If you’ve been following this series on learning to shoot a compound bow, you should now be comfortable with everything from your stance – the way you align your feet and body before beginning the shot – to nocking the arrow, drawing the bowstring and aiming. Now you’re ready for the real fun: releasing your arrow.
Releasing the arrow comes naturally after aiming. One of the most important aspects of a release is making it a surprise. You’re probably wondering how releasing the arrow can come as a surprise after you’ve been aiming for what feels like an eternity. Well, instead of actively choosing to fire the arrow, it should happen subconsciously as you expand through your chest. Most compound-bow archers use a release aid, often simply referred to as “a release,” to draw back their bowstring.
Hinge releases and trigger (thumb or index finger) releases are two main types of release aids on the market today for compound archers. Each one fires the arrow in a different manner, but the process is the same no matter which release you choose.
Let’s take a look at some important tips to remember when choosing and using a release aid with a compound bow.
Get the Correct Release for You
Beginner archers often overlook the first step when choosing a release aid. They borrow a release from a friend or ask for a recommendation from a top shooter without making sure the release fits their hand properly. If a release does not fit in your hand, you will not be able to fire it without actively setting it off. Women, children, and men with small hands should pay special attention to finding a release that fits since most releases on the market today are designed for the average man’s hands. Visit your local archery shop and hold each release in your hand until you find one fits and feels natural.
Maintain Back Tension
Maintaining back tension is important regardless of which release you choose. When using proper back tension, as you expand, your draw elbow will rotate up and away, pulling your forearm and then your wrist, which will then set off the release. Whether you shoot a trigger or hinge-style release, you will need to find the perfect balance on setting the release too heavy (meaning it takes more force to set it off) or too light (which can cause you to fire the shot prematurely). The key to finding the right setting is finding the spot where you can safely anchor and aim, and the shot fires as you continue to expand. If your release hand follows your jawline back over your draw shoulder, this is a sign of proper release form and you won’t have to force the release to fire.
Thumb Positioning and Clicker Use
It’s important to position your release aid in a way that it will fire easily (with no special manipulation) as you expand through your shot. If you are shooting a trigger-style release, or one that simply has a trigger/peg used to fire it, you have two options. You can either position the thumb peg (where you rest your thumb to subconsciously make the release aid fire) so you’re able to wrap your thumb all the way around the trigger, or you can position the peg in the crease where your thumb meets your palm.
A hinge-style release (the one that goes off by use of rotation of the wrist) can be set up with or without a clicker. Use of a clicker can be similar to a two-stage trigger on a gun. For example, when you’re about to anchor, a clicker can indicate whether or not you are very close to firing off your release aid. Some people choose not to use a click because it distracts them from their shot. So take the time to figure out what works for you and go from there.
Heavy Versus Light
Deciding whether to set a release aid light or heavy is up to each individual archer. People who know the release will go off if they twitch just a hair will want to make the setting as heavy as possible. Archers who use their release like a turtle walking across the highway, will take their time and can set their release a little lighter. The light and heavy setting are on trigger and hinge releases. The hinge changes based on how far you want to rotate, and the trigger changes from how hard you need to press the thumb peg.
If you are first starting out, we recommend that you set the release to heavy. This way, you’ll be less inclined to release too early and will learn to go slowly and calmly through all the steps of drawing your bowstring back and releasing your arrow toward your target, rather than gripping and ripping. Setting a release to being one way or the other works for hinges (back tension) and trigger releases.
Relax your hand. The majority of issues created when using a release aid are due to holding tension in your hands. You don’t want to choke the life out of your equipment. Your fingers should hold strong to the release, but your hand muscles should be loose and relaxed, allowing your shot to execute naturally.
Whichever release aid you choose, it’s important to stick to the basics and remember to keep that back tension. Also remember that, if you have smaller hands, choose a release that fits your hand – not oversized man hands. Stay tuned to our compound bow how-to’s for more tips on an accurate release technique.