Use your down time wisely, advises John Dudley, so you can hit the ground running
Here we are once again, coming into the autumn season. I strongly believe that this season is the best time to make a few changes, so that next year is your best year ever. It is a great time to make adjustments to your form, and also a great time to make any tweaks you may have thought about on your gear. Let’s face it; the outdoor season gets long and mentally tiring. Over the summer we have battled Mother Nature with the heat, wind and rain. If you are like me, these elements really start to take their toll and can result in some bad habits starting to creep into your form. That is why I like the autumn and indoor seasons so much. In my opinion, it is the time for rehab. This is the time of year where I feel like I am able to start fresh, and wipe the slate clean of any bad habits the long outdoor season may have created. In this article I want to share some things with you that I do each year that have a huge impact on the following tournament season.
Get strung out
The first thing I like to do is start out by changing my string and cables to fresh, new ones. Since we have been shooting all year, and are about to embark on another, this is a great time to get some fresh threads on the bow. By doing it now, it gives you plenty of time to break them in and get settled before you have any serious tournaments. I understand that changing a string set may be a temporary headache but, by changing your string and cables now, it means that you will not have to stop midway through a season to change them out. The reality is that strings and cables are a ‘wearable’ item and if you shoot often you will need to change them. I think of them like the leaves on the trees – they come off before the winter and make way for the new ones that will cover them next year. The same should be true with your strings and cables. Change them while you are between seasons so that you don’t have the worry about doing it when you are in the middle of a competition schedule.
In my opinion, string and cable sets are one of the more vital parts of your bow. They hold the entire package together. I like to say that your bow is only as good as the string sets that are on it. By investing in a quality set, you will make sure that your bow is performing at its best, and also that it will stay that way as you continue to shoot. There is nothing more frustrating than getting a bow to shoot perfectly and then having the strings and cables stretch on you. As soon as that happens, all of the hard work you put into tuning it goes down the drain.
I have trusted Winner’s Choice custom strings for many years, and can honestly say that I have never been let down. The bottom line is I want a string that doesn’t take time to settle, has no peep rotation and also has servings that won’t come apart. When it comes to strings you get what you pay for, so don’t cut corners.
Relearn your trigger
The autumn is the best time to master your release aid. There are many different ways of shooting a release, but it seems that after a long outdoor season I am in need of relearning my release aid. The key to archery is learning to shoot with an unanticipated shot, and what separates levels of shooter is their ability to properly execute a release aid. Many people who struggle with target panic find comfort in shooting a tension release during the autumn season, when they don’t have to worry about it affecting their tournament outcome. Some archers specifically use this season to train with a back tension release just so that they can then go back to their trigger release once the competitive indoor season starts.
However, when it comes to index finger release shooters, it’s my observation that a lot of archers are actually using their triggers the wrong way. For example, most index finger shooters have the tip of the finger on the trigger. By using the tip of your index finger, you are able to feel the faintest of movements or pressure changes. When your brain senses these movements or pressure changes it starts to anticipate when the release will fire. This leads to punching the trigger and, in worst-case scenarios, target panic. It leads to not being able to put your finger on the trigger for fear of it not going off when you want it to. The best way to learn to shoot a finger release is to teach yourself to curl your finger all the way around the trigger. Then, once you have done this, keep your finger locked in that position and focus on pulling your elbow backwards. This pulling motion will increase the pressure on your trigger without ever having to move your finger. This will help you in learning a surprise shot and to not punch a release. To reiterate how to properly shoot the index finger release, curl your finger all the way around it until you feel the pressure and then keep it in that position while you pull backwards with your elbow. You will need to make sure your trigger pressure setting is a little stiffer initially so that you can get your finger around it without it firing. Again, now is the time to practise this and really get to know your release aid again.
Take advantage of indoors
I know I’m not alone when I say that indoor shooting isn’t my favorite of disciplines. I’d much rather be shooting outdoors on a field
range, any day. However, I have come to learn that indoor archery is a valuable season for all archers, including the outdoor shooter. It is the best time to work on new things, like shooting a release properly. It can also be valuable for setting up and learning a new bow, trying a new scope, or breaking in your new strings. Indoor archery is great because there are no outside variables. There is only you and a target in front of you. I remember the days when I avoided the indoor season like the plague, and I have really come to regret that way of thinking. When I started taking indoor season more seriously I started having much stronger starts to my outdoor season. The bottom line is the indoor season keeps you finely tuned.
Lastly, you can dramatically improve your shooting success next year by using this autumn and the indoor season to master certain aspects of your archery. To do that, you need to set goals and use the indoor season as the time to be better than you were. When I had finally decided that I was going to get over my target panic once and for all, I did it in the autumn period. I still remember it to this day. It was 1997, and I set myself the goal to use the indoor season to learn how to shoot a hinge release. It wasn’t easy, but by December I had taught myself how to properly shoot a back tension release with no anticipation. I could finally pull back, aim on the target and pull until it fired. Once I learned that, it changed my life in archery overnight. Everything I have done in my career since I owe to that season, when I was able to put everything aside and use indoor training as a time to learn how to shot without anticipation.
Although there are many things you can use the autumn for, I believe these three things are ones you should always have on your list. Keep your bow maintenance up to scratch by changing out your strings, clean up any problems you may be dealing with involving your release aid, and use every bit of the indoor season you can. Each of these things has an effect on another part of your archery arsenal, so be sure to work on them now while you don’t have big tournaments to worry about. Now is the time, so take advantage of it!