Seven Deadly Bow Tweaks

Posted on May 6, 2011

By Joe Bell

bow shooting

A precisely tuned, well setup bow rig will emit much shooting confidence. Joe Bell photos

Many bowhunters go afield each season feeling somewhat dissatisfied in their shooting gear. Problems such as poor arrow flight, loud shot noise, strange broadhead impact, or last-minute maintenance issues can all nag you to no end and make you wonder if you can actually make the shot when it counts most.

Confidence is crucial to bowhunting success. If you don’t feel it, then failure is the likely result. Don’t put yourself in that position. Get the most out of your season, yourself, and make bowhunting more enjoyable by dialing in your shooting rig. In many cases, it’s not as hard as you may think.

Here are some simple tips I’ve used over and over again to whip my bow rig into shape. In the end, they’ll have you shooting better than ever before and feeling more confident about your ability to place the shot in the ten ringer.

Tip 1

Optimize Draw Length and Draw Weight

Yes, this is a tuning feature, and it could be the most important one. Having the proper draw length can have a drastic affect on how well you shoot, and most archers are shooting bows much too long.

When sizing up draw length, look at the position of your draw-arm elbow at full draw. It should be in-line or slightly above the arrow when viewed from the side. Also, from the rear, this same elbow should be in alignment with the arrow, not cocked to the left or right.

bow shooting

This photo shows proper draw length. Note the position of the draw-arm elbow. It should in line with the arrow or slightly above it.

Draw weight is important, too. A stiff drawing cycle has a way of over flexing muscles, making it hard to relax when shooting. This destroys consistency. If you can’t point your sight pin at a 15-yard target, then draw your bow without raising the pin more than 6 inches, then you’re probably shooting too much weight. I’ve never met an archer who cranked his bow down and then shot worse.

For more information on this, please see Tech Tips on page 80.

Tip 2

Sweeten the Tune

By paper tuning your bow, you are attacking arrow flight issues within only a few feet after the arrow’s launch. This makes it the most precise tuning method I know of.

Fortunately, the procedure is simple and doesn’t take too much. All you need is something to hold some painter’s paper stretched tight across a large one-foot-by-one-foot frame (even an old picture frame works), then shoot a field-point arrow through the paper from 5 or 6 feet. A clean tear notes absolute straight arrow flight. To achieve this, make the necessary nock height (up and down) and arrow rest (side to side) adjustments until it results in a clean tear. If problems arise, spray the rear of the arrow and make sure the vanes aren’t hitting the rest.

broadhead flight arrow

Paper tuning is the most precise tuning method used by the author. It works well since it addresses arrow flight issues immediately out of the bow. This creates more forgiving broadhead flight.

However, before attempting to paper tune, it’s wise to double check your bow’s cam system for proper function. If you’re using a two cam or hybrid system, make sure the cams are rolling over in unison (draw stops should hit at the same time). This will make the bow draw smoother, and most importantly, allow the arrow to launch along a smoother plane, making it easier to tune. One cams don’t have timing concerns, but the cam must be orientated into the proper position (reference your owner’s manual).

The same goes for side to side cam lean. Pull your bow back and look upward, or have a friend look from behind at the bowstring and how it aligns with the two cams. If things aren’t lining up well, then cam lean is present.

Ask your pro shop, or if you are mechanically inclined and have a bow press, relax the bow and twist up one side of the split-string yoke (or yokes) to try and tune out the lean. Some bows only have one string yoke, when means you can only balance the limb load and correct wheel lean at one end only. Sometimes doing this is enough and will get the bow shooting sweeter than ever.

Tip 3

Strive for Balance

In my experience, a balanced bow will always shoot better. For this reason, you should do all you can to counter any pronounced forward, backward, or side “pull” your bow may exhibit.

The same goes for countering a bow-attached quiver. Ideally, you want the bow to stay level in your relaxed bow hand during and after the shot. If it pulls one way, this could lead to torque and accuracy issues. You can use a variety of stabilizers, counter weights, and V-bar systems to achieve proper balance. Shoot the bow, see how it moves after the shot, and then add weight as needed until it stays more or less level or rocks only slightly forward.

Tip 4

Shoot a Better Release

Shot anticipation is a form flaw and, if not kept in check, it can easily spiral into serious trouble. Something I’ve found very helpful for alleviating this mental nervousness is to use a release aid with an ultra-crisp trigger, free from any travel or creep.

Many archers like a hairy light trigger, in order to avoid any delay in trigger response. However, too light can create anxiety as well – knowing a slight touch will set the arrow off. This is where a heavier trigger pull is helpful. But with most releases, a heavier trigger means more trigger travel.

What you need is a trigger that fires from pressure and not from trigger movement. There are many great releases on the market, but my favorite is the Carter RX 2.

Also, it’s a good idea to shoot a back-tension release in the off-season to drive in solid aiming and shooting technique. This type of release will help armor up your nervous system, especially, which will help you shoot a hunting release much better. The TRU Ball Sweet Spot II is a super-simple triggerless release to use, especially for beginners.


The author likes drop-away arrow rests for top accuracy. He prefers models that stay up during the entire launch cycle, but then drop just in time for fletching to clear. One of his favorites is the new Arizona Pro Drop.

Tip 5

Consider a Better Arrow Rest

The arrow rest’s job is to guide the arrow shaft along the proper plane until it exits the bow. Simple, right. Yet many $100 or more drop-away arrow rests can’t seem to do this very simple task.

If you aren’t using a newer style drop rest, one that is designed to stay up during at least 70 percent of the launch cycle, then you could be missing out on some serious accuracy gain.

