Bowhunting Gear & Tuning Tips from the Pros
Proven Advice to Boost Accuracy and Avoid Bowhunting Disaster
Knowledge is power. That phrase originated with Sir Francis Bacon back in 1597, and it’s still used regularly today. Why? Because it’s the truth!
As a bowhunter, you should thirst for knowledge, and not just about the animals you pursue. Having sound knowledge of your equipment — being able to maximize accuracy and prevent disasters in the field — is critical. After all, the last thing you want is for your dream hunt to become a nightmare.
I recently spoke with five top archers and bowhunters to get their tips on how they prepare their gear for bowhunting adventures and what they do when unexpected problems arise. These are archers who have perfected their craft, both in the woods and on the competition trail. They have hunted and competed across the globe and seen Murphy’s Law in action countless times. These are solid tips from five gear gurus you can trust. Heed their advice, and that hunt of a lifetime will be less likely to end in disappointment.
Build Awesome Arrows
Pennsylvania archer Kenny Lantz knows a thing or two about accuracy. On Feb. 24, 2019, Lantz won the Men’s Pro division of the ASA Hoyt Pro/Am in Foley, Ala. In addition to being a top-tier professional shooter, Lantz is obsessed with bowhunting. Each year, he travels from his Pennsylvania home to the mountains of Colorado to chase elk.
“A lot of guys don’t take the necessary time to get all of their gear right ahead of time,” Lantz said. “I spend a lot of time building my arrows. I obsess over it. It is the arrow that the bow launches. It is the arrow that cuts the distance between the bow and the target animal. It is the broadhead-tipped arrow that penetrates into the animal. Your arrows need to be perfect.
“I like to cut from each end of the arrow — the nock end and the insert end,” Lantz continued. “Doing this ensures you’re getting the straightest section of the shaft. Start by cutting off the nock end. With your nock end cut, use a squaring tool to square the nock end of the arrow. Squaring the nock end ensures a consistent bushing seat in the shaft. With all of your arrows cut and squared, use a flashlight and look inside the nock end of your shaft. If you look closely, you will see a seam running through the inner diameter. Once you find the seam, mark where that seam runs on the outside of the shaft. Doing this means you can get the stiffest part of the arrow fletched consistently. This will prevent those flyer arrows that are so common. Not all arrows are created equally. You need to fletch all of your shafts exactly the same way and be sure to shoot every arrow.
“With arrows squared and seams marked, I use a low-heat, hot-melt glue and put my bushings in. Once my bushings are set, I press my nocks in. I then turn the nock so that it aligns with the seam mark on my shaft. This will be where I place my cock vane. If you’re going for a four-fletch setup, put the seam between the top two vanes. If you don’t use a bushing and simply shoot a straight nock, this advice still applies — just don’t glue the nock in.
“Before you start fletching, use a Scotch-Brite pad to rough up the shaft. Doing this will help create a proper shaft-to-vane bond. After roughing up the shafts, use a clean towel with nothing on it to wipe off any dust. Now it’s time to start fletching.”
After fletching his arrows, Lantz turns his attention to the front end of his arrows. He starts by cutting the same amount off the front of the shaft as he does in the back. For example, he shoots 28-inch arrows, but his shafts come from the factory at 32 inches. So, he cuts two inches off the back and two inches off the front.
“Just be sure whatever amount you cut off one side, you do the exact same to the other,” Lantz said. “After cutting, I use my squaring tool and square the insert end. I then use the same low-heat, hot-melt glue to install my inserts. If I’m hunting with fixed-blade heads, I install the heads into the inserts and then glue the inserts into the shaft. The hot-melt glue allows me to rotate the blades and index my broadheads with my vanes before I allow the glue to cool and harden. Take your time with every arrow you build, and you will find your groups will shrink and your hunting confidence will soar.
“If you’ve already built your arrows, be sure to shoot each one through paper. You want to identify any flyers. If you have an arrow or two ripping less-than-perfect holes through paper, simply turn the nock a quarter turn and shoot them again. This is called indexing. Repeat the process until the tear improves.”
Make the Marks
Yahsti Perkins Killer is a champion archer and renowned authority on big-game bowhunting. Perkins Killer has traveled the globe chasing critters with his stick and string, having currently harvested 24 of the 29 animals needed to accomplish the North American Super Slam.
“During my time in the woods, hunting in some of the most extreme conditions and environments imaginable, I’ve seen a lot go wrong with gear,” Perkins Killer said. “Some problems you can prevent; others you can’t. It’s the preventable ones you need to focus on.
