Bowhunting Coach: Last-Minute Bow Checks

Posted on December 6, 2011

Bow Check

Your bowstring’s center serving and the string loop controls the vertical alignment of the arrow. If it slips one bit, accuracy will grossly suffer. Make it a habit to constantly check loop height, using a T-square, as well as the possibility of any loose servings.

Each year it seems that something on my bow goes haywire a couple weeks before opening day. My bow is shooting like a dream when suddenly, I notice some inconsistency in my shooting. Sometimes this erratic shooting behavior is just me getting excited about heading for the woods, but not always. Sometimes it’s the bow, by way of a loose center serving, a slipping peep sight, a bowstring or harness that has crept, a couple of deformed broadheads or nocks, or some arrow rest or sight screw that has vibrated loose.

Regardless of the problem, such incidences wreak havoc on my shooting concentration and confidence, which I don’t like at all. For this reason, I now go through a simple diagnosis each fall about four weeks before opening day in order to catch problems ahead of time. I recommend you do the same.

#1 Secure Peep Sight

The peep sight is one of those accessories that can make or break your shooting. When it’s set right and you center the pin or sight guard, it’ll boost your accuracy. But if it ever moves–even a smidgen–it will obliterate your point-on shooting like nothing else. For this reason, make sure you serve-in your peep sight very well and have a way of checking its exact position on the string.

There are various ways to serve-in a peep that works well, so I won’t go over that. What I will say, though, is make sure you reference the peep’s position on the bowstring’s fibers. I use an off-color fine-point Sharpie marker. Place hash lines above, below and along the middle of the peep’s body. I use Fletcher Tru-Peeps and color in a mark along the notch in the peep sight (see photo).

bow check

Using a peep in the string will keep you shooting dead on, despite awkward shooting positions. However, if it moves, it’ll break your shooting faster than any other accessory.

Every time you uncase your bow, make it a habit to check the peep’s position. If you see the marks discoloring, which they will over time, color them in again. It’s a simple but effective method for maintaining consistency.

#2 Inspect String Loop

I can’t tell you how many times my bow’s string loop began slipping just before heading out on a hunt. This is usually caused from a loose or worn-through center serving.

Many times, a loose center serving is hard to detect. To catch it early, constantly monitor the loop’s position using a T-square before and after shooting sessions. Also, try pulling up and down on the loop every couple of sessions, using slight pressure to see if it moves. If it does, you’ve got to fix it fast before it ruins that one chance at a big trophy.

In this case, you must remove the old serving, replace it with a new one and then reattach the string loop. This can be easy or it can be a nightmare–depending on your ability and your tuning notes regarding exactly where the loop and nock height are supposed to be.

I prefer a BCY #62X center serving in the .021- or .025-inch size, depending on the bowstring’s strand count and nock-throat diameter. This thread is very slip-resistant (it keeps loop material in place) and provides a nice, quiet, wear-resistant “snap” engagement for the arrow’s nock.

If you don’t know how to replace a center serving, be sure to visit your local pro shop to get it done. This is another reason I favor premium quality bowstrings. The center servings are tighter and more durable and less prone to slip at the last minute.

Also, after new center serving, you may be tempted to replace your old string loop with a new one, but I would suggest using the same one if it’s not worn much. A new loop takes a 100 shots or so to “settle in,” whereas your old one will fall into a consistent shape within a couple of dozen shots and keep your draw length and shot feel just like they were before.

Arrow Check

Broadhead and nock alignment must be true to achieve top shooting consistency. Instead of twisting the arrow on its nose, a better way is to use an arrow roller like this one from Pine Ridge. This allows you to spin the shaft horizontally so you can observe nock and broadhead alignment simultaneously. Any type of wobble denotes poor alignment. To correct poor alignment, you can smooth the shaft ends, using the G5 Arrow Squaring Device.

