7 Steps to Bow Tuning – Part 2
Posted on June 21, 2013
Step #5: Fine-Tune Arrow Flight
This can be accomplished a number of ways, but here are two favored methods: paper tuning and walk-back tuning. Some archers may prefer one method to the other, but it certainly won’t hurt to use a combination of both.
Paper Tuning: This is accomplished by firing an arrow through a tightly stretched piece of thin paper. Most pro shops will have a paper-tuning rack you can use, but if not, you can easily make your own. An empty picture frame or even a cardboard box with the bottom cut out and the paper pulled over it will suffice. You want to shoot through the paper at shoulder height. I like to do this at about 6 feet and again at about 20 to 25 feet. Your objective here is to get a clean bullet hole through the paper. This means that the arrow is coming out of the bow perfectly straight. If you are getting tears in the paper, some rest tuning may be necessary. Make your rest adjustments 1/32-inch at a time and correct any up or down tears first before adjusting for a right or left tear.
If you are getting a nock-low tear you need to raise the nocking point to resolve it. This is easily accomplished by lowering the rest. Do so until the tear is level. If you are getting a nock-high tear you will need to lower the nocking point or raise the rest. If you have a nock-right tear, the arrow rest is too close to the bow and you will need to move it out, or to the left- for a right-handed shooter. If you have a nock-left tear, the rest is too far out and you would need to move it in to the right. This is assuming you use a mechanical release. Again, make tiny adjustments at a time. The horizontal adjustments would be opposite for a left-handed shooter.
Some archers are real sticklers for paper tuning. They have to have an absolutely clean bullet hole. This is often very difficult to achieve; don’t get frustrated if you can’t get it perfect. Slight variations in form, such as a bit of torque in the grip or a less-than-ideal release can make for irregular tears in the paper. Don’t fret too much. Some bows may even shoot better with a bit of a tear. Good arrow flight is still achievable, but for now, get it as close to a clean hole as you can. The next step should correct any remaining imperfections. If you easily get a nice, clean hole you may elect to skip the following exercise.
Walk-Back Tuning: This can be accomplished at your local archery range. You will need your own bale or block-style target. Run a strip of black electrician’s tape vertically down the center of the target. You may need to cover the target with paper or something so that the tape is easily visible. Make sure that the tape is perfectly vertical. Use a plumb bob or level if you need to. Mark an aiming point near the top of the target on the tape. A sticker or piece of masking tape works well.
You may want to first shoot a few arrows at 10 yards and adjust your sight to get you on target. This will ensure that you hit the bale before you start the following steps:
Start at 20 yards and fire a group of arrows. Then, move back to 30 yards. While still using your top pin and the same aiming point on the target, fire another group of arrows. They will obviously be lower than the first group. Step back to 40 yards and repeat, still using your top pin and the same aiming point. You can continue on to 50 and 60 yards as long as you are sure that you can keep tight groups. After shooting all yardages, you want to make sure that the groups are stacked below each other in a perfectly vertical line.
Use the tape for reference. If the 30- and 40- yard groups tend to trend off to the right at greater distances, you need to move your rest to the left. If your longer-distance groups trend off to the left, you need to move your rest to the right. Make adjustments and repeat until the groups are neatly stacked under each other in a vertical pattern. This will verify that your center shot is correct and that the arrows are now coming out of the bow and through the rest in a straight line. We are almost ready to hunt.
Step #6: Broadhead Shooting and Tuning
We have arrived at the final step to tuning for the bowhunter. Now that we know the arrows are coming out of the bow straight, it’s time to shoot broadheads. Use your favorite fixed-blade head in the same weight as your field points. Screw it onto a fresh arrow and make sure that it spins true. Put the tip on a flat, hard surface and spin the arrow. Make sure that there is no wobble.
Pay close attention to the broadhead and the nock end of the arrow. Discard or mix and match arrows and heads until your quiver is loaded with combinations that spin true. No arrow will fly well with a broadhead that is bent or unbalanced. Squaring the end of your arrow and insert with G5’s ASD tool will help achieve a wobble free spin.
Shoot a few broadhead-tipped arrows into your target at 20 yards. Do not pull the arrows. Then shoot a group of field tipped arrows into the target. If your form is correct, and if you have done a good job with all the previous steps, you may find that the different types of heads will group together, or at least very close.
If the broadheads are grouping above your field tips, raise the nocking point or lower the rest. If the broadheads group below the field points, lower the nocking point or raise the rest. If the broadheads are grouping right of the field points, move the rest to the left, out away from the bow. If the broadheads group to the left of the field points, move the rest in towards the bow or to the right. Again, this is for a right-handed shooter. Lefties will need to make the opposite adjustments. Do not move the sight yet!
Make these adjustments 1/32-inch at a time. You do not care where on the target the arrows hit, you just need to make note of where the broadheads hit in relation to the field points. Because fixed-blade broadheads have a planing surface at the tip of the arrow, they will be much more sensitive to rest adjustments than field-tipped arrows will be. As you move the rest, both groups will move but the broadhead groups will move more than the field points. Eventually they will catch up and the broadheads will impact the target together with the field points. Voila! They are now grouping the same.
Step #7: Adjust Sight
Move back to 30- and 40-plus yards and repeat. When you have the broadheads hitting together with the field points at all ranges you are almost done. Congratulations! You now have a bow that is properly tuned for the bowhunter. There is just one last step. Finally, and not until now, you should adjust your sight so that the arrows impact the center of the bull’s-eye. Broadhead-tipped arrows and field tips can now be used interchangeably without any additional adjustments necessary. The process is complete.
Now you can hit your backyard range and practice with field tips without having to worry about destroying your expensive targets with broadheads. More importantly, you can also head into the field this season to hunt that big buck or bull with confidence. Your bow is efficient, tuned, and deadly. The rest is up to you.
By Nate Treadwell