Bowhunting Trophy Whitetails Chapter 1
By Bobby Worthington
Apr 18, 2006 – 11:08:00 AM
I froze in fear, for I knew I had been
caught. I could feel it in the right side of my face. I felt as if the teacher
had just caught me with my arm cocked, about to launch a wadded-up piece of
On that Nov. 2, I had indeed been
caught by a teacher ? one of a different sort, but a teacher nonetheless. And
the punishment for my lapse of alertness could be much worse than a missed
recess. I was bowhunting a funnel in a northern pine grove surrounded by 15 to
20 huge rubs I have never before or since seen the likes of.
The object that had caused my lapse of
alertness was a determined 2 1/2-year-old buck chasing does around my tree
stand in the chilling air of a cold front. He was not my reason for being
there, however; the 130-inch 8-pointer was a sideshow.
As I watched him, I knew better and
tried to keep abreast of the area around my stand. However, about the time I
realized I had been watching him too long, that feeling hit me. As I slowly
turned my head to the right, there she was: a huge old doe only eight yards
away, looking straight at me. She had slipped in on the quiet pine needles.
I knew it was a little early for a doe
to be in heat. However, I also knew if any does were coming in, this old gal
would be one of them. I intently scanned the woods . . . and there, not 10
yards behind her, was a big, gray face sticking out from behind a pine. Looking
closer, I saw a massive main beam coming around far past the buck?s nose.
About that time, the doe ran under my
stand and stopped about five yards on the opposite side of the pine in which I
was desperately trying to hide. The big boy could not stand that much real
estate between himself and his maiden and came running straight toward my tree.
I will never forget that sight.
Every time the 330-pound animal?s front
feet hit the ground, his massive neck and shoulders rolled forward. His body
looked more fitting for a giant, topped-out, fattening hog than a whitetail.
His headgear was also huge, with mass ranging from 6 to nearly 8 inches and
tines up to 13 inches long. As he closed the distance, it crossed my mind that
he looked like a big mule deer.
Luckily for me, the huge buck stopped
five yards from my tree and looked over his massive shoulder at the
now-stationary 2 1/2-year-old. The giant then began stomping the ground with a
front foot. I could almost feel my tree stand move each time he hit the ground.
Having given a warning to his younger
rival, he then returned his attention to the object of his affection. As the
brute stood there, staring at the doe, I watched intently for any sign that he
would start moving. There were low limbs between us, and I knew there was no
way to get an arrow to him. I also knew I would need to draw as soon as he
started to move; when he cleared the limbs, I would be in the wide open. I had
to shoot before he saw me.
Then came the signal I had been looking
for: The big deer swished his tail. As soon as he did, I drew. As he began to
stroll toward the friendly doe, I placed my sight picture on his shoulder and
released the string from my fingers. Only 30 seconds and 150 yards later, my
heart-shot non-typical trophy fell dead.
How was I able to arrow such a fine
buck? It is because I was successful in the two vastly different parts of
bowhunting trophy whitetails. I obviously succeeded in the archery part,
because I was able to kill the buck with bow and arrow. And, just as
importantly, I succeeded in the hunting part, setting up in a spot the mature
deer passed within bow range of in daylight.
We will look at the hunting part of the
trophy bowhunting equation later in this book. In Part 1, we will examine the
archery side, which is just as important; after all, if we cannot hit our
target, we will not be successful in this great sport. There will be few opportunities
in a lifetime to shoot a truly mature buck, so when we finally get the chance,
we must be able to get the job done. The archery section of this book is
written to help you do just that.
In Chapter 1, we will touch on some
points of the equipment or mechanical part of archery, so you can set up a bow
for the best results. Then, in Chapter 2, we will look at the human side of
archery, exploring both the physical and mental aspects of shooting a bow. My
goal in this chapter is to reveal some points that will help you to become a
better archery shot, so that you can achieve the ultimate goal of putting a
broadhead through the lungs of a mature buck when the opportunity presents
The author shows the impressive results
that can come from setting up your bow properly and having confidence in your
ability to perform at the moment of truth.
