January 30, 2023
By Joe Bell
Shooting accuracy is the beginning of hunting confidence. Most bowhunters feel good about drilling the target using field-point-tipped shafts. However, once broadheads are screwed on, things tend to change for the worse. Havoc starts as arrows begin dipping and veering all over the place, particularly beyond the 40-yard mark. If not corrected quickly, this lack of consistency can break down a bowhunter’s nerves and confidence, doing damage that could take months to restore. This is dangerous territory for any bowhunter to be in while preparing for opening day.
To avoid such problems, try this proven strategy for perfecting broadhead flight. As with any archery endeavor, stay focused on completing each step and trust the process. This plan has been proven to work well, even on the most difficult-to-tune setups.
Step #1 – Sweeten the Bow
The heart of the bow is its cam system. Despite supreme engineering going into today’s bow designs, broadheads can still fly somewhat erratic out of high-energy setups, particularly when light arrows are used and/or when arrow speed is pushed to the limit. It seems there’s always a trade-off between using wide, lethal broadheads with so-so accuracy and smaller broadheads with supreme accuracy. As a serious bowhunter, I want both — a fairly large cutting head that still delivers shot-to-shot consistency.
Many bowhunters make the switch to mechanical heads when broadhead accuracy drops off. This is fine, however, don’t assume all problems are solved. Remember, even mechanical broadheads don’t mimic a field point’s shape and size, a factor that causes mild steering issues to occur downrange. Also, any broadhead that flies poorly is simply an indicator of a bigger problem — an arrow that fishtails or porpoises in flight. This is a concern that will surely negate penetration and produce a less forgiving setup.
A starting point for solving broadhead flight problems is to synchronize the bow’s cams, so they roll over in unison. A quick way to do this is to adjust the cam’s buss cables to collide with each draw-stop’s peg at exactly the same time. If one cam strikes before the other, add one full twist to this cam’s buss cable. Do this until the cams are perfectly in synch, using ½-inch twists if needed when adjusting. Of course, you’ll need a bow press to perform this task. The EZ Bow Press is what I recommend. It’s safe, strong, highly adjustable and allows for fast pressing of the limbs.
To evaluate cam roll-over, you can draw the bow back yourself while a friend looks at each cam’s position. Or you can place the bow in a bow-drawing device and crank it slowly to full let-off. Both methods work with the latter clearly yielding the most precision. Most archery shops have bow-drawing devices that are accessible free of charge or for a small fee. Typically, the more precise you can be with synching the bow’s cams, the more accurate the bow will shoot broadheads.
Step #2 – Set the Arrow’s Position
The next step is to set the arrow’s center-shot and vertical nock-height position. For best results, the arrow must be in the exact center path of the bowstring. This is referred to as “center-shot.” Center-shot is usually 5/8 to 1-inch out from the riser’s edge, while vertically the arrow should be in line with the threaded arrow-rest hole. A quick way to verify proper center-shot is to fasten the arrow to the bowstring and then hold the bow at arm’s length while the bottom cam rests on your leg. Next, close your non-dominant eye while visually aligning the bowstring with the outer string grooves in the cams, then mark where the position of the bowstring bisects the bow’s grip and arrow rest. This is the exact location the arrow should be positioned for proper center-shot.
Once this is done, adjust your D-loop so the rear of the arrow and bowstring are at 90 degrees. This can be done quickly using a business card butted up against the string and arrow shaft (see photo).
Step #3 – Fine-Tune Draw Length and Weight
Now that the bow’s cam system and arrow-rest position are set correctly, be sure to adjust the bow’s draw length and draw weight so you’re comfortable at full draw. This is a critical step, as consistency is a byproduct of shooting comfort. To micro-adjust your draw length, you can shorten or lengthen your D-loop or twist or untwist your bowstring until things feel just right.
As far as draw weight goes, don’t overdo it. When drawing and shooting in your backyard, you should be able to place your 20-yard pin 12 to 14 inches above the bull’s eye while slowly coming to full draw. If you have to lift the bow drastically to the sky or point it to the ground to get to full draw, you’re shooting too much weight!
Step #4 – Start Paper Tuning
At this juncture, the bow’s ready for paper tuning. You’ll need some sort of device to hold a taut sheet of painter’s paper. I use a homemade paper-tuning rack made from PVC pipe, but a simple cardboard box or sheet of plywood with a large hole in it works just fine. Regardless of the device, make sure the paper is stretched tightly across the opening using clamps, tape or staples.
Next, place the paper-holding device several feet in front of the target butt, so the arrow can exit the paper fully before impacting with the backstop. The paper should be about even with your chest, so you shoot straight into it – not at a downward angle. At about 6 feet away, shoot the arrow through the paper to examine the arrow’s flight. The goal here is to achieve a “bullet hole” tear with only the footprint of the shaft and vanes and nothing else.
For a more precise tune, try using an un-fletched shaft but wrap three inches of electrical tape where the vanes usually attach. This keeps the shaft’s front-of-center balance point exactly the same as when the fletching is in place. The purpose behind using the unfletched shaft is to eliminate vane contact and create the smallest tear possible for precise tuning.
When paper tuning, attempt to tune out vertical tears first. For a tail-high tear, lower the D-loop slightly on the bowstring or move the arrow rest up. For a tail-low tear, raise the D-loop slightly or move the arrow rest down. Try to keep the downward arrow-rest adjustments to a minimum to allow for proper vane clearance.
For a tail-left tear, you’ll move the arrow rest very slightly to the left. For a tail-right tear, you’ll move the arrow rest very slightly to the right. I say very slightly because any large tears will have to be resolved by following the next step — by tuning the bow’s limb harness.
