Paper Tuning A Bow

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bow tuning
You don't have to be a technical whiz-bang to tune a bow. There are a limited number of adjustments that you need to make. If you follow a step-by-step process you should have a correctly tuned bow. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

Pre-Season Bow Tuning

You blow the dust off your bow in late September; grab a few old arrows that are leaning in the corner and head out the back door. After 15 minutes you've started hitting a pie plate stapled to a bale of hay most of the time at 20 yards. You pronounce yourself ready! Whoa, that may be a common scenario but it is also a great way to assure that your tag stays neatly folded in your pocket.

To make the most of this coming season you need to know a little more than that – well you at least need to prepare a little better than that. In this feature the required steps are laid out to get your bow shooting well and your form ready for the season. The steps are simple so don't worry that the subject is going to be intimidating. It isn't. Follow these simple steps and you will bring home the deer venison. The first step will  explain how arrow flight works.

Basics of Paper Tuning

When you throw a dart, it really doesn't matter which way it's pointing when it leaves your hand. With its aerodynamic tip and tail fins, it quickly stabilizes to fly straight. A paper airplane, on the other hand, is a lot tougher to throw in a straight line. As soon as it leaves your hand it will start turning, dipping or rising.

To make a paper airplane fly straight you have to bend and straighten a bunch of things, the tip, the wings, the tail sections until, by trial and error, you've got it tracking straight. You may even need to perfect your throwing motion to assure that your release the airplane on a straight path.

Without this tuning process, you'd be expecting a lot to hope that a paper airplane would fly as accurately as a dart. Yet that's exactly what many bowhunters do when they expect a broadhead tipped hunting arrow to hit in the same place as their field point arrows without spending the time and effort to tune their bows, their arrows and their shooting form.

The same adjustments required to make the paper airplane fly like a dart are also required to make a hunting arrow fly as true as a practice arrow. If you think about tuning in these terms, this complex task seems a lot more straightforward.

Bow Tuning

Initial settings: Your two-cam bow can only be tuned if the cams roll over at the same time. By checking this now, you'll save yourself headaches later. With the bow lying across your lap, compare the rotation of each cam to its respective limb. If they aren't both positioned the same, you have a mistimed bow. You can also check cam timing at full draw, but you'll need the help of a friend to determine if the cams are reaching their full draw positions at the same time. Resetting your timing is not overly difficult, but it does require a little training. Unless you're already a handy bow technician, leave this work to your local archery pro.

Single-cam bows and today's hybrid-cam bows have a much smaller chance of going out of tune than traditional two-cam bows. However, it is always wise to check your cams for signs of wear both on the server of your bow string and bow cables, the axles that run through the cams, and the limbs as well.

Paper tuning is an excellent way to learn how your arrows are flying. By studying the shape of the tears you see in the paper you can make simple adjustments to your rest or nocking point.

Proper left-to-right position of your arrow rest can also speed-up the bow tuning process. When setting up for a release aid, your nocked arrow should line up perfectly with the forward thrust of the bow string. The easiest way to check this alignment is to stand the bow on its bottom wheel and look down on it from above. The arrow should come straight out the front of the bow, not pointing to either side. This eye-ball method will get you very close, however for precise adjustments there are several tools on the market that will help you.

Archery release aid shooters should install a nock point so its lower edge is approximately 1/8 inch above the center of the bow's cushion plunger hole (where the rest attaches). Finger shooters should start 3/8 to 1/2 inch above center and should move the rest away from the bow very slightly so the arrow points barely to the left for right-handed shooters.

Paper tuning: Ideally, your arrows will leave the bow flying straight, with the arrow nock perfectly following the point, making a bullet hole through paper with three equal length cuts caused by the fletchings. To get a snapshot of how your arrows are flying, shoot them (tipped with field points) through a piece of paper from a range of about five feet. Some bowhunters just cut a hole in a cardboard box and tape the paper across the opening. The tears the arrows make, along with the troubleshooting chart that is below and will tell you what to do next.

paper tune a bow

How To Paper Tune a Bow

Tail Left: (often Indicates a weak spined arrow)

 1. Decrease arrow draw weight. Back out both limb bolts a quarter turn at a time. Make certain to adjust both limbs equally to avoid changing the tiller and arrow nock point position on the bow string. Also make certain to avoid backing the limb bolts out too far to avoid injury to the bowhunter and damage to the bow.

2. Decrease arrow point weight. A lighter point will have some effect on increasing arrow shaft stiffness. Too light of a point however, may result in unstable arrow flight.

3. If steps 1 and 2 don't reduce the length of the tear to your satisfaction, you may need to change to a stiffer arrow shaft.


Tail Right: (often indicates an arrow that is too stiff)

1. Increase arrow draw weight. Tighten both limb bolts a quarter turn at a time. Make certain to adjust both limbs equally to avoid changing the tiller and arrow nock point position on the bow string.

2. Increase field point weight. A heavier field point will have some effect on decreasing arrow shaft stiffness. Arrow speed may be reduced.

3. If steps 1 and 2 don't reduce the length of the tear to your satisfaction, you may need to change to a weaker arrow shaft.


To Correct a Tail High

1. Move the arrow nocking point down in small increments.

2. If using a launcher or shoot-thru type arrow rest, move the arrow support arm up. Increasing spring tension can also be helpful.

3. Check for arrow fletching interference and adjust arrow rest position as needed.


To Correct a Tail Low:

1. Move the arrow nocking point up in small increments.

2. If using a launcher or shoot-thru type arrowrest, move the arrow support arm down. Reduced spring tension can also be helpful for even finer adjustments.




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