A release aid is a personal thing. And we’ve personally tested a ton of them, whether it’s at the archery range, or crawling on hands and knees through the desert after a cagey buck.
Finding the right release aid for bowhunting is something we truly believe can mean the difference in filling your tag or not. They need to feel good in the hand, be durable, dependable, and easy to use.
With that said, there is a mountain of available release aids out there coming in at all different price ranges and styles. In order to help cull the fat, we at Gear Junkie have narrowed down our top picks for release aids in bowhunting for 2023. Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys and at the end of our list, be sure to check out our buyer’s guide, FAQ, and comparison chart.
The Best Archery Release Aids of 2023
- Best Overall Release Aid: Spot Hogg Wise Guy
- Best Budget Release Aid: Tru-Fire Smoke Buckle Foldback
- Best Index Release: Carter Like Mike II
- Best Thumb Release: Stan Onnex
- Best Hinge Release: Ultraview Hinge 2
- Style Index release
- Engagement Adjustable light trigger/no travel
- Attachment point Self-reloading open hook
- Easy to use
- An ocean of positive reviews
- Multiple wrist strap styles available (Buckle, BOA, Keep Hammering, etc.)
- The light trigger can sometimes be too light, causing misfires and even can lead to target panic
- Easy to use
- Folds back when not in use
- Barrel is limited to how short it can get and is rather long to start. This will keep many from achieving a full hook over the trigger.
- The rear trigger and web connect allows for a full hook with an index finger
- Simple but effective adjustments
- Wide range of trigger tensions
- Crisp trigger
- Has a practice mode
- Very adjustable
- This trigger can be set so hot that it might prematurely fire.
- Quick D-loop acquisition
- Dual moon system
- The magnetic hook doesn’t rattle
- Expensive – The price will make many folks shy away
- Great price point
- Auto hook return
- Offered in both flex (web) and swivel (post) versions
- In order to adjust trigger tension, you need to actually change a spring out, as opposed to slowly adjusting a screw.
- Style Index/handheld hybrid
- Engagement Trigger
- Attachment point Single hook with full containment
- Combines index and handheld pros
- Draw more weight easier and hold at full draw longer
- Good for folks with pre-existing injuries and to help avoid injury overall
- Design can take some getting used to for operation
- Style Handheld thumb with wrist strap
- Engagement Thumb button
- Attachment point Open single caliper (closes manually)
- Combines security of wrist strap with the precision of a thumb release
- Ergonomic handle
- Has 3- and 4-finger extensions
- Manually closing the caliper takes some getting used to
- A favorite among bowhunters
- Can leave hanging on D-loop
- Optional lanyard
Archery Release Aids Comparison Chart
|Spot Hogg Wiseguy||$145-$180||Index release||Adjustable light trigger/no travel||Self-reloading open hook|
|Tru-Fire Smoke Buckle Foldback||$60||Index release||Adjustable forward trigger||Dual caliper|
|Carter Like Mike II||$200||Index||Rearward trigger||Open hook|
|Stan Onnex||$280-$300||Handheld thumb release||Thumb button||Hook with loop retainer|
|Ultraview Hinge 2||$250||Handheld hinge||Rotation of a half moon||Open magnetic hook|
|B3 Archery Hawk||$118||Index||Forward trigger||Open hook|
|Ultraview UV Button||$350||Handheld||Thumb button||Hook with springed D-loop retainment system|
|Spot Hogg Keeton||$115||Index/handheld hybrid||Trigger||Single hook with full containment|
|Scott Archery Pursuit||$170||Handheld thumb with wrist strap||Thumb button||Open single caliper (closes manually)|
|Carter Wise Choice||$230||Handheld thumb||Thumb button||Fully closed jaw once cocked|
Why You Should Trust Us
There isn’t one day. Not one day goes by without me doing something bowhunting related. It’s one of my ultimate passions and that passion flows through my veins stronger and stronger with each passing year.
Bowhunting is quite literally a game of inches. A whole lot has to go right in order for success to materialize. Which means there is even more that can go wrong. Release aids are not something I mess around with in the least. They need to be on point, because I need to be on point. In that regard, I’ve tried a ton of releases, and am always looking for the next best one.
In order to come up with this list, I took into consideration durability, dependability, ease of use, and practicality. Some of these releases have been shot over and over again for years dragged through all manner of weather getting thrown every which way from Sunday. Along with that, I notated a wide range of price points, consulted other experts in my circle, and also analyzed market demand.
