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Have you ever released an arrow and immediately though “I wish I could have that back!”  Or has your pin been flying all over the target face only to have you punch off a shot when you thought it was close?  I have done these (and more variations) only to regret it every time.

I write this article not as a knowledge filled how-to that will change your bow shooting life (though perhaps it will help someone) but more as a self-help and awareness exercise.  Ever since picking up a bow I have suffered from an extreme case of stubbornness; thinking that if I try hard enough I can get that pin to where I want it and execute a perfect shot.  In reality, I should be letting the bow down and starting over a lot more than I do.

Times you should have let down your bow down

The drive-by

You carefully draw back, settle in, begin to aim and the pin is moving all over the place.  Instead of settling down and floating the pin over the center, you sweep the pin across in one fluid motion and punch the trigger at what seems like the best time!  Of course this rarely results in a center shot nor do you usually have any idea exactly where the pin was when the arrow let loose.

Target panic freeze

Get on target, get on target, get on target…pow!  Unlike Luke Skywalker, who can “stay on target,” you can never quite get that pin to the center.  Somehow it gets stuck in the space/time continuum and you end up with the pin being steady, just in the wrong place!  It’s almost as if a one-ton gorilla is clamped on your arm and won’t let you move that pin that last little increment into the center.  Oh well, let loose anyway and hope it hits close enough!

The shaker

Grip good: check.  Feet placed properly: check.  Mind cleared of everything but the target: check.  Lift bow, pull back, anchor….earthquake!  Do you ever get those uncontrollable quivers and shakes that seem to come from nowhere and your pin goes everywhere but where you want?

The forced shot

This one is a close kin to the “Target Panic Freeze” and often follows it.  The pin is close, oh so close, either steady or floating near the center.  At the last possible moment, a quick jerk towards the center should get that arrow in the right place!  Or maybe not so close…

Wandering mind

My most hated foe!  Ready, set, pull back, anchor, aim…dang I’m hungry, what’s in the fridge to eat?  Did I forget to lock my computer at work?  Hmmm…probably should have watered the lawn today.  The list goes on and on and the arrow goes on and on, onto the wrong spot.  Lack of focus means lack of quality shot.

Wrong preparation/setup

Not getting the grip set properly, mis-aligning the feet, not setting the shoulder/back muscles properly, etc.  There are an infinite amount of ways that you can mess up your form and thus mess up the shot.  Repetition is key to good results and not paying attention to all the minor details will make your score pay.

The Flinch!

I’m sure every single archer has done this one before.  Everything looks great, the pin is on target, form looking good, mind focus and WHAMO!  Some random muscle decides to spaz out and you look like someone just jammed a cattle prod into your ribs.  The stubborn part of us pulls the string back into location and launches that arrow anyhow, generally resulting in a few mumbled, choice words about what just happened.

I’m sure there are many other times when you should not have let that arrow loose.  I’ve done all of these countless times and will probably commit the same errors in the future.  I can sit at the range and tell my son “boy, you really should have let that one down!” then turn around and do the same thing myself, sending an arrow downrange that had no reason to even have been shot.

The art of letting the bow down

The sooner you recognize when you should let your bow down, the sooner you can start learning to do it more successfully.  Why do I call it an art?  Because it takes skill, practice, mental toughness and even some humility to do it every time you should.

This is something that I have struggled with my entire archery career and probably will continue to struggle with.  I look at myself and ask, why?  Why do I not let down when I should, knowing that 9 out of 10 times it will result in a better shot?

I think a good chunk of the reason is that I’m just plain stubborn and think that I can overcome a potentially bad shot by sticking out and forcing my way back into a good shot.  In the end, this simply isn’t true!  Another reason that I may not let down is because I am lacking focus and therefore simply am not paying full attention to if my form is where it should and the shot ready to be executed well.

Lately I have been trying to focus on this issue more and to consciously pay attention to when I should let down.  I have begun to let my bow down more often, saving an often errant arrow, but I am far from where I should be.

One thing that I have tried lately is to take some shooting session and shoot less arrows per end, sometimes even just one arrow at a time.  This gives me more time to focus on what I should be doing and concentrating on my form.  It’s difficult for me to shoot just one arrow, walk down, pull it out, walk back and shoot again because I feel like I am wasting time.  However, when I am done doing several ends this way I am usually very thankful that I did because it almost always results in more let downs, better shots and an overall better learning experience.

There are many things that can contribute to the time when we should let down such as improper form, a bow that doesn’t fit properly, shooting too high of draw weight and many more.  Learning to let down and analyze what the problem is will help you find the problems and fix them.  Even with a perfect setup and perfect form, there will always be time to let down and start over; you’re shooting will thank you!

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