If you have never heard of Target Panic, consider yourself lucky, because that probably means that you haven’t had to deal with it. Target Panic is when the archer is unable to release an arrow without panicking. Panicking can take many forms including flinching, not being able to keep the pin held on the bullseye, and not even being able to release the arrow. Movement is completely normal when aiming your bow, but some people have a hard time accepting this which causes them to panic. While you are never going to be as still as you would if you put a rifle on a rest, remaining calm throughout the releasing of the arrow is going to have you stacking them in the bullseye. Target Panic is 100% psychological and, lucky enough, very curable.
Target Panic graced me with its presence a few years ago while using an unfamiliar release aid (I was shooting my brother’s new bow and release aid). This release was not nearly as touchy as mine, which actually made me anticipate the shot and shoot WAY right of target. So much right of target that I missed the whole darn thing and sent an arrow sailing into a brick wall! When this happened it took me by surprise and just flat out startled me. It jarred me so much that it started to show up in shooting my own bow with my own release. There are many dents in my wall out back to prove it. Hunting season was not far away and I needed to figure out how to undo the wrong that I had done upon myself. The thought of me working so hard to get a shot at an animal and have it ruined by this untimely condition was too much to bare.
Naturally, I started doing TONS of research on target panic and how to get over it. The tip that showed up the most in my findings was switching to a back tension release. This is a release that isn’t operated by a trigger, it is operated by you pulling through your draw. So once you reach your anchor point, aim and just keep pulling. This causes a surprise release, which is what you want when shooting a bow. From how I understood it, you never really know when that release is going to go off once you start putting that extra tension on it. For some, this might be an excellent option for dealing with target panic. Honestly though, I didn’t want to change my release and relearn how to shoot. In this post I will go over what helped ME get over it and hopefully it will help you as well. Better yet, hopefully you never have to worry about getting rid of target panic in the first place.
I started trying to pay attention to WHEN the panic was actually happening. It turned out that it almost never happened right when I started shooting my bow. It started to show up after I had been shooting for a bit. So instead of shooting 30-40 arrows and ending on a bad note with an arrow in my wall, I would only shoot maybe a half dozen. Sometimes only 3 or 4. Doing this alone made my confidence grow, because I was hanging up my bow at the end of a practice session on a good note. For me, I just can’t stand making a bad shot and then stopping. I feel like I have to correct what I did wrong. If I don’t, I will be constantly thinking of it and it will just downright bother me. This is something that I have also been trying to work on. I know that I am a good shot, but I also know that I am not perfect and bad shots are going to happen from time to time. If a bad shot does happen, I just try and forget about it and remember the good shots that I made.
Get a Friend
Another method that I employed was bringing an additional person into the mix to help me out. In this case, I asked my wife and she was more than glad to assist. We moved about 10 yards away from the target for starters. Didn’t want to take any chances flinging more arrows into the wall. I would draw my bow back, and have my wife stand next to me, just behind my trigger hand. Instead of me hitting the trigger, I would have my wife hit the trigger once I gave her the “OK.” To mix it up more, she wouldn’t tell me when she was going to hit the trigger and would do it randomly. This created that surprise shot that we want and let me know how it should feel. Funny enough, every time that we did this my arrow was so dead on in the bull, it was ridiculous.
Yeah, I said it! Time to shoot with your eyes closed! This sounds scary, but can be a tremendous help with defeating target panic. With this exercise you are going to want to move WAY closer to the target than 10 yards. I moved about 10 feet from the target. You can move as close as you want though. I have seen videos of people doing it from a mere 2 -3 feet away. Pretty cut and dry from here on out. Draw your bow, settle your pin, close your eyes, and let it rip. Doing this is not only going to bring that surprise shot into play, but also have you not be so worried about keeping your pin on your aiming point. That is another thing that can lead to target panic. People are so worried about keeping that pin on an exact location, that when it comes time to pull the trigger, some will “panic” right at the last second if that pin moves off of where they want to hit, causing them to actually shoot WAY off of where they are aiming.
Developing target panic is some nasty business and defeating it can be a very frustrating endeavor. Trust me though, it can be done. You might not cure it overnight, but if you continue to work at it a little everyday, you will conquer it and probably be a better archer after it is all said and done. It is all mental, and the sooner you can defeat those mental demons, the sooner you will be shooting your bow worry free. If you have any additional tips that have helped you overcome this, please feel free to leave a comment down below.