When I was looking into what archery gear I needed to get started in archery, one item that kept popping up was something called a clicker. The best answer I got from a friend of mine that used one was that it helped him shoot better as he didn’t have to think about his release. That wasn’t much for me to go on, so I decided to do my own research to see if a clicker is something I needed to start archery, something I could look at getting later or something I might never use.
An archery clicker is a device that is typically used with a recurve bow that makes an audible click when the bow is drawn to the proper draw point. This also sends a subtle vibration through the riser or one of the limbs to give you tactile feedback when going through your archery form. This allows you to focus on aiming at the target and not worry about when you should release the arrow, which helps create something known as a surprise release. So is this something you should get when starting off, or is it only something that you would benefit from after you have been shooting for a while?
How do clickers work?
The basic concept of the clicker is to attach a device to the bow on the riser or one of the limbs that clicks and creates a vibration when the bow is drawn to a certain point. With clickers that attach to the riser, the clicker is mounted to the riser and a metal tab is placed over the arrow. When the bow is drawn and the arrow passes the edge of the metal tab, it is released and strikes the plate on the riser. The second type is one that attaches to one of the limbs - usually the upper limb - that uses a string to attach the clicker to the string to the string of the bow. When the bow is drawn and the clicker string is pulled to the draw point it produces a click and you should feel the vibration in your string hand. Though these devices are pretty simple, they can have a big impact on your form.
How a clicker can help you improve
Archery is all about repetition. It’s something you need to practice with consistency to build the correct muscle memory when you develop your form. There are many mental checks to go through during the draw cycle, and using a clicker can help remove one of those things to allow you to focus on the rest of your form. The clicker can help make the release of the arrow mindless by training yourself to release the arrow once you hear or feel the click. Alerting you when your bow is drawn to the right point as your string touches your anchor will help ensure that your archery cycle is consistent with each shot. The importance of the clicker is significant enough that a large number of professional archers use them.
I was watching some replays of the 2016 Olympics and the world archery championship, and I noticed that nearly everyone was using a clicker. With such a prevalent usage at the professional level, you would be hard-pressed to find a better argument for using a clicker. But is it something that a beginner should spend their money on if they're just getting started?
Clickers for Beginners
The short answer is no, they are not necessarily essential. However, they are fairly inexpensive, so if you have enough room in your budget, they would be a good investment. Early in your training, they can be particularly useful to make sure you develop a consistent draw when you reach your anchor point and train yourself to have an automatic, triggered release.
Why they can help
The first time I ever shot a bow, I was at a range using a Groupon with my wife to shoot a loaner takedown recurve bow. As I shot, my arrows landed all over the place. I tried to analyze each shot and try to fix what I thought was wrong only to have my next arrow land in a completely different place. There were so many variables for me to keep track of that I wasn't able to peg down what was wrong with my form to make my next shot more accurate, and I got frustrated with the experience. I found out later that one of the things I was doing wrong was overdrawing the bow (which you can read about in my article on archery stacking), but simply having an inconsistent form from shot to shot was my biggest problem.
Using a clicker wouldn’t have solved all my problems, but it would have been a big help to make sure that I was pulling my bow to its proper draw point on every shot. If you draw to your anchor point before your clicker goes off, you've probably changed something in your form. This provides quick and immediate feedback so you can reset your form. As I said before, repetition is key to develop good archery form. Spending time at the range practicing your form will help you improve regardless of if you’re using a clicker or not. That being said, there are times when you probably shouldn’t use a clicker.
When you should not use a clicker
First and foremost - and this one is probably obvious - if you use a clicker and it negatively impacts your form, you probably shouldn’t use one. The key to a good release is to relax and not tense up in anticipation of releasing the arrow. A clicker is designed to help you relax and not have to think about the release, but if you find yourself tensing up and anticipating the click, it might be a good idea to take it off.
That being said, a friend of mine - the one from earlier - thought he was in this camp. He had bought a clicker and tried it out, but didn’t like the way that it affected his shot. He said that he was anticipating the click too much, and he found it difficult to focus on the other areas of his form. After shelving it for nearly a year, he pulled it back out and dedicated himself to use it for a solid three months to see if it would help his form. After he got used to the click, the release became an automatic response and he was able to focus more on the other areas of his form. He was so impressed with how it helped his form that he doesn’t shoot without one anymore.
Another time you may not want to use a clicker if you use your bow to hunt. Bow hunting is typically performed in close range - about 40 yards or so, though there are some that now hunt in the 60+ yard range, thanks to new bow technology. As with other sounds - such as stepping on a twig - it may alert your prey just enough that it bolts as you release the arrow. This may not be enough to significantly impact your ability to hunt, but it can have marginal effects on your ability to get a kill shot.
If you’re using a clicker when hunting, you’re probably using the variation that attaches to the limb as it will allow you to use different arrows depending on what you’re shooting without having to reconfigure the clicker. There are ways that you can modify the clicker - such as wrapping it with tape - that can dampen the noise and allow you to feel the vibration without alerting your prey. So if you like the idea of using a clicker, you can use one with a little creativity.
An archery clicker is a device that you attach to the bow that alerts you when you should release the arrow. The clicker is designed to do two things: alert you when you’ve hit your draw point and alert you when you should release the arrow. Although clickers aren’t necessary to get started with archery, they can help make sure you develop better form. There are some people that won’t find a clicker useful, but I would encourage you to give one an honest try to see if you like the way it helps you perform.
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