Beating Target Panic - November 2008

Question: How can I learn to stop punching the trigger? How do you get started using a back tension release? -- Steven Stigler, Hawkins, WI

Most people don't have the ability to cure target panic by simply focusing harder. It's time for a little brute force therapy. If you saw the movie "What About Bob", you remember the time Richard Dreyfuss's character strapped dynamite to Bill Murray's neurotic, paranoid character. It had the affect of shocking at least a partial cure. That's what you need and a back tension release is the dynamite, so to speak.

I can almost guarantee that if you'll give it a fair trial, this plan will completely cure your target panic and make you a much better archer in the process. This method calls for a release that takes you completely by surprise. Without any way to know when the bow is going to fire, you can't anticipate the shot. All you do is aim and ZAP the arrow is gone.

There are two ways to perform a surprise release. You can try to make it happen with your existing release (all release aids can be shot this way if you know the technique). Or, you can buy a specially designed back tension release that doesn't have a trigger. I recommend the back tension release to force-break bad habits. You can't cheat with a pure back tension release like you can with a trigger release.

You can always go back to your hunting release during the final couple of days before the season to get a feel for triggering it by surprise too.

You fire back tension releases with a pivoting motion of your hand in response to pulling through the shot. They're called back tension releases because the best results occur when you use your back muscles to pull through the shot, much like squeezing your shoulder blades together. These releases have adjustable mechanisms that automatically fire when your hand turns a certain amount. Eventually, after weeks of shooting, you may be able to anticipate the release, but then you can simply change the timing of the release and go back to a pure surprise.

You can gain a feel for this release style by working with a few basic drills. To first experience the "explosion" of a well-executed shot, have a friend or spouse trigger your normal hunting release while you're at full draw, arrow nocked and aiming at a target. Your only task is to aim-don't think. When the bow goes off, I guarantee that you'll be surprised. I told you there was some shock therapy involved.

Stay relaxed and let the release arm fly back and the bow fly forward. This may be the first time that you've actually needed a bow sling. Do this drill repeatedly until the release no longer startles you, but instead is simply a comfortable surprise.

Once you've learned to relax throughout the shot, despite the surprise, you are ready to start using a pure back tension release and firing the shot yourself. It will take about a week or two of daily practice to get comfortable with the new release aid, and to stop fighting the pin. You'll learn to simply relax and aim. Once this feeling is ingrained into your nervous system you'll know the true joy of archery. And you'll know that your old assailant, target panic, is finally beaten.

To retrain your senses to accept this new release style you will have to start from scratch. Move up close to the backstop and close your eyes so you can focus on the feel of the release. Allow the explosion to be a normal, expected part of the shot. Before you can hope to execute this type of release while actually trying to hit something, the feel will have to be firmly ingrained.

Next, shoot at an empty backstop with your eyes open. Don't try to aim, let the bow go where it wants as you focus on relaxing and letting the shot happen. Once you have this down, start shooting at targets, and you'll start shooting better than you've ever shot before in your life.

Even if you never plan to shoot a back-tension release during competition (they aren't suited for hunting), you owe it to yourself to keep one handy to be used as a training aid during the off-season. Nothing I've found cures target panic faster than a few weeks with a back-tension release. Soon you'll be aiming rock steady as you let the release take you by surprise. Your nerves will be calm and archery will be fun again.

You don't have to be a victim of target panic. Learn to trigger your shots by surprise and you'll soon find out how easy it really is to hold your pin steady and shoot great.

Some guys like a three-finger back tension release, but I have always preferred the four finger models. Because it just feels to me like I can get better leverage when turning my hand. Here are several good back tension releases.

Carter Enterprises: Carter's simplest and least expensive back tension releases are certainly adequate: the Atension and Colby 2, but if you are looking for the ultimate back tension release consider the Solution 2.75. It is very well built and features a safety that permits you to click it off and start your pull from any position. This makes it easier for a novice back tension shooter to get quickly comfortable with the method.

T.R.U. Ball: T.R.U. Ball makes two excellent back tension releases. The T.R.U.-Tension is a basic design while the Sweet Spot is a second-generation back tension release similar to the Carter Solution 2 in function. It is also a great release for first time back tension archers.

Scott Archery: Scott Archery is offering a line of back tension releases called the Longhorn series. They are basic, affordable designs.

USING A CLICKER TO IMPROVE YOUR AIMClickers are another tool for beating target panic and are recommended for those who simply can't work a back tension release. As you draw the bow, the clicker is in its loaded position. As the draw reaches its completion, the clicker will slip off the end of the arrow and make an audible snap. For this drill to be effective, you must shoot as soon as the clicker sounds, regardless of where your pin is aiming. You are forced by the unpredictable nature of the clicker to get your pin on the target and keep it there until the clicker announces that it is time for you to release the shaft. The clicker simply replaces the internal "now" command with an external one.

A clicker works equally well for both finger and mechanical release shooters. Mix the clicker with normal shooting sessions to reinforce the need to focus on the spot and trigger the shot naturally.

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