Getting past target panic: Hunting with a rear stabilizer
Adding a rear stabilizer to the author's hunting setup this past fall season helped slow pin float and alleviate the tendency to hit low by just using a front stabilizer bar. It all added up to less anxiety at full draw in pressure situations.
I had a standoff with a buck for about 15 minutes before I finally got a shot opportunity on the morning of Nov. 3, 2020 during a bow hunt in North Dakota.
I was hunting about 12 feet off the ground in my saddle along a river. With the doe this 10-pointer came in on downwind of me and blowing and stomping for minutes, I sat in my saddle tucked up against the tree trunk with the riser of my bow covering my face. I stared at the buck not more than 10 yards away for what seemed like forever.
This is a perfect example of a situation where it’s easy to let anxiety take over. The doe ran off, and the buck stood still as a statue for about five more minutes. He finally let his guard down and I was able to draw back and make a good shot at 15 yards.
One of the biggest differences I noticed this past season when anchoring in on a deer was how steady my pin sat. I believe there’s a couple reasons for that.
I was much more adamant about talking to myself leading up to each shot with the goal of keeping my mind present and not rushing. I also hunted with two stabilizer bars for the first time.
"Why would I not want a bow that is better balanced, quicker to level at full draw that has a slower, tighter pin float when in the woods?"
- Eric Morken
I had always hunted with just a short front bar in the past. One consistent problem I had when target panic started to take over was my pin settling low. The instant my arrow went off, my bow dropped forward and the result was an arrow that hit low.
Was that a result of anticipating the shot and my form breaking down? Or did all that weight out front with no weight out back aid in that tendency to hit low?
The combination of a front and rear-bar stabilizer does a great job in balancing the bow both up and down and right and left. The general rule is that the more weight you can comfortably add the further away from the riser of your bow, the more that pin float will slow down.
I used to think of rear-bar stabilizers as more for target shooting. The more I really looked into them, the more I wanted to try them on my hunting bow.
Why would I not want a bow that is better balanced, quicker to level at full draw that has a slower, tighter pin float when in the woods?
The negatives with running two stabilizers in hunting situations is added weight and bulk, but I didn’t care about either of those. I used a bow sling to comfortably carry my bow and ran into no issues with clearance hunting out of trees during the 2020 season.
My only concern last summer was finding the right length and weight on front and rear stabilizers that gave me the most accurate and forgiving setup I could get.
The guys at Archery Country in Waite Park allowed me to take home a number of different-length bars and weights. After experimenting, I settled on a 12-inch front stabilizer with four ounces of weight and a 10-inch rear bar with 8 ounces. Setting that rear stabilizer up with the v-bar bracket from Mathews allowed me to make incredibly small adjustments both up and down and right and left to get the bow perfectly balanced.
I shot hundreds of arrows late this past summer with this exact setup, so I had gotten completely comfortable with it ahead of hunting season. On one hunt in December, I forgot the attachment piece that connects my rear bar to the bracket. I thought I could hunt through it, so I settled into my saddle for the evening.
To see how it felt, I drew back with only the front bar on. The bow settled low at full draw so much so that I got out of the tree. The idea of going backwards and injuring a deer because I was shooting a setup I wasn’t comfortable with wasn’t worth getting a hunt in that night.
That buck in North Dakota required me to make a fairly pinpoint shot. The distance was only 15 yards, but he was quartered away to the point where I needed that arrow to enter at his back rib.
The buck stopped through a small opening in the trees. I settled my pin where it needed to be, and pulled through on the shot with my resistance release. The arrow passed straight through, taking out lung and heart as he trotted 40 yards before falling.
Through all the struggles I had with target panic, it never had to do with taking questionable shots. Short 15-20-yard shots are what I was screwing up. I would draw back, try to settle the pin, but anxiety had kicked in. The pin float was all over the place, and my mind would eventually get to a point where it screamed at me to release the arrow.
There was so much less anxiety after trusting a slower pin float this past season. Upon release, the bow’s tendency was not to nosedive the second that arrow left the string. I believe incorporating a rear bar into the equation helped with that.
My bow just sat there better at full draw. It led to more confidence and better accuracy. That was worth a little extra weight and bulk while in the tree.