PODCAST: Dan and Emily McCarthy

Podcast Dan and Emily

Dan and Emily McCarthy are one of 3-D archery’s power couples. Both shoot for Mathews, and both are usually in the mix at any tournament they enter.



The 2017 season was especially good for Dan, who won the IBO World Championship and finished second in both the ASA Shooter of the Year and IBO National Triple Crown races.

We sat down with the McCarthys during the 2017 Organization of Professional Archery (OPA) tournament in southwest Pennsylvania to talk about – among other topics – what it’s like to be a married couple in the world of professional, competitive archery.

In this podcast, you will learn:

  • How the McCarthys push each other in training.
  • Why Dan insists on driving a Toyota Prius to tournaments.
  • How archery quenches Emily’s thirst for competition.
  • What it means to both of them to be held up as role models for up-and-coming archers.
  • How Emily decided to make archery her career.

EMILY: I actually saw a poster of Dan McCarthy on the wall of the archery shop, and that’s when I discovered there were professional archers.

DAN (leaning in to microphone): Boom.

(RELATED CONTENT: Dan McCarthy on using a thumb button release and Dan talks about building killer 3-D arrows.)

Dan McCarthy on Social Media




Emily McCarthy on Social Media




Dan McCarthy on target archery with a thumb-button release

There are lots of thumb-button – or thumb-trigger – releases on the target lines these days.

After hinge-style releases, thumb buttons arguably are the second-most popular among indoor target archers.

Thumb-button releases have jaws or a hook that capture the bowstring for drawing. A trigger that’s activated by the thumb opens the jaws or releases the hook and the bowstring shoots forward.

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It’s a favored release because it can be activated in a surprise manner like a hinge release, yet it allows the archer to maintain control of when the string is released.

How is that possible?

Well, two of the most popular ways target archers activate thumb buttons involve no movement by the thumb.

They will rest at least part of the thumb on the front of the trigger at anchor, and then pull back with their whole arm, which naturally pulls the button into the thumb, which trips the trigger.

Or they will rest the thumb on the front of the trigger and relax the other fingers in the hand holding the release. That causes the release to move forward, shoving the trigger into the thumb, which trips it.

Other archers employ a combination of both techniques, but all result in surprise releases because the archer isn’t simply depressing the thumb, like you’d squeeze the trigger on a gun, to activate the release.

As for controlling when to shoot, let’s say a wind gust kicks up and an archer at full draw wants to wait for calm air. He or she can simply take the thumb off the button, and the release can’t be activated.

Mathews pro Dan McCarthy is well known for being one of the best in the 3D game, slaying 12 rings on the ASA and IBO circuits for the past two decades.

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But he’s also a highly accomplished indoor target archer as well. At the 2017 Lancaster Archery Classic, McCarthy came out of qualifications in the Men’s Open Pro Division as the No. 4 seed, after shooting an incredible score of 657 out of a perfect 660.

He then shot his way through the elimination brackets to be among the top eight archers to advance to the finals, where he finished in seventh place.

Here’s McCarthy’s take on thumb-button releases.

LAS:  Which release do you use?

DM: TRU Ball Absolute 360


LAS:  Do you prefer 3-finger or 4? Why?

DM: I prefer a 3-finger. It’s just personal preference to me, but I like to allow my pinky to relax behind the handle of the release while at full draw.

LAS:  How do you activate your release? (Back tension, relaxation, etc.)

DM: I shoot mine through a combination of relaxation in my forearm, wrist, and hand—while simultaneously applying tension with my back. (Applying tension in the back squeezes the shoulder blade toward one another, which causes the release arm to move away from the string.)

LAS: How do you avoid “punching” your release?

DM: I made my mind up that punching isn’t an option. I decided that I’d rather take a zero for running out of time or miss the bullseye than punch my trigger. Once you commit to that, you’ll never even consider punching anymore.

LAS: Do you set your trigger heavy or light? Why?

DM: I set mine around 2 pounds. It’s fairly light, considering how heavy you can adjust most thumb buttons. I’ve found that heavier triggers cause me slightly more anxiety, and I often have to preload the trigger with my thumb – which I’d prefer to never do – in order to get them to fire. (Preloading involves applying more pressure than normal to the trigger.)

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LAS: How do you anchor?

DM: I usually anchor with my knuckles on the back of my jaw bone, then I roll my hand up toward my ear until I feel my hand by my ring finger barely touch my ear.

LAS: What’s the most common mistake you see archers making with a thumb button?

DM: Punching the release. Many people punch the release, which may be good for one or two bull’s-eyes. However, in the long run, punching will cause anxiety and ultimately target panic.

Also, rolling the release like it’s a back tension- hinge style release. Many people fire a button like this, but I’ve found that I get too many left and rights with this technique. I try to pull as evenly as possible on all 3 fingers, and stay as relaxed as possible while slowly feeling pressure building on my thumb.

LAS: Why do you choose a thumb button over other types of releases?

DM: On level ground or indoors, I don’t feel like there’s any major advantages to thumb button releases. However, I do feel like I have better control of the shot during certain circumstances like wind, extreme uphill or downhill shots or extreme side-hill shots.


Dan McCarthy’s guide to killer 3D archery arrows

For more than a decade, pro archer Dan McCarthy has been working his way onto podiums at 3D archery tournaments.

