Buying a new bow is an exciting event. The feel is thrilling. It is faster, quieter, smoother and sweeter than any you have ever shot. You can envision the adventure and see the arrows zipping into the vitals of a big buck or bull.
But there is also a nerve-wracking moment that accompanies this exciting time. Shooting that first arrow through paper is tense. You want that thing to blow a perfect hole with three cuts for the fletchings. If it doesn’t, you know you might have your hands full trying to figure out why. You can end up with a bunch of questions and not many answers.
Obviously, I have been through it. With drop-away rests, I always feel (rightly or not) that my bows should tune from the first arrow. Unfortunately, every bow has its own personality and some of them are not very friendly. The cams are firing and the string is moving fast.
It is a lot to coordinate with the peculiarities of your shooting form. Some bows do it better than others. So, this month I want to talk about the bows that don’t tune with the first arrow and some of the reasons why. Hopefully I can offer some methods for fixing them.
Supposed to Make Sense
The physics involved in making an arrow fly straight isn’t all that hard to grasp. Lay a pencil on the table in front of you and try to push it across to a certain point using just the tip of your index finger. It’s not all that hard. You instinctively adjust the angle of the push to fit the direction the pencil needs to slide and soon you are moving it fast and accurately. In simplest terms, that is what you are doing with the bowstring when you push the arrow forward.
The rest is the tabletop and the string’s nocking point is your finger. Tuning should be pretty simple given these basic elements.
However, what happens if you can’t seem to get your index finger to move along the table in a straight line? The pencil starts swerving all over the place. That is what happens if the center of your bowstring doesn’t move forward properly. And here is where tuning starts to get more complicated, because there are a number of things that can cause your string to take the scenic route from anchor to brace. You have to sort through these factors to make sense of tough tuning challenges. Next, I will go through the top reasons your nock travel might be poor and your arrow flight erratic.
Your Bow is a Lemon
If your bow is hard to tune, it is possible the bow is a lemon. I have seen a bunch of these over the years. Some bows are untunable because the cams lean so much they simply can’t be tuned.
When the bow’s cam is leaning (not lined up with the string) before you even draw it, you can be sure it will lean even more when the pressure on the string decreases and the pressure on the harnesses increases during the draw. When this happens, the string moves to the side as you draw the bow and then snaps back to its starting position as it whips forward. In snapping back, it moves quickly to the side. The arrow goes with it and literally gets whipped to the side as it leaves the bow.
With some bows, you can correct cam lean, but with others it is so bad there is no fixing it. In that case, you have little choice but to accept poor arrow flight or get a new bow.
I firmly believe you should try to shoot every bow before you buy it. The goal is to see if the arrows come out flying straight. I also sight down the cams and the string as soon as it slides out of the box to be sure it is a keeper. You don’t have to put up with an untunable lemon. There are other bows out there that tune much easier.
The only way I have found to fix a bow with cam lean is to tighten one side of the split harness yoke (where it attaches to the limb) to pull the limb tip around so it is closer to straight. Sometimes this works. I have seen dramatic improvement in arrow flight from this simple trick. However, some bows don’t have split harness yokes so this trick won’t work and you are stuck with a lemon. Don’t make lemonade; get rid of it — a bit wiser for the experience.
It is also possible you may be shooting a bow that can’t be tuned if the nocking point is moving up or down as you draw the string and then snapping back as you release it. This was much more common back when we used aggressive, two-cam bows with Fast Flight harnesses that were notorious for stretching. If one harness stretched more the other, the bow went out of time and the result was poor vertical nock travel.
Today’s improved hybrid, single and binary cam bows have done a lot to smooth out vertical nock travel issues, but if you have an up or down paper tear that you just can’t get rid of by moving the nocking point up or down on the string, it could be a poorly designed cam or a stretched harness.
Your Anchor Point is Wrong
One of my most difficult tuning challenges came as the result of shooting a bow with a draw length that was just half an inch too long without understanding the consequences. I remember shooting a bow at the demo lanes at the Archery Trade Show and noting it produced stellar arrow flight. The draw length was a bit short for me, but the arrow flight was a thing of beauty. It was perfect. Later, I got one of the bows here at home that actually “fit” me. What a different story.
I couldn’t get rid of a tail left tear through paper no matter what I tried. I changed my arrows several times, tried a different rest and even shot the bow with a totally different grip, but the problem persisted. The cams looked fine — no lean.
Finally, after nearly a week of working on it for at least a couple hours per day, it dawned on me I might be causing the problem with the way I pulled through the shot. I first began considering this possibility because the bow always pointed distinctly left of the target when I followed through after the shot. Why was it turning? Was it built wrong or was I doing something wrong?
I started to focus on one of the few things I could have been doing to influence the shot in this way: the way I was pulling through the shot. After experimenting a bit, I found that if I focused on pulling the release straight away from the target, I could get the bow to jump straight forward like it was supposed to — with no turning.
Immediately, my arrow flight straightened out. By shortening my draw length just a half inch, I was able to keep this alignment much easier.
At full draw, I had been pulling the string slightly around behind me, and this was putting sideways pressure on the string. When I released it, the string started to waffle from side to side and the bow reacted by pointing to the left during the follow-through.
You Are Torquing the Bow
I have also seen horizontal paper tears that would not go away that were the result of poor hand position on the bow’s grip. I always wear brown jersey gloves when shooting my bow, even when I am just practicing in the backyard in the summer. These gloves are slippery and allow the bow to turn easily in my hand, eliminating any chance that I could be twisting the bow when drawing and releasing the string.
It feels weird at first, but you can get used to it right away. If you simply can’t draw your bow without grabbing it with your bare hand or a tacky glove, there is a very good chance you are torquing the bow. Give my method a try and see whether your shooting and arrow flight improve dramatically.