A bad release can blow up a hunt. And for me, that’s just not an option. It shouldn’t be one for you either.
Buyers Guide: How to Choose the Best Archery Release
Handheld vs. Index Release
Going through our list, you’ll notice that there are several options for both handheld and index-style release aids. So, on top of just finding the right release for you, this poses yet another question. Should you snag a handheld release or an index-style release?
Both releases are tried and true, but they indeed each have their own pros and cons. Here is a breakdown of each to get you set on the right track
Index-Style Release Aid
Index-style release aids are by a long shot the most popular option among bowhunters. If you’re familiar with firing a gun at all, even a toy gun, this will be a pretty seamless transition. Operating this trigger system is nearly identical to that of a trigger on a gun.
These releases attach to your wrist via a buckled or Velcro strap. A very handy feature for field use and one that will make sure your release is always ready. The chances of losing one of these are very slim because of this. Along with that, they are incredibly easy to use.
As I mentioned above, it’s virtually the same as the trigger on a gun. Pull the bow back, aim, and pull the trigger. That’s all she wrote. All of this makes these a fantastic option, especially for beginner bowhunters. There are also plenty of seasoned pros who prefer the simplicity of this type of release.
The biggest downside of an index-style release is that they are notorious for instilling target panic in folks. Because they are so easy to use, most don’t actually learn the proper way to use them. Why learn when it’s the same as a gun, right? It’s very similar mentally, but not the same in terms of technique.
Without direction and proper technique, bad habits can form, and boom goes the dynamite. You’ve got the panic. It’s best to try and stay on top of this before it’s an issue.
Handheld Release Aid
On the other side, we have the handheld release. As far as what they are, the name really says it all. These are going to be either thumb buttons, hinges, or resistance releases.
Each one of them operates a little differently, but they are all known for their incredible accuracy. Mostly prevalent in the target world, these have been growing in popularity quite a bit for bowhunting over the last few years.
One of the biggest ups I can personally give handheld releases is their ability to combat the target panic that we mentioned above. This is why I personally believe most bowhunters will naturally end up trying one out. They are a fantastic tool for reshaping the mind and battling the mental demon that is target panic.
Along with this, they each cater much more to achieving a surprise shot, which usually translates into more consistent accuracy. This is why they are favored among target archers. And with thumb button releases in particular — depending on the design — hunters can actually attach their release to their D-loop and just let it hang there at the ready. A convenient setup.
Just like anything, though, handhelds have their shortcomings. Handhelds are much easier to lose, as most models are not attached to your wrist. Because of how pricey these can be, that’s a hard pill to swallow and a lucky day for anyone who finds the release you dropped.
And with them not attached to your wrist, if it’s not already attached to your D-loop, there is the possibility of fumbling around looking for your release in the heat of the moment. There’s a smidge more thinking involved with a handheld. Either way, a little practice will be in order.
So, Which One Is Better?
As far as which one is better, that really is going to depend on you, your style of hunting, and your goals. Treestand hunters might prefer those thumb-button handhelds more because they can attach the release and let it hang until ready to shoot.
Spot and stalk hunters might prefer an index style, so they don’t have to worry about where their release is as they crawl through the sagebrush toward that bedded buck. The answer rests in the beholder.
My best advice here is to go try them all out and go with the option that feels the best for you. Most bow shops have various archery releases that you can try on-site, so it never hurts to ask.
We’re all different, and we need to remember that. Sure, there is give and take on each end, but you are the one who decides what you want to give and take. Form your own opinions and hunt the way you want to hunt.
You should use the one you feel the most comfortable using and what you’re most accurate with. We stand by our top pick of the Spot Hogg Wiseguy here.
We really like thumb button releases for treestand hunting like the Stanislawski OnneX because you can attach the release to the d-loop and let it hang at the ready.
Speaking about index style releases, your release aid should be short enough that you can fully wrap your index finger around the trigger at full draw.
Technically you don’t need a release for your bow and you can shoot with fingers. However, using a release will make for a more consistent and repeatable release arrow after arrow.
Ultimately you should use the release you feel most comfortable with, but a wrist strap index-style release is definitely more practical for bowhunting. This is due to the fact that it’s attached to your wrist at all times, so no losing it in the field. Along with the ability to command shoot if need be. Not to forget, these are generally the easiest to use. All releases work, but there is a reason the index style is the most widely used for bowhunting.