April 29, 2022
Ideally, once you hit full draw, acquire the target, and begin bearing down on the bull’s eye, there shouldn’t be a single distraction on your mind other than that moment when the arrow explodes from the bow. In other words, the sight pin should roll around naturally while you aim and burn a hole on where you want the arrow to go — until the shot breaks. Your subconscious controls every other aspect of the shooting process except for the aiming part. This belongs to your conscious mind. Overall, this is the best and most rewarding way to practice archery.
The problem is, not all setups allow for this type of smooth, aim-and-shoot motion. Instead, the sight pin often wants to dip hard to the bottom of the bull’s eye, or pull strongly to the side, causing major disruption in the shooting segment. To get it back in the center — or in an area that’s comfortable for it to move around in — you must exert some effort to recalibrate the aim. This effort requires muscle tension in order to raise the bow or to twist the handle to counter any off-kilter pull. Either way, it breaks an archer’s concentration, wastes precious shooting time, and introduces more arm and muscle tension into the equation — a surefire way to kill consistency or to blow the shot altogether, especially when shooting long range. To solve all this, what’s needed is a more balanced shooting setup.
Target archers are well-acquainted with the benefits of a balanced rig. This is why they use extra-long stabilizers, back bars, and numerous counterweights to improve aiming performance to maximize repeatability.
Of course, as bowhunters, we shouldn’t deck out our bows with the same myriad of counterbalance bars and weights since these accessories are way too cumbersome for serious hunting. However, we can adopt some of the same set up techniques for improving stability at a more moderate scale.
Here is a solid, step-by-step approach for achieving improved bow balance, so you can experience relentless downrange accuracy.
Step 1: Examine the Bow’s Static Position
A bow’s static or at-rest position can tell you a lot. When I begin setting up a new bow, I bolt on all the accessories, such as the arrow rest and bow sight, then I hold it at arm’s length while gripping it with a very relaxed hand. Then I analyze all its “tipping points.” Does it pull downward or to the side? This will give an indication of where the bow is improperly balanced and what I need to do to address it.
For a bow that seems top heavy (wants to tip downward toward the target), adding too much stabilizer weight to the front of the riser will only magnify this tendency. To counter the force, you’ll want to add weight below the grip somewhere on the string-side of the riser. This will help reduce the front-tipping sway. If the bow wants to rock backward, then do the opposite. In this case, add more weight to the front of the bow, or choose a longer-length stabilizer with a weighted coupler at the end.
If the bow wants to tip a little to one side, you can screw in counterweight to one side of the riser — if there are threaded sections available. If not, you can attach a V-bar or side-bar coupler, then add a small amount of counterweight to correct the imbalance. Of course, adding weight makes the bow heavier, but I’ve found this only makes the bow easier to aim and to carry in the woods, since the entire bow now wants to rotate naturally in a plumb position. This is the case whether it’s at full draw or in my hand during long hikes.
Step 2: Modify or Upgrade the Quiver
At this point, there’s no quiver on the bow. If you hunt with a quiver on, be sure it’s fixed to the bow and then perform the prior steps. Of course, a quiver loaded with arrows will cause the bow to lean strongly to one side. A slight imbalance won’t impact shooting consistency too much in terms of typical hunting-distance shots, but if the side weight seems pretty pronounced you’d be wise to make some adjustments.
A poorly designed quiver can cause problems with aiming and torquing the bow during the shot since you must rotate the bow’s grip with your arm and hand to keep it vertically level. However, once the shot is released, the bow will want to recoil back to its normal, off-kilter position. This prompts a high-speed twisting motion to occur, which can certainly alter shooting consistency — especially when using fixed-blade broadheads.
To minimize this torque, choose a quiver that hugs the bow to keep things more streamlined and balanced. The TightSpot quiver, as well as many of today’s newer two-piece quivers, are designed to mount close to the bow. These designs will increase accuracy and handling comfort.
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. The closer it is, the better the bow will perform. But be sure to use caution with this step and allow for a good ¾-inch clearance between the arrows’ vanes and the outer limb, to prevent tuning or safety problems.
Despite your best efforts in modifying your quiver’s design, the bow may still exhibit a lopsided feel that seems annoying. If this is the case, you’ll need to experiment by adding counterweight to the opposite side of the riser to equalize the bow’s tendency to pull to one side. For doing this, I often use a small, adjustable offset mount that holds a short stabilizer or basic screw-in weights that won’t protrude too far from the bow. Doinker makes a great offset mount, as does Bee Stinger, Cartel, and Easton, among others.
A stabilizer/backbar system is another great option. Arizona Archery, Bee Stinger, CBE, and Stokerized all offer great models, with kits that come with a 10 or 12-inch front bars and an 8 or 10-inch backbars, in addition to several adjustable counterweights to customize the bow’s stabilization.
Although stabilizer/backbar systems can be perceived as bulky and awkward for hunting use, they do provide unparalleled shooting balance. When adjusted correctly, acquiring the target is faster and smoother, and aiming solidly on target seems to happen all by itself — all major pluses for bowhunting. I would suggest trying one of these systems to see how it works for you. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Step 3: Fine-Tuning the Setup
One sure-fire way to fine-tune your bow’s balance point is to evaluate how it feels at full draw. To do this, find a safe backstop, nock an arrow, then draw your bow back. Proceed to close your eyes and relax while you settle into anchor. Now, firmly anchored, open your eyes and look at the sight’s bubble level. Is it in the middle or off to the side?
Preferably the sight’s level should be more or less centered. If not, add counterweight to one side of the bow to equalize any awkward. The goal is to allow the bow to center itself without inducing muscle tension.
Secondly, shoot the bow for several days while taking notes and monitoring the sight’s movement. Does it want to roll around the spot in an equal up-and-down or side-to-side pattern, or does it want to float upward, downward, or to one side? If the sight’s pattern wants to dip down consistently, 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.
You don’t have to be a perfectionist to be a superb bowhunter. However, paying attention to the details does count for a lot. Taking the time to improve your bow’s balance will help you boost shooting comfort and accuracy. In the end, it’ll improve your confidence and proficiency, making you more effective in the deer woods.