A few years ago, I was prepping for a pronghorn hunt and religiously practicing to be proficient at 50 yards. Previously, I had primarily bowhunted whitetails, with shots no farther than 25 yards. I became so stressed and anxious about making perfect shots that I suddenly couldn’t hit a paper plate at close range. I was anticipating the shot and flinching — I’d developed the dreaded target panic.
Target panic can look a little different for everyone and burdens even competitive archers seemingly at random. But there are a few steps you can take to beat this bowhunting affliction and get back to shooting tight groups.
Change up your practice routine: For some, this can look like blank baling, or shooting at a large target from only a few yards away with your eyes closed. With nothing else to focus on — or be distracted by — other than the shot process, you can get back in the groove of using correct form.
Champion archer Levi Morgan recommends spending a couple weeks coming to full draw and aiming without firing the shot to avoid anticipation and get back on track.
For other archers, starting close, shooting at a target without bull’s eyes, then slowing moving back will work. This is exactly how I overcame my target panic to tag a pronghorn.
And some bowhunters have had success practicing aiming at full draw for as long as possible or even removing their sight to focus simply on form.
There are a lot of different methods to try out, so take your time and experiment.
Switch your release: Swapping an index finger release for a back-tension or similar release can eliminate the problem of punching the trigger — because there will be no trigger to punch. It will take some getting used to, but this strategy works wonders for a lot of bowhunters.
Find an archery coach: If you’ve tried just about everything and still can’t beat target panic, working with a reputable archery coach is a great option. They’ll be able to point out any problems with your form or technique and help you get back into bowhunting shape.