Five Time-Tested Tuning Tips
October 28, 2010
I am surprised when I look at my friends' bows and field questions from them about why they are shooting poorly. It never ceases to amaze me that basic bow setup issues trip them up. If they are any indication of the bowhunting population as a whole, it is time to get back to basics on a few things. Most bowhunters know where to position their nocking point and possibly even their rest; but beyond that, things start to get fuzzy.
Whisker Biscuit rests are very popular because the arrow can't fall off. However, they perform best with stiff, durable fletching in an offset configuration.
Here are five tricks and tips that will help you shoot better.
Peep Sight Rotation
Every year, I preach the importance of breaking your bow in before serious hunting and getting your peep sight set so it rotates correctly when you draw. I am not a big fan of rubber tubing, because it is just one more thing that can fail when you can least afford it. I preached those basics, but I never told you exactly how to do it -- until now.
When you install your peep, make sure it splits the dead center of the string. Most of today's strings are made of two colors of fiber, and by separating the colors, you apply the least amount of torque to the peep. Installed this way, the peep is not likely to turn much during the draw. So, all you have to do is get it to start correctly, and it will come back square every time.
After you have shot the bow about 100 times with the peep in the string, it is safe to start thinking about the final tweaks. Today's synthetic harnesses and strings are very good compared to what we endured a decade ago; they don't require as much break-in, because they don't stretch nearly as much. After 100 shots, take note of what the peep is doing, where it is facing at the start of the draw and where it is facing at full draw. It should be easy to tell where the peep needs to face before the draw so that it comes back square.
Everyone who messes with bows much starts to come up with their own ways of doing things. What I do to get my peep where I need it is place the bow in a bow press and add one string twist for very three-quarters turn I want the peep to rotate. In other words, if the peep is a quarter turn past where I want it (in the direction of the twists on the string) one twist will get it pretty close to perfect. If it is a quarter turn short on the other side, I will need to add about three twists. If the peep is facing exactly in the wrong direction, it will take two twists, etc. This is a rough starting point, but it works pretty well.
Normally, it will take one more shooting session to determine the final tweaks for the peep. But once set in this manner, I have never had a peep sight fail to rotate correctly when I am drawing on game.
You need to set the timing of your drop-away rest so it offers some guidance to the arrow before it falls out of the way of the fletching.
Whisker Biscuit Tips
I love the Whisker Biscuit rest for a certain group of hunters. They are standard issue for my wife, my kids and most beginning bowhunters I help. They even work well for accomplished archers. I like it because there is no way for the arrow to fall off the rest while you are waiting or stalking. The rests are not perfect; you still need to set up your arrows correctly, or the fletching will soon be curled worse than a mallard's tail.
First, you should use only an offset orientation for your fletching so you can slice more easily through the rest's bristles with minimal damage to your vanes or feathers.
Second, the vanes you choose should be very durable. I've shot fairly soft vanes for most of my hunting, but today's vanes make that style nearly obsolete. We have learned that stiff fletching works best to stabilize arrow flight quickly, and it also holds up much better to the Whisker Biscuit. Die-hard Biscuit users prefer vanes from Flex-Fletch, or they use Bohning Blazers. Even with a good, aggressive helical offset, these short, stiff vanes will hold their shape much longer than long, supple vanes.
Timing A Drop-Away Rest
Drop-away rests are awesome. I love them with a well-built bow that delivers good nock travel. Even with a good bow, your arrows still need some guidance at first to smooth out small hiccups in the way the string moves forward and small differences in the arrows themselves.
To gain the needed guidance, set your drop-away rest so the launcher stays in the fully upright position for as long as possible during the forward travel of the arrow. Ideally, it will drop just before the fletching arrives for total clearance.
To assure this, the rest should reach full height when the string is still about four to five inches short of full draw. Timing is adjustable on every drop-away rest I've tested, either through linkage length or cord length. It takes a while for the rest to react and clear the arrow's path. That is why you want it to rise at what might seem like a late point in the draw cycle. From this position, you can tweak the timing to assure you have fletching clearance.
Spin Tune Your Arrows
Spin tuning is my final test before I snap an arrow into my quiver. No broadhead will shoot perfectly (not even a mechanical head) unless it is in line with the arrow shaft. I've used all sorts of arrow tuning devices, but the easiest and quickest method for testing alignment is to simply spin the arrow in your hand. I should also recommend that you be extremely careful when spinning arrows using this method. Today's broadheads are scary sharp!
Place the arrow, point down, on your thumb pad and give the arrow a spin. Some guys cradle the arrow on their fingernails and blow on the fletching to make it spin. You'll immediately feel even the slightest vibration in your hand if the broadhead is not precisely aligned with the shaft. When you feel nothing -- almost as if the arrow isn't even turning -- that's when you know it is perfect. That is my goal on every hunting arrow.
Sometimes you can straighten a broadhead by unscrewing it and screwing it back in a few times or trying a different broadhead on that shaft. I also use the G5 Arrow Squaring Device on every arrow in order to square up the end. Misalignment can also result from slight variations in the steel collar used to separate the head from the shaft. Try swapping these around too.
If they don't spin perfectly, don't use them
Fixing An Untunable Bow
I have owned a few bows that were so poorly designed they could not be tuned. That was back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Most of today's bows are much better. Test fire any bow before buying it. There are many reasons a bow might be very hard to tune using normal methods. Rather than go into all of the reasons, I'll skip right to the ailments that can be fixed, or at least improved.
A bow can be very tough to tune if the cam leans during the draw and then snaps back as the string speeds forward. This produces sideways nock travel. You can twist one side of a split yoke that attaches the harness to the axle to try to counteract the lean, but in some cases, the problem results from poorly aligned axle holes. I've even had one bow I couldn't tune until I changed the riser (but nothing else). I'm guessing the limb pockets were poorly aligned.
Most of the bows with this condition produce arrows that tail to the left or right (usually to the right for right-handed shooters) when shot through paper. This action creates fletching contact, and then the arrow rebounds in who knows what direction.
If you see this problem and you can't eliminate it no matter what you do, the bow may be a lemon. Don't knock yourself out trying to fix it.
Most well built bows tune quickly. If you are fighting the bow, consider taking it to an archery shop for help. If they can't get it straightened out, I am guessing the bow has side-to-side nock travel that can't be fixed.