Up Your Bow
Understanding the mechanical side of
archery is the first step toward more consistent results.
In preparing your bow setup for
hunting, there are two main areas to consider. One is bow tuning; the other is
matching the bow to the shooter. In order to shoot consistently well, both of
these areas must be addressed. Let?s examine them here.
My goal in this section is to cut
through a lot of the technical stuff and simplify things so that the average
bowhunter can tune his bow quickly and correctly. The No. 1 accuracy problem I see is the
shooter?s inability to put to rest the demon of his bow and the way it is tuned.
Hopefully, the information in this chapter will help you to understand tuning
better, so you can fine-tune your bow to its full potential. Then, once you
have the bow tuned, forget it. It only makes things worse if you move things
around every time you miss.
will first look at the basic adjustments of the tiller, the timing of two-cam
bows, center shot and the position of the nocking point locator. I am going to
mention a few things about each one of these basic adjustments and discuss how
to initially set them.
Because the vast majority of bowhunters
today shoot compound bows, this part of the book is written primarily with them
in mind. However, I feel all archers can pick up some helpful points in this
Before we get into the ?how to? of basic
bow tuning, let me say that you should not second-guess the inherent accuracy
of whichever bow you shoot. Almost any bow sold today can shoot more accurately
than can the archer shooting it. However, you should invest in the bow you feel
is right for you. If you are continually wondering about the accuracy of your
bow, you will not be able to shoot it to your full ability. With that point out
of the way, let?s look at the steps involved in basic bow tuning.
First, let?s look at the tiller.
Two-cam bows are closed-circuit units, because of the cables that connect the
two wheels together. Turning the weight bolt in on one limb will not make that
limb work any more than the other. The tiller adjustment does not have an
effect on accuracy per se if it is at all close to being correct; most archers
will never know it if their tiller measurement is off by 1/4 inch or less. In
fact, we have found we can change the tiller five pounds on either limb and
still shoot 2-inch groups at 50 yards, using a shooting machine. I am not
saying that the two limbs should not be close to the same poundage. What I am
saying is to get them close, forget about the tiller and move on. A slight
amount of difference here will not adversely affect accuracy.
To check your bow?s tiller, measure
from the string at a 90-degree angle to the point where the limb and riser
meet. Most archers set the top and bottom tiller to measure the same. Tiller
adjustments, if needed, are made by turning a limb?s weight-adjustment bolt.
For example, if you have too much tiller on the bottom limb, decrease the
weight on the top limb or increase the weight on the bottom limb. If you have
too much tiller on the top limb, of course, you would adjust in the opposite
Once you have the tiller set, if you
change the bow?s draw weight, do so by turning each limb?s weight-adjustments
bolt the same amount and in the same direction. Again, though, you do not need
to be overly concerned about this adjustment, as it has little real effect on
Now let?s look at the timing (cam
rollover) on two-cam or eccentric-wheel bows. Of course, the timing should be
close on both cams. However, as long as it is the same on each shot, the arrow
will hit in the same place; therefore, do not be overly obsessed with the timing.
If the two bus cables are not of the
same length, the timing will be off. You can determine if this is the case by
looking at the position of the two cams in relation to the limbs. The top cam
should be in the same relation to the top limb as is the bottom cam to the
bottom limb. Many bow manufacturers today inscribe timing marks on the cams.
This gives you a quick, easy way to check the timing. If your cams do not have
these marks, check the timing by finding a hole or other reference point that is
the same on both cams. If these reference points are not in the same place,
relative to each limb, the timing is off.
To adjust the timing, you need a bow
press or other means of relieving pressure on the bus cables. After you have
the cables relaxed, twist can be added to or taken out of them to get the
timing correct. The final way to check the timing is to draw the bow. There
should be a solid stop against the force-curve wall. If you instead feel a
double-bump stop, your timing is still off and you need to do some more
The tiller is measured from the bowstring
at a 90-degree angle to the point where the limb and riser meet. If the top and
bottom tillers differ, adjust one or both limbs until they match.
