John Dudley has touched in his articles and recently again on his podcasts about focusing on not shooting and stressing over hitting your mark and to not focus on only what score you are shooting, or trying to shoot. Instead he says to focus on finding out what the perfect shot FEELS like and then replicating that over and over again, letting that be how you judge how you are shooting, not just your scores. I couldn’t agree more with this, and for more than just one reason. When you are focusing on the feel of the shot, you will be focusing more on you. It puts the blame and reward where it belongs when you are shooting…. On you. The equipment out today is remarkable and you can pick up pretty much any bow you want and shoot great scores with it. If you let yourself that is. Another reason I like what he says is that when you are focusing on the feel of the shot and making that perfect execution during a tournament, you aren’t focusing on the score you are trying to shoot, or needing to shoot. You aren’t getting as panicked because you will be able to build up in your mind that as long as you do your part and execute the score will be there. The same can be said for when the buck of a lifetime shows up infront of you. Focus on the shot and how it feels, not stressing yourself out over how many points are on the rack, or how big of a buck he really is.
So what can be done to start this process? Well, in my earlier entries I’ve talked about foot position, draw length and loop length, and aligning your upper body to make it work for you. And with this entry I will continue on with that and explain another way to align your body to make it work for you instead of against you. With each step you take through this you get a little more stable, you get a little more confident, and it will impact your mental focus and ability.
The next step involves your bow hand’s thumb. How can your thumb affect anything you ask? It’s going to be a reference for you to align your bow arm and shoulders. Once you get this reference down, and how it feels, you can shoot on flat ground and any severe uphill or downhill shot you need to take with ease. Here’s what you will need to do.
This will be an up close exercise again. So one more time, you’ll need to stack up a target to have it atleast a few inches below the bow shoulder to up around the top of your head. Once this is done get your bow and nock an arrow, stand a few feet away from the target on level ground, and draw your bow back. But this time when you set up to draw the bow back hold your bow arm up where your thumb is just above level with the top of your shoulder, then draw back and anchor while holding your bow arm up at the same height during this whole process. Make sure you are keeping the release hand at the same height as the bow hand. No drawing with your hand down at your chest or lower. If you have to do that, swallow your pride and lower your draw weight. Your scores will thank you, and you can brag that way instead. Once you reach your anchor point, drop the front arm and shoulder down to where the thumb is even with the bow shoulder and relax and let your release side shoulder drop to the same height as well. Make sure you are not keeping tension in the back shoulder because this will cause you to have a downward slant, with the back shoulder being higher than the front, and always be aiming low, out of the dot during your release execution. Have someone look at you and take a photo if possible so you can see a reference of yourself. Do this a few times, just drawing back and anchoring with your thumb just above shoulder height, then settling down at shoulder height to get the feel of this ingrained in your brain. Make sure you are doing the same with your release side shoulder as well.
While you are learning the feel of this and having someone there as a reference for you, this is the perfect time to learn how to set your bow shoulder to keep you from scrunching and losing your bone to bone contact throughout your upper body as well. What you will want to do here is as you are beginning to draw the bow back with your bow hand’s thumb just above your shoulder lean slightly forward towards the target and just push a little bit towards the target. As you are coming to anchor start shifting the weight back to the center of your body and when you have reached anchor you should have your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Keep the forward pressure towards the target as you are doing all of this and when you lower the bow hand to be level with the front shoulder this is when you will let both of your shoulders relax and come down. While you are going through your shot execution, keeping a very slight forward pressure on the grip will keep you bow shoulder from creeping up and scrunching your shoulders together. This will also keep the bone to bone alignment steady and straight allowing your body to aim for you while you float and execute.
After you have done this long enough to get a very good and natural feel for this, you are ready to move back to normal shooting distances. When you start shooting at your normal distances, make a mental note to keep with the same form and posture as you were when you were shooting up close. Once you anchor you can then adjust at the waist for the height you will need for the target. Keep the bow hand, shoulder, and release side shoulder all level and in a straight line. Then just bend at the waist slightly until you are on target. Once you have done this, start your execution. Your arms and shoulders will not be fighting you up or down on target this way and you can just focus on your steady release execution and how your shot feels rather than worrying about your dot/pin.
All of these alignments and how you work with your body is what will lead your mind to focus more on how you feel versus what you’re doing at the target. It helps with correcting your mental focus as well as calming you down hopefully in stressful situations. Good luck on working through this, and if you have any questions for me on the please comment or message me and I will do my best to help you along to meeting and exceeding the best of your abilities.