How to Choose an Archery Release

Take aim with confidence this bowhunting season using these tips to find the best bow release for you.

November 12, 2018

Before the arrow hits the bullseye, every archer depends on a clean release to get that perfect arrow flight. This is especially true for bowhunters trying to place their kill shot on target without being noticed. To get those consistent and stable flight results, many bowhunters turn to using mechanical bow releases for help.

As an advancement in bow technology, mechanical releases eliminate the need to draw your compound bow back with your fingers as you would a traditional recurve or longbow. Release aids can lessen the chances of string torque, which can alter your arrow’s flight path. In addition, archery releases can also help with developing shooting consistency, as well as aid in building bowhunting confidence.

There are a number of different styles available to archers when it comes to release aids. Each has positive qualities that perform best in certain situations, as well as specific characteristics that are popular among one crowd or another. Use these bowhunting Pro Tips to help decide which style is right for your needs this season.

The varying bow release styles include index finger releases, thumb releases and back tension releases. Finger tabs and gloves can also be used when shooting a compound bow. These release aids are more popular among shooters who prefer recurve and traditional longbow models.


As the name suggests, this style of archery release is activated with your index finger via a trigger mechanism. The release head is attached to a wrist wrap, meaning it is always connected to your profile; there’s no way to drop your release in the field. In addition, the trigger-style release can help you feel more in control of the shot. The release aid will not allow an arrow to be fired until you activate the trigger. While the general makeup of index finger releases is pretty universal, there is some room for personalization.

Archers have the option of a hook-and-loop or buckle fastening wrist wrap system. While the hook-and-loop style is more adjustable, a buckle strap can be quieter and provide a more consistent fit for bowhunters. Ultimately, it comes down to personal comfort and appeal.

In addition, the connection between wrist and release head can be a solid, adjustable component or a loose, nylon material. Both can perform equally well, but a nylon connector might be slightly more adjustable than its rigid counterpart. Also, nylon connectors can be easily tucked back and away in non-shooting situations, freeing up your hands. Some solid connectors can also be folded back toward your forearm for out-of-sight storage. Keep in mind that not all releases showcase this feature however.

Lastly, index finger releases can differ by head style. To latch onto your string and draw back an arrow, your release may feature a single caliper (one moving clip), dual caliper (two moving clips) or a hook-style head. Deciding which head style is best is up to you, although it should be noted that hook-style release heads should not be used solely on the serving. A D-Loop must be installed for this release head style in order to work correctly and effectively.


Similar in fashion to an index finger release, a thumb release also utilizes a trigger mechanism. As the name suggests, though, your thumb activates this release; not your index finger. This style of archery release aid is predominantly handheld, although some can be equipped with a wrist wrap for more secure transport from hunting spot to hunting spot.

Thumb releases can also feature a single caliper, dual caliper or hook-style release head, giving you a little bit of room for personalization. Remember, hook-style heads need a D-Loop installed on your compound bow’s serving in order to work correctly.

Because of their handheld design and shot control, thumb releases are popular in both the bowhunting and target archery circles.


As the go-to choice for many target archery shooters, back tension releases don’t rely on a trigger release mechanism to let arrows fly. Rather, back tension releases are activated by a hinge mechanism that is tripped after reaching full draw. This can lead to more “surprise shooting,” meaning shooters aren’t punching the trigger and pulling focus from target to release. Once understood, a back tension release can become a positive influence on your accuracy.

Back tension releases are handheld and require solid attention to the drawing cycle. Once you’ve reached full draw, you should take aim and hold on target. To release your arrow, your release head must be rotated past the point of friction, allowing the string to slide off the hook. This can be done in a few ways, including increasing back tension through squeezing your shoulders blades or relaxing your hand as it rotates, as if the release is slipping through your fingers.

Because of the less-predictable firing method, some back tension releases can include a clicking mechanism that signals right before releasing. This alerts the shooter that the bow is close to going off.

Although “surprise shooting” can help accuracy over time, back tension releases aren’t as popular with bowhunters because the window of opportunity is just too small when trying to take down game. You don’t want to hold and track a target, only to have your release activate at the most inopportune time. Still, the benefits of shooting with a back tension release can be used by hunters in training sessions.


This style of archery release aid is far more tailored to recurve and traditional archery shooters. Rather than mechanical, these releases use your fingers to draw back your bow and serve as a safety barrier between string and skin. They are essentially there to protect your fingertips from abrasion. Tabs allow you to either draw with one finger above the nock and two below, or all three drawing fingers below the nocked arrow. Finger tabs can be constructed from a number of materials, including plastic and leather.

In addition to finger tabs, shooting gloves are also available to traditional bowhunters. Rather than a tab of material, gloves are worn all day, giving the same perks as a wrist-wrapped index finger release. Again, these release aids are better suited for the slower recurve or traditional longbows as opposed to compound bows.


Now that you understand the characteristics of each archery release aid, you can get an idea of which style is right for you. Be sure to choose a release that will fit comfortably in your hand or around your wrist.

In addition to comfort, make sure that your archery release aid is adjustable enough to your liking. You don’t want to purchase hunting gear that cannot be fine-tuned to match your personal drawing cycle.

If you are still unsure about which bow release is right for you, take a visit to your local archery PROS at DICK’S Sporting Goods. They should be able to put physical examples of each bow release style in your hands so that you can get a feel for how each differs.

The right archery release can help with increased accuracy and a smoother drawing cycle. Latch on to this valuable piece of bowhunting equipment with these helpful guidelines and good luck on your next shot.