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How to Beat Target Panic
Posted By Bill Winke at 7/15/2010 12:00:00 AM
If you have never tried a spring-trigger release aid, you definitely owe it to yourself to strap one on your wrist and take a few shots.  You are going to learn some interesting things about archery and about your own nervous system.
          First you will learn how ingrained the “Now!” impulse is when you are aiming.  You will find yourself trying for all you’re worth to punch the trigger on that thing, yet the spring will simply flex a bit and you will flinch a lot.  Sounds like fun doesn’t it?  Well, maybe your nervous system is in for a surprise, but once it settles in to accept this new sensation, you will start to learn how a bow is supposed to be shot. 

Squeezing the trigger instead of punching it will make you better both on
targets and, more importantly, on game.  (Click the image to watch the video.)

         Specifically, you will learn that you don’t have to hold your pin perfectly steady to shoot well.  All you have to do is make an effort to keep it on target until the bow goes off.  The arrow will find the mark almost as if it has a mind of its own.  It is a bit eerie, to be honest.  I am no psychologist, but I am pretty sure it is something like ESP or ESPN or one of those.  Actually, it is pretty fun when it starts to click.  Shooting a release with a spring trigger almost guarantees that it will click - eventually.
          You need to learn to shoot a bow using a surprise release and one of the easiest ways to learn this ability is with the spring trigger.  The spring flexes as you pull it back, continually building up torque until it finally causes the trigger to break over and the shot occurs.  As long as you keep your finger out toward the end of the spring, and not right at the base, it is hard to force the spring trigger to go off when you want it to.  You have to wait for it to fire and while you are waiting, you keep aiming.  That really is all there is to it. 
          As easy as it sounds, it takes some practice to get used to shooting this way if you are used to commanding the release of the bow.  Commanding comes from the mistaken thought that we need to shoot exactly when the pin is on the spot.  Our nerves soon turn this process into a game – attempting to make us do all kinds of twitching and jerking.  This how you get target panic.  Most people who command the release have target panic to some degree.
          You are going to shoot best, and handle the pressure of shots at game best, if you learn to shoot using a surprise release method.  When it is time to hunt, you can easily go back to your solid post trigger if you wish.  The feel of a proper surprise release will be instilled in your nervous system so that you will be comfortable squeezing off the shot even with the solid trigger.
          A spring trigger is actually a small spring with a threaded end that replaces the hard trigger on specially made index-triggered

The spring trigger flexes as you pull it back, making it impossible to punch at the
trigger.  (Click the image to watch the video.)

releases.  Because it bends when you pull on it, the spring is very difficult to punch.  Your only recourse is to continue pulling it as you aim at the spot you want to hit.  In due time, it will go off and take you by surprise – exactly what you need to improve your shooting.
          Because spring trigger releases feel a lot like normal hunting releases in the hand, they are easy to learn to use effectively.  I’ve known many people who started shooting a back tension release and then quit before the method took hold.  They were too uncomfortable with the feel and action of the release.  However, I don’t know anyone who has tried a spring trigger that found it intimidating in the least.
          Because you can shoot the spring trigger just as you would your regular release, it is the perfect training aid for most bowhunters.  The only real difference between the two styles is the fact that you can’t make the spring trigger go off quickly by punching it.  As the trigger flexes, you simply continue curling your finger.  Don’t even think about the timing of the shot.  Simply continue pulling the trigger while doing your best to keep the pin as close to the spot as possible for the entire time.  It really is amazing how much better you will shoot (especially at longer distances) when this method becomes ingrained into your nervous system. 
          After a month spent practicing with a spring, you will completely break yourself of the urge to punch the trigger.  Target panic will no longer be your enemy.  But the benefit is only temporary if you go back to your hunting release too soon and then fall into the habit of shooting the same way you used to shoot.  Wait until just a few days before you start hunting to switch back to your hunting release.  Be sure to maintain the same squeeze and aim style that works so well with the spring.  Resist the temptation to fall back into commanding the release.  Squeeze and wait. 

While at full draw, there should be a straight line from the arrow to your elbow which
helps create the proper release position.  (Click the image to watch the video.)

When hunting, use this same aim and squeeze method to completely change the way you perform under the pressure-cooker of shots at game.  If you will discipline yourself to do that, you will be amazed at how well and confidently you perform on game.
      There are a few custom-made spring-trigger releases floating around the 3-D circuit, but Scott Archery and TRU Ball are the only mainstream release companies that I’m aware of offering spring triggers as an option to some of their hunting releases.  To make the change, you simply screw the hard trigger out and screw the spring in.  
          If you don’t own one of these Scott or TRU Ball models, you can try cutting off the peg trigger on your current model and threading the block to accept the tiny threads found on the optional Scott trigger.  You may find it is just as easy in the end to buy one of the pre-made models.  Check them out at www.scottarchery.com and www.truball.com.
          Spring trigger releases aren’t the only way to learn to beat target panic and execute a perfect surprise release.  As mentioned, you can also use pure back tension releases.  These releases don’t have a trigger at all.  Instead, they fire as you turn your hand at full draw.  You can set the point of release to suit your style, but the key to success is the fact that you can’t anticipate the moment of release and thus you have no choice but to keep aiming and wait for the bow to fire. 
          There are a number of back tension releases on the market.  Scott makes good models, as does Stanislawski, TRU Ball and Carter.  They come in various shapes and sizes.  Some have safeties and some don’t some are four-finger models while others are three-finger models.  Some have moving parts while others have only spikes.  I even shot league with a guy that made his own spike release from a dowel rod, some release rope and a bent and polished nail.  They will all work once you got used to their feeland

There are a few different ways other than using a spring trigger release to help with
target panic including the use of back tension releases or having someone  squeeze
the trigger for you. (Click the image to watch the video.)

          It definitely pays to learn to shoot using a surprise release.  I am not just saying this because it sounds good; since I made the transition about five years ago, I have shot much better and have had much greater confidence when shooting at game.  It is one of the few things you can do that will really impact your shooting ability for the better.
          Great shooting is not just a product of disciplined practice learning the proper positions and techniques.  You can also buy it.  If you select and use release aids that promote a surprise release you will take a huge step toward becoming a better archer and more effective bowhunter.