Perfecting the Whitetail Shot: Off-Season Prep

By Steve FloresFebruary 22, 2011

UPDATED ON: May 8th, 2015

Don’t let the title fool you. While it may suggest improving shots on whitetails, without question the following technique can be applied to any type of big, or small, game hunting you do with a bow and arrow. Although this technique may appear to be simple on paper (or on a computer screen), in reality it is one of the hardest things to do simply because as archers and bowhunters…..old habits die hard. However, if you hope to live up to your full potential as both, it would do you good to consider incorporating one little detail into your shot sequence. I am talking about SQUEEZING THE SHOT.  
Squeezing the shot, as opposed to simply yanking the trigger the instant your sight pin lands on the spot you want to hit, has the ability to make you a more deadly shot on live game. It does so by forcing your brain to slow down and focus on one thing, squeezing, at a time when it would rather just turn itself off. Those few extra seconds spent making sure you slowly squeeze the shot, almost guarantees you don’t pull the trigger before your sight pin is even near the vitals; which, by the way, is a leading cause of botched opportunities.
Rushing the shot is a common defense mechanism used by our subconscious mind in order to escape a situation we are uncomfortable with. For instance, trying to hold it together while drawing back on the buck of your dreams will likely create a felling of anxiety, excitement, and extreme nervousness. Naturally, you will want to escape such a situation and the absolute easiest way to do that is to launch your arrow downrange. Once the arrow is gone, that uncomfortable situation is over. Unfortunately, you have to live with the realization that you just blew the shot of your life. Squeezing the trigger on your release aid will counteract most shot ruining tendency.

However, understanding the need to squeeze the shot, and actually performing it are two completely different things. In order to make this technique work you’ve got to have the right equipment. In my experience, I have found the best training tool for this type of shooting is a release-aid with a spring trigger. The reason is that, at least for me, it was too easy to revert back to my old ways and just jerk the trigger while using a standard trigger post. Therefore, it was imperative that I used an approach that wouldn’t allow me to fall back into my old habits. The spring trigger was just the tool I needed.


Whatever release aid you choose, be sure that it does not allow you to fire the shot by punching the trigger.

My release of choice is the Scott Little Bitty Goose Deluxe. The Deluxe series of releases comes with three interchangeable trigger posts. The most important one being the spring trigger. What makes this spring trigger so important is its ability to prevent you from punching the trigger. If you try to punch the trigger, the spring simply flexes back and nothing happens. On the other hand, if you slowly squeeze the spring, it will activate the trigger and the bow will fire by complete surprise; which is exactly what you want to happen. Be warned though, getting use to shooting this way will not be easy. In fact, it could very well be one of the most difficult things you do. However, the payoff is astronomical. Once you master the process of squeezing the shot, you will have more shooting confidence than you ever imagined.
Start off by shooting up close, with your eyes closed, at a fairly large target. This is called “Blind Bale” practice and the purpose of it is to ingrain, in your subconscious mind, what it feels like to squeeze the shot. When you first start trying to shoot this way, your eyes and your mind are going to fight you so your best option is to attack things at the subconscious level first. Therefore, with every squeeze of the release, try your best to note how it feels when the shot takes you by surprise. Without any visual stimulus, your mind will be free to concentrate on those feelings, recognize them, and ultimately, try to repeat them later when your eyes are open and you are shooting for real. After several weeks of blind bale practicing you can open your eyes and start shooting at the target in the usual manner. Stay close to the target until you are comfortable shooting at that distance and then slowly progress further and further away.

In order to fully relax while shooting with your eyes closed, try to find a quiet, private place to conduct your training.

Another important thing to remember is to let your sight pin float around the target spot. Do not attempt to hold it steady. That will only result in frustration and lead to target panic/anxiety. Just be conscious of where your pin is at in relation to where you want your arrow to hit and then forget about it. Let it float around the spot. Your job is to burn a hole through that spot with your mind while you are squeezing the shot. Before you know it, your arrow will be gone. And with it, those feelings of panic, anxiety, and the overwhelming urge to rush the shot.

A spring trigger can still be used for hunting purposes. Just remember, the closer your index finger is to the base of the spring the less it will bend; reacting much like a regular trigger during the shot.

With most big-game seasons closed, now is the perfect time to start revamping your shot technique. Before you know it you will be marking the X on your next big game trophy. Better yet, get started now and reap the rewards in a few short months. Remember, it won’t be long until it is time to chase some Thunder-Chickens!

Steve Flores
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