As a professional archer for the last 13 years, I’ve experienced almost every up and down this sport has to offer. As a result, I’m constantly going back to the basics, relearning techniques that I’ve proven countless times over.
However, there are some things that aren’t so basic, that most people are never taught and that, quite honestly, don’t work for everyone. For some, though, they can be game-changing.
For example, something that works well for me is remembering to relax my bow arm while aiming. Some days, my pin never moves and I think I’ve figured this game out; the next, I wake up and aim like I just drank a triple shot of espresso. I normally would just write this off as a bad day and hope for a better one tomorrow, but not anymore.
Recently, I was competing in the Redding trail shoot in California. The first day of the event went pretty well, but the second was quickly turning into a train wreck. I couldn’t get my pin to sit still, which was causing all kinds of anxiety during my execution. The odds of me winning the event were getting worse with each “wiggle fire.”
I remember the moment I figured it out, literally at full draw. I was aiming terribly and, as a result, freaking out. I finally just told myself, “Dude, relax,” not thinking about what effect that would have on my shooting, as I meant it more for my anxiety than my aiming. However, when I said that, I felt my bow arm muscles relax, and my pin instantly stopped moving. The shot fired, and the arrow hit the middle of the target.
The rest of the day was the same — pull to the wall, aim, relax, bam! The shot fired effortlessly, and I didn’t miss the rest of the day. I went on to clean the next day as well, never even flirting with a miss.
Unfortunately, it was a little too late. The few stray shots I had on the second day were enough to cost me the win. This was a hard but valuable lesson to learn.
The funny thing about this is I’ve always shot better with a soft bow arm. Slightly bent and relaxed has given me the best results since I was a kid. Some people shoot better with a straight bow arm locked completely out, but if I shot that way, I probably wouldn’t have ever won a single tournament!
In most clutch situations, my pin moves a little more than normal, which is pretty much the case for everyone. Whether I’m shooting at a big buck or for a world title, when there’s a lot riding on the shot, the pin just doesn’t want to sit still. The difference maker is learning what works in those moments.
You see, some lessons can’t be learned in practice. You can’t duplicate the feeling of missing a giant buck standing in your shooting lane, or of losing out on $100,000 because of a single miss. In those moments of failure, you have to be mentally present enough to learn what you’re doing wrong. If everything is going south, what do you really have to lose?
If you have a problem with aiming, try relaxing the muscles in your bow arm and watch what your pin does. Maybe you’ll have the same results as me; maybe not. Like I said, it doesn’t work for everyone. The real lesson here is to always learn, even when your heart is beating out of your chest and your mind wants to go blank. Fight through it and pay attention to the details so you’ll be ready the next time you’re in that position!