Like most archers, I started out shooting a compound bow with a wrist-strap style release back when I was in middle school. Not out of choice, it was the only one lying around the house that was available. For most hunters starting out, after you fork over the money for a bow, sight, quiver, arrows, broadheads and the rest of your hunting gear you have to make some sacrifices. After all, a release is a release, right?
Not exactly. Arguably better than finger shooting. Nowadays there is everything from your traditional wrist-strap & jaw style to a true back-tension style release you’d see on professional archery competition lines (with variants in-between). Just like there is no one single tool that is the best in every situation, each release has its pros and cons. The most common styles are:
- Wrist-strap & jaw (index finger triggered)
- Hand held (thumb trigger)
- Back tension
Back-tension are much more common within the target archery world, and though some archers do hunt with them, I am not included in that number. The style of shooting emphasized with a back tension release is not necessarily best suited to hunting in my opinion, though it is thought that with a back tension style release you can achieve some of the most accurate shooting results. However, not knowing exactly when my release is going to let off is a deal breaker for me. Not to mention I rarely have ideal conditions for a shot in the wild. Then again, it could just be that watching my brother punched himself in the face when he first drew a back-tension release ruined my desire.
Resistance activated has a close resemblance to a back tension style release. Basically, a set amount of “pull” on the release causes the jaw to release. While I personally have an easier time controlling this than a back-tension, I still do not believe this is a good fit (for me) for hunting. I’m sure with practice I could get to the hang of it, but I like the control over shot timing that I get with other styles of releases.
Thumb / Index Trigger
While there are multiple variants of the remaining two types of releases, there are some substantial differences between the index finger and thumb triggered release aids. Let’s start with the one I personally started with; index finger releases.
Pros: As I mentioned earlier, they are probably the most prevalent among beginning archers due to the ease of obtaining one (both in price and finding them locally in stores). They also are easy to pick up and use, especially for the hunters who started off shooting firearms. For those with weaker forearms, wrists, or hands it can also allow you to pull heavier draw weight. However, I have found there are some inconsistencies that come with this style release.
Cons: Especially with a velcro-style strap you may see some variability in draw length (and potentially anchor point) based upon how tight you had the strap the day you were practicing/sighting in your bow. While a buckle-style strap can help with consistency, variances such as how much clothing you have on your arms that day, if you are sweating or not, and even changes in your body weight can have an impact on your perceived draw length and anchor point when using a wrist-strap style release. Therefore affecting your accuracy. In addition to this, I personally tend to “pull” more at the trigger with an index-style release. As for my biggest pet-peeve with wrist-strap style releases: I have to wear it all day in the stand instead of just letting it hang from my bow’s D-Loop. It’s just another thing to get caught on/clank against stuff as I’m trying to be quiet. Think metal on metal contact with your treestand climbing sticks, camera arm, you name it. Not to mention, the last thing I want to do when a bruiser is coming into range is look at my bow to hook on my D-loop. If you are self-filming your hunts a wrist-strap style release puts the already difficult odds further in the quarry’s favor.
My personal favorite is a thumb release. Ideally, one would shoot this style of release in a similar fashion to a back-tension release. Using a thumb trigger type release, I feel as if I have ultimate control over my shot timing (which is important when you need to capitalize on that split-second pause you were waiting on). My accuracy/consistency definitely improved moving to a thumb release, mostly because I no longer had the itchy-trigger finger/target panic I had developed as a kid. Perhaps my favorite feature of all is that I do not have to wear my release… it stays clipped on my D-loop ready to rock and roll!
There are many brands out there that make good releases, many of which make every style that I have mentioned. I am quite partial to Carter Enterprises (personal favorite is the Too Simple) as I have used their products for about eight years now and despite thousands of shots, I have never had a single issue. These releases are rock-solid engineering marvels. Check out their lineup at www.carterenterprises.com.