Analyzing Shot Form: When it Comes to Executing Proper Shooting Form, Look to Follow-Through as the Most Important Element

Posted on April 11, 2014

      Bow And Arrow Hunting - Tech Bow And Arrow Hunting - Tech It was about 15 years ago when I overheard a few guys at our local pro-shop discussing the concept of “follow-through.” Half of the group was stressing about how important it was to make sure that you kept your bow arm straight towards the target after the shot (which was “their” understanding of follow through). The theory was, if the bow was still pointed toward the target after the shot, it ensured that a person’s form wasn’t collapsing during the shot process. Though the intentions were for the right reason, this misconception of follow-through has caused many folks a big headache.

            The other half of the group’s argument was, follow-through is how a person’s body naturally reacted after the release. The understanding behind this was to keep your bow at full draw, you must keep tension on the string as your bow arm is firmly keeping the bow out towards the target/animal. When the string leaves the release, your release arm is relieved of weight/tension, thus naturally sending the arm backwards and directly away from the target. Your bow arm should be reacting in a similar fashion, just towards the target. This side of the argument was definitely pointed more towards the right direction in understanding follow-through.

However, there’s a lot more to the equation, so let’s pick up where they left off and try to get a good understanding of true shot follow-through.      

Let It Be Natural   

It seems to be in our human nature to want to be “in control” with any situation that we come into contact with. Though it is very much beneficial to have this in our nature with most scenarios, it must be used only to a certain extent in the world of archery. Allowing your bow to go off by “surprise” is one of the main pieces to the puzzle when it comes to shooting a bow accurately and consistently. Letting your shot come by surprise not only allows your body to react naturally, but it also helps you to keep your focus on the target at hand. To illustrate proper shooting form and follow-through, let’s go through a step-by-step shooting scenario to paint the picture so it’s easier to understand.

            Now, when preparing to shoot, and after coming to full draw and anchoring, start to focus on your potential point of impact — where you want the arrow to strike. As you are focusing, wrap your finger around the peg of your release. Now, instead of squeezing your trigger, lock your finger in the wrapped position.

Use Back Tension

Next, by using the muscles in your upper back (rhomboids), slowly start moving your release arm’s shoulder blade towards your spine. This will force the release arm to start moving back thus applying more and more pressure to the trigger, hence not having to move your finger to trigger the release. Activating your release with this method is known as back-tension. Using this method will help to ensure a surprise shot, which is the goal.

            The tension that we are using to keep the draw string back is the same tension that we are relying on to help our bodies naturally react to the shot. When your shot goes off by surprise, you will notice that your arms explode away from each other. For a right-handed shooter, this means at the shot your bow arm will thrust out and to the left (out and to right for left handed shooters). At the same time your release arm should be moving back directly away from the target all in one “natural motion.”

Stay Strong During the Shot

When I’m working on my follow-through, I imagine that I’m trying to pull the axles right out of the limbs of my bow. Though it sounds kind of drastic, it helps to ensure that I’m pulling through and making a strong shot.

Keeping my back muscles “active” as I pull through the shot guarantees a strong follow-through. Not only does making a strong shot assure follow-through, it will also create a more consistent shot. By working against the back wall of the bow’s let-off valley, I’m using the wall to execute my shot from the same point in the valley every time. I’ve noticed that letting my string creep forward just an 1/8 of an inch while shooting has caused a three to four-inch difference in arrow placement, versus shooting against the back wall of the bow’s valley.

Have a Friend Help     

Another way to work on a strong follow-through is to team up with a friend. As you come to full draw, keep your finger behind the trigger. While focusing on the target (close range), start going through the motion of back tension. While you’re working through the motion, allow your friend to trigger your release for you. At the shot, make a mental note of how your body and arms have reacted to a surprise shot. This is true follow-through. Though it’ll feel alien at first, this surprise feeling and natural reaction of your body is what a person should be setting their goals on.

Get Rid of the Trigger

When triggerless, back-tension releases hit the market, they immediately became a hit with tournament archers. As years rolled by, the back-tension release got the wrap that it was only for tournament archers. To be honest, I was one of those guys that believed it. That was until a good friend of mine stuck one in my hand and said to give a try. After learning how to use it, I fell in love with the dang thing. By the time hunting season rolled around, I was making more consistent shots than ever. It was the tool that allowed me to finally feel what proper follow-through felt like.

Using a back-tension release took the thought of a trigger out of the equation, in turn helping me to focus on the target at hand. This type of release ensures surprise, which allows your body to naturally react to the shot. Back-tension releases are beneficial in so many other ways. Definitely a tool that I feel all archers should keep in their arsenal.        

