By Andy May
Serious bowhunters know that the summer months upon us are some of the most important all year. Now’s the time to dial in your bow and your form and make any final tweaks before the season, because no matter how good a property you have or how great a strategy you employ – if you can’t put your arrow where you want it, you won’t be filling any tags.
Here are four commonly overlooked factors to consider this summer while practicing with your bow, which oftentimes can negatively impact your bow accuracