3 Pro Tips To Master Your Shooting Psychology

If you ask any experienced tournament archer how to shoot a bow accurately, they will most likely tell you that the first step is to accumulate a considerable amount of practice hours. This is because, in the first instance, your body will need to develop the necessary muscle memory to adapt to the correct shooting stance, and to the chain of movements involved during the draw until after the string release.

But once you’ve got a good amount of practice hours behind, that’s when the hard part begins. You will need to develop the mental discipline to accurately gauge the distance to your target under pressure and to consistently make accurate shots. In addition, many archers including experts such as tournament archers as well as professional bow hunters experience  the crippling issue of “target panic”, which leads to various adverse effects, such as premature anchor, premature hold and premature release.

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Without a doubt, the ability to shoot a bow accurately really comes down to a strong mental discipline and to the amount of confidence you have in your ability to make an accurate shot. But when opening day is fast approaching and your groupings are still large, both the pressure to perform well and the anxiety caused by not being able to do so can become debilitating.

The 3 Top Tips To Release your Full Archery Potential

Let’s take a look at three of the most valuable tips that can help you develop and maintain the right mental and physical discipline needed to unleash your full potential, both at a recreational and at a competitive level.

1. Don’t shoot too often

Although practice can most certainly make you a better archer, remember that it is also possible to overdo it. While we all enjoy the satisfaction that comes with seeing our arrows hit the target with the shafts touching each other, it is easy to become “addicted” to this feeling.  The fact is that an archer’s accuracy inevitably suffers as their body fatigues and thus it is best to cease shooting altogether or taking a break the moment your groupings open up.

One mistake that many archers make during practice is to become fixated and continue shooting even when their groups become continuously larger, as the shots become more erratic.  Another common mistake some archers make during target practice is to shoot the entire quiver of arrows before walking to the target to retrieve them, when it’s actually better to shoot only one or two arrows at the time and give your body and mind a rest between shots. This allows you can also mentally review your shot movements sequence after each one or two shots while you are walking to and from the target.  What’ s more, this approach more closely mimics bow hunting conditions, when you know you can only take one shot, and that one shot has to count.

​​​2. Walk away on the wrong day

Another thing that you need to understand in order to develop the correct mental discipline in archery is that it is possible to shoot on the wrong day. Like an other kinds of sports professionals, all archers and bow hunters have good days and bad days. For instance, there are days when you can step up to your firing line, take one single glance at the target to gauge the range, draw your bow, nonchalantly place the correct sight pin on the point you where you want your arrow to strike and, when you release the string, the arrows hit that exact point almost magically.

Conversely,  there are other days when you just cannot seem to get the range right or, you simply cannot seem to get your body to follow through the shot. Thus, on one of those days, rather than forcing your mind and body to produce an accurate shots at all costs, it is best to simply walk away, put your bow up, and give some time for both your mind and your body to reset. You can then come back the next day, refreshed and with a positive mindset,  If you insist on shooting despite you’re not feeling at your best, you’re putting yourself a risk of allowing target panic to set it more easily.

3. Choose the right release aid

In order to shoot accurately, you will need to focus entirely on keeping a proper shooting form, and make sure that your shot sequence is smooth and easy to control. The bow release aid can sometimes compromise shot accuracy due to sensitivity issues that affect your ability to properly control the shot sequence. Most bow hunters prefer release aids with wrist straps because having your release aid strapped to your wrist not only keeps it handy for a quick shot, but it can also make drawing your bow a bit easier as the stress is transferred from your fingers directly to your wrist.

However, this type of release aid has the trigger positioned in such way that it can be opened by the shooter’s index finger which is the most sensitive finger of the human hand. Therefore, using a wrist release can also cause a premature bow string release, something called “jumping” the target, which is equivalent to the flinch some handgun shooters experience just prior to pulling the trigger. Fortunately, there are two different solutions to this problem.

The first solution is to adjust the sensitivity of the trigger on your release aid so that more pressure is needed to cause the jaws to open. That way, releasing the bow string will need more effort and is potentially easier to control, once you’ve figured out the right amount of pressure to use.

However, this solution doesn’t always work for everyone and thus, another viable option is to switch to a thumb release aid. Although this type of release aid commonly lacks a wrist strap, it can still be comfortably carried and be kept conveniently handy by inserting it into the waistband of your pants or, in a loosely fitting pocket. In fact, this type of release aid is commonly used by tournament archers because it provides a significantly greater level of control over your shot.

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The Tru-Fire thumb release aid

The real trick to using this type of release aid is to adjust it so that the pad of your thumb is held against the body of the release rather than on the trigger itself. Ideally, you should hold it with the trigger resting in the crease created by the joint between your thumb and your hand palm, which is where your thumb is the least sensitive and has fixed position. Also, rather than contracting your thumb to release the bow string as you would with a wrist release, you can instead shoot this type of release aid in the same manner that you would with a back tension release aid.

This is accomplished by simply contracting your shoulders which causes the release aid to pivot in your hand and your thumb to place enough pressure on the trigger to open the jaws. That way, you can focus entirely on proper stance, shot placement, and follow through without having to send a separate instruction to your hand to pull the trigger at the correct moment, eliminating the problem of “jumping” the target.

In conclusion, if you suddenly find yourself experiencing large groups and erratic shot placement when you practice prior to opening day, use the above tips to take control of your “shooting psychology” and readjust your physical and mental state to escape target panic. Avoid shooting too often or when you’re not feeling your best, and do not become too obsessed with accuracy. Consider changing your wrist release aid to a thumb one to decrease your trigger sensitivity and maximize your control over your shot and avoid premature release of the bowstring,

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