The perfect release allows the bow’s string to float from your hand. It shouldn’t require an awkward hand position or create string torque.
Thousands of pages exist that explain the technical procedures of using releases, try to avoid the paralysis of analysis. Simply put, a release has three functions:
- helps in gripping the bowstring;
- helps to pull the bowstring; and
- helps to release the bowstring smoothly.
The physical and mental body mechanics of drawing a bow differ from person to person, so the release your hunting buddy swears by may not feel right to you. Hand sensitivity plays an integral part in picking a comfortable release.
Picking a release
Find an archery shop with a shooting range and ask to shoot a variety of releases.
Ideally, you will want a release that is smooth and doesn’t change in tension when it’s about to let go of the bowstring. You don’t want to anticipate the actual release of the string. Like a bench-rest rifle shooter, you want the release to go off as a surprise.
To understand how a surprise release feels, draw the bow, aim at a close target, close your eyes, and have someone covertly squeeze gently on the trigger.
If you are anticipating a release, you may flinch or move your body. When you flinch, your site doesn’t stay on target — so neither does your arrow. Flinching can also lead to letting down slightly in draw length. Basically, a surprise release provides better accuracy.
Practicing a surprise release is scary at first, but done enough times, the brain will get comfortable with it and accuracy will soar.
Know the mechanics
Understanding how different releases work can make a difficult choice an easy one.
When I’m choosing a release, the two must-haves are: adjustability in the length to suit hand size, and adjustability in the wrist strap to accommodate thin and thick hunting gloves.
Another nice feature, depending on the type of release, is the ability for the caliper head to turn 360 degrees. This can allow the caliper to find a neutral position and avoid twisting of the bowstring.
Imagine two modified ‘C’s coming together to surround a bowstring. Basically, that’s a caliper, although some models have only one ‘C’ or hook.
The caliper holds the bowstring or loop until released by squeezing or depressing a trigger. Most releases are squeezed by the index finger, some use your pinky finger, and others are pushed by the thumb. A comfortable trigger is an individual choice.
Relax trigger releases
This type is a great release for someone making the transition from fingers or a tab to a mechanical release, or for someone who is unable to conquer punching the trigger. Relax trigger releases works in reverse to a normal release.
Lock the bowstring/D-loop in the caliper jaws, squeeze the trigger, and draw the bow. Relaxing, or letting go of the trigger (not squeezing) releases the bowstring.
Hinge/Back Tension Release
This is normally a half caliper or hook type. Engage the D-loop, squeeze the safety and come to full draw. Ease off the safety and continue to draw (back tension) until the caliper releases.
This release requires a bit of set-up to achieve the proper tension. Some models have a practice set-up and no-release mode that clicks when tension is reached. These are accurate releases but take a fraction more time, time that many hunters can’t afford when a trophy buck appears.
When choosing a release, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the styles and manufacturers.
Avoid releases that make clicking noises when the string is engaged or released. The noise may alert animals. Also avoid ones that have a long trigger travel before releasing the string.
If a release is too long, it will reduce draw length. This will result in loss arrow velocity. Too short a release may be hard to activate with heavy hunting gloves.