Target panic is no respecter of archery mastery. Virtually every archer will experience it at one point or the other in the course of their archery journey. Interestingly, many pro archers have reported having the experience after they have achieved significant success in archery, as reported by New York Times. What this means is that if you have gotten to that dreadful point when it feels like 100 pounds have been strapped to your bow each time you look through the bow sight, or you just can’t get the pin to sit on the target, you are not alone.
Since this is a path that has been walked before, there are plenty of options to explore to beat that monster stealing the joy of archery from you. In this article, we will be sharing tips that will help you fix target panic .
What Is Target Panic?
Like every game, archery is about 60% mental effort and 40% physical. This is why it makes total sense for target panic to be described as a psychological condition that prevents archers from hitting the gold spot. When this phase settles in, archers either can’t fire a shot or just let the arrow fly the moment they see the pin touch the target without waiting for the pin to rest on it to get a good shot.
The above definition is widely accepted, but there are some that believe it is a neurotic condition. Research on it is scarce, but some school of thought believes it is caused by the wearing or weakening of the brain cells that control shooting accuracy.
Target panic is a thing of the mind. It is 100% mental but dramatically affects the shooter’s physical performance. Elements of panic can present in different forms. At full draw, the archer could be hit with some sort of anchor that makes their brain stop them from pulling their pin up to the bullseye. It could also present as shot anticipation or inability to fire an arrow.
What Can Trigger Target Panic?
The events that lead to a target panic are different for each individual. There is, however, some common experience that has been reported to have led to the disturbing manifestation. Here are some of them - perhaps you will be able to relate to one.
Shooting Too Much
As ironic as it might sound, you can get target panic from shooting too much. They say practice makes for perfection, right? So, naturally, you would want to pull as many shots as possible in the hopes that your shots get better the higher the numbers go. Practice in itself isn’t a bad thing, but you need to be in touch with your body and mind to know when it’s time to take a break.
When your muscles start to get fatigued over time, your form is bound to drop as well as your shot. In the same way, the mind can get fagged out with mindless repetition. When your form drops, it can sink into target panic.
This is similar to the above, only that while the former deals with numbers, over-aiming has to do about the quality of your shots. It is that practice when you are over-pushing the limits of your shooting accuracy either by shooting even tighter groups or trying to be too perfect.
This also casts some stress on the mind, and when it is not managed appropriately, a panic attack can set in. It could be from the fatigue of spending too much time at full draw. It can also be from the anxiety that slowly creeps in when you want to get better so badly.
Archers view over-bowing in a different light. This is not far-fetched from the fact that what might seem like over-bowing to one person might not be for another. However, it can fundamentally be considered as making a shot under a condition where you are less stable than you would naturally be. This could result from a heavier bow, a longer arrow, or other factors. When you are off your balance, it is easier to fall into that rabbit hole of target panic.
Remember that to execute a clean shot, your mind and your body have to be in sync. When your body is, however, subjected to a different pressure, as in the case of over-bowing, your mind might be disconnected. Interestingly, a single shot fired in this condition is bound to miss the target, and that is enough to trigger target panic.
How to Beat Target Panic
Whether you belong to the group that thinks it’s psychological or the group that thinks it’s neurotic, a common consensus is that the monster can be defeated. To increase your chances of beating target panic, here is a list of what you can do:
Give Yourself Time
This is the very first step and by far the most vital point to have at the back of your mind as you go about muscling it out with target panic. A lot of the hacks you will be trying will be heavily reliant on you retraining your mind to get back in proper shape. The duration this will take differs from one individual to another, so if you are not back to hitting it off immediately, you will need to be patient and kind with your mind.
At this moment, you will have to embody the mantra of trusting the process. It is through your dedication toward getting better that you can develop that resilience to triumph over the monster. Don’t rush it. Give your mind the time it needs to recover fully.
Try Your Hands On Reset Drills
This is recommended by many coaches and pros to get over target panic. Reset drills are a set of routine that helps you take your mind off the need to shoot. It is particularly helpful for those who keep slamming their finger on the trigger release. The slamming is also called “punching the trigger”, and it is one of the manifestations of target panic.
To perform the reset drill, here are the steps you need to take:
- Bring your bow to a full draw (don’t shoot)
- Look through the bow sight and let your sight pin hover around the target
- When your arrow begins to waiver, bring the bow down
- Repeat this process
With this routine, you will be able to train your mind to exert more control while you go through the shot process. Asides the reset drill, there are also other helpful drills that can help you in overcoming target panic as an archer.
Switch Your Release
This tip helps address a somewhat similar manifestation of a panic attack to the one described above. Switching to a new release aid addresses complications that arise from the fingers. One of the ways panic attacks feast on the mind is to set archers up to anticipate their shot. The problem with this is your mind is distracted from the target, and the attention is shifted to the shot. This leads to some flinching when the release is fired, which affects your shot execution and ultimately, your shooting accuracy.
To combat this, many professionals recommend switching from a index finger (trigger) release to a hinge release. The goal here is to create a moment that helps your mind flow with your finger as it releases the shot - the overall outcome being a controlled shot execution process that ends up in a surprise release. This break from the trigger release that seems to hop from your finger to firing is helpful for your mind.
Shoot At A Blank Bale
This tip addresses a core source of target panic - the pressure that hijacks your mind to deliver a perfect shot. For some, the moment they look through their bow sight and the pin locates the gold is when the tension boils over.
To address this, you try to reverse-engineer your mind to think, “what if there is no target?” This helps you ease off the unnecessary pressure as you practice - which goes a long way to help cure target panic. Get a solid bale and strip off the target's face. Concentrate on maintaining a good form as you repeat shooting your shots. This helps your mind subconsciously get used to the shot process and allows you build muscle memory. When it begins to feel like a natural process, the pressure will be greatly reduced.
Try Close-Range Shots
On another related tip, keeping the distance at which you practice short will also go a long way in helping get your mojo back. Unlike UFC, winning the fight with target panic requires ease. Close-range shots also take your mind off the anxiety of missing the shot. It might seem belittling, but that is what your mind needs. A huge part of solving any problem is accepting there is an issue and being willing to follow through with the recovery process. The cool thing about this tip is you can infuse variations with it and in no time, you'll find that you can consistently hit the target again.
Ready to Beat Target Panic?
Target panic can be likened to being under the weather. In the same way, you might lose your appetite and have to stick to fluids till you fully recover; beating panic attacks will require easing into some practice, as shared in this article. In time, you will be back to striking gold once again each time you look through your bow sight.
Do you have any quick tips for beating target panic that you’ve seen to be very helpful that weren’t included? - we’ll like to know in the comments.