The Fine Points
October 28, 2010
Hunting season is finally here. Now is not the time for a major overhaul of your shooting form. Rather, it is time to make a few fine adjustments to the way you hold and aim in order to become a little more consistent before you take the shot that really counts.
As the hunting season approaches and your shooting form becomes solid and routine, try to focus on doing all the little things right to tighten up your shooting.
If you forget any of these things during the moment of truth, it is not going to hurt you much. However, if you will take the time to practice them during the coming weeks, you will be a more accurate shooter.
Rifle hunters instinctively use breathing routines when preparing for the shot. Most will take a deep breath and let part of it out after while they gently squeeze the trigger before taking another breath. The idea is to find a breathing pattern that doesn't disrupt steady aiming.
Your initial reaction might be to take a full breath and hold your breath in an effort to eliminate all body movement while aiming. This seems to make sense, but in truth, a completely full chest cavity creates tension. The very best archers have all experimented extensively with their breathing sequences before arriving at the method that works best for them. Amazingly, many are unique. There does not seem to be a unanimous agreement as to the best approach.
However, in most cases, the best accuracy results from taking a deep breath while drawing the bow, letting half of it out shortly after reaching full draw and then holding the remainder of the breath while squeezing off the shot.
I use this method. I hold a half breath as I pull through the shot and squeeze the trigger. Taking a deep breath helps to increase oxygen in the blood and also relieves tension--much like yawning. While this may seem minor, your breathing pattern is an important point. I can tell the difference in my shooting when I change my routine! If you try this method, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised how much better you shoot.
Settling Your Pin
You need a consistent routine to settle your pin on the target. Don't take this overlooked portion of the shot for granted. I am very much a creature of habit at full draw and use the same routine every time. You should be too.
Some archers approach the target from the bottom while others find the best results approaching from above. You might even consider coming in from the side. Experiment until you arrive at the best way to settle your pin as you prepare mentally to start squeezing the trigger.
How Long To Aim
I tend to aim longer than I would recommend for most archery hunters. I'm locked on the target from eight to 12 seconds, but I only bear down during the last five to six seconds. I use the first five or six seconds to settle my pin.
Most top archers shoot more quickly. Most take six to eight seconds from the time they hit full draw until the bow fires. I find this interesting because studies I have read show that people can only concentrate intensely on one subject for about seven seconds. Hmmm. The best archers have discovered this naturally. After seven seconds, people grow mentally weary and their thoughts drift. When that happens it is time to let down and start over--assuming you are shooting at a target. Try to execute a good shot within seven seconds of hitting full draw.
While aiming, some archers try to produce a tiny figure eight pattern with their pin--the center of the eight being the aiming point. Others try to circle the aiming point very slowly. Still others do not use a pattern system; they just let the pin float through its own course. I prefer the last method. You should not try to control the specific movement of the pin, just fully relax all your muscles and let the pin float as you squeeze off the shot.
Most archers naturally try to hold the pin rock steady and then pull the trigger when the pin pauses on the spot. This method all but guarantees tension in your bow hand and eventually can lead to target panic. Let the pin float!
Keep The String Off Your Face
When settled in at full draw, don't press the string against your cheek or your chin. This creates another variable in the shot (how hard you press it into your face). Learn to shoot without allowing the string or release head to contact your face in any way other than to touch the tip of your nose to the string while aiming. You may need to turn your head toward the target, shorten your draw length or lengthen your string loop to achieve this goal, but it is definitely a change worth making.
These few small tweaks to your form, changes that won't disrupt your normal shooting routine significantly, will make you more accurate this season. Good luck!