Maximum Accuracy Tuning
Posted on June 15, 2012
Follow these 5 steps for incredible shooting accuracy.
By Eyad Yehyawi
In the world of hunting, no discipline demands more attention to detail than those who carry a stick and string. While all of us who take to the field each year have different goals and dreams, we do have one thing in common – the need to shoot accurately. We owe it to ourselves, our sport and, most importantly, the animals we pursue to do just that.
As a beginning bowhunter, I used to settle for second-rate accuracy. But not any more. After 20 years of trial and error, I simply know the importance of a “dialed in” shooting rig. Precision bow-tuning is not overrated. It’s the true confidence-builder behind shooting a bow well.
5 Effective Tuning Techniques
While there are various tuning techniques available to use, in my opinion, some simply stand out above the rest. These same techniques are also easy to do, which don’t require the need of a bow press, and you can do them in less than one hour. So let’s get started.
I will assume you have attached your arrow rest into place and have a nock installed (with or without a d-loop), along with a batch of perfectly fletched arrows. Don’t worry if the arrow-rest position isn’t perfect, just try to level the arrow as best you can and check that your nock point and peep sight are secure.
Step #1: Check for Fletching Contact
Before I attempt to tune any bow, I spray the fletching of the arrow with foot powder, then I shoot the arrow into a firm backstop from about 5 feet away. If the fletching collides with anything – arrow rest, bow cables, riser, etc. – the result will be horrible arrow flight.
If the powder on the fletching looks unscathed, this denotes proper arrow clearance. However, if there is even a slight smear in the powder, contact is occurring and it must be fixed before you can properly tune your bow. To resolve it, check the timing on your drop-away rest, rotate the nock, or move the rest out a bit. Once contact has been remedied, it’s time to move on to paper tuning.
Step #2: Shoot Through Paper
The primary goal behind paper tuning is to verify how the arrow is flying once it leaves the bow. To make the process easy and straightforward, I usually paper tune at approximately three feet from the paper target. Many good archers tune at 3, 6 and 12 feet, but the further back you go, it’s more likely that the fletching can and will correct an arrow that comes out less than perfect, hence misleading you that a perfect tear is a perfect tune. That’s why I prefer three feet as my preferred testing distance. If the arrow comes out poorly it will be easy to see at this distance.
To begin, simply cut out a large square in a cardboard box, about the size of a car window, and tape a taught piece of paper to fill the hole you’ve just created. Attach it to a post in the ground – directly in front of your target. Come to full draw, maintain your natural form, and squeeze through the shot. What do you see? If it is a perfect “bullet hole,” that’s great. If not, then what? Â Move your rest until the arrow cuts a clean bullet hole.
What is a perfect tear? Figure 1 shows a perfect hole and Figure 2 a terrible paper tune. In Figure 2, you see a hole with a linear tear above it. What does this mean? It simply means the arrow tip went through first, then the fletching followed, but not in line with the tip. Picture an arrow traveling with its tip down and fletching up – not good, especially with a broadhead attached.
To fix this, simply move the arrow rest in the direction that would level the arrow. If you can imagine how to correct it, it can often be much simpler than memorizing a tear and how to fix it. For example, if your fletch tears high, move the rest up. If the fletching rips to the left of the bullet hole, move the rest to the right. As soon as you accomplish a paper result as close to bullet-like as you can, you are then ready for the next step. Remember, paper tuning isn’t the end, just the beginning to achieving perfect arrow and broadhead flight.
Step #3: Walk-Back, Shoot & Adjust
We have all heard of “center-shot” and how it must be perfect. But what is it exactly? Having a perfect center-shot is just another way of saying that the arrow is leaving the bow perfectly in line with the bowstring’s direction of travel. By paper tuning your bow, you’ll achieve near-perfection center shot, but not always. By performing what is known as “walk-back tuning,” we can improve broadhead and target-tip point of impact.
To perform this procedure, simply place a vertical line on a target (with a piece of duct tape) and place an aiming dot near the top. You can also hang a string with a weight on the end in front of a bale, and use this as your target. This ensures your target “aiming” reference is perfectly vertical, which is required.
