I felt gutted by a one armed, blind, angry, drunk chimp. Stupefied. I gazed glassy-yed and horrified at the huge, trophy whitetail buck walking off into the swampgrass sunset, both of my white arrows sticking harmlessly in the mud below. I hung my head and nearly wept. After a lifetime of pursuing his majesty the whitetail deer with bow and arrow, and having cleanly killed hundreds upon hundreds, how in God's good name could I have missed a two foot tall chest at 14 yards, broadside? And then again at twenty? I could hear Chris Farley screaming, "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!" I was wounded. And painfully, this was not the first big buck I had blown a gimme shot on in the past few weeks. This season had brought about the most nerve rattling, mentally frustrating, dumbfounding archery hunting experiences of my life. Worse than 1977.
Luckily, the great Fred Bear had helped me back then, as I hopelessly flung worthless arrow after worthless arrow from my Bear recurve bow, flinching, freezing, missing everything I shot at. Fred told me I had target panic. Until this malady struck, I was a bad MoFo Robin Hood with the bow and arrow. I had shot naturally since I was a small child, and was rather cocky about my accuracy, even under extreme conditions. Squirrels running along powerlines or hugging stratospheric oaktop limbs, I almost never missed with my Osage longbow and cedar arrows. It was wonderful. Then the mind kicked in at the tender age of 28, and blew the whole shootin match. Once asked what he thought about when he stood in the batter's box before the pitch, the great Babe Ruth said, "Hell, if I tried to think, I couldn't hit the damn ball!" Aha! Don't confuse simple function with superfluous mindgames. Zen. Mind over matter. Second nature. Subconsciousness. The physics of spirituality. Nike got it right. Just do it!
Seeking help and guidance from the masters, all the above was recommended as I desperately fought to overcome my horrible problem. One morning on a major radioshow here in central Michigan, home of more bowhunters than anywhere in the world, in the course of an interview, I told of missing a nice deer the evening before because of my target panic. Immediately, phone and fax lines at our TNUSA Tedquarters lit up with people who were experiencing the same affliction, but didn't know what it was. Many expressed relief that the ol WhackMaster Nuge had the same jinx, and vowed to pick up their bows again and get crackin with renewed hope. Amen and pass the arrows.
If that was the response to an isolated, off the cuff comment on one radioshow, coupled with the conversations I have had with the hundreds of bowhunters I guide each year, I am convinced that we may be looking at the number one cause of attrition in the archery and bowhunting sport and industry. I am here to tell you, that it is so painfully exasperating, that it turns many, many people off from ever flinging an arrow again. It is that bad.
Consulting with top bowhunters Myles Keller, Bob Foulkrod, Dick Mauch, Claude Pollington and others, plus the expert guidance of the National Field Archery Association's specialist, Bernie Pellerite, I again began the tortuous mental journey to remedy my target panic. Basically, target panic is a psychological dilemma, if not outright disease, that causes an archer to freeze off target or flinch violently upon release of the arrow, causing terrible off target misses, and worse, much worse, wounded game. And it has a tendency to feed off itself.
I was shocked to hear, those many years ago, that the greatest bowhunter of alltimes, our hero, Fred Bear, had gone through a horrible case of target panic. Knowing this master had dealt with it, I was encouraged. He had told me how he had at one time decided to give up his beloved sport because he had it so bad. That's scary.
Back then, Fred, and just recently, Bernie Pellerite, outlined a simple, yet specific, regimen of shot preparation and procedure to practice. There is no real cure for this condition, really, but there is hope and a proven treatment that has brought back optimum backstrapdom to the Nugent dinner table. DO NOT GIVE UP! Here's what you do;
Do not abandon that ever mystical flight of our awe inspiring arrow, my friends. Snatch that bow outta the closet, back down the draw weight, and begin over again with a new, upgraded projectile management discipline. We must tattoo our psyche with the correct shot procedure to the point where it all comes second nature, even in the wild outback when the beast is in our face, dancing on our raw nerve endings. Control will happen only when we train ourselves to follow a distinct sequence of intelligent, effective steps, in every instance of our arrow flinging lives.
Bernie Pellerite has produced a series of great videos that deal specifically with this target panic hell. Combined with his laser sighted training device, it has changed archers lives across the land. Our TNUSA Lifer, Joe Church, was nearly target panicked to death. With Bernie's program, he went on to win the 1999 IBO competition and is the best shot he has ever been. You can get Bernie's tapes and whole package by calling 614-933-0011. I highly recommend it.
I leave you with these words of confidence; "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen." Backstraps R us. Go git em!