Works For Me
October 28, 2010
Every archer has a personalized method for drawing and releasing the string, including our resident experts
I've experimented with a lot of release styles through the years and have liked many of the new precision models but, when it comes to serious hunting, I can't imagine going into the woods without my "old reliable." For at least the past 10 hunting seasons the same caliper release has been strapped to my wrist. Maybe it's a lucky charm, but I just like having at least one cog in the system that goes back aways. I'd give you my bow and all the accessories attached before I'd give you that release.
There's nothing that stands out about my favorite release. It's a Brand X copycat that I got cheap some time after Bill Scott's patent became public domain. There are at least 10 companies now making comparable models selling for anywhere from $30 to $45.
Here's what I like about my release. Caliper releases are extremely simple and foolproof with very few parts that can get jammed or worn. I like the fact that the operation is all manual. I control the opening and closing of the jaws with my fingers, so I know they're closed every time. I clip the release right on the string below a rubber cushion button, sometimes called an eliminator button. I never have to worry about whether or not I can get a hook-up when I'm wearing heavy gloves. Sometime in the next couple of years I may switch to a nocking loop (they are superior in many ways) and a release designed just for them but, for now at least, I'm sticking to the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
I shoot the release in one of two ways. First, while on the practice range, I strive for a more-or-less surprise release. I get a good bite on the trigger with my index finger (by gripping the trigger near the first joint) and then pull my release elbow back slowly and firmly using the muscles of my upper back. It's an effort much like trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together. This creates enough extra tension to fire the shot. I'm at about four to five pounds of trigger tension at full draw--slightly more than a rifle. It's enough that I can feel the trigger even through heavy gloves.
Bill Winke prefers the simplicity of a caliper release for hunting.
I'm not exactly sure how I trigger the release when hunting, because I can't ever remember thinking about it. Guessing, I'd say I probably strum the trigger with a motion that is much less gentle than my practice range form. Big bucks do that to me. However, I know that practicing the right way carries over into better performance in the field even if I don't execute perfectly every single time.
You can't beat a basic caliper release for sheer simplicity. I'll probably hunt with one until I finally--heaven forbid--lose old trusty rusty.
When I started using a release, I realized I couldn't shoot the shorter, faster compounds I prefer as hunting bows well with my fingers. I had to use a wrist-strap model, because my fingers were trained by nearly 40 years of shooting to relax when it was time to turn the arrow loose. Unless you have let go of a release while holding at full draw, you cannot fathom the experience! Eventually, I gained some form of mental discipline and got away from wrist-strap styles because I am not comfortable with them being always attached. I have no better explanation than'¦they bug me.
Jim Dougherty favors a pistol grip-style release handle, a style he feels is most comfortable in his fingers.
I soon became comfortable with, and dexterous enough, to nock an arrow while it's in my hand, to favor a pistol grip caliper-style release that conforms to the position of my drawing hand fingers. Over time, I've leaned to a model with hardened rollers for jaws rather than metal clamps that encompass the string. This style seems much easier on my strings as I lock it directly to heavy Fastflite serving rather than a loop, push it up to a rubber cushion under the nock and let go of the shot.
I am frequently reminded that my preference for this pistol grip style that some refer to as a "Concho" is a disaster just waiting to happen; easy to lose, or worse, drop at the wrong time. There's no doubt that that's a possibility. However, I always keep a backup easily accessible in my daypack should I need to get to it. So far (I've just knocked three times on my head) I've not dropped or lost the first one, though once I walked off and left one sitting on a stump when I'd taken a break after a deer drive in South Dakota. I had to walk back a mile to get it and listen to Judd Cooney harangue me for three days. That's another experience you can well do without!
Until six years ago, you'd never have found me with a release aid. A devout finger shooter and zealous bowhunter, I was sure that a release would cost me shots at game in critical situations. The evil invention of target shooters, I branded them, until I saw how a release worked for me. The first time I snapped on a release aid, my shot-to-shot accuracy improved by at least 10 percent--that's a big chunk at 30 or 40 yards, and beyond.
I wasn't wrong about the costing me part. I did miss a mule deer that came running up to me once because I couldn't get my release on the string quickly enough. However, the release has more than compensated by increasing my maximum effective range and improving my confidence on those tough shots.
