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Archery Lessons: 8 Exercises to Overcome Target Panic

Archery coach Alli Armstrong Vaughan teaches her favorite archery training exercises to overcome target panic before hitting the whitetail woods.

Archery Lessons: 8 Exercises to Overcome Target Panic

Target panic is genuinely one of the most frustrating things that can happen to an archer.  Once you realize that you are dealing with target panic, you must work towards getting through it. (Photo courtesy of Alli Armstrong Vaughan)

I have struggled with target panic not only while shooting competitive archery but also while bow hunting. I've managed to work through it and have helped coach several others through it as well. Here are eight tips to help you overcome the feeling of target panic and prepare yourself for the moment in which that big buck offers you the shot of a lifetime.

1. Focus on the Center of the Target

Archery Coach Alli Armstrong Vaughan on Working Through Target Panic
Target Panic can cause an archer to settle their pin off-center of the target. While shooting, it is essential that you instantly focus on the very center of the target once you are drawn back. (Photo courtesy of Adriana Armstrong)

The first thing that I want to stress is focusing on the center of your target. Naturally, when you draw your bow and settle in, your pin should be centered within your target. Sometimes with target panic, your pin settles above, below, or on either side of your target, and you have to fight yourself to move it. You also may end up trying to shoot the target on the way by when you move your pin across it. When you draw your bow back, immediately focus on the center of your target.

2. Squeeze the Trigger

Archery Coach Alli Armstrong Vaughan on Working Through Target Panic
Alli is pictured laying her finger on the release trigger and slowly squeezing until the arrow is fired. (Photo courtesy of Adriana Armstrong)

Another variation of target panic is punching the trigger of your release. This isn't good because the sudden movement causes the accuracy of your shot to decrease. Once you're settled in and ready to shoot, you want to lay your finger on the trigger and squeeze until the arrow is finally released.


3. Shot Process Examination and Follow-Through

It is easy to let your nerves take over when you get up to the shooting line or when a big buck walks out. However, in high-stress situations, make sure that you are still thinking about your shot process and following through with each step. Slow things down in your mind and make the most of your opportunity.


4. Don't Overthink, Don't Overhold, Be Patient and Breathe

When you're drawn back and overthink the shot, this can cause you to hold too long. The longer I hold, the shakier I get. When this happens, it is nearly impossible to aim steadily at the center of my target. Be patient with yourself as you are working through target panic. It truly can be aggravating but give yourself time; it won't be worked through overnight. Remember to breathe throughout the process of shooting. I like to release my arrow in between breaths rather than holding my breath and waiting to shoot.

5. Practice at Short Distances

Archery Coach Alli Armstrong Vaughan on Working Through Target Panic
The author demonstrates practicing at a short distance to build her confidence before she moves further back to shoot. (Photo courtesy of Adriana Armstrong)

One of my favorite ways to work through target panic is to practice at short distances. I like to start at about eight yards. Mainly focus on your shot process and follow-through with each step. Lay your finger on the trigger of your release and squeeze when you're ready. Keep doing this until your shot begins to improve and you build the confidence to move further back.

6. Alter or Switch Releases

Archery Coach Alli Armstrong Vaughan on Working Through Target Panic
If you are punching the trigger of your release, you can adjust it to require more pressure for it to fire. Another option is to try a back tension or thumb button release. (Photo courtesy of Adriana Armstrong)

There are various releases out there, and one thing that you can do to help with target panic is to change the release you are using. If you're using a trigger release, you can adjust it to where it takes more pressure to make it release so you can focus on slowly squeezing it until it goes off. However, most people like to try a back tension which is also called a hinge release or even a thumb button when they are experiencing target panic.

7. Find a Coach

Archery Coach Alli Armstrong Vaughan on Working Through Target Panic
This is a shooting drill where Alli takes her sight off her bow and steps up close to the target. This takes the pressure away from aiming and allows her to concentrate on a smooth release and follow-through. (Photo courtesy of Adriana Armstrong)

If you have access to an archery coach or someone who has been shooting archery for a long time, ask them to help you. Battling target panic alone can be maddening and can even make you feel helpless. Having someone there who has seen it and worked through it before to walk you through it can make a world of difference. They can also watch you and tell you when you've punched the trigger or if your form is off.


8. Shooting and Aiming Drills

Drills are standard when working through target panic, and I want to tell you about a couple of my favorites. The first is a shooting drill. I begin by taking the sight off of my bow. I step up close to the target, to around eight yards. I don't worry about aiming; I simply make sure my stance is correct, nock my arrow, ensure my grip is good, draw back, anchor, then focus on a smooth release and follow-through. This takes the pressure off of aiming and putting the pin where I want it. It allows me to focus on the basics. The second is a drill where you aim without shooting. You would aim and put your pin where you want it.

You still go through your shot process, except you don't shoot the bow. This takes the pressure off of releasing, and then you don't worry about where the arrows hits. In this drill, you draw back, aim, and hold the pin on the very center of your target for as long as you can. When the shot begins to deteriorate and you can’t hold your pin on the center any longer, let down and repeat.

For more great content from Alli Armstrong Vaughn be sure to check out her TV show Grace Camo and Lace on the Sportsman Channel.


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