Target panic, an archer’s nemesis. It’s a mental phenomenon that causes nervousness, apprehension, panic, and/or anxiety that prevents you from reaching your maximum accuracy. It occurs when your bow is tuned and has been shooting consistently. For me it causes shooting to become erratic and all over the target. Suddenly the target becomes my worst enemy and I dread each shot. I believe we all have suffered from this condition to some extent, some more than others and to varying degrees. Sometimes it happens right as we begin a shooting session, other times it may take a few shots to set in, or it occurs slowly over time. If you don’t know how to overcome target panic on the range it may spill over to the field and create a scenario where you have wounded an animal. This is why I feel it critically important to conquer before getting into the hunts. There are a lot of different ways described to correct it that range from training aids, moving into extremely close range for days at a time, to mental exercises such as closing your eyes and finding your happy place before shooting. Over the years I have found a couple techniques that helped me fairly quickly. These techniques are not mentioned much in the searches I have done so I thought I might share my experiences. They are straightforward and go along with one of my life mottos…Keep it Simple Stupid. Here they are:
Stop shooting. I usually shoot in sets of 3 (meaning 3 arrows at a time). If the first set is inconsistent and I follow that up with another 1 or 2 inconsistent sets I pick up my stuff and go home. That’s right, I just bag it. For me, if I continue to try and shoot myself out of it I become very frustrated and do more harm than good mentally and when I start moving my sight around and tinkering with my bow. Even the best can have off days so don’t work yourself up. If I find mentally I am not in the game I go before I create a larger problem. I know that might be contrary to sticking with it and not giving up but I found it’s better to come back the next day with a clear mind. Let face it too, shooting should be fun and when frustrated by target panic it isn’t, no need to stay and shoot when it’s not fun.
How To Overcome Target Panic in Unfamiliar Terrain?
I simply choose a change of venue. If I feel like I’m off I simply pick up the target and drive to another location and set back up. The target panic seems to subside when I begin shooting in another location again. There is something about it I can’t explain but taking the target and moving to fresh scenery somehow resets me mentally. I can’t explain why but it works for me to have a fresh set of surroundings.
Shoot a different target. Another trick I have tried with success is changing what I am shooting at. Again I don’t have a perfect explanation but it’s that fresh start with a different target that I believe is a mental reset button. I’ve found when consistency troubles begin on my Rinehart Raptor Bag (small circular aiming points) I can switch to my Rinehart 3D muley buck (aiming point is more of an area), and the panic subsides and consistency picks back up. I’ve been in the situation where I didn’t have another target on hand so I spray painted a larger or different shaped area to focus on the same target and my groups have tightened back up also. I can even switch back to the original target a day or two later and the target panic doesn’t come back.
So here you have it, overcoming target panic, with a few easy no non-sense approaches that have worked for us at Muley Freak. Before you try all the hocus pocus stuff like weird training aides and mental exercises try these quick, easy, common sense approaches. Some may work for you and others may not. If they don’t then move on to some of the other approaches out there, but I have found if I keep it simple things usually work out.
Here’s what works for us, what works for you?
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