At 20 yards, sight-in your bow to hit a three-inch circle. Once this is done, pull your arrows and shoot one arrow at the spot from 20 yards, then walk back to 30 yards and aim at the same dot with the same 20-yard pin. Yes, you will hit low, but we don’t care. We only care that the arrow hits in the same vertical plane. Do the same at 35 and 40 yards and then compare the results.
If all four of your arrows are in a perfect line, your bow’s center shot is in proper alignment. However, if the arrows are not in vertical alignment, with the arrows more to the side further and further down the line, then you should make small horizontal adjustments to the rest. Move the rest in small (1/16-inch) increments in the opposite direction to the angled line. [I.E. If they angle down and to the left, move your rest to the right (for a right-handed shooter) by 1/16-inch and shoot again. If to the right, move it 1/16-inch to the left.] It often doesn’t take much adjustment at all to get your arrows to line up.
Step #4: Broadhead Flight & Impact
Most bowhunters become frustrated when shooting broadheads, but by performing the above procedures, this step usually goes exceedingly well.
When you can get any fixed-blade broadhead to have the same point of impact as your field points, provided they are of equal weight, your confidence will soar. Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not. Here’s how to do it.
Shoot a three-arrow group with your broadhead-tipped arrows (making sure they are spinning true and wobble free with the arrow) and two target-tip arrows and compare group sizes and impact position. If they hit is nearly the same place, then you’re in good shape. However, if they don’t, then make sure to go through this four-step equipment critique before moving on to a solution.
Step 1: Be sure your arrows are properly spined. If you’re on the fence between two “stiffnesses” (or spine sizes), always take the stiffer one. Being under-spined can make broadhead tuning a nightmare.
Step 2: Use the highest degree of fletching helical possible, which will enhance the arrow’s rotational spin and help stabilize broadheads better.
Step 3: Ensure the ends of your arrows are squared off so that the broadheads align perfectly with the shaft and insert. G5 Outdoors ASD device is an easy and quick way to square off your shafts.
Step 4: Spin test each broadhead-equipped arrow with an arrow spinner and by using a reference point along the point of the broadhead to ensure no wobble is present. This is most effective way to verify precise broadhead-to-insert alignment.
All these tips will increase the likelihood your broadheads will fly more accurately and make tuning much easier.
If these steps are in place, you can move on to making small adjustments to your center-shot (arrow rest) to bring the broadheads and field points together. If broadhead impact to the left of field points, then move the arrow rest to the right (in the direction of the field points), and so on, until they impact together. Move the rest and nock height 1/16-inch at a time until they merge together. Take it slow.
If for some reason the two types of heads won’t impact together, then I’d suggest trying a different broadhead model, perhaps one that is more aerodynamic. In some cases, arrow speed may go beyond the aerodynamics of some fixed-style broadheads.
Step #5: Level the Sight to the Bow
On a cold, snowy afternoon, while bowhunting mountain goats in Alaska, I realized my opportunity was about to transpire. On the edge of a cliff, looking straight downhill at a small herd of mountain goats on a cliff shelf, I knew this was it. The weather was hostile, with brutal wind and snow slapping my face, but still, I held steady. I leveled my bubble while aiming straight down and noticed as the arrow traveled toward the billy that it did so at an angle. Hitting the billy too far back, I could only hope we would find the trophy I had worked so hard for. Luckily, we were able to recover the goat, but it could have been a far worse outcome and a less stressful endeavor for me if I had been better prepared. If only I had adjusted my sight’s third axis.
3rd What? Most bowhunters have no comprehension on what the sight’s balancing axes are, let alone the third-axis. After many hours, discussions with coaches and elite archers, I can spare you the headaches and explain what they are exactly, why they are important, and how to adjust them. It’s important to note that the “axes” are invisible, and that they are not “represented” by any pin, riser, bubble or housing. They are simple axes that pins, bubbles or housings can travel and occupy. Here is the run down.
1st Axis: Essentially the vertical axis that our hunting pins slide up and down. Example: The pin bracket lies in the same “space” as the first axis, the vertical line that you can slide each individual pin up and down on to adjust for 20, 30, 40 yards, etc. This is the first axis on most hunting sights.
