I got the following letter from one of my compound students:
“The lessons last year were great. I didn’t do any archery during the winter, seemed every other day I was doing snow. Also got a late start this year and have only been out five times. I have a strange problem that concerns me. Maybe you’ve seen it.
“I was using the back tension release last year from August until mid-October. Seemed to be getting the hang of it going out several times a week. Every once in a while I’d let the bow down about an inch, something you noticed I was doing and called it “vacillating.” (I think rather collapsing or creeping. SR) When I would do it with the back tension release, off went the arrow. I don’t think this is safe and never want an arrow going off without me doing it, not to mention losing several arrows. I stopped using it and went back to the Carter Insatiable thumb trigger release I’ve been using for years. Couple trips after going back to it, for some reason I let go of the release at full draw instead of pressing the button. It hit me in the bow hand knuckle and gave me a decent cut, luckily not too bad though. I made one more trip out before ending for the season with no problems.
“Earlier this week, only my fifth time out this season, I was shooting with the Carter Insatiable and just before pressing the trigger, I let go of the release. It hit the riser then went back over my right shoulder about 25 feet behind me. Couldn’t find the arrow even with the white wraps I put on. I was very lucky it didn’t hit my bow hand or come back and hit me. The rest of my outing all I could think about was making sure not to somehow let go of the release. I tried to figure how or why I did what I did but could only think it’s some muscle memory of the back tension release I was using last year. Maybe when I’m relaxing my bow hand I relax my release hand as well. Regardless, It’s not safe and I won’t keep using that release. I have a trigger release with the wrist strap I’ll use.
“Have you ever heard of this happening? Do you think I can wrap a wrist sling around the Carter Insatiable to make sure I don’t let it go?
“I don’t think this is a medical condition as I do other activities where I need to hold things and I don’t drop things. I’ve never had this problem except for these two times I’ve described.
To which I responded:
Let go of your release aid? Heck, I’ve done that myself.
It is always prudent, especially when you were learning something new when you started the layoff, to be very deliberate when restarting, even to the point of talking yourself through your shot sequence for several shots. Always review what you were working on (you wrote it down in your notebook, no?) before starting up again. If you don’t do this you’ll get a mishmash of your old style with elements of the new mixed in … uh, randomly or at least unpredictably.
It is also a very good idea to crank the bow down, too, if you can. Your archery muscles haven’t been worked in quite a while, so give them a chance to get back up to speed.
Triggerless releases in particular require you to be very deliberate and move the release away from a position where it might go off before you begin the let down. If it has a safety, reset it before you begin the letdown. It is very easy to rotate your hand the wrong way when it is moving forward rather than backward, so you must be very deliberate. If you are doing a letdown, be sure to aim at the ground in front of you (outdoors) or the target (indoors) while executing the letdown as mis-launches happen, even to the best of us.
Having shot one of my own release aids over 25 yards (it went farther than the arrow!) I do have some experience here and I think it is a good idea is to use a wrist lanyard on the release (at least until you have retrained). There used to be holes in the release aids for these (if not, you can tie one on). They basically got looped around your wrist (like a wrist sling) so that the release hung just and inch or two outside of its normal position. Frank Pearson even taught that to train for a really relaxed release hand you should drop your release after the string goes (on a lanyard, of course).
Starting up after a long layoff can include all kinds of surprises which is why you want to double check your equipment, turn down the draw weight (or swap in a lighter pair of limbs if a recurve bow is being used or even use a lighter weight bow at first), and review what you were doing when you started your layoff. Such layoffs can be long (months) or just a few weeks. If you take them casually, you may be doing damage to your learned form and execution or even yourself as in this example.