Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuning Your Bow For Broadheads


A reader contacted me today with four questions on making his arrows and broadheads fly straight. It serves as the basis for tonight’s blog, and is timely for the upcoming archery opener next week.

It is discouraging to watch an avid hunter try to tune his bow and arrows so they fly straight and true. Many hunters give up, and adjust the sights so they hit fairly close to their aiming point. Their idea of fine tuning is to hold their group three inches high and four inches to the left, and hope they can remember the magic combination when a buck walks past. Most cannot.

One easily solved problem is to cut off anything more than an inch of arrow in front of the rest when the bow is at full draw. Having four, five or six inches of arrow out in front of the bow at full draw slows arrow speed and can cause arrows to porpoise up and down or fishtail left or right when they leave the bow. Either one will reduce accuracy.

A good rest is a wise investment, and my choice is a BoDoodle. My arrows are tuned with cock (nock) feather or vane down and not out to the side as was common for many years. The cock vane down allows quicker and easier tuning. I shoot vanes because they hold up better than feathers although feather-fletched arrows are slightly more forgiving of shooter error.

My arrows are tuned with two-blade broadheads. I do not shoot arrows with replaceable blade broadheads for many reasons. The more blades there are, the more difficult it is to get them to shoot properly. The more surface area to a broadhead, the more likely it is to sail off at strange angles when shot through the air. A two-blade, fixed-blade model like the Bear, FirstCut or Zwickey head is easier to tune and it can be easily sharpened again.

Begin with the bow and shoot through a piece of white typing paper. A perfectly tuned arrow will cut a perfectly round hole through the paper. An arrow that leaves a nock-high, nock-low, nock-left or nock-right hole in the paper must be tuned. It can cause an archer or bow hunter all sorts of problem and can take a great deal of time to solve. It also can throw an arrow off enough to cause wounding and eventual loss of a deer.

Rests like my BoDoodle, for example, can be adjusted to solve the problems of where an arrow will hit. An arrow that hits the paper nock-high must be worked with to bring that nock down to obtain a straight and level flight. One way could be to reduce the weight of the broadhead or work on the rest.

An arrow that consistently shoots to the left or the right can be fixed fairly easily by a rest adjustment. Just be prepared to spend a good bit of time to do the job right. Obviously, a bow that is out of tune can be an obvious problem. Any bow tuning must start with solving any bow problems before trying to solve arrow flight problems.

Many hunters are obsessed with arrow speed. Too much arrow speed, especially with a short light arrow off an overdraw system, often leads to erratic arrow flight. If you are looking for 300 fps arrow speed, it may be attainable but often at the risk of losing your accuracy. Accuracy often is sacrificed for increased arrow speed.

It’s a fact that a deer within 20 yards, and shot with an arrow traveling 180 fps, will be hit with a well-placed arrow before it hears the twang of the bow releasing the arrow. My bow is set at 55 pounds, and with carbon arrows and a 100-grain two-blade broadhead, achieves 237 fps. That is more than enough for 99 percent of Michigan’s deer hunters.

If the bow is properly tuned, and the arrows still do not fly right, the first two places to look is the arrow rest or the arrow itself. I prefer my arrows to be a half-inch and no more than one inch past the rest when the bow is at full draw. If I’m shooting aluminum, which I did for countless years but no longer do, I always used a carbon insert. My inserts were always aligned so the broadheads were straight up and down (remember I shoot two-blade heads). Those carbon inserts in aluminum shafts helped hunters gain about 5 fps, and every inch of arrow that is not need and is removed, will increase arrow speed by approximately 10 fps.

Shoot three arrows while aiming at the middle of the bulls-eye, and measure the distance from the center of that three-shot group to the middle of the bulls-eye, and make your sight adjustments, and then shoot again. Another common failing among hunters is an anchor point that strays all over the side of their face. Another problem is the “creep,” which occurs when the bow is held at full draw and as muscles weaken, the bow string creeps ahead. It can throw off a shot.

Adjust the rest if necessary. It may require changing the weight of the broadhead being shot, and that may necessitate using a lighter or heavier broadhead for more accurate arrow placement. Make certain that all arrows being shot are the same length and spined for the proper draw weight and length. It’s impossible to tune your bow with arrow shafts and broadheads of different weights.

Trust me on this: tuning your arrows can last longer than an all-day sucker. The important thing is to take your time, and never guess at what to do. Try everything possible to solve one problem before going on to solving another one. Unfortunately, getting proper arrow flight can mean solving two or three different problems.

The hunter will know when the bow is properly tuned. Shot after shot through taut paper will produce a clean round hole, and its one where the feathers or vanes are not high, low, left or right. They are dead-center aligned with the round arrow hole.

And then, take care of the bow to make certain the arrow rest isn’t bumped off center or you’ll have to go through this fun all over again. And, trust me, it ain’t fun.

Posted by Dave Richey on 09/25 at 04:24 PM
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