If you’re like many hunters, you had taken the last few months off from shooting your bow. Now that you're back into your shooting routine with season right around the corner, you might find that your arrow groupings aren’t quite as tight as they were just a few months ago.
There are many ways to help tighten up your groupings; your stance, your technique, your equipment settings, your breathing. The list goes on and on. However, let’s discuss one strategy in particular that has always helped me tighten up my groups when other strategies have failed.
A technique called “Floating the Pin” is an effective strategy to get your arrows to form much tighter groups at the range. It also works well in the field when your first arrow is the only arrow that counts. Some might think that this goes against one’s natural shooting instinct of aiming small and missing small, but surprisingly it works.
Many shooters think it’s best to hold your pin steady on the bullseye. However we forget that we as humans are not machines. We can’t hold perfectly steady because nerves, physiology and the natural movement and fatigue of muscles won’t allow that to happen. Yet we try to fight nature, try to hold tight on our spot, and that’s when we become less accurate.
When you’re focusing on aiming so tightly on a spot, your muscles (especially the smaller stabilizing muscles) tighten to make sure you stay on that spot. Ironically it is those extra tight muscles that cause you to also pull off target when the arrow is released.
Instead of trying to hold tight on your target, focus on your pin floating around the bullseye. As you get the hang of it, focus on tightening the movement of the float of your pin so that it floats in a much tighter area on the target. This approach allows you to relax a bit more and it keeps you from yanking a shot.
There is a tendency among archers to hit the trigger at the exact moment the pin is on the spot they want to hit. This causes many shooters to pull off target at that moment trying to time it perfectly.
This strategy of floating the pin, though counterintuitive, always tightens my groups more than when I try to hold rock steady on my target. This has become even more evident as the years go by. Muscles break down, strength diminishes, stabilizing muscles don’t stabilize like they did in the past. Therefore, floating the pin is even more important as you get older.
Archers also tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves, especially at competitive 3D shoots or when practicing with other archers. Relax. You will be surprised that when you allow your muscles to relax as your pin floats around your target, you will become a more accurate shooter. By floating your pin around your target, the arrow somehow more consistently finds the center. Even when you feel you pulled your shot a bit, the float somehow keeps things tight even when you think your shot will be off.
If you think about it, the fact that floating the pin creates tighter groups, makes perfect sense. If you are anticipating the shot, or focusing on holding on center, instead of using a fluid motion to squeeze the trigger, you tend to quickly yank the trigger at the moment you feel your pin is directly on the bullseye. This ultimately pulls your arrow off target. This is exaggerated even more so the farther away your target is.
There is also a theory that suggests if we are so focused on holding steady on a small target (I.e. a hair on an elk or a small spot on a target), we subconsciously want to move the pin out of the way during the release of the arrow so we can see the arrow hit that tiny spot on which we’re focused and on which we’re trying so hard to hold steady.
Floating the pin eliminates these issues. It allows you to remain relaxed as your pin finds its mark on the target. It doesn’t matter if your float is in the form of a figure 8, tiny circles around the target, or simply allowing your pin to float as it wishes. All of these methods work just fine. Again, ironically, the only system that won’t work is simply trying to hold the pin rock steady on your target.
Intuitive? No. Effective? Yes.
You still might not believe that floating the pin around the bullseye will result in more consistent shots than holding steady on the bullseye, but I encourage you to try it the next time you’re at the range. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.