Where/How does target panic begin?

So many bowhunters have target panic and don’t even realize it. I read a great write up about Stephen Hansen a few weeks ago, one of the top shooters in the world struggling with it. You can tell the by the tone in his response that it’s not new to him and he’s knows there is a long road ahead.

Bottom line is it happens to everyone and you can either choose to live with it until it gets out of control or address it immediately and try to fix it. Some can simply set up at 3 yards , close their eyes, find that slow methodical rhythm and boom all is great on the shooting line again.

Some shooters need the hinge or resistance release like the Stan Element and must do diligent programming with draw holds and walk back execution and never truly get over it when they go back to thumb button or index finger release.

Problem is, if you don’t shoot enough to beat it, it will beat you. The vast majority of novice and recreational hunters have it and have no clue it’s setting up camp and being reinforced with other underlying issues like draw length being too short, improper bow tune, less than efficient form, or instruction from random Facebook groups asking “How’s my form” 🤦🏼‍♂️

Some signs of target panic are….

– punching trigger

– pin stuck off center or bulls eye ( feels like a force field is around it)

– flinching at full draw

– collapsing

– quick shots

– over aiming

– watching pin during aim

– inability to hold groups at longer distance

When you bought your bow and the bow tech said “you simply put the pin on and squeeze the trigger” and that’s what you’re doing, it’s quite the possibility TP will manifest itself quicker than you want.

By nature of being a coach and owning an archery training center I work with a hundreds of new shooters every year. I see youth beginners and competitors as well as adult bow hunters who can’t seem to become accurate past 20-30 yards. I hear from them a few weeks before a scheduled elk hunt or mule deer trip when they can’t hold 4” groups at 60 yards.

There are a few underlying issues around the topic and archery by nature of the industry contributes to the problem. First issue is pursuit of the bow sale. It’s not just the small shop but more so the big box outdoor store. Archery season is the most glorious time to be in nature and when bow technicians are trained to only “get the sale”, we have a problem. If you are not pursuing coaching and lessons for new shooters, you’re not contributing to recruitment and retention of archers or potential bow hunters. With hunting numbers dropping , can we really turn a blind eye? We need to sell the sport first so bow hunting will follow to a new potential shooter.

We need to be setting every new shooter up for as much success as possible from the statement “I’m looking for a bow”. If you as a bow technician aren’t comfortable with the idea lessons, pursue at a minimum USA Archery level 2 certification. If you have a range, or have separate staff already coaching that’s great, just make sure your bow techs are pushing lessons for all new and old customers. Ask them how their shooting is going, quiz them on their results, ask them why they think they missed the last deer or made a bad shot. What you’re really doing and creating future business for yourself if you do things right and that’s a great thing!

Forget what the old timers say about coaching and “all the you need is pie plate accuracy and woodsman-ship” , those days are no longer acceptable. You need to be as accurate and dedicated as possible so you get a quick and ethical kill.

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