Jay Strangis prefers to use a caliper release fitted with a wrist strap combined with a string loop.
I use a conventional caliper release with a full wrist strap for all my compound bow shooting. (I still have the fun of using a glove with my recurves.) I combine the release with a string loop because the guys at PSE Archery once convinced me to try it. That loop increased my shot-to-shot accuracy by another five percent. The loop comes from directly behind the arrow and attaches to the string above and below my arrow nock, giving about as perfect a launch as you can get with every release of the string.
The loop does reduce my draw length by half an inch, and at least 10 feet per second in speed, but I'm not big on speed anyway. If you know the distance to the target, it doesn't matter what path the arrow takes to get there, just as long as it gets to the right spot. A go
od laser range finder and lots of practice takes care of that part.
I use the same release for all my shooting, whether 3-D, target practice or hunting. I own two identical releases. If one gets misplaced or dirty and sticky and needs cleaning, I just strap on the other without pause. When it's time to go hunting, I don't want details slowing me down.
You might label me a devout traditionalist, inasmuch as that is feasible today. I treasure my many graceful recurves. I also zealously shoot high-tech compound bows with full-length arrows; I regard a heavy arrow at modest speed as better than a light one at hyper speed; and I cannot imagine utilizing anything other than my God-given fingers to release a bowstring.
Of course, there is more than bare skin involved in this kind of shooting. A leather shooting tab protects my soft writer's fingers, granting a smoother delivery and a more consistent release. It is also true that I can shoot just about any tab out there equally well, even those synthetic abominations I occasionally don while belaboring backwater carp or gar when getting wet on a sultry summer's day. I am more particular when it comes to my hunting tab--fussy, anal, you could rightly say.
To me, a hunting tab must be surfaced in quality Cordovan leather, double-layered to preserve an independence between the string and my sometimes suspect fingers. Cordovan requires more break-in and more struggling with rest-jumping arrows, but I know of nothing that supplies such absolute longevity. When you have hit it off with the perfect tab, like a fitted pair of leather work gloves, you hope to maintain that relationship as long as possible.
Although he shoots high-tech compounds, Pat Meitin has always maintained the relationship between the string and his fingers.
There's more. This tab must strap to my middle finger with an elastic band so it is always precisely where it needs to be and available for a shot. A rubber spacer should eliminate pinch on the nock; one finger over, two under, as is most comfortable and spontaneous with me.
I understand there is a "better" way, a more precise means, but my fingers are invariably with me, and they have served me splendidly since that earliest vacant-lot bunny more than 20 years past.
Then, too, I am inclined to mislay things. Replacement tabs are considerably less costly than release aids!
I collect release aids. You might even call me a connoisseur of release aids, not necessarily because of my discriminating tastes, but rather because I've shot a lot of different release aids and have come to appreciate one that is finely engineered and well-manufactured. As a matter of fact, I have a drawer full of release aids, over 100 at last count, and I've shot every one of them. The bad ones make you appreciate the good ones.
I use different release aids for different applications. To me, a release aid is a tool, and just as each job has one tool which will work best, each shooting application has one release aid that seems to work best.
For hunting, Randy Ulmer chooses a caliper, or index-finger-triggered release for its quickness and secure wrist-strap option.
For indoor target shooting, I like to use a back tension-style release. Indoor shooting tends to be a little nerve-racking, because if you want to win, you can't miss a single shot. The back tension release aid forces you to concentrate and aim, and it forces you to stick with the shot. It also forces you to maintain your form because you're never sure when this release aid is going to go off. You may not get the pinpoint accuracy you would with a trigger release, but you'll be more consistent throughout a day's worth of shooting.
For outdoor target and 3-D shooting, I often use a thumb-triggered release aid. These release aids allow me to exercise more control over shot timing than a back tension release aid would. (This is important in windy conditions.)
For hunting, I nearly always use an index finger trigger release aid, for a couple of reasons: First, because it attaches to the wrist, it leaves my hands free for climbing and other chores. Second, I can't misplace it because it's tied on. Third, it allows me to get the shot off very quickly in a tight spot.
I shoot all my release aids off a string loop. The string loop allows me to shoot several different types of release aids without changing my aiming point, sight marks or bow tune. The string loop has proven very forgiving of arrow spine and shooting form.