Once you get the timing correct, it is
a good idea to mark reference points, so that you will be able to tell if one
cable stretches and throws the timing off again. A good place to mark reference
points is at the exact location where the bowstring leaves the cam grooves on
the top and lower cams.
A good place to mark timing
reference points is on the cams. Put a mark (such as typing correction fluid)
where the bowstring leaves the cam grooves on the top and lower cams.
The next basic adjustment we want to
look at is center shot. However, once again, do not be overly concerned about
this adjustment. We can change the center shot as much as 3/8 inch, then put
the bow into a shooting machine and still shoot arrows into the same hole at 20
yards. In fact, some of the highest tournament scores ever shot were recorded
back when we mistakenly believed the center shot was the center of the riser;
many top shooters with their center shot off as much as 3/8 inch set records
that have never been broken.
As far as accuracy is concerned, center
shot will not have an adverse effect if it is off only slightly. However, if
the center shot is off, the group you shoot at 20 yards will be to the right or
left of the group you shoot at a longer distance, say 50 yards. This is the
reason to have the arrow lined up behind the bow?s power stroke, not because it
will tighten your groups. If you notice that the farther you move from the
target the more your groups move to the right or left, your center shot is off.
Fortunately, this is simple to correct.
The center-shot adjustment is made by moving the arrow rest to the right or
left as needed. To check and adjust your center shot, move up to 20 yards from
the target and shoot until you have the windage of your sights set dead on. Now
move back to 50 yards and shoot another group. If this group is to the right of
the group you shot at 20 yards, you need to move your arrow rest to the left
(for a right-handed shooter). If the 50-yard group is to the left of your
20-yard group, adjust it in the opposite direction. Moves back and forth from
20 to 50 yards while adjusting your center shot until you have the windage of
the two groups the same.
believe string nocking point is more crucial to accuracy than the other
adjustments. I have many times moved an archer?s nocking point up the bow
string 1/8 inch and improved his accuracy considerably. After that I might move
it another 1/2 inch without any further effect. If the nocking point is too
low, it can cause the back of the arrow shaft to contact the arrow rest as it
moves on its path. This will affect the arrow?s oscillation and change its
course, which can have an adverse affect on accuracy.
For the initial nock locator
adjustment, start out by setting your locator so the bottom of your arrow nock
is 1/8 inch above 90 degrees to the string while the arrow is on the arrow
rest. Of course, you can find this location by using a bow square. We will
discuss how to fine-tune the exact location for the nocking point in the next
With the exception of a string nocking
point that might be set too low, bow tuning does not affect accuracy as much as
most archers believe. The reason I am going into some detail on tuning here is
so you will understand more about the subject, thereby enabling you to adjust
your bow to your satisfaction. Hopefully you then will be able to put the issue
to rest, so you can move on and learn how to shoot more effectively.
As we consider what we hope to
accomplish in fine-tuning, there is only one noteworthy area to work for on the
equipment side of archery: We must tune the bow/arrow setup so the arrow
consistently comes from the bow with its axis straight to the direction in
which it is traveling. That, of course, is the direction in which the bow is
I realize that some arrows could
oscillate (flex) slightly when they leave the bow. However, the arrow should be
flexing on a straight path in the direction in which the bow is pointing. When
the flexing has ended, the arrow?s shaft should be pointing straight toward the
direction of travel. If the arrow leaves the bow crooked, relative to the
direction of travel, it will cost you accuracy; after the fletching moves the
shaft back and forth to correct it, the shaft might no longer be headed exactly
toward the point at which it was shot.
Also, a shaft that leaves the bow
crooked to any degree will wobble as the fletching corrects it. The fact that
the correction and overcompensation (wobble) are not significant enough for you
to see them occur downrange does not mean they are not taking place. An arrow
that wobbles even slightly loses velocity and energy in flight. On the other
hand, an arrow that leaves the bow perfectly straight will have all of its
kinetic energy pushing right behind its point. The fletching should not have to
move the arrow around to straighten it. Its only job should be to keep the
shaft straight after it starts out that way.