#3 Tighten All Screws

If one of the screws on your arrow rest loosens, it’ll change your point-of-aim and also alter the arrow’s tune. This could spell a nerve-wracking experience when broadheads begin drifting out of place, leaving you with an untuned setup only weeks out from the season.

It’s smart to snug down every screw on your bow every four to five shooting sessions, and you should snug and then dab every adjustment screw on the arrow rest and bowsight with a slow-cure fletching glue. This will keep your setup shooting supersweet and dead on.

Also, don’t forget to check the C-clips on the wheel axles. Sometimes these clips fit sloppy, tend to vibrate and can possibly snap off with a firm bump. Replace these clamps with new ones or dab them with slow-cure fletching glue.

#4 Check Broadhead/Nock Alignment

Do yourself a favor: Buy a good arrow roller. They run about $30 to $40 and last a lifetime; and using one sure makes life easier when it comes to good-shooting arrows. To shoot well, arrows must not only be straight, but the broadhead and nock must be flush to the shaft ends and straight-spinning, as well. The only way to truly verify this alignment is to use a smooth, fast-spinning arrow roller. I use the Pine Ridge Arrow Inspector, since it works great and folds up for easy storage to take along on hunting trips.

Checking broadhead/nock alignment is fairly easy. Simply spin the completed arrow across the rollers and keep a close eye on the broadhead’s ferrule or nock body. If you see any wobble, the component is not true, or it just doesn’t align well to the shaft’s surface end.

You can attempt to fix this by smoothing the insert or end surface at the nock end of the shaft, using the G5 A.S.D. device. Or you can try attaching a different broadhead or nock and check alignment again. Many times by switching out broadheads or nocks, you can correct wobble.

To ensure consistent peep position, be sure to mark its location on the string, using an off-color Sharpie marker, as shown here.

To ensure consistent peep position, be sure to mark its location on the string, using an off-color Sharpie marker, as shown here.

#5 Level Bow Sight

I usually don’t recommend re-leveling your bow sight a month out from deer season, but I do think that it’s so important to accuracy that if you haven’t done this, then do so. Regardless, you should always double-check the sight’s level from time to time, because a hard bump to the sight could cause it to go out of zero/level.

Checking the level is pretty simple. All you need is a small carpenter’s level. Position the bow upright by resting the bottom cam on a table or bench. Place the level along a flat surface on the bow riser, zero it in and then verify this position with your sight’s level. Adjust the sight’s level (hopefully, it comes with this feature) until they both line up. By doing this, you’ll achieve top accuracy when shooting straight out on side hills.

However, in order to hit dead on for uphill or downhill shots, the sight must have a third-axis leveling option. For example, your sight’s second axis could be perfectly level, but once you tilt the bow down or up, the level will swing out of place. This is because the sight’s pins or level may not be perpendicular to the arrow when you’re at full draw and aiming up- or downhill.

Third-axis is confusing, I know, but forget how it works and just focus on how to set it. This way, you’ll nail those steep up- or downhill targets with absolute precision.

You may think third-axis is just for Western hunters who take longer shots. However, even whitetailers sometimes find themselves shooting 40 or 50 yards across a spacious food plot from a high stand or steeply downward into a big draw where a big buck is traveling through. Third-axis can make or break your confidence and accuracy on these shots.

As described, third-axis is best adjusted while at full draw. The simplest, most effective way to level the third axis of your sight is to create a vertical reference on your sight guard. You can make a vertical aiming wire on any sight by taping a piece of thread atop the guard (as close to horizontal center as possible) and affix a washer at the other end of the thread so it dangles downward. Hold your bow so that the bubble reads level, wait for the weight not to dangle then tape the other end of the string in place. You now have a plumb, perfectly square aiming wire.

Next, to adjust the third axis: 1.) Hang a plumb bob from the ceiling or door jam. 2.) Now draw your bow and aim up or down at about a 30- to 45-degree angle with the vertical “aiming wire” on your sight and lined up with the plumb bob. Make the necessary adjustments until the bubble reads level, which is your third-axis leveling. You’re finished.

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