In recent years, the bow hunting market has exploded.
There’s a lot of mind-boggling options involved in choosing a gear, especially when picking the best compound bow. It can be simple if you know what you like and what you’re used to. Many of the new designs are merely tweaks on the old standby that offer gains in usability but not in performance.
A bow release aid is essential for obtaining maximum accuracy from your bow and using the right one for you is part of chasing that precision.
Why Use a Release Aid?
The key to accuracy is consistency. If you are 100% compatible with your setup, you can put arrows in bolt holes all day long. A mechanical release aid is one of the ways you can ensure a high-level consistency by making sure that every time the arrow string gets released, it is released the same way.
The triggers in these release aids work differently than rifle triggers, but they essentially do the same thing. They let the projectile fly by releasing a mechanism. Whether that is a hook or a caliper, you must activate the trigger the same way each time for it to do the job.
This is accomplished in several ways depending on the type of release aid you choose. But the goal is to always ensure accuracy through consistency.
Caliper vs. Hook
The way the release aid attaches to the string has two most common options: the caliper and the hook.
The caliper is common with two pincers, like clasps extending out and grasping the D-loop or the bow string. These are better for beginner shooters because they can see whether or not the release aid is attached to the string.
Hook type releases are catching up because once they’re on, they’re on. They look like the shackle on a heavy-duty truck hitch and clamp down on the bow string. While the old-school models had trouble with staying put, the new generation is squared away, and it’s now a matter of personal preference.
2 Release Aid Styles
Handheld release aids used to be the domain of tournament shooters and competition archers who needed a way to make sure they could launch arrows at maximum accuracy and consistency.
This translates better into the deer woods than you’d imagine. These handheld release aids are more useful than you’d expect. They offer various and distinct advantages over others because of their design.
The first great thing they do is free your hands. The handheld release aid can be snapped on your sting and left there until it’s time to draw your bow. That means you can use a laser rangefinder or have a snack without a metal release aid clinging on all of your equipment, flopping off your wrist.
You’ll also appreciate the natural way your wrist feels when you use a handheld release aid along with the further trigger options available: automatic let-offs, pinky trigger, or regular index finger trigger.
Most of these release aids are smaller than wrist strap aids and are usually made of solid metal. However, they’re easier to drop. But if you attach them to your bow string before you leave the ground, you can secure it from your tree stand.
- More customizable options
- Solid metal construction
- Smaller and lighter
- More natural wrist position
- More expensive
- Easier to drop from a tree stand
- Requires discipline to master
Wrist release aids are the classic and easy way to use it for bow hunters.
They are the most common and therefore has the most options as well as being the cheapest you can buy. In fact, some high-end starter kits come with release aids that you can use for several seasons. These can be with a hook or caliper type attachment.
Another often overlooked aspect is the fact that you can’t drop them from the tree stand since it’s strapped to your wrist. The catch is that the fabric that they are made of can be difficult to keep scent-free if you practice with them. The solution is to buy two, and use one exclusively for hunting.
The wrist strap release aid is an ideal option for most and the best choice for new hunters or archers for several reasons ranging from cost to simplicity.
- Largest selection
- Hold sweat and stench all hunting season
- Can be bulky and you have to wear it all the time while hunting
Wrist Band Types
Wrist release aids clamp on your wrist with a buckle, heavy duty Velcro, or just a loop of webbing with a cinch. Their advantages are varied:
Velcro: It may be difficult to find the exact same tightness every time you put on a Velcro strap. The advantage is that you can make it as tight or loose as you want.
Buckle: A buckle release aid will be consistent each time you put it on which of course will also be effective for accuracy. The only disadvantage for some would be when the comfortable fit falls between the two buckle holes.
Trigger Attachment Styles
There are two different styles of how the trigger is attached to the wrist band.
1) A nylon strap that can be adjusted to the right length but also may hang and sway when it is not in your hand. Many hunters prefer this style since it is easy to get out of the way, and lowering their fingers toward the ground puts it right into their hand.
2) The other style is made to be constantly stiff and stays upright towards your palm. A lot of hunters prefer this since it involves less movement to hook it to their bow, as well as it will always be close to their hand. However, it can get in the way especially for a hunter who is hiking through trees and rugged country.
For some, they tend to spin the trigger to the back of the hand while hiking which can be a hassle of spinning it around as one hand holds your bow.
Automatic Release Aids
When you actuate the trigger on a release aid, you add a certain amount to the bow and that could skew your shot. The answer to this is to do what a firearms shooter would call a “surprise break.”
This is where you add a constant amount of pressure on the trigger until it breaks and the arrow flies. Some people prefer an automatic trigger instead or a trigger they actuate with a finger.
Competition shooters use a release aid that fires on a certain amount of pressure. Once you hit the back wall of your bow and pull just a tad more, an automatic release will let the string fly. This avoids you to flinch because you aren’t sure when the shot is coming.
An automatic release aid is not recommended for people just starting out, but it’s a great way for an excellent hunter to wring out the last little bit of accuracy from them and their gear.
Use a D-Loop
A D-loop is a strand of cord tied as a loop over the nock point of the bow string. It does several things to protect both the arrow’s nock and the string because using a metal release aid can be hard on it. You can see an increased wear of the bow string if you choose to directly attach it.
The D-loop is also used to even out the pressure of the release aid by aligning it directly behind the arrow and using the loop to spread out the force. It needs to be made of a strong abrasion resistant cord and must be periodically replaced, so you don’t get a catastrophic failure at the worst possible moment.
Tips on Getting Started
Because so much of archery gear comes down to personal preference, a release aid can be hard to shop for. Here are some solutions to help you out.
Make it Simple
- Start with an inexpensive model and upgrade once you get your taste settled in.
- Consider a caliper style wrist release aid since it’s the gold standard.
- Then you can level up to hook attachments, automatic, or handheld release aids.
These are great after you have a solid shooting foundation but until you have a good one, these release aids make it more difficult to learn how to properly shoot and hunt with your bow.
Using a bow and arrow to take the game is hard for a reason. However, you owe it to the game you’re chasing to be as lethal as possible. That includes taking ample time to sharpen your skills and excel at hunting with your bow.
A good quality release aid can go a long way. It can help with your accuracy once you’re out there on the field so hit your mark when it counts. Look for a decent quality archery tackle, get on the field and use it!
Stick with Your Gear
When you change gear, it tends to let you feel that you don’t know what you’re doing. Especially with archery equipment, you get very used to your setup and when you upgrade you feel like you wasted your hard-earned money.
The answer here is to experiment with one feature at a time and use it enough to make a good decision on whether you like it. Archery shooting is a skill, not a taste, that takes time to develop. Just learn to love the gear you currently hate.