Accuracy, speed and penetration are not
the only benefits to be gained by tuning for your arrows to leave the bow
straight. Have you ever wondered why some hunter?s broadheads do not impact the
target at the same place as their field points? It is because their arrows are
not coming from the bow straight. A fixed-blade broadhead, having a larger
surface than a field point, will fight the fletching more if the arrow leaves
the bow crooked. The broadhead will win more of the fight than will a
smaller-surfaced field point; as a result, it will move the arrow more in the
direction it started out before the fletching straightened it.
You will find that once you have tuned
your arrows to exit the bow straight, you will no longer need to reset your
sights when you switch to broadheads before deer season (provided of course,
that the broadheads are aligned with the shafts). Your broadheads and field
points will now impact at the same place on the target. I do not need to tell
you what a great advantage this is.
With this kind of bow or that kind,
with all your efforts and trials in tuning for accuracy, all you can and should
hope for is to have your arrows come out of the bow straight. That is it ?
unless you want to tune for the alternative, which would be to tune for the
arrows to leave your bow crooked and let the fletching work the shafts back and
forth to correct them. I do not believe this would be anyone?s goal in tuning.
Before you can tune to straighten the
arrow?s flight, you must be able to tell if the arrows are leaving the bow
crooked ? and if so, to what degree. Also, you must know when their flight has
been straightened out. Most archers use the paper test for this reason.
However, I do not believe this method always gives a true reading. As a matter
of fact, I know it does not, because at different distances we sometimes get
different readings from paper tuning, despite using the same setup in each
Let me explain why different readings
can occur. Let?s assume the string nock locator is set too high. This will
cause the arrow to leave the bow with its tail end higher than the point. If the arrow leaves the bow quite a bit ?tail
high? ? say, two to three inches ? what will happen? The fletching will meet a
lot of resistance from the air. This sudden resistance will force the fletched
end of the arrow down ? not just to the point of perfectly straight, but past
it. The tail end of the shaft will then for a short time be lower than the
front of the shaft. This over-compensation and correcting (arrow wobble) will
continue to diminish as the arrow moves forward, until the fletching has
straightened the shaft.
this concept, you should be able to see how this could give us the wrong
reading while paper tuning. If the rear end of the arrows hits the paper on its
rebound from being whipped downward by air resistance, it will make a low tear.
This low tear would give the shooter a false reading that the shaft left the
bow nock low, when the opposite is true. The same could be true if the arrow leaves
the bow tail left or right.
So, what is the answer? How can you
tell if your arrows are leaving the bow pointing straight toward the direction
of travel? The best way I have found is to shoot an arrow without any
fletching, to see how it hits the target. With no fletching to straighten the
arrow, the farther it travels, the more it will turn in the direction in which
it started out. In essence, bare-shaft shooting is the way to find out how your
arrows are leaving the bow.
Bare-shaft shooting is the way to
find out if your arrows are flying straight as they leave the bow.
If you can tune your bow-arrow setup so
that a bare shaft will fly straight into the target, it is leaving the bow
straight in line with the direction of travel. Your fletched arrows will also
be coming off the bow straight, provided there is no fletching contact to bump
them off course. (More on this later.) When you have the bow tuned so the
arrows leave the bow straight, the fletching will not have to affect their
flight; all it will have to do then is keep the shafts on the course they
started out on. Once you have the bow tuned so your arrows leave it straight
you can put the issue of tuning to rest, because there is nothing else you can
do with the bow/arrow setup to make it more accurate.
tuning might sound intimidating at first; however, it is not that difficult. I
have for many years shot the 20-yard indoor round with four fletched arrows and
one bare shaft, with the bare shaft not adversely affecting my groups. I have
done this with both recurve and compound bows. Also, my bows are tuned so I can
shoot bare shafts straight into the target at 50 yards, with the bare shafts
grouping within a few inches of each other and my fletched arrows. If I can
tune my bows to do this, anyone can learn to bare-shaft tune to a degree that
will improve their arrow speed, accuracy and penetration.
