Target Panic is a habit built up by triggers in the brain. Each person’s triggers are slightly different but their response to changing these triggers is remarkably the same. At least for the ones that I see with re-occurring target panic.
The problem they face is time. Time is a factor that everyone hates and especially in our society today where instant gratification is at the tips of our fingers in all that we do. See an actor/actress in a movie and can’t remember what movie they’ve played in? Google it. Instant gratification on finding the answer.
We as archers want that same speed in beating target panic and worst of all is when we find ourselves first making headway we just expect that we’re done and we did it.
But we’re not done. In fact, the mindset like this is what creates our target panic in the first place so much of the time; and it’s for sure what allows it to come back and never get corrected.
It takes 30 days to start developing a habit. 90 days to master it.
Our first step is the most important. Changing our release we’re using. You need a tension style release like the Carter Evolution, Stan Perfex Resistance, or Stan Element. Not a hinge even though I know it’s recommended a lot, the hinge needs rotation and can be triggered just like an index release or thumb trigger release. Choosing to stay with the Evolution, or other tension style release, no matter what is the right choice for sure. I’d hide any other releases, give them to a friend, send them temporarily to me if you have to; just so you can not be tempted to swap back. I’d commit 3 months to this process at the bare minimum (6 months if infrequent shooting) and understand that it not only takes time but after you start feeling perfect at certain stages that you need to keep boringly staying at that stage until you could never dream of having any issues at all with this.
In my experience the best way to attack this would be to try this in a different manner than you’ve most likely ever have on how the shot is being set up. When you anchor and place the pin on the target, start expanding out from the middle of the chest outwards both on the front arm and back arm in a straight motion. Push out towards the target with the bow hand and pull straight back with the release hand. Make sure on the release hand it’s pulling straight back and not pulling around behind you.
Do this expansion slowly but keep going until a lot of pressure is built up in the system and you start noticing the sight pin starts to settle. The more body tension we create the less room for movement the body has, until there is too much tension and the body starts to tremble.
I would do this while aiming at a target and keeping your thumb on the safety of the release until you get super comfortable with what your sight picture looks like during this, where the body tension is at its best, where is too far, what you feel like while holding this tension for 10 seconds, and where the body breaks down during this. For me I notice if I get too relaxed my shoulders come up and I creep my head down and slouch. I focus really hard on chest out, shoulders down and back, and creating tension in my shot.
I would commit two, three, or more weeks to this step. Let your body start developing the fine muscles in the new shot style. Really work on building up a lot of tension and being very aggressive.
After you’re totally comfortable with everything you’ve experienced here go on to shooting a shot. With the Evolution you’ll want to set it much heavier doing this so it doesn’t go off while setting up the tension in your body. You’ll probably need to swap springs in the release to do this. Your goal is to be overly aggressive and creating a ton of tension here.
Your starting point before you let off the thumb safety is when the float is at it’s best right now. This is why in the first step you have to become mind numbingly, comfortable with seeing the sight picture at its best. The brain needs time to process that and what it looks and feels like. Then your body needs time to process maintaining tension, increasing tension, and not collapsing. It’ll be easier to do this without shooting at first but the reason you over-train during the first stage of this is so the brain develops a comfort with seeing perfection in sight picture. It becomes used to it and that’s what it expects. You aren’t startled when it happens and locking up, not being able to shoot your shot and collapsing. The first step is the most important and that’s why it needs a lot of time spent on it.
Once you let off the thumb trigger with the evolution you want to be able to keep increasing the tension and expanding out like you were doing in drill one. You’ll want the release set heavy enough that your body is getting to the point it’s about to get shaky from creating too much tension in the body system. That’s when you want the release to fire. Just let it happen at this point. Focus on chest out, shoulders down and back, head up and straight. Keep a target at the height of your shoulder and neck during this to fire at. Give yourself a perfect scenario.
If your body starts to shake a lot and the shot hasn’t fired, the evolution is telling you that the shoulders didn’t stay down and back and the chest wasn’t out. You started collapsing. Let down. Rest. Start over.
Do this up close at 4 yards. Then step back to five yards after you’ve spent a couple weeks here mastering the feel, just like in the first step. Then move back to 5 yards and start over on the shooting phase(second phase). Master 5 yards. Move back another yard. This will take a lot of time. Put it in. It should help you master what the brain is processing. You want perfection to become normal. You want focusing on creating tension and not triggering a release to become normal. This takes time.
Habits take 30 days to start becoming a habit. 90 days to master the habit. That’s no skipped days. It’s not always possible for us to not skip a day, but keep this in mind while doing these drills. Oh and each phase is a habit. So don’t be surprised if it takes this amount of time during just phase one, or phase two on their own.
To this day I shoot a bow with tension built up and it’s easiest for me. I’m using a thumb release where I draw back, create tension to perfect sight picture for me that day, place thumb on the trigger with tension on the thumb and trigger(trigger set heavy enough to allow this) then I continue holding this perfect pressure with a slight increase as I draw the hand in from the middle of the palm. This pulls the fingers and thumb together and triggers the release as I just focus on the tension in my body and keeping it still. But I couldn’t do this without starting this program correctly for me and putting in the time it took to get here. It took me five years of never shooting a thumb release before I could again without problems. But I can now. Or an index release. Or hinge. Or tension. Or fingers on a recurve. It’s all the same process for me no matter what bow I shoot.
Create tension to perfection, hold, slight increase, the shot happens when it happens, if it doesn’t I let down.
It’s that simple once you’re there. It’s just difficult to get there haha