Once you get the un-fletched shaft flying perfectly straight, shoot a fletched arrow to confirm the flight pattern. If you get an irregular rip all of a sudden, then you’ll know vane contact is the culprit and you’ll need to rotate the arrow nock a certain way to eliminate contact, or switch to lower-profile vanes altogether. You can troubleshoot this by spraying the fletching area with aerosol foot powder, shoot the arrow again into the backstop, then examine the arrow for vane contact.
Step 5 – Use Yoke-Tuning for Large Tears
For horizontal tears larger than ¾ to 1 inch wide, avoid moving the arrow rest to the far left or right in hopes of correcting it. Why? Usually this won’t correct the tear anyway, plus it will place the arrow’s position too far out from the normal center-shot position, causing vane clearance and performance issues.
Typically, when tears like this occur, it has to do with improper nock travel caused by the bow’s limb and cam position. The only way to resolve this is to begin adjusting the string yoke that fastens to the bow’s outer limb. This technique alters the vertical position of cam’s string grooves, bringing them in line with the bowstring’s path. This ensures a smooth take-off of the arrow, improving accuracy, speed, forgiveness and straight and level nock travel for better broadhead vs. field point accuracy.
Most bows are equipped with one split yoke, while others have two. Either way, start adjusting the single top-limb yoke first by making one or two twists to one side of the yoke at each juncture, while untwisting the other side in an equal fashion. This will keep the harness length and the bow’s timing and draw length the same.
To perform yoke tuning, you must use a bow press to relax the limbs. With a left tear, twist the left side of the string yoke and untwist the right side in equal amounts. With a right tear, twist the right side of the yoke and untwist the left in the same fashion. Once the adjustment is made, relax the bow’s limbs using the press, then draw the bow back to settle in the strings. Then shoot another arrow through the paper. If the tear is still ragged, repress the bow and make another adjustment, repeating the process. Do this until you achieve a perfect arrow rip in the paper.
On a bow with a top and bottom yoke, the top yoke tends to yield the most significant tuning change, since the arrow’s position is closer to the upper-axle area. The bottom-axle yoke can be adjusted as well, using the same tuning procedure as with the top yoke. Experiment as needed to improve your tuning result.
Don’t let yoke-tuning intimate you. It may seem complicated, but in reality, it is nothing more than “equalizing” the load on the ends of the limbs. Take it slow and easy and you’ll be amazed how effective this technique can be for solving difficult arrow-flight problems.
Step 6 – Group Tune Downrange
Once arrows are coming out of the bow perfectly straight, as shown by paper tuning, now’s the time to shoot groups using field points and broadheads. Equip three shafts with field points and three with broadheads, ensuring all spin true from point to nock. It is often necessary to screw in broadheads to different shafts until alignment is correct. A wobbling broadhead or arrow nock will surely disrupt accuracy. Keep spinning shafts either on their nose or across an arrow spinner to ensure perfect arrow balance. You can also use an arrow squaring device by G5 outdoors to smooth-out inserts or ends of shafts to improve alignment. This is a crucial step.
Begin shooting groups at 30 yards and then compare impact points. If broadheads group to the right of the field points, move the arrow rest in one small increment (1/64 or 1/32-inch) to the left. If broadheads hit left, move the arrow rest to the right. If broadheads impact high, move the arrow rest down slightly. If broadheads hit low, move the arrow rest up. Do this until both groups merge together.
Next, repeat the process but this time extend the shooting distance to 40 or 50 yards. If impact points don’t change much after adjusting the arrow rest, or if the arrow groups are more than 4 inches apart to begin with, revert back to yoke tuning to bring the groups closer together.
If broadheads group to the right of the field points, make a twist to the left side of the yoke and untwist to the right. If broadheads group to the left, twist the right side of the yoke and untwist the left. Continue to do this until the arrow groups come together. To micro-tune further, you can make half-twists to the yoke or go back to making small incremental arrow-rest adjustments, depending on the results. You can also manipulate the bottom yoke, if your bow is equipped with one, to make more subtle tuning changes.
Beyond these distances, you shouldn’t expect to achieve near-identical impact points with broadheads and field points. There are simply too many aerodynamic forces at play between the two style of points to expect stellar results at longer shooting distances. Regardless, most regular shooting practice is done inside 50 yards anyways, so this tuning procedure seems to fill the bill to keep archers dialed in and feeling confident for hunting season.
Step 7: Small Tweaks for Improved Accuracy
One last note. Despite all these efforts, if broadhead accuracy still falls well short of field-point accuracy, there are a few things you can do to sweeten the tune. You can assess your arrow nocks for proper tightness on the string. Too tight or too loose will cause accuracy problems. The nock should snap on the string firmly yet not so firm that it can move up and down the center serving with mild pressure. The center serving diameter should also fill the nock’s throat size, preventing side-to-side wobble.
You can also try different arrow fletching — maybe a longer vane that produces increased drag and stabilization. Many bowhunters I know have switched from tall, compact 2-inch vanes to 2 ½ or 3-inch standard-profile vanes to improve arrow-rest clearance, flight noise, and consistency with broadheads. Switching from four-fletch can also add flight stability and accuracy.
I’ve often gained additional accuracy downrange by switching from 100-grain to 125-grain broadheads. Additional FOC weight tends to improve broadhead steerage, especially in windy conditions, while added shaft weight makes the bow slightly quieter and more forgiving. If you’re unhappy with your field-point vs. broadhead accuracy, be sure to experiment with one or more of these modifications.
Confidence is crucial for bowhunting success. If you lose it, chances are you’ll hunt less effectively and you may even blow a simple chip shot, causing even more mental distress. For this reason, you must do all you can to safeguard this inner feeling. By utilizing this tuning strategy, you’ll surely improve your chances of success. Give it a shot. I’m confident you’ll enjoy the outcome.