Next let?s look at the process of how
to tune the bow/arrow system to shoot a bare shaft straight into the target,
which is another way of saying tune the bow/arrow system to shoot an arrow
where it exits the bow pointing straight in the direction it is traveling. Before beginning to shoot bare shafts
or do any other fine-tuning, complete the basic bow-tuning adjustments
discussed earlier. But as mentioned, you need not go overboard trying to get
them perfect. I am sure the bows of most readers are already set up well enough
to start bare-shaft tuning. With that said, let?s move on to this process.
to starting any tuning process that involves shooting, make sure all of your
arrows are straight and weigh the same. If you do not own devices to spin and
weigh arrows, purchase them. I believe most bowhunters would be shocked with
the results if they spun and weighed their arrows.
Checking your arrows to determine
their exact weight is an important step in tuning. Even a slight difference in
arrow weight can result in a noticeable difference in accuracy.
Start by spinning them with no points
on, to check for straightness. You might find you will need to discard from one
to three arrows out of a new dozen ? and more than that, if you have been
shooting them. How many arrows you will be able to use will have a lot to do
with the straightness tolerance of the shafts you purchase.
Next, put field points onto the arrows
and spin them again. If the insert is not aligned straight with the shaft, the
arrow point will not spin true. It is a simple matter (if your inserts are
glued in with heat-melt glue, as most are) to take a cigarette lighter and heat
the insert glue, then turn the point until it spins straight. Do this by
heating the last inch or so of the shaft?s point end. (Use caution not to
overheat the shaft. Only heat it enough to loosen the insert. Some composite
shaft materials cannot be heated at all. Check with the manufacturer before
heating any shaft.)
you put your broadheads on in preparation for hunting season, do not forget to
spin your arrows again, to make sure the broadheads are aligned straight with
the shafts. This is essential if you expect to have good broadhead groups.
Also, when you spin arrows, do not
forget to watch their nocks. They are as crucial to accuracy as is the point
end, if not more so. Do not overlook this initial step if you hope to
accomplish anything in the fine-tuning process.
While the weight of the arrows is not
as critical as is shaft straightness, it can make a difference in your groups
at longer distances. In fact, a 2-grain weight difference between arrows will
make a 3-inch difference on impact at 50 yards. Numbering your arrows is a big
help in determining when there is a problem with one or more of them.
Now that we are sure we are using
straight arrows that are close to the same weight, let?s get into the process
of bare-shaft tuning. Of course, before you begin bare-shaft tuning you will
need to remove the fletching from a couple of arrows. Do not put broadheads
onto your bare shafts; instead, use field points of the same weight as your
As you start shooting, it does not
matter whether you tune the shafts to enter straight into the backstop or to
group with the fletched arrows; when you have one accomplished, you will notice
you also have the other. However, I will describe how to tune to get the arrows
entering straight into the backstop, because I believe that is the quickest,
easiest way to bare-shaft tune and also because it is what we want to achieve.
When you begin shooting, start out no
farther away from the backstop than five or six yards. A shaft coming from the
bow very crooked will catch so much air that it will dart off, possibly even
missing the backstop, if you start shooting from too far away.
After you have the basic tuning
completed and your bow is set up for hunting, move to about five yards from the
backstop and shoot the bare shafts into the target. Then, without moving from
your stance, notice how the shafts are sticking into the backstop. If they are
not sticking straight in, they did not leave the bow straight. You will need to
do some adjusting.
Start by tuning for low or high arrow
nocks. Looking at the shafts from where you shot, if the shafts? nock ends are
lower than the point at which they entered the backstop, your shafts are
leaving the bow rear end low. To correct this, move the string nock locator up
the string or lower the arrow rest. Either adjustment will have the same
effect. If the shaft?s nock ends are too high in the backstop, adjust in the
opposite direction. Adjust the string nock locator up or down the string until
the shafts leave the bow with the rear end neither high nor low but straight.
(Note: If your string nock locator is
far too low, the nock end of your shaft might kick up off the rest, causing the
nock end to be high in the target butt. This will give a false indication that
your string nock locator is too high. Be aware of this possibility, so it will
not confuse you.)
