Bow-Hand Torque

January 19th, 2009 / Posted by
Bow-Hand Torque

I first learned the value of controlling bow-hand torque when I switched to a fast compound and a mechanical release in 1988. That year, when shooting broadheads, I found myself throwing every third or fourth arrow six inches to the left. It wasn’t the same arrow each time so I knew it was something I was doing. My confidence was as low as it could go. I had to figure out a way of getting rid of the occasional fliers.
Finally, after going over my arrows, release technique and bow set- up for the millionth time I started messing with my grip. At the time, I was shooting with the wrist of my bow-hand hinged almost 90 degrees. I had a lot of hand on the grip and shot with a low wrist. After experimenting with several styles I finally found the winning combination. Instead of letting my wrist buckle when I drew the bow, I tried to keep it straight – in line with my forearm. Instantly, the fliers disappeared and all my broadheads hit the exact place I was aiming. I was ready to hit the woods.

Two weeks later I was faced with the truest test for my new shooting style. A nice 12 point buck had run to my grunt call and was now standing along the edge of the wood lot, only 10 yards away. He was almost completely obscured by brush. He had scented my entry trail and was now looking side-to-side carefully and sniffing the brush. It was just a matter of seconds before he would blow out. I was already at full draw, searching for a hole to shoot through. Finally, leaning to my right I could make out a hole about 2 inches in diameter, perfectly centered on his vitals. I moved my sight pin into position and completely relaxed my now-quivering shooting muscles. The pin stopped bouncing, and in that split-second only one thought ran through my mind. I remember it as plainly as if it were yesterday. “If you don’t keep your wrist straight you’ll hit the brush.”

The grip hand is an important part of the follow-through. One way to achieve a better follow-through is to think of the shot in different terms. The shot is not over until the arrow hits the target.

The grip hand is an important part of the follow-through. One way to achieve a better follow-through is to think of the shot in different terms. The shot is not over until the arrow hits the target.

I repositioned my wrist and squeezed the trigger. Instead of watching the deer for signs of a hit, I studied the small twigs surrounding my tiny shooting port. Nothing moved. I had him! Even as he broke out into the picked corn field I knew he wasn’t going far. He didn’t either. Only 100 yards from my stand he slowed, wobbled and then fell on his side. You’ve never seen a happier bowhunter.

If you can eliminate bow-hand torque you’re on the fast-track to better hunting accuracy. Here is a break-down of what causes it and how to get rid of it.

Handle-Grabbing Is A curable Disease
Akin to target-panic, handle-grabbing is a spastic involuntary movement that always results in diminished accuracy. Instead of keeping the bow-hand relaxed throughout the shot, the afflicted archer snaps his hand closed at the exact moment he releases the string. Watch 10 average shooters at the next local archery tournament. I’ll bet at least five are grabbing the grip on every shot. Heck, we’ve all done it, and I used to be one of the worst offenders.

As you snap your hand around the grip the bow turns slightly, and generally this disturbance occurs while the arrow is still on the string. It doesn’t take much bow movement to throw an arrow off-line by several inches at 20 yards. It is obvious that both consistency and arrow flight will suffer from such a sudden change in bow position.

Pay particular attention to this aspect of your form next time you practice. If you find that you’re one of the many handle-grabbers, first try simply concentrating on keeping the hand relaxed throughout the shot. To make this work you’ll probably have to force your whole body to relax.

Adhering to the fundamentals of shot mechanics can have an instant affect on accuracy. The bow hand should be kept relaxed and dead throughout the shot. To eliminate handle-grabbing, think of the bow hand as nothing more than a pad that the bow rests against.

Adhering to the fundamentals of shot mechanics can have an instant affect on accuracy. The bow hand should be kept relaxed and dead throughout the shot. To eliminate handle-grabbing, think of the bow hand as nothing more than a pad that the bow rests against.

If this simple solution doesn’t produce the desired results, try adding a wrist sling to your bow (if you don’t already have one). A wrist sling prevent the bow from jumping out of your hand and bouncing down the range when you release the string without wrapping your fingers around the its grip section. For some shooters this simple accessory offers all the peace of mind required to relax fully.