Even today, when I feel anticipation creeping in, I’ll grab my back-tension release for a little bit of therapy. One of my fondest memories that I have is when this release saved my hide on a hunt a few years back.

            It was about a week before the season opener when I found some whitetail bucks feeding in an opening not far from my home. Even today, whitetails seem to be the Unicorn of the hunting world for me. No matter how hard I try, or how close I get, something always seems to go wrong right at crunch time. To make sure it wasn’t going to happen this time, I pounded the target every afternoon before I went to watch the bucks.

The day before season opened, my arrows started to fly all over the place. My once tight arrow groups turned into #6 shot out of a shot gun. Suddenly I realized my follow-through had turned to mush. Before the shot would even go off, I would start to peek and try to see where my arrow was going to hit. I immediately grabbed my back tension release and went to work. Within a few shots my shooting was back in place and my shots were on target.

            My confidence was soaring the next afternoon as I made my way towards the opening the bucks had been feeding in. Unsure of how the thermals were going to be, I kept a safe distance from the opening. I had only been there for half an hour when I caught movement. The bachelor group was up and feeding.

Playing it a little too safe, I found myself in a dilemma. Leaving a buffer zone for possible swirling thermals, I now found myself out of shooting range. While the bucks fed, I went into sneak mode and ever so slowly slithered towards the opening. I finally made it to 46 yards of largest buck.

Crouched beside a six-foot spruce, which was the last bit cover between myself and the now broadside 4×5, it was time. After checking the yardage once more, I hooked my release to the string and came to full draw. Once settling in on the buck’s boiler room, I started to activate the muscles in my back. Suddenly my arms exploded away from each other sending the arrow on its way. A split-second later, I watched my arrow smash home. Within seconds, the buck lost his footing and was down fewer than 100 yards. As I Walked up to the massive buck, I knew there was only one reason I was able to make a shot at almost 50 yards. Back tension and follow-through!                  

           Folks usually tend to make more of something than it really is. In plain English: follow-through is nothing more than how your body naturally reacts to the releasing of the bow string. Its importance while shooting is immeasurable, though. Remember, allowing your body to naturally react to the shot is key.  It is our nature as human beings to want to control just about any situation we’re in or apart of. We must learn, though, that we have to let the bow shoot the arrow. Though it’ll take a while to get used to, be patient. In the end it’ll make you a better shot and a much more lethal bowhunter.

Which Back-Tension Release

There are basically two types of back-tension release available: hinge-style or resistance activated.

Hinge-style releases have been around for ages and basically fire by twisting the release’s handle, while applying back tension, in order to turn the half-moon crescent to the fire position. These releases work very well for most archers, as they are simple to set up and work with various bow setups.

The other type is a resistance-activated release. This form of release uses pulling pressure or tension to determine when it will fire, instead of having to twist and pull on a handle as you would with a hinge release.

Carter Enterprises, maker of some of the highest quality releases on the market, offer a variety of models, from wrist-strap designs to several T-handle models. Once set up properly for your bow’s specific draw valley, these types of release allow for the smoothest, most-natural way of shooting a bow using back-tension.

To learn more, visit

“Allowing your bow to go off by ‘surprise’ is one of the main pieces to the puzzle…”

“When I’m working on follow-through, I imagine that I’m trying to pull the axles right out of the limbs…”

 Bow And Arrow Hunting - TECH

 Maintaining shot follow-through will help you deliver accurate shots, especially in a heated bowhunting situation.

 Bow And Arrow Hunting - Tech

Bow And Arrow Hunting - Tech

 The key to shooting properly and for maintaining proper follow-through is to allow your body to move as natural as possible once the arrow fires. When done well and with back tension, the shot will come as a true surprise and your bow hand will move toward the target, while your release hand moves away from the target.

 Bow And Arrow Hunting - Tech

Bow And Arrow Hunting - Tech

The author demonstrates his personal anchor point and how his elbow moves when applying back tension.

 Bow And Arrow Hunting - Tech

This long-range group was shot using broadheads and by maintaining a consistent follow-through.

 Bow And Arrow Hunting - Tech

The author can’t say enough about training with triggerless, back-tension releases in order to improve your shooting technique, follow-through and accuracy. Prior to shooting this big buck, he was having accuracy problems. That’s when he picked up a back-tension release, which helped him regain his confidence and consistency. The result speaks for itself with this big buck taken shortly afterward. 

Story by Wayahsti Perkins Killer

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