If the shafts? nock ends are to the
right or left of the entry hole, you need to adjust the bow cast to arrow spine
difference. Changing your arrows? point weight or cutting a small amount off
the shafts might correct the problem, as this in effect changes arrow spine.
However, if these steps are not sufficient, it might be necessary to change
your bow?s draw weight or change to a different spine of arrow.
Most of the time, if you have a problem
with your arrow leaving the bow tail right or left, you will find that your
arrow is under-spined. Whether an under-spined arrow leaves the bow tail left
or right depends on your bow?s brace height; therefore, you will need to do
some experimenting to decide how to correct tail-right or tail-left arrows.
The quickest way to figure this out is
to adjust the draw weight of your bow. First decrease the draw weight. If that
does not correct the problem or makes it worse, then try increasing the draw
weight. By experimenting in this manner, you can quickly find out if your
arrows are under- or over-spined for your bow?s cast.
After you have your shafts entering
straight into the backstop at five or six yards, move back and shoot from 20
yards. You might now see that you need to do some fine-tuning. If your shafts
were a little off up close, the problem will be more noticeable at 20 yards.
With no fletching to correct your shafts, the farther they travel, the more
they turn in the direction they started off in.
Bare-shaft tuning reveals
arrow-flight problems. Here, the bare shaft?s nock is too high in the backstop,
relative to its entry point, for a shot taken from 20 yards. To correct this,
move the string nock locator down the bowstring.
If the string nock locator has
been set correctly, the entry hole will be lower than the shaft?s nock by only
two inches or so at 20 yards. Here, the bare shaft has entered the target at
about the right angle for a shot from that range.
Note that at 20 yards, you should not
tune for the height of the arrow nock to be exactly the same height as the
arrow?s entry hole. Because the field point is heavy and there is no fletching
to raise it, the point will gradually pull the front end of the shaft down. The
entry hole will be lower than the shaft?s nock by two inches or so at around 20
yards if your string nock locator is set correctly.
While you are tuning with bare shafts,
you might notice that the problem of a high or low nock is easier to correct
than is the right/left nock ? especially if you shoot a bow with a low brace
height. Fortunately, the high/low arrow nock is also more critical. The reason
is that if the shaft leaves the bow tail low, it might affect the arrow?s
oscillation, by contacting the rest as it passes. If the arrow is leaving the
bow tail high, the fletching will be fighting air resistance on the shaft, as
well as the weight of the point, to raise it. This will cause your arrows to
drop faster than they otherwise would, just as too heavy a point would. This is
the reason you should be more concerned with high or low nocks than with left
or right nocks. (Do not misunderstand; you should get the left or right nocks
straightened out as much as possible. However, if the shafts are slightly left
or right of the entry hole at 20 yards after you have exhausted your initial
remedies, I would not recommend you go out and purchase a dozen new arrows.)
Can everyone get their arrows to leave
their bows straight? Some cannot with the bow setups they now use, unless they
make some changes. For instance, if you hunt with a super-fast, unforgiving
setup with arrows that have too weak a spine for the bow?s poundage, you might
have problems. Also, if you shoot a bow with a short brace height, you might find
it difficult to get the arrows to come out of your bow straight unless you make
some changes in your equipment. However, I believe most shooters can, with a
little work, adjust their setups so their arrows will leave their bows
There are four means available to
greatly simplify anyone?s attempt to tune so arrows exit the bow straight.
These devices also improve arrow flight, which will in turn improve accuracy,
speed and penetration.
The first item to mention is carbon or
carbon-composite arrows. They are not as critical to the cast of the bow and
will fly straighter from a greater variety of setups than will arrows made from
The next thing, for release shooters,
is a quality release aid. If you shoot a single-post release, make sure it is
of top quality and breaks super clean, like the Short-N-Sweet by Truball.
Another good choice is a caliper-type release. With two movable jaws that meet
around the string, there is no sideways pull of the string upon release.
The third device to help you get arrows
to leave the bow straight is a nocking or ?D? loop. This wonderful, inexpensive
device will, among other things, allow you to release the arrow from directly
behind it. When a nocking loop is used, there is no twisting the string or
pre-loading the arrow to cause arrow flight problems.
