It is completely acceptable to use the finger release because you prefer a more traditional approach to bowhunting. However, don't be led astray by claims that the finger release is somehow better than a release aid. Mechanical releases are inherently more accurate and consistent than fingers.
I thought it would be fun in this month's column to take a look at some of the misconceptions surrounding release aids. While I will never argue with someone who prefers a more traditional approach to bowhunting by using a finger release, I do take issue with claims that the finger release is somehow better. Along the way, I hope to give you release shooters a few tips on shooting your release aid more accurately.
I've heard finger shooters tell release aid shooters how unreliable their tools are. I've been hunting with a release for 30 years, and my release aid has yet to cost me an animal. Early on, there were some questionable release aids on the market that were not always reliable. But nowadays, if you stick with basic, tried and true designs made by leading manufacturers and practice until you are comfortable, you won't have a problem. I prefer Carter Enterprises release aids, but there are several other great manufacturers.
Takes Too Long To Load
It may take slightly longer to load a release aid than to simply grab the string with your fingers, but how often do you take a shot when you can't spare half a second? I use a release aid (Carter Rx) that has a hook I can load quickly without looking down. This I can do nearly as fast as just grabbing the string with my fingers. Besides, just grabbing the string and hauling it back is not going to promote consistent accuracy. Finger placement is too important to rush. We're not talking about jump-shooting pheasants here -- you have a little time. Most bowhunting encounters are rehearsed and planned; in a word, they are reasonably controlled. We generally know well in advance when a shot is likely to occur. It is rare indeed that an animal takes the hunter completely by surprise and then presents only a fleeting shot opportunity.
Something To Lose
When I'm hunting, I carry an identical backup release aid in my equipment bag. If I should somehow drop my release while in a treestand or when taking a lunch break while watching a bedded mule deer, I have something to fall back on. I make a habit of strapping my release to the bow just as soon as I take it off my wrist. In this way, I never have to wonder where my release is: it is always either on my wrist or on my bow. It is never lost.
Harder On Your Bowstring
There is no question that if you attach your release directly to the string, its jaws will wear your bowstring's serving faster than three fingers will. You will definitely have problems with some factory serving. So, after you break your string in, you may need to re-serve it with a high-quality serving material. I use an aftermarket string by Winner's Choice, so I know everything is tight. Study your serving often. If it is starting to slip or separate, replace it.
The newer serving materials on the market today (I like Halo by BCY) are very strong, so you can serve them very tightly. I use a string nocking loop that greatly prolongs serving life. The loop will eventually wear out and need to be replaced, but it will protect the serving.
Proper Release Technique
Just using a release aid is not enough to ensure you will reach your shooting potential. You still need to use it properly. The shot should take you by surprise. If it doesn't, you run the risk of developing target panic. In fact, some variety of target panic is all but guaranteed at some point. You're doing it wrong if you start trying to command the trigger to coincide with the instant the pin is on the spot. That leads to a convulsive style of shooting.
Learn to squeeze the trigger of the release while the pin floats around the intended spot. Don't force the shot -- just execute it. Let the process take care of itself. Pull firmly with your back muscles as you squeeze the trigger. If you use an index finger release, reach forward and get a deep bite so the trigger is in the first joint of your finger (the joint closer to your palm). This reduces the sensitivity of the finger and makes it easier to squeeze through the shot.
If you use a thumb-triggered release, anchor the tip of your thumb on the release's body forward of the trigger and learn to fire the shot by pivoting the release. As you pull through the shot, the pivoting motion will cause the trigger to contact the inside of your thumb with enough force to make it fire.
I have yet to introduce a friend to the mechanical release who, after giving it an honest try, ever went back to shooting with fingers -- at least not permanently. If you aren't already using a release aid, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. After a couple weeks of practice, you will find the experience comfortable and you will shoot more accurately.