“Grab a silver Sharpie. Silver shows up great. Mark the position of your top and bottom cam. Doing this is really simple. Draw a line on the cam above and below the point where the limb intersects it. Do this to the top and bottom cam on both sides. You will have eight marks when you’re done. Doing this allows a quick check to make sure there’s no string/cable stretch.
“It’s also crucial to mark the position of your peep sight. Pick a Sharpie that will show up on your strings and mark on your string the location of the top and bottom of the peep. Do this to both sides. When you’re done, you will have four marks. If your peep moves, even just a little, your accuracy will really suffer. Take the time to make these simple marks and save yourself a big headache.”
Protect Your Pins
“I couldn’t believe it,” Wayne Endicott said. “They were bent; actually bent.”
Endicott’s voice level was high, and I could hear his frustration. The world-renowned archer and owner of the Bow Rack pro shop in Springfield, Ore., had just arrived for a Hawaii bowhunt and, while unpacking his gear, found the sight pins on both his bows badly bent.
“I’ve seen every bow disaster imaginable,” Endicott continued. “This was done by human hands. Someone at TSA (Transportation Security Administration), someone who apparently didn’t like hunters, bent my pins.
“Luckily, I knew where they were set and I was able to bend them back, but it was a process. My tip is, if you’re traveling somewhere for the hunt of a lifetime, be sure to either take your sight off your riser or remove it from your dovetail. Wrap your sight in clothes and stash it in your bow case. I pack most of my clothes in my bow case. This saves room, and clothes add an element of protection. By wrapping your sight in your clothes, you hide it and protect it at the same time.
“Arrows have been another issue for me. It’s super easy for arrows to get damaged during flight, especially if someone decides not to be so nice. These days, whenever possible, I ship my arrows to my hunt locale well before leaving for my trip.
“Also, please take the time to visit your local archery pro shop and have your second and third axis checked. Many of you can probably check your own second axis, but third axis is a different beast. You really need a Spot-Hogg Hooter Shooter to check it appropriately. If your hunt of a lifetime is going to be out West, where steep-angled shots are common, you owe it to yourself and the animals you’re chasing to be sure your second and third axis are set correctly.”
Practice Like You Hunt
“A lot of guys have practice arrows and hunting arrows, and this is a mistake,” said Gold Tip National Shooting Staff Manager Tim Gillingham, himself a champion archer and accomplished bowhunter. “Never, ever shoot an arrow at an animal that you haven’t shot at a target. Not all arrows are created equal. If you’re shooting long broadheads, you better have long fieldpoints, or they won’t mimic each other. I never trust an arrow until I’ve shot it.
“In addition, you want to shoot your broadheads. Nothing bugs me more than seeing a bowhunter show up to a hunt with their fancy, new, expandable head and discover they’ve never shot it. You have to take time to shoot your broadheads, and not just at 20 yards. You need to stretch them out and see how they perform at longer distances.
“Lastly, I won’t go on a hunt, even to Kodiak Island, without a target. You need to check your equipment upon arrival. Period. In a place like Kodiak, because its location is at sea level and the air is so thick, you’ll see a massive difference in your arrow’s impact. The last time I went, I experienced a four-yard difference in my 30-to-100-yard sight tape. My arrows were low, and at distance, you’re going to miss animals, or worse yet, hit them poorly. I recommend bringing a few different sight tapes so you can do some experimenting upon your arrival in camp.”
Secure Your Settings
“A lot of bowhunters shoot fixed-pin sights,” said champion shooter and T.R.U. Ball Marketing Director Brandon Reyes. “In the days leading up to your hunt, cut out some sight tapes and find one that matches your 3-, 5- or 7-pin setting. It’s super easy. Cut a tape out, trim it down and place it over your pin bars where the numbers can match up to the sight pins. Finding the correct tape can be accomplished in multiple ways. Some hunters use a Web-based program called Archer’s Advantage, while others simply get a feet-per-second rating and then do some experimenting with tapes.
“Once you find the right tape, photocopy it and bring a few copies along on your hunt. In just a few seconds, you can grab your tape and hold it up to your pins to check for any discrepancies. This is a great tool for the backcountry wanderer. How many times have you been in the backcountry and taken a spill or dropped your bow? Then you spend time fretting about whether your sight is knocked off. This takes focus away from your hunt. If you have a printed tape with you, you can make a quick check. Then, if adjustments need to be made, you can make them. This tip has saved my bacon more than once.”