The last item I want to mention is a
fall-away arrow rest. It does not help if the arrow starts from the bow
straight, only to get sidetracked by the rest itself. The fall-away rest is
designed to hold the arrow in position for the first few inches of travel, then
drop out of the path before the back of the arrow and its fletching reach it.
This type of rest usually uses the forward movement of the cable guard slide or
the downward movement of the bus cable to move it away from the path of the
arrow. If you have never tried one of these rests, I believe you will be
impressed. They especially show their worth if you shoot 5-inch helical
fletching, as I do.
The author shows a 3-arrow group
? one a fletched shaft with a broadhead, one a fletched shaft with a field
point and one a bare shaft ? he shot at 40 yards. Thanks to proper tuning of
its various components, this bow/arrow combination clearly does not have a
problem with arrow flight.
Even if you have your bare shafts
flying straight, your fletched arrows will not leave your bow straight if they
make fletching contact with the arrow rest. So, whether you use a fall-away
rest or not, test to guarantee fletching clearance.
A lot of archers spray white powder
onto the rest and riser to test for clearance. This is a good method ? however,
I have found that it is better to use lipstick to test for clearance. By
rubbing some of it onto the outer edge of the fletching and shooting the arrow,
you will be able to see a red mark on anything the fletching touches. If you
have fletching contact, use arrow-nock rotation and rest adjustment to achieve
total clearance. This is crucial ? especially if you use plastic vanes. You
simply must not have fletching contact with the arrow rest or sight window.
Whenever I discuss tuning, someone
always asks, ?How can I set the bow up to be forgiving?? That is exactly what
we do when we tune for arrows to leave the bow straight.
Let?s assume a shooter?s arrows are
leaving the bow tail left. Now let?s assume the archer torques the bow in a way
that will throw the arrow tail left. With the arrow already leaving the bow in
that direction and the archer adding to the problem, we could have an arrow
with its tail so far left that it wobbles in flight as the fletching attempts
to straighten it. This will reduce accuracy, speed and penetration.
The most forgiving setup will always be
the one in which the arrow leaves the bow pointing straight toward the
direction in which it is traveling. In tuning for accuracy, this is all we can
hope to accomplish.
Bow to Shooter
Next, let?s look at the second aspect
of the equipment part of archery: matching the bow to the shooter. In this
area, there are four note-worthy points to entertain: draw length, draw weight,
bow mass weight and grip.
is my strong belief that if most archers would shorten their draw length by one
to two inches, they would have better form, their sight picture would be
steadier and consequently, their accuracy would improve. Of the
great number of archers I have worked with over the years, I do not believe I
have ever seen one with a setup that had too short a draw length for the
shooter. The vast majority with draw-length problems are over-drawing their
If a shooter?s draw length is too long,
he will have to use poor form to draw the bow far enough to get it into the
draw-curve valley. He will nearly always overextend his bow arm?s elbow and
also push his shoulder out toward the target. If that does not get him into the
valley, he will also anchor too far back, sometimes to the point his hand is
floating and not even touching his face. Most of the time, an archer with too
long a draw length will also lean his body back away from the target. With form
like this, how in the name of reason can he hope to shoot well? Analyze your
draw length, and if it needs adjusting, do so before you shoot another arrow.
I also see a big problem with the draw
weight most archers use. Too heavy a draw weight has a bad effect on form. The
shooter with too heavy a draw weight will usually start by spreading his feet
too far apart. Then he will point his bow toward the heavens, lock his elbow
and roll his bow shoulder in to get enough leverage to break the bow over the
peak. By the time he has muscled the thing back, he has bad form. He also has
his muscles so tense there is no way he can relax and hope his sight will be
If you cannot sit flat on the floor,
hold your bow straight out and draw it without over-straining, your draw weight
is too heavy. If most archers would take five to seven pounds off their draw
weight, they would be surprised at how steady their sights would be.
