February 09, 2024
The mental mechanics of shooting are pretty straightforward, but when the pressure is on, things tend to go haywire quickly. One issue is how our conscious mind feels about the aiming process. If we are comfortable at full draw while having a steady sight picture, we are much more at peace and able to focus intently on aiming correctly, while the release portion of the shot just happens subconsciously. On the other hand, if the aim is unsteady, alarm signals tend to go off, disrupting a smooth, natural shooting cycle. If this occurs, shooting performance will degrade quickly, often resulting in a completely ruined shot.
To avoid this, it’s important to refine your setup so it holds ultra steady. Here are several steps you can take to refine your setup, so it aims with absolute stability.
Assess the Bow’s Balance
How the bow settles statically in your hand influences shooting and aiming performance. If you hold the bow out in front of you by grasping the grip and extending your arm, you’ll get a feel for its overall balance. The top limb will either tip forward, back, or to one side. Recognizing and addressing these weight-distribution points is important because it will cause aiming and shooting disturbances — affecting accuracy. The key is to equalize these points so the bow rests more plumb and central with the bowhand.
It’s important to perform this step with all accessories attached to the bow, including arrow rest, bow quiver, stabilizer, etc., as even a few ounces bolted to one side of the bow can cause a subtle “tipping point,” making it slightly awkward-feeling and unbalanced.
Bows that are top-heavy or that want to tip downward toward the target are remedied by reducing front-mounted stabilizer weight and adding weight to the front or string-side of the riser. Bows that rock backward (toward the shooter) are best equalized by doing the opposite, by adding a heavier or longer front-mounted stabilizer.
If the bow wants to tip to the left or right, add counterweight to one side of the riser to offset the unwieldly pull. Some bows have threaded sections that accept side-mounted counterweights while others do not. In this case, you can use a V-bar or some type of sidebar coupler, then add weight discs or a short stabilizer to counter the bow’s imbalance. Of course, adding weight makes the bow heavier, but I’ve found this a worthwhile tradeoff since the bow will now hold and shoot sweeter. A plumb bow carries better in the woods, too, since the riser doesn’t want to twist in your clenched hand as you carry it at your side. When navigating difficult terrain, day after day, this easier-carrying capability can make a big difference!
Streamline Quiver Weight
Many bowhunters prefer a quick-detach, one-piece bow quiver, so they can remove it once they are sitting on stand or in a ground blind. Some bowhunters stalk hunt with the bow quiver on, too, but then remove it prior to taking a shot. If this is the case, you can conduct your balance test without the bow quiver on – simplifying the process.
On the other hand, if you hunt and shoot with the quiver on, be sure to leave it there during the balance test. Of course, you’ll notice quickly that a loaded bow quiver tends to cause a noticeable side-load imbalance — a quality that wants to twist the grip in your hand. The severity of this twist depends on the weight of the quiver and the degree at which it extends from the riser. The lighter and tighter the quiver fits to the bow, the better it’ll be for shooting consistency, especially when using fixed-blade broadheads.
The Tight Spot quiver, as well as many of today’s newer one-piece and two-piece quivers, was designed to mount close to the bow, resulting in a more comfortable and accurate setup. Keep in mind, older two-piece quivers can be modified by trimming the length of the mounting brackets, so the quiver hood and gripper are snug to the bow. Be sure to use caution with this step and allow for adequate clearance between the arrow shafts and arrow rest. Also be sure to allow sufficient clearance (about ¾-inch) between the arrows’ vanes and the outer limb, to prevent tuning or safety problems, as the limbs vibrate during the shooting process.
Use a Back Bar to Improve Leveling Capability
Even with a riser-hugging quiver in place, the bow may still feel like it pulls somewhat to one side. A bow equipped with a backbar system can help neutralize this imbalance. Arizona Archery, B-Stinger, CBE, and Stokerized all offer great backbars that come with adjustable counterweights to customize the bow’s feel and balance. Although backbar systems can be perceived as bulky and awkward for hunting use, they do provide unparalleled shooting balance, and when adjusted correctly, acquiring the target becomes faster and smoother with a backbar in place – a good hunting feature.
After installing a backbar, adjust it so it creates maximum steadiness at full draw. A great technique for doing is to find a safe backstop, nock an arrow, and then draw your bow, pretending as if you’re going to shoot. Next, close your eyes while finding your anchor position. Once everything feels good, open your eyes and look at the sight’s bubble level. Is it in the middle or to one side? If it’s to one side, adjust the backbar position and/or weight until the tipping point is smoothed out. A well-setup stabilizer/backbar combo will help the bow sit perfectly in your hand – without using muscle movement to move it correctly in position.
Shoot and Fine-Tune
When you’re pretty satisfied with your bow’s overall balance, it’s good to begin shooting the setup over the course of several days, while taking detailed notes. What you want to pay close attention to is the bow’s sight pattern. Does the sight pin hold solidly across the bull’s eye? A solid pattern means it tends to track equally up-and-down as it does side-to-side, without pulling hard into one area. If the sight wants to dip down consistently, you should reduce stabilizer weight, or add backbar weight. If it pushes up too much, add weight to the stabilizer or reduce backbar weight. You can also lower or raise the height of the backbar (if the mount allows for it) to change the up and down movement of the sight pin. Experiment with adding/subtracting counterweight until the sight pin holds ultra-steady and in the middle. This step obviously is the most time consuming, but the performance outcomes are well worth it, so don’t skip it.
There are a lot of variables that go into becoming a successful archer and bowhunter. One of the most important is becoming intimately familiar with your setup, while tuning it to perfection. Improving the stability of your bow will definitely help you shoot and hold better. In the end, you’ll tighten your arrow groups and slowly feel more energized and confident about killing game.