The journey to becoming a skillful archer is a long and enjoyable one, but we all start at the same place. Unfortunately, many new and even advanced archers fall prey to things such as target panic. This can cause them to want to give up archery forever.
Most archers will go through this same lifecycle in their journey. They will deal with target panic at one point or another. Luckily it can be overcome and even used to take your shooting to the next level!
Archery as a Beginner
As a beginner in archery, there is a lot to learn. Not only do you need to learn all of the different pieces of gear and equipment, but you must also learn how to properly use them. Every little detail is new to you, and the learning progress might be slow. You will start out by learning the simple basics of shooting and proper archery etiquette. Here you will build your first habits and skills to begin the process of becoming an archer.
The good news, however, is that you have no established habits yet. This gives you a clean slate to learn good habits and proper form. This helps to prevent many problems down the road on your journey as an archer. By learning from a good mentor, you will establish helpful habits. These will aid you in the later stages of your archery career.
With more and more practice, your concepts and skills as an archer will improve. Here you will begin to understand all of the basics and start to solidify your form. Instead of learning brand new concepts and skills, you will start to improve upon the ones that you have already learned. Intermediate archers will begin to enjoy a certain level of improved accuracy and consistency in their shooting. This is due to sticking to what they learned as a beginner. Intermediate archers will also begin to experience some degree of confidence in their abilities.
Advanced archers separate themselves by having a well-established form. They also have a high degree of consistency in their shooting. They have learned how to utilize everything they have learned and have worked on their weaknesses in order to improve. Advanced archers know their equipment inside and out. They know what works best for them with their style and what doesn’t. Because of their hard work and practice, advanced archers have much more confidence in their abilities. They also tend to be very accurate shooters, hitting where they intend to.
Somewhere along the journey from beginner to an advanced archer, the problem of target panic may arise. Unfortunately, it comes in many forms. It can break your confidence and enthusiasm when it comes to shooting. Some may experience target panic in the form of a flinch right before firing the bow. Others may instinctively punch the trigger too soon or hard when aiming. Some shooters may experience target panic by “freezing” and not being able to place their sight pin where they want it to go. Whatever the case, target panic will ruin your success and cause many to quit altogether.
Target panic is created due to your brain trying to tell your body to prepare for the shot. We are humans, after all, and a major action like a bow going off right next to your face and body should cause you to flinch. This flinching (or other minor actions at the shot) will negatively impact your consistency and arrow groups downrange. In its simplest form, target panic is shot anticipation that could negatively affect your shooting.
Target panic can also create bad habits as you try to compensate for your shooting. After these bad habits are formed and cemented into your shooting process, they are extremely difficult to overcome. This leads to inconsistency and decreased accuracy if you allow them to continue. Some shooters may experience target panic early on in their lifecycle of archery, while others will see it as they get to the later stages. At one point or another, however, you will most likely see it in your own shooting and have to deal with it.
How to Overcome Target Panic
Thankfully target panic can be conquered. Although it is not easy to overcome, it is possible with enough practice and patience. Once you know that you are experiencing target panic, you can get started solving it.
The Shot Process
The first step in overcoming target panic is to go through and review your entire shot process. You can have a friend watch you shoot and look for anything that may need improvement. Review your grip, draw, anchoring, aiming, and trigger squeeze to see if any of these elements could use some additional practice. Once you have a solid shot process and can do it in your sleep, you can move on to the next additional steps to overcoming target panic.
Exercises for Target Panic
With your shot process perfected, now it’s time to really put it to the test. Many shooters suffering from target panic can overcome it with a simple exercise. One of these is a famous exercise called blank bail shooting. This involves finding a very large target (like a big bale of hay) and getting close to it. We are talking extremely close, like only a few yards or feet away. With such a big target and being so close, it should be impossible to miss when shooting. This is essential, as you will be shooting with your eyes closed.
What would this crazy exercise accomplish? It first gets rid of the aiming process entirely. This allows the shooter to give their full focus and attention to the other aspects of the shooting process. They can give all their effort to making a quality shot and perfect the entire shooting process at the same time.
After doing this a few times and getting a feel for the perfect shot, you can now step back to around 20 yards. Go through the process again but this time actually aim. Getting up close and personal to your target can help relieve some of the anxiety, allowing you to get better before you go back to further distances. If you start to experience target panic again, repeat the process again.
Changing Tactics and Gear
Lastly, a great way of overcoming target panic is to try changing up your release. Hinge and resistance-style release aids are popular choices. Hinge releases work by a slow rotation and resistance releases work from tension. They help to achieve a surprise shot which is great for combatting target panic. When you do not know when the shot will be executed, your body will not be able to flinch or move beforehand. This not only increases your accuracy but helps to keep bad habits from target panic from forming. Using one of these releases will require some extra practice, but they can be excellent tools for curing your target panic.
There are no professional archers who haven’t dealt with target panic at one time or another. This is what separates a professional archer from an amateur. Professionals work to constantly overcome their target panic and always strive to improve every one of their skills. Because of how hard it can be to overcome target panic, many archers give up on archery entirely. Even advanced shooters who are highly skilled and have been practicing for years can experience target panic that will make them want to quit. Those that stick with it, however, are the ones that overcome it and become even better shooters.
Target panic can strike when you least expect it. But with the right exercises, tools, and dedication, you do not have to suffer from it continuously. As you move through the lifecycles of every archer, you will most likely suffer from target panic at one stage or another. When that happens, rest assured that you can overcome it for yourself and become an even better shooter!