In the ’96 Olympic games Linford Christie, an English sprinter, was DQ’d for false starting in the 100 meter dash even though a clock built into his starting blocks indicated that he started forward fully .086 seconds after the gun fired? Studies had proven to the satisfaction of the track & field community that anything less than a .1 second reaction time was anticipation, and therefore should be categorized as a false start. If .1 seconds is the quickest reaction time of the world’s best athletes, think how far down the range an arrow can be before you’re able to react to a surprise release.

I think you get the idea: a surprise release will completely defeat the handle-grabbing tendency. Without the knowledge of when the string is going to zip forward, you won’t be able to anticipate the action and thereby ruin accuracy by grabbing the handle.

A surprise release with fingers is difficult, but it can be achieved through the use of solid back tension and a smooth relaxing of the back of the string hand. However, it is much easier to execute a surprise release when using a mechanical release aid. Simply squeeze the trigger slowly – just like when shooting a rifle. A true surprise each time takes patience and steely nerves. Another method will almost guarantee the desired results.

A back-tension release similar to the Stanislawski, Carter Solution or Fail Safe Convertible or Whisper makes anticipating the moment of release very difficult. Shoot one of these models for only two weeks and I know it will change the way you shoot a bow – dramatically for the better. When you go back to a command release, such as an index finger or thumb-triggered model, before hunting season, the handle-grabbing tendency will be under control – as well as all other forms of “target panic”.

The second method for reprogramming the nerves is to view the shot differently: Too many bowhunters assume the shot is completed as soon as they mash the release trigger or quickly open their fingers. This isn’t true. The shot isn’t over until the arrow hits the target. By simply thinking in these terms, you won’t be as likely to do anything, including grabbing the handle, until after the arrow hits the target.

Hand Position

A high hand position with a mostly straight wrist produces the best results for most archers. Without a hinging motion, your wrist is more likely to remain steady throughout the shot. It takes some time to build the strength to draw and hold the string while gripping in this manner, but it will come with practice. You can always turn your draw weight down while making the transition.

How you place your hand on the grip itself is crucial to accuracy. You can introduce torque by inconsistent hand placement. As you experiment with several grip positions, strive to find the one which allows you to feel the force of the bow being pulled straight back against a small point in your hand. Keep your palm from contacting the grip. You definitely don’t want to feel any stretching in the skin of your hand – that’s the feeling of torque being built up. When you release the string the stretched skin will spring back to its normal position, taking the bow with it.

Eventually you won’t even have to look at your grip to know that you’re lined up properly – you’ll be able to instantly feel any small change in hand position. This is where getting used to a specific bow has its advantages.
Grip Design
A narrow grip improves your sense of feel and helps you to achieve consistency. This is one reason that such styles tend to reduce bow- hand torque. The fact that they also keep your palm off the grip is also a reason for their advantage. A grip’s design can effect accuracy in other ways, as well.

I’ve got a bow that was very difficult for me to tune because of the way the grip felt in my hand. Every time I shot an arrow through paper I got a nasty tear to the left – about three inches long. I can come close to bullet-holing only if I grip the bow in a very unorthodox manner – at least it is unorthodox for me. I’m sure if I shot the bow a lot I would eventually get used to gripping it in the method required for good arrow flight, and I wouldn’t be able the shoot the bows I now shoot well.

One of my hunting buddies recently had this problem when going from one bow style to another. By simply applying a little pressure to the side of the grip with his thumb, he went from a nasty right-to-left tear through paper to a perfect bullet hole. This is something that can take a long time to learn, and is why I think many bowhunters quit on a bow and deem it untunable or unshootable long before giving themselves enough time to get used to the nuances of its grip.

The same bow-hand torque that makes a bow more difficult to tune also makes it less accurate in the field. By taking the steps to eliminate bow-hand torque you’ll be much effective on the 3-D course this summer and in the field next fall.

To see what near-perfect form looks like in slow motion, watch the video below.

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