See the previous response to a question submitted by Joe Seagle (We Get Letters, Part 1). This continues that post, and addresses how to train in one’s release and how to select a release aid.
David Beesom (David wrote a bit for AF) also asked “Selection of compound release aids and how to determine an optimum anchor point (as a topic), if that is possible. Read the books, but need more info from a more senior coach!” And since the two are related, I will fold his answer into this post.
Training in any Aspect of One’s Technique
Something that can’t be said often enough is: be sure you have it right before you train it in! So, David’s question about finding one’s best anchor point is a good one. If you haven’t found it, then don’t practice it in.
All such trainings consist of phases. Volume shooting, that is shooting a large number of shots, should be considered a memorization technique and should always be saved for last. Prior to that one must explore and “discover” what technique works best for them, that is what technique is optimal for you. Otherwise you may be memorizing a technique that is suboptimal.
Finding Your Optimal Anchor Point
This is a variable folks, if you shoot a compound bow and even with a recurve bow. For example, if you are shooting Barebow Recurve, indoors, you do not want to use a “low” or “under chin” (aka Olympic-style) anchor point. If you do all of your points of aim will be on the floor! Most Barebow Recurve archers use some form of high anchor (commonly index or middle finger in the corner of the mouth) which tends to give one much higher points of aim. Ideally we would like to have a POA on the target face (which has the advantage of looking the same no matter where you are shooting).
For you compound sight shooters, your optimal anchor point depends upon the distance being shot to some extent. When shooting Compound-Release aka Compound Unlimited aka Compound Freestyle, you have the advantage of using a peep sight. But there’s a complication. The peep sight is in a fixed position in front of your aiming eye. For very short shots, the bow is held lower and since the peep has to be in front of your eye, your anchor has to be nudged up slightly. For long shots, it is the reverse. The bow is held higher, so with the peep fixed in space, the anchor is nudged lower. So, you have to choose which distance should have the most comfortable anchor point. Most field shooters choose a longer distance and the process goes like this—pick a target face at that longer distance and then draw your bow on that distance with your scope/pin on the target, but with your eyes closed. Then after you draw, anchor so that your hand fits comfortably against your jaw bone (this varies depending on the style of release you use). Ideally we would like the jawbone to be involved and maybe knuckle bones on your hand. (The idea is that the flesh may swell depending on exertion and temperature but the bones won’t, so bones covered with a thin layer of skin are preferred.) Once you have found that anchor, open your eyes and see where your peep is. If it is too low, move it up. If it is too high move it down. Keep doing this drill until when you open your eyes, the peep sight is centered on your aperture which is centered on your target face at the selected distance. Always make sure your peep is anchored down when you have finished moving it.
This, btw, is why having a dedicated “indoor bow” is an advantage as the peep and all of that can be set up for your most comfortable anchor position and you don’t have to move around things from your outdoor setup.
Training It In
Whenever I start work with a new release archer I give them a length of paracord from which we make a “rope bow.” This I ask them to keep in their quivers because later they will see all kinds of neat release aides being used by fellow archers and want to try them. They should never, ever shoot their bow with an untried release aid! They should always try any new or different release aid with their rope bow first.
A Great Release Aid Starter Kit! An old “Stan” with a rope bow.
To use this rope bow for training. The length of the loop of cord needs to be adjusted so that when the archer loops the rope bow around their bow hand and with the release aid attached assumes “the position” with a slight pull on the loop (representing the holding weight of the bow) they are in perfect form for the point of release. Coaches need to help adjust the loop because the archers can’t see when their draw forearm is directly away from where the loop crosses their bow hand. If the loop is too small they will have a flying elbow. If the loop is too long, their elbow will be wrapped around toward the back of their head.
Once the loop is the correct length it can be used for training. On their first tries, they need to pull slightly against their straight bow arm and operate the release aid. When the release trips, the loop should fly out of their open (but relaxed) bow hand and land on the floor a few feet in front of the archer. It should land on the same line they were drawing on. If their pull is too feeble, the release may just droop from their bow hand instead of fly off of it. If their pull is too hard, the loop may fly five or six feet away or more.
Doing this drill with their eyes closed, they can concentrate on feeling the position of their draw/release hand against their face, the feel of the release aid in their hand (if handheld), the feel of the trigger as it engaged, etc.
If your student is a newbie release shooter, or is struggling with using the thing, when you switch to a bow, you can use a Genesis or other zero let-off bow after the loop. You can even get them to “assume the position” with such a bow with the eyes closed and trip the release yourself. (Be sure to tell them what you are doing, this is not something to fool around with.) After they are comfortable with the zero let-off bow, you can switch them to their bow, always start in close to a butt then moving back as they acquire control over the actions.
Selecting a Release Aid to Shoot
I recommend that my release archers do ask to try other’s release aids because what release you shoot is a personal decision based substantially on how it feels. (I also tell them that others can say “no” without prejudice as can they.) If you have never tried a index finger release, how could you know whether one of those is preferable to, say, a handheld release?
So, what constituters a “try?” Obviously if you are trying a buddies release after a tournament, a few shots with your “rope bow” will have to do. If you are able to borrow a release aid for a few weeks, then the rope bow, followed by a low draw weight bow, followed by your bow routine should be enough to tell you whether you like a release aid.
Actually, most releases are judged right from the get-go. We evaluate how they fit our hand (handheld) or how they fit our wrist (if wriststrap involved) etc. which shows the crux of the problem. You can’t move things around on a borrowed release unless given the permission to do that. (Most release archers have a drawer containing many “old” releases and they may loan you one to set up properly.) If you can’t adjust the release so that it fits you, you can’t give it a good try. So, initial “tries” are often just a feeling out.
My Approach to Training Release Archers
If I have an archer who wants to shoot Compound-Release but hasn’t a clue how to go about that I start them on a hinge release with a lockout. (Tru-Ball makes many nice ones that are affordable, but I lend them such a release to get started.) I start them on a rope bow, teaching them about the lockout. The lockout is critical for their mental protection. All of the old time release shooters have stories about archers who knocked themselves silly when a release tripped mid-draw.
These release aids are wonderful because after the technique is mastered, they can be shot without the lockout making them very simple. (Many pro archers have gone to hinge releases of late, so you know they work.) And, because they are triggerless, there is no trigger technique to learn. Of course, these have to be set up carefully so that the release trips at the correct point in their draw cycle, but all releases need to be set up carefully.
Because I was a release shooter for many a year I had a pouch of different releases in my coaching backpack for my students to try, if they wanted to. Be aware, however, that fiddling setting up a release aid can consume most of an hour long lesson very easily.