It was for years a guarded secret among
a few top tournament archers that greater bow mass weight will result in a
steadier sight picture and, as a result, tighter groups. If your bow is light,
it will feel good carrying it around in the woods; however, it will also float
around more while you are trying to aim. Most top shooters? bows weigh between
five and nine pounds. Of course, if you shoot a bow that weighs three pounds,
you will have to work your way up to a heavier bow. However, when you get
there, I believe you will be amazed at the results.
I start out with a light mass-weight
bow, then add weight where I want it. Do not add the weight onto the end of
your stabilizer ? instead, add it around the bow?s riser. The reason for this
is if the end of your stabilizer is heavy, you will have to use muscle tension
to keep the front of the bow from being pulled downward. This muscle tension
will in turn cause sight movement, which will scatter your groups.
I like to ?heavy up? my bow by using a
piece of flat stock steel. I start with a flat piece 5 to 6 inches long, 3/16
inch or so thick and 3/4 to 1 inch wide. First I bore a 3/8-inch hole in each end
of the steel; then I attach a short stabilizer to one end, by running the
threaded stabilizer bolt through one of the holes bored. I next tighten a lock
nut onto the end of the stabilizer bolt. Through the other hole I place the
bolt of my main stabilizer and thread it into the bow riser. When placing this
on your bow, make sure the steel and short stabilizer are on the opposite side
of the bow from your quiver and sight base.
There are several benefits to
increasing bow weight in this way. Not only is it a convenient way to add
weight back around the riser, you can also use it to add weight on the side you
need it on to counterbalance the weight of a quiver full of arrows and the
sight?s base. This will help you to get the shot off faster.
If you do not have weight to
counterbalance your quiver of arrows and sight, when you draw your bow its
upper limb will be tilted to the right (for a right-handed shooter), due to the
additional weight on that side of the bow. You will then have to apply muscle
to bring the bow?s sight level to plumb. A lot of the time you will
overcompensate and have to move the bow back and forth to get it level. This
can take between two and four seconds ? time that can be critical when trying
to arrow a trophy buck. On the other hand, if you have a counterbalance on your
bow, when you draw it back it will be very close to level.
The author likes to add weight to
his hunting bow by attaching a piece of flat stock steel with a second
stabilizer on it. This also helps to counterbalance the weight of the quiver
and sight on the opposite side, quickly settling the bow into its proper
You should experiment with the amount
of counterbalance you need. Start out by placing the counterbalance well out to
the left, with the steel at a 45-degree angle from your bow. If you find that
this is too much counterbalance, loosen the main stabilizer and then lower the
counterbalance more toward the bottom of the bow. This will lessen the amount
of counterbalancing effect. If you need more counterbalance, go to a heavier,
short stabilizer or use a weight-modular design to be threaded onto the back of
the stabilizer bolt. With this system, you not only can add weight and balance
the bow as needed but also have the benefit of two stabilizers working for you
instead of one.
Do you use the proper grip on your bow?
I believe most archers today realize the benefit of a low wrist grip ? but what
about the grip?s design? When an archer picks up a new bow, he will sometimes
make the statement, ?This grip does not fit my hand.? But do we really want a
grip to fit our hand? If we had a grip molded to fit our hand perfectly, it
would feel good; however, would it be good for accuracy?
I have for many years held the
conviction that if we could use a round grip the size of a pencil, we would
shoot better groups. If the grip fits the hand perfectly, every little movement
in the shooter?s bow side at the moment the string is released is transferred
to the bow. However, with a pencil-sized grip, when the shooter?s bow side moved,
the grip would not be able to transfer that movement to the bow. The bow hand
would instead simply move around the grip.
cut my own bow grips down as thin as possible. Many top shooters shoot with the
entire grip removed from the riser. Manufacturers often offer more than one
grip for a given bow. When trying to decide which grip to purchase, consider
one of the thinner models. If you shoot one for a while, I believe you will be
pleased with the results.
Again, the variables discussed in this
section are not as critical to accuracy as some would have you believe. The
reason I have gone into bow setup in some detail is because a lot of
information out there is confusing and misleading. Hopefully, you now
understand more about what is important and what is not in bow tuning. Next, the human side of archery.
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