He knows what it takes to succeed at the game’s highest level.

Not surprisingly, McCarthy is meticulous about setting up all his equipment. But when it comes to his arrows, he is especially particular. And he builds his arrows with a single purpose.


“Accuracy is the most important factor, PERIOD, for any tournament shooting,” McCarthy said.

Let’s find out what McCarthy has to say about building tack-driving, 3D arrows.

LAS: What is your bow and arrow setup for the 2016 3D season?

DM: I have two bows that I’ll be using this 3D season – a Mathews Halon-X and a Mathews Chill-X. Both bows will be equipped with Axcel Achieve sights with Feather Vision 4x lenses; AAE Pro Blade Rests, AAE Hot Rodz stabilizers, my signature-series PS23 arrows by Black Eagle Arrows, High Demand Archery Grips, and I’ll be shooting a T.R.U. Ball Absolute 360 release with both bows.


LAS: What is your draw length and weight, and what is your arrow speed.

DM: My draw is 27.25 inches. I usually pull around 73 pounds. My arrows weigh approximately 370 grains, and my bows are shooting 293 feet per second.

LAS: What is it you look for in a 3D arrow?

DM: Accuracy is the most important factor, PERIOD, for any tournament shooting. Other less important, but still influential factors, include the arrow’s weight. I need to get that arrow up to speeds around 290 fps. So the arrow must be light enough to achieve those speeds. It must also be heavy enough to not exceed the 298 fps limit enforced by the tournament organization. Also important is arrow diameter. I choose the largest diameter arrow that I can shoot accurately without going so large that wind and minor form and shot execution flaws hinder my accuracy and score.

LAS: Describe your whole 3D arrow for this season.

DM: My Signature Series PS23 arrow by Black Eagle is a 23/64-inch outside diameter shaft, and I shoot a .350 spine. The shafts weigh approximately 7.9 grains per inch. My arrows are 26 inches long, they’re fletched with Flex Fletch Silent Knight Vanes, and fitted with a standard .245-inch bushing and nock, and a 120-grain point.




LAS: What’s a common mistake you see archers make in choosing a 3D arrow?

DM: Thinking that they need to use as large an arrow as possible to “cut lines.” Large diameter arrows, by simple theory, should cut more lines. However, an archer that has the tiniest form flaw or shot execution flaw, will generally lose more in minute of angle accuracy (MOA) than what they will gain from using the larger arrow.

The smaller an arrow is, the more accurate that arrow will be. Small arrows are affected less by outside factors like wind, rain, or the archer’s form and execution flaws. The best solution is choosing an arrow in the middle that’s not huge and not tiny.

LAS: When you are on a course, do you shoot one arrow over and over? Or do you rotate arrows?

DM: I always shoot one particular arrow, over and over, until it gets damaged. I number my arrows, and I start with the arrow that is numbered “1.” I only will switch to the arrow numbered “2” when No. 1 becomes damaged or compromised.



LAS: When you get to a shoot-down, how many arrows will you pick to compete with? Do you mark them in any special way to shoot in any special order? If so, why?

DM: I choose 5 arrows for my shoot-down because there’s 5 targets to shoot in the shoot down. I don’t mark them special for the shoot down; they’re already marked and numbered as I mentioned above. I don’t shoot them in a special order. Every arrow, that I bring with me to a tournament, is an arrow I’ve already tested and I’ve made sure, at home before the tournament, that it will hit behind my bow’s sight pin–if I do my job correctly.

LAS: Do you put fletchings on your arrows straight, simple offset or helical?

Fletchings can be glued to an arrow shaft in several configurations. They can be placed to run straight up and down the shaft; they can have the point end offset from the nock end to encourage the arrow to spin; or they can be curled around the fletch in a helical fashion, which is the most conducive for causing arrow spin. The flight of a spinning arrow is more stable than one that doesn’t spin.

DM: I fletch using a simple offset. I use a straight clamp and about a 1-degree offset. My reason for choosing this is to minimize the likelihood of vane contact on my rest. Generally, the more offset you use, or the stronger the helical you use, the more common it is to get fletching contact on your rest. In short, vane contact will hurt your accuracy more than strong helical fletching will help it.


LAS: Why do you use the fletchings you use?

DM: I’ve used, tested and compared all different kinds and brands of fletchings. I sound like a broken record, but the reason I use a certain vane on a certain arrow is because of ACCURACY! The Flex Fletch Silent Knight vane works incredibly well on my PS23 arrow.  The AAE Pro Max vane is also an accurate vane choice for the PS23 arrow.

LAS: Why do you use the nock system you use?

DM: I always use the heaviest-duty nock system I can – that the diameter arrow I’m using will allow. The plastic nock is the weakest link of the fully-built arrow. Choosing the strongest, most heavy-duty nock helps with accuracy. If your nocks get hit by other competitors’ arrows, the stronger nocks won’t bend as easily as smaller/thinner/weaker nocks. Arrow accuracy suffers if the nock gets hit and bends.

LAS: Why do you use the points you use?

DM: Accuracy. I shoot all different weight points. The 120-grain points shoot the best for me, and I’ll choose accuracy over speed, shape, or any other point characteristic – ALWAYS!

Follow Dan McCarthy on Facebook for more archery advice and answers.

And here’s a look at how you can custom order arrows from LAS by calling us at 800-829-7408.