By Christian Berg
When it comes to shot timing, there is no universally accepted answer for exactly how long it should take to draw your bow, aim and release. If you don’t believe me, just attend a local archery tournament or visit the local 3-D course and watch others shoot. Some folks draw back, aim and release so quickly you wonder if they even had time to see where the sight pin was before letting the arrow fly. Others, meanwhile, seem to stare down the target for so long that you could go to the fridge and make yourself a ham sandwich before they shoot!
Most of us, of course, fall somewhere in between these extremes. Truth be told, it really doesn’t matter if your shot process takes 3 seconds or 6 seconds, as long as you are comfortable and shooting well. That said, there is a generally accepted rule of thumb for the maximum length of time your shot process should take — about 8 seconds.
Why 8 seconds, you ask? Well, the experts say it really boils down to muscle fatigue and how that erodes your ability to maintain proper form. You see, the process of drawing your bow, anchoring, aiming, releasing and following through all involve some physical effort. And while it’s true that using proper form reduces the effort required by utilizing your skeletal structure and back muscles to do most the work, it’s also true that the longer you have to hold at full draw, the more tired you will get. And once that time gets beyond 8 seconds, your muscles get fatigued enough that holding steady becomes difficult.
Although there are times — particularly during encounters with game while bowhunting — that holding your bow back for long periods of time is necessary to avoid being detected, you’re going to perform better if you can complete the entire shot sequence in fewer than 8 seconds.
So, what should you do the next time you find yourself at full draw, aiming at a target (paper, foam or animal) and feeling like you just can’t settle your pin in release? Simple; let your bowstring down, take a few deep breaths and start over! Top pros do this all the time at tournaments, and many successful bowhunters also do this regularly in the field when their nerves are getting the best of them. Regardless of whether you are shooting for that tournament trophy or another trophy for your living room wall, one of the best ways to eliminate poor shots is by never taking them in the first place.