My favorite drop rests are the Arizona Pro Drop and Vapor Trail Limb Driver. These rest have a reverse-style spring on the launcher arms, which allows the holding arm to come up as soon as the bow is drawn. The arm-cord attaches to the bow’s upper limb and not the buss cable, eliminating any chance of the cord torquing the cable and causing various tuning headaches.

Also, adding a bit of downward arrow pressure can help with consistency. This refers to adding a bit of serving (about 1/16 to 1/8-inch thick) to the bowstring, inside the string loop and beneath the nock, so that it forces the arrow down onto the rest arm. This keeps the arrow firmly in place so it can’t lift off the rest and take on a mind of its own. I’ve tested this feature using a shooting machine and I’ve gained up to 15 percent more accuracy by adding this simple feature.

Tip 6

Bowstring Issues

A bow won’t tune it the arrows clip onto the string too tight or too lose. They must be snug so arrow take-off stays consistent.

Defining proper nock fit is rather subjective. Nevertheless, the nock should snap onto the string quite well but then be able to slide up and down the center serving with very little force. Also, the nock shouldn’t have any visible wobble or gap within the throat, and it should pop off the string when given a firm tap from the tail end.

Other issues that involve the bowstring are a slipping center serving and irritating peep twist, both which usually occur just before a big hunt. To prevent these from happening, make it a habit to reserve center serving 6 to 8 weeks before opening day – just to make sure this issue doesn’t surprise you. I prefer BCY 62XS for this application.

Regarding peep twist, small changes in twist can be altered by twisting your string loop one way or the other. However, this kind of alteration is a band-aid fix, as a sideways mounted loop can be harder to grab with your release. If peep twist is more than 90 degrees, then you need to fix it now by twisting up the string 1/2 twist one way or the other. If peep twist is 180 degrees, then pull the peep and flip it over. It’s best to do this then to keep twisting or untwisting the bowstring, which will alter your draw length and tune.

The best remedy for ongoing peep twist is to press the bow, and then unravel the bowstring completely, and determine which way the string was twisted up at the factory while the end servings were put on (that portion that wraps around the cams). Most are twisted clockwise, then the end servings are put on. Once this is determined, re-twist the bowstring in the same fashion and then set peep alignment. After a 100 shots or so and a few minor twists here and there, the string will stabilize and peep consistency should be better after that.

Tip 7

Optimize Sound Dampening

Thanks to parallel-limb technology, today’s high-energy bows are pretty darn quiet and vibration free at the shot. However, energy is energy and some of it will dissipate beyond the arrow and the bow’s components. This results in a loud “snap” that can cause animals to jump the string.

To deaden shot sound, you should make sure your bowstring has rubber string and cable silencers and a sound-dampening arrow-shelf pad (for drop rests).

Also, for bows equipped with a bowstring stop device, make sure to reserve the area where it contacts the bowstring with a quieter, softer material. I prefer a mid-diameter polyester-based serving for this (BCY 62XS or Brownell Diamondback). If this doesn’t quiet the stop, then you may want to consider a different string-stop device, one that has a softer, more effective rubber bumper. I highly recommend the Mathews Dead End String Stop and Norway String Tamer G2 string stops. Both are very quiet and effective.

Beyond that, a quieter bow comes down to more solid accessories and a heavier arrow. To identify components that vibrate, hold your bow by the grip with one hand, and make a fist with the other. Then pound the side of the bow riser using the bottom of your hand. Any flimsy parts will make an annoying sound. Keep hitting the bow and hold it closer to your ears until you track down the noisy culprits. By tightening bolts or changing out flimsy accessories, you can effectively tune down the bow’s shot noise.

In bowhunting, accuracy is the name of the game. Sometimes just be being a few inches off this way or that, your season could be ruined. To prevent that from happening, work on your shooting form and bow setup until you achieve greater consistency and accuracy. In the end, your confidence will soar and you’ll hit the woods with an expectation of center-punching a trophy of a lifetime.

Broadhead Choice & Group Tuning

Always accuracy test your broadheads. Take three broadheads, screw them into arrows, and make sure they are perfectly aligned and checked for top concentricity. Then shoot some groups (from 30 or 40 yards) with these arrows, noting group size after each session. Do the same with your field points and then compare any group size differences.

bows arrow

Accuracy should be nearly the same, despite point-of-impact difference. If not, I would recommend using larger/more aggressive fletching or trying a different broadhead brand altogether.

If you’re shooting fixed-blade heads, I strongly recommend aggressive fletching helical. More offset or helical equates to greater arrow spin and guidance, effectively stabilizing the arrow better. I use a Bitzenburger jig and max out vane offset using Arizona Archery Max Hunter vanes.

Once I’m happy with a broadhead’s level of accuracy, I follow this up with some long-range group tuning. I shoot from about 50 yards, but this time I shoot five-arrow groups and I begin making micro adjustments to my arrow rest in hopes of improving accuracy. After each group series, I move the arrow rest slightly outward (to the left for a right-handed shooter), about 1/32-inch out. Then I shoot again and record the results. I do this two more times, and note which setting produces the very best groups. Sometimes, a slight tail-left, or slight tail-high-left, arrow departure yields a more accurate outcome.

With long-range group tuning, I’ve sometimes tightened arrows groups by 10 to 20 percent.

Quick tip: If you’re shooting 280 fps or more, be sure to steer away from larger size fixed heads; stay with the more compact designs which minimize surface area, improving flight dynamics. My favorite compact fixed heads are the G5 Striker and Slick Trick 4-Blade (1-inch cut). –J.B.

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