The mechanical trigger is one of the most overlooked components in the archery shooting complex. No matter how sophisticated your compound bow set-up, if you don’t perfect your trigger pull, you’ll never achieve consistency.
Before we discuss just how to do that, let’s define a few terms that will come into play. A mechanical release, like a rifle trigger, has both tension and travel components. Travel is the amount of forward and aft movement that can be put into or taken away from the trigger. Tension is the amount of pressure required to make the trigger trip and release the bow string. Release length has to do with the positioning of the release in your hand and is adjusted using the buckle or Velcro wrist strap.
Now that we’re clear on those, here’s how to tighten your technique and make the shot every time.
STEP 1: SLIP ON THE RELEASE
Start by connecting the release to your hand with the buckle or Velcro strap. Be sure the strap is not too loose, but not too tight either. Set the strap so it does not slide forward easily when under the tension of the draw.
STEP 2: SET THE LENGTH
Release length matters—you shouldn’t have to reach for the trigger. The trigger, when the length is adjusted correctly, should rest near the second knuckle bend of the index finger. A common mistake many archers make is adjusting the length so they trip the trigger with the tip of their finger. This leads to punching the trigger and pulling shots either left or right.
STEP 3: MAKE ADJUSTMENTS
Many of today’s releases allow for the adjustment of trigger travel and tension. If yours is adjustable, remove any trigger travel. Long trigger travel on a release leads to rushed—and therefore punched—shots when hunting. For the sake of this exercise, add trigger tension now. A heavy trigger will teach you how to feel the trigger and not have to worry about it going off under very slight pressure. A tight trigger also promotes a slow trigger pull and what’s known as “pulling through the trigger,” which minimizes the tendency to punch it.
STEP 4: DRAW THE BOW
It’s time to shoot. While standing about 5 yards from the target, draw your bow normally and settle into your anchor point. Find your trigger, rest your finger gently on it and relax. Be certain the trigger is back in your finger and not on the fingertip.
STEP 5: SQUEEZE THE TRIGGER
With your bow drawn, and while aiming at the target (in no particular place), ever so gently begin a slow, deliberate squeeze with your trigger finger. The increased trigger tension will feel odd at first, and you may flinch at the point where your old trigger setting would release (this is quite normal). When the trigger releases, it should surprise you.
STEP 5: REPEAT
Repeat this exercise for the next few weeks as time permits. Shoot a few shots every day at the abbreviated distance and concentrate more on the trigger pull than on arrow placement. Remember, this is a trigger pull exercise, not an accuracy exercise.
STEP 6: DIAL IT DOWN
After a few weeks of practice, you’ll become accustomed to your new—and much improved—trigger pull. If you feel like it, you might decrease trigger tension now. However, never decrease the trigger’s tension more than 1/16 of a turn at a time. Practice with the new tension setting much the same as you did the tighter tension.
Velcro or Buckle?
There are two common strap options for mechanical releases: Velcro and buckle. If you prefer a Velcro strap, you should change to a buckle. Velcro straps have several distinct disadvantages. First, they are horribly noisy—not something you want in the deer woods. Second, Velcro stretches over time, changing your shot geometry and trigger pull. Buckle straps offer simplicity, provide repeatable fit since you’re always using the same hole and, of course, are quiet.