot the same release on the same setting for a long time, I almost guarantee that you struggle with shot timing sometimes.
There are so many things you have to do correctly to be a great archer. In addition to doing them all well individually, you also need great rhythm and timing while doing many of them simultaneously. There are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years to help keep me focused on aiming and not subconsciously anticipating the shot. My go-to is to simply switch styles of releases when I start to freeze on my shot; others like to change the sensitivity on the same release.
Either way, a small change to your release aid is needed every now and then in order to keep you focused on the fundamentals that never change.