2nd Axis: The horizontal axis that lies perpendicular (at 90 degrees) to the 1st axis. Example: Often occupied and leveled using the bubble in the bottom of the sight housing.
3rd Axis: The axis that needs to lie perpendicular to the direction of motion as you aim uphill or downhill.
Real world example: This axis is important because it will cause you to miss left or right on uphill and downhill shots if not leveled properly. If you don’t, you could be aiming at one spot, and hit a foot to the left or right. The bubble can and WILL lie to you if you don’t properly adjust your third axis.
To understand the third axis, hold a long level out in front of you with one arm out further than the other. Once you get the level to read level, raise both arms. As you raise them you will see the end of the level that is held by the short arm will dip down. The long arm end will move up. That is how a third axis that is off will kill your downhill/uphill accuracy.
To be deadly accurate on uphill and downhill shots, the level in your sight needs to be 90 degrees to the arrow and plane of motion when you are looking straight down over the top of the sight – at full draw. In our example, if both arms were held at the exact same length in front of us, we would be able you to raise both arms and observe the bubble staying level. We are trying to accomplish the same thing with our bow. This way, when you hit full draw and are about to release an arrow at a giant mulie, goat, sheep or elk, you will know your bubble is telling you the truth.
By following these tuning steps, I’m quite confident that you’ll dramatically enhance your accuracy in the field. For many years I avoided these areas and found excuses about missing shots. But not anymore. I’ve now mastered these techniques, which has me feeling more confident than ever before about my ability in the woods. Just knowing my equipment is perfectly setup seems to boost my hunting spirits. Really, you can’t ask for too much more than that.
Simple Methods to Leveling
Your bowsight’s 1st axis (vertical bar with pins) needs to be 90 degrees to the 2nd axis (bubble level in the housing). Nearly all hunting sights are machined that way anyway. To check this, though, place a level like the Hamskea (www.hamskeaarchery.com) or any small bubble on the side of the sight housing, and it should read level when the sight bubble levels. If this holds true, then your first axis is okay and is 90 degrees to the second axis. First axis is now done.
Now attach a level to your bow’s riser, again, the Hamskea is great as you can attach it to the riser itself, and level it when the bow is sitting straight up and down in a vice or against a door jam. We simply want to get both the sight bubble and the risers bubble level at the same time when they are perpendicular to the ground (bow is straight up and down). So when your bow is level at full draw, you know the pins are perfectly straight up and down.
Most quality sights come with second-axis adjustment and it’s easy to do. You will simply loosen the 2nd axis adjustment on the sight in question, and move the housing itself (up and down which is the plane of the 2nd axis), until the bubble on your bow riser and the bubble on the sight are level. Tighten it down and you’ve just leveled second axis. Your 20 to 60-yard pins are all in line, so you won’t shoot left or right as you move back in distance. This is especially critical on side hills. If the second axis is off, you could level the bubble thinking it is perfectly straight, when in fact your pins could be angling down at an angle. This will cause left and right misses that get worse the further back you go. You may think its poor form, but in reality the sight was lying to you.
Joe Bell describes the leveling of the third axis extremely well in his book, “Technical Bowhunting,” which I urge you to read. Essentially, all one has to do is place a vertical string on your sight that is perpendicular to the ground. This can be accomplished by hanging a washer from the top of your sight housing and let it hang down past the sight. Then, carefully tape the string to the bottom of the sight and clip the excess. You now have a perfectly vertical line to work with.
Next, hang a plum bob from the ceiling and sit down on your knees with your bow. Come to full draw and align the string on your sight with the vertical string on the plum bob. Check the bubble. If it is level, then your third axis is level and you will have a critically accurate bow on uphill and downhill shots. If it’s off, simply adjust the bubble and check it again at full draw until the bubble reads level when the strings are superimposed. Third axis is now done.
Why do you have to check the third-axis at full draw? The reason is that as one draws the bow, the tension on the cables increases as the load shifts, and this can cause the riser to torque. Therefore, it’s far better to check it while you are at full draw when the maximum amount of torque has been imposed on the bow. – E.Y.