Every good hunter knows how important it is to understand the equipment you use out on the hunt, what its purpose is, and how it works. This knowledge makes hunting easier, safer, and more enjoyable for all. In bow hunting it’s good to understand the mechanics of the bow itself, but you shouldn’t forget the other pieces of equipment that you use out in the field. And understanding one such piece of equipment—the mechanical release aid—can help ensure your next hunt goes smoothly. With four main styles to choose from, you can pick the exact one that fits your needs.
- Index Finger Release
This release aid is one of the most popular choices among hunters, and probably the one you’re most used to seeing and/or using yourself. An index finger release consists of a wrist strap, a locking mechanism, and a trigger. Much like firing a rifle, the hunter aims with the sight and then presses the trigger to release the arrow at a target. This makes it a quick study for those hunters who are more familiar with firearms than bows. In addition, the wrist strap also adds leverage, making it easier to pull back the bow string. While the construction of this release aid makes it very easy to learn and implement on the hunt, it may also make it easier to “jump the gun” so to speak and fire before you’ve actually seen the shot you want to take. Just be sure to practice both your shooting and your patience and this type of release aid can be a great choice.
- Handheld Thumb Release
This type of release is not anchored to the wrist like an index finger release. Instead, the hunter holds it in their hand and uses the thumb to press the button/trigger and release the arrow. This mechanical release aid is a less bulky option compared to the index finger release, and allows hunters to have a more consistent anchor point when shooting. And, if you’re someone that finds themselves jumping on the trigger with an index release, a handheld thumb release can offer a new way to shoot, decreasing the chances of an accidentally overzealous shot. Thumb releases can be more sensitive, so it’s important to practice so you can feel the subtlety of the movements needed to activate the trigger. Many hunters who use a handheld thumb release practice to the point where they can keep their wrist and hand relaxed and just use the tension in their back to pull back enough to press the trigger. A drawback to the thumb release though is that it is a more expensive option compared to the index finger release, which may make it an inaccessible option for more budget-conscious hunters.
- Hinge Style Release
A hinge release is similar to a handheld thumb release, except instead of firing with the press of a trigger or button, the hinge release fires with backwards rotation. This style can be challenging to get the hang of, but once you understand the mechanics and get comfortable with shooting it, the hinge style release aid can be a great choice for both hunters and target archers. The main tip for using a hinge release properly is that the release should come more from flexion of the back muscles than anywhere else. The index finger pulls the aid back, carrying most of the weight and tension of the string. The thumb stays on the thumb peg which adds leverage to help draw back the string. Your arm and hand should be relaxed, and as you draw the tension of the string with your back muscles the angle will shift and trigger the string to fire. With this style of release aid, the hunter thinks less about the trigger and therefore can focus more on the actual aim of the shot itself. Hunters who utilize this type of release aid often find their muscle memory of taking practice shots prove invaluable in the field. This type of release aid may be the most accurate, and if you’re patient enough to learn it then the hinge style release aid can be a great choice.
- Resistance Release
Resistance (or tension) release aids take the mechanics of the hinge style release aid and add a goof-proof mechanism that keeps the release aid from firing as you draw the bow back. Like the traditional hinge release, it doesn’t have a trigger or button to press and instead relies on tension to fire the shot. The main difference is a safety that acts like a regular safety on a gun, preventing the shot from firing until you’ve fully pulled back the string and are ready to shoot. This is a great in-between option for those who want to transition to a hinge release or handheld thumb release. It allows the hunter to confidently master the tension needed to fire off a shot without as many accidental misfires that you might experience in the learning stages of a hinge release.
Overall, it’s important to know what release aid you need for the style of hunting and/or shooting that you want to accomplish. Different types of mechanical release aids provide different benefits so pick the one that fits your needs and practice with it often so you’re ready to use it when you’re out on the hunt.