Paper Tuning A Bow

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drop away arrow rests
Drop away arrow rests, such as the NAP Apache shown here, eliminate fletching contact as the rest arm moves down and away from the arrow as it begins to move forward. Hunter shown wearing Lost Camo.

Collisions between the arrow's fletchings and the arrow rest are the most common cause of poor arrow flight. There are two ways to isolate this problem. The easiest method is to spray your arrow fletching with aerosol foot powder. The powder will rub off in areas where contact occurs.

You can also use trial and error by turning your arrow nocks slightly to adjust the way the fletching passes through the arrow rest. This process often results in perfect flight in short order.

Not all arrow rests offer ample fletching clearance. If tweaking the arrow nock won't eliminate fletching contact, experiment with a drop-away arrow rest. Some bowhunters use these regularly and feel that they certainly make bow tuning easier, especially with the small diameter carbon arrows and aggressive helical offset fletching that I favor.

Finger shooters will find that good arrow flight is also related to small changes in the stiffness of their arrows. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to better match bow and arrow shaft without having to buy a dozen new arrows. Specifically, if your arrows are flying tail-left, typifying a weak spine reaction for a right handed shooter, try one of the following solutions: use a lighter weight field point, try composite inserts (both will make the arrow shaft act stiffer) or reduce your draw weight a few pounds. If your paper tears suggest you need more flexible arrow shafts (tail-right for a right-handed shooter) first try a heavier point or increase your draw weight slightly.

Arrow Tuning

Bow tuning is like improving the way you release the paper airplane to assure it starts out flying straight. To make it hit the bullseye, you next have to tune the arrow itself. Arrow tuning is like tweaking the airplane to assure that all parts are perfectly aligned

Bow tuning will bring your hunting arrow groups onto the same part of the target as your practice arrows, but it will do nothing to reduce the size of the group itself. To do that you have to tune each arrow individually. All the components that make up a hunting arrow must line up perfectly or the effects of wind planing will cause it to fly erratically.

Set aside half a dozen new arrows to be used only for hunting to assure they are straight and sound.

If your broadheads aren't grouping in the same place as your field points but are grouping together nicely, the simplest solution is to move your sight pin to bring your arrows to the center of the target.

Hopefully, after eliminating the imperfect arrows, you still have enough to hunt. If not, you'll need to replace or square up your inserts. To replace them, you must carefully heat the point (not the arrow shaft) with a propane torch (assuming the inserts were installed with hot melt glue), gently turn the point and insert in an attempt to float it the center. You may have to do this more than once to see improvement.

If you are using carbon arrows with inserts that were installed using epoxy, you can't release the insert with heat. You will only destroy the arrow. Instead, in those situations you can use a tool called the Arrow Squaring Device from G5 Outdoors. It permits you to square up the end of the insert so the broadhead shoulders squarely when you screw it in. This really improves alignment. Some bowhunters use it on every arrow they set up for hunting.

Sight-in With Broadheads

Even with considerable attention to detail there is no guarantee that your broadhead tipped hunting arrows will hit the same exact holes as your practice arrows carrying field points.

In general, if your hunting arrows group in a different part of the target from your practice arrows, your bow is not perfectly tuned. Small differences are fairly common even with bow and arrow combos that are paper tuned, but they can be corrected easily by simply moving your rest very slightly in the direction required to bring your hunting arrows closer to your practice arrows. If this doesn't work you can always move your bow sight to compensate. If the arrows are wide left, move the sight to the left, etc.

There's nothing more satisfying to a bowhunter than putting it all together during the moment of truth. Since you know the whole season may come down to just one shot, now is the time to do the things that are necessary to make it count.

The Basics of Bow Shooting Form

Concentration is a big part of accuracy. Pick a small spot and hold your concentration on that spot until the arrow hits. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

Another key component in making a great shot during crunch time is your shooting form. Even with a properly tuned bow and arrows, poor shooting form can often cause bowhunters to miss their mark both at the practice range as well as in the field.


The grip is your only means for actually controlling the bow. It has to stay relaxed throughout the shot. Just let the fingers hang naturally. Monitor your grip regularly to make sure you haven't slipped into the bad habit of snapping your hand shut as soon as you release the string.

Bow arm

Think of your bow arm as a long shock absorber. To promote this affect, unlock your elbow while aiming. You don't need to bend the arm, just don't lock the elbow.

Keep your bow arm relaxed by learning to hold the string with your back muscles. It should feel like you're trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together.


When aiming, your mind should have only one task - burning a hole through the exact hair on the trophy bucks side that you want your arrow to hit. You'll know you're "in the zone" when the tiny spot pops into sharp focus. Your pin will be blurry. That's fine. Maintain this focus until the arrow hits home.

Maintain your follow-through until your arrow hits the target. That means you should strive to hold your form and maintain your focus on the spot you are trying to hit. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

The release

If you use a mechanical release aid, set your finger firmly against the trigger and then squeeze it in one continuous motion as you pull through the shot with your back muscles. If you do it correctly, the shot should take you by surprise, like a rifleman making a clean squeeze.

If you release with your fingers, learn to trigger the shot by simply relaxing the back of your string hand. Don't attempt to fling your fingers open. You can't do that fast enough or consistently enough to be accurate.


The follow-through is the glue that holds the shot together. Continue to focus on the target and hold the proper form - you may even try to feel as if you are keeping your pin on the target - until the arrow hits. The follow-through is especially critical when shooting at longer ranges.


bow practice
Bow practice at ranges that are much longer than those you plan to shoot when bowhunting. This will stretch your skills and make your normal shots seem much easier. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

Bow Practice with a Purpose

Long Range Bow Practice

You'll never improve unless you stretch yourself. If 30 yards is your maximum bowhunting range (and that's probably pretty close), do the majority of your practicing from 40 or even 50 yards. After a week of bow practice from long-range, you'll find that those 30 yard shots that once tested your skills will seem like chip shots. Your ability and confidence will skyrocket on the normal shots you take while hunting.

Quality over Quantity

Fifty to 100 shots per day is not too many when you're building strength and working on form. However, after a week or two of this, it's time to shift your attention to the mental side of shooting by putting maximum concentration and perfect form into each shot. Shoot more slowly, making sure to do everything right on every shot. Twenty to 30 perfect arrows each day is all that's needed to maintain your form and develop a keen mental edge. Shoot every single arrow as if it is the only one you will shoot that day.

Tree Stand Shooting Tips

Instead of dropping your bow arm to achieve the downward angle necessary for tree stand shooting, bend at the waist so you can maintain the same form you worked so hard to develop. Your arrows are likely to hit high from these elevated positions – so spend a couple of afternoons practicing from elevated positions to determine how much. If all your hunting will be from tree stands, moving your sight pins is a better option than trying to remember to hold low.

Putting all of these tips together and learning to tune your bow, your arrows, and yourself before the hunting season begins can help you become a more confident and a more successful bowhunter this fall.



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