When you are tuning a bow, the arrow will tell you what to do. It all comes down to how it comes out of the bow — straight or crooked. Within the troubleshooting process we call paper tuning, five problems frustrated me for many years. Finally, I overcame them through much heartburn and trial and error. There is no reason my mistakes should also be your mistakes. I hope what I’ve learned will help you get past these snags with minimal hair loss.
Fletching contact is the most common tuning problem, regardless of the arrow you shoot.
But it’s worse when shooting small diameter carbon arrows. If you can’t get your carbon arrows to tune, or if one or more fletchings show damage after a few dozen shots, you need to eliminate contact with the rest.
Helical fletching wraps around the shaft, creating a problem with small diameter shafts; it is hard to get the fletching to pass cleanly through the narrow gap between launchers of a shoot-through rest. Straight fletching is not an option because it doesn’t stabilize a hunting arrow well enough. So, you have two options. You can either use a drop-away arrow rest with as much helical offset as you wish, or you can work with conventional rests and reduce the amount of helical you use until you get the fletching to pass through cleanly.
Of the two options, I recommend the drop-away rest and lots of helical. This is the best way to shoot a carbon arrow. The second best option is to use a full-capture rest such as the Whisker Biscuit. It will apply equal pressure on all three fletchings, and that also creates good arrow flight with a high degree of helical. Full-capture rests also have other benefits, such as securely holding the arrow in the shooting position at all times. Mid-Atlantic Archery has a new rest that actually combines both drop-away technology and full capture. For more information, refer to the rest feature starting on p. 99.
The string is the most overlooked accessory on your bow. It is difficult to notice the small changes that occur with a bowstring until you shoot the arrow and experience poor arrow flight and surprisingly off-course impact. This is one aspect of bow tuning and bow maintenance you have to watch very carefully. There are two culprits: the string itself may stretch and/or the serving may slip. Both are shot killers.
Almost all strings will stretch after you install them. The only ones I’ve seen that don’t stretch are those that are pre-stretched by the string makers. Custom string makers, such as Winner’s Choice and America’s Best Bowstrings, typically do the best job of this because it is one of the features that separates their products from strings made by bow companies. However, all bowstrings have gotten better in the past few years.
Most of the stretch that occurs in conventionally made strings takes place in the first 200-300 shots, but it can occur after that point too — especially if you leave the bow in a hot car, for example. If, at some point, your arrows start to fly and impact the target strangely or your draw length increases, simply put your bow in a press, remove one end of the string and shorten it by twisting in the direction of the existing spiral. You’ll probably need to make a few slight adjustments to your sight (and maybe even your peep position) to finally put everything back in order. It is a pain.
The best way to handle the string stretch problem is to eliminate it. Look for bows with good custom strings or install one yourself. It will definitely save you many headaches later.
The second problem occurs if your serving begins to slip upward on the string. This is common after the string has been shot a few hundred times. If you see any gaps in your serving, you definitely need to remove it and reserve it. This is a basic task you can easily learn, or you can take it to a pro shop the first time to see how the technician does it.
Either way, if your serving shows any signs of gapping, loosening or slipping, you must address it immediately.
Out Of Alignment
This is not a bow-tuning issue; it is an arrow-tuning issue, and it is a common problem. If your groups with hunting arrows are considerably larger than your groups with practice arrows, the inserts and nocks are likely misaligned with the shafts. This is more common than many bowhunters realize.
I always use G5’s ASD (Arrow Squaring Device) on all my arrows before I attach the broadheads to square up the ends of the shafts. That is an important step toward making the head line up correctly. Test your arrows by spinning them with broadheads installed.
Let the tip rest in the palm of your hand as it spins. If you feel even the slightest bit of vibration from the tip, you should set that arrow aside (but first, try a different head in that arrow). Hopefully, you will have enough left to hunt with. Inserts must fit snugly inside the shaft and require a light press before they will seat fully.
It is hard to test nocks. I would simply replace them each fall, before you switch over to broadheads, to ensure they are straight and properly aligned.
Look at your bow from end to end. Sight down the string and see if the cams or cam and idler wheel line up with the string. If they are cocked to the side, you will have problems with side-to-side arrow flight and sideways tears through paper. If I see this problem, I look for ways to bring the cams back into alignment. It may be possible if the cam in question is on a limb tip spanned by a split yoke. You can try twisting one side of the harness yoke and see if that helps. If not, the entire problem really is beyond the consumer’s ability to fix. If it is bad enough to cause irreparable arrow flight issues, it becomes a warranty issue. Unfortunately, not every bow company will back these warranty claims.
Plain and simple, I wouldn’t buy a bow without first looking to see if the cams or cam and i
dler line up with the string. That will eliminate a lot of problems down the road.
Inconsistent Bow Grip
I recently helped a friend tune his bow. He is left-handed and got a wicked paper tear to the left with every shot. I shot his bow right-handed and got a perfect bullet hole, so I knew it was possible to fix the problem by altering his grip. With some experimentation, we finally arrived at a hand position that fixed the arrow flight. That’s all it took to get rid of a two-inch, sideways paper tear. Had I not been there to help him, he may have fought that bow forever.
If you find you simply can’t get rid of a certain paper tear no matter what you do, and you can’t blame the problem on any of the factors I already addressed, it may be time to start experimenting with your hand position on the grip. What have you got to lose?
The best archers strive to achieve a hand position where the force of the draw is directly in line with the bones of their forearm. You can duplicate this by making sure the pressure point between the grip and your hand occurs at roughly the point where the lines in your palm come together.
Tuning can sometimes cause a migraine and test your patience. Don’t be intimidated by the process; the solution is often there. You just need a little help to see it. Eliminating these five common tuning headaches first will get you past the worst snags.