August 20, 2022
I’ve learned over the years that it’s the little things that add up to make a big difference, not only in hunting strategy but also in bow shooting and setup. In an effort to help you become even better shooters, here are seven simple tweaks that I focus on every summer to produce better habits and better accuracy in the fall.
Fine-Tune Your Rest: Proper left-to-right position of your arrow rest can instantly improve arrow flight and accuracy. If you are struggling with a bow that seems to have a mind of its own, or you just bought a new arrow rest and are setting it up for the first time, these basics will get it squared away right from the start.
When setting up for a release aid, your nocked arrow should line up perfectly with the forward thrust of the string. If you release with fingers, your arrow should be pointed slightly to the left of square (for right-handed archers).
There are several ways to go about setting the left-to-right position of your rest. I use a simple method that relies on the stabilizer as a reference. To start, set the bow down on the floor resting on its bottom cam. Now, look down on it from above while comparing the nocked arrow to the stabilizer. Move the rest in or out until the arrow is parallel with the stabilizer (though it may not go right down the center of the stabilizer). If you don’t have a stabilizer, you can still use this alignment method by picking up a couple feet of inexpensive 5/16–24 threaded rod at a hardware store.
Now, we’ll move on to the up and down position of the rest and nock point. Release-aid shooters should install a nock point (or nocking loop) so the upper edge of the arrow’s nock is approximately one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch above the center of the bolt hole where the rest attaches. You will need a T-square to make this adjustment accurately. Finger shooters should start three-eighths of an inch above the attachment hole’s center.
From here, you only have to adjust the rest vertically until the center of the arrow shaft crosses the very center of the rest attachment hole. Hold the bow so the hole is roughly at eye level to make this adjustment accurately. The arrow now should roughly make a 90-degree angle with the string. You will also enjoy good arrow flight if the arrow points slightly below a 90-degree angle.
Tweaking Your Shooting Form
If you are struggling with consistency, the following tweaks will help keep you on target:
Relax Your Bow Hand and Arm: Relaxation starts with your feet and legs and leads to your bow arm and bow hand. Everything should be relaxed, from the ground up. Bend your bow arm just enough to unlock the elbow and let the fingers of your bow hand hang naturally in a relaxed grip. The hand should be lifeless to shoot your best. Think of it as an inanimate cradle with no power to manipulate the bow.
This lifeless hand will feel really odd at first, but trust the process. As strange as it sounds, you will shoot your best if you don’t manipulate the bow in any way using your bow hand. Use the bigger muscles of your hips to move the bow around the target.
Experiment With Your Grip: You want to be sure to hold the bow the same way every single shot, but how you grip it also can be a source of problems. I once had a terrible time eliminating a tail-right paper tear when tuning. I tried moving the rest one way and then the other, and that didn’t help; I just couldn’t get rid of it. Finally, two things made the difference.
First, I made sure I was pulling the string straight away from the target at full draw and not to the side. Second, I started experimenting with different ways of holding the bow. I soon learned the way I flexed the wrist of my bow hand had a big impact on arrow flight. With these two tweaks in place, I was immediately shooting bullet holes.
If your arrows are flying poorly and nothing seems to fix this, change the way you hold the bow — where you apply pressure to the grip, how much you flex your wrist and the way you pull through the shot at full draw. This is one simple tweak that can make a huge difference in your accuracy.
Perfect Your Follow-Through: The follow-through holds everything together long enough for the arrow to escape the bow unaffected. Your grip hand must stay relaxed until the arrow hits the target. Many bowhunters snap the hand closed at the moment they release the string, and this destroys consistent accuracy.
Your bow arm must remain steady all the way through the shot. Resist the common tendency to drop it or move it when you release the string. Instead, try to keep your bow arm up and aiming until the arrow hits the target. Continue aiming until the small spot you are trying to hit disappears at the end of your arrow. I have fixed a lot of shooting problems by simply focusing on the follow-through.
Maintain Your Focus: Work on your mental follow-through too. You have likely heard the old saying that if you aim small you will miss small. That is definitely true of archery. Learn to maintain a sharp focus on the spot you want to hit. Pick a single spot and when it comes into focus, you know you are ready to start executing the release. It all starts with your practice sessions. Taking 20 shots with maximum concentration is much better than 60 mediocre ones. Practice doesn’t make perfect — perfect practice makes perfect.
Tweaking Your Arrows
Spin Test Your Arrows: I spin test all my arrows with broadheads installed. I place the tip on the pad of my palm and give it a good spin by flicking the arrow between the thumb and middle finger of the other hand. If I feel any vibration at all where the broadhead rests, I set the arrow aside.
My goal is to fill a quiver full of arrows with broadheads that are perfectly aligned to the shafts. If I fall short of that goal, I start swapping broadheads on the wobbly arrows until I find the right combination. Your hunting arrows have to spin perfectly, or they won’t fly perfectly.
Replace Your Nocks: Nocks take a beating during the off-season, so replacing them before each hunting season is good accuracy insurance and will often bring your group size down noticeably.
These seven tweaks are my own personal checklist when I'm gearing up for the season, or when my shooting is less than perfect. You always want to blame yourself — “I am just having a bad day” — but often it is something you can identify and fix that is holding you back. Focus on the fundamentals and you will enjoy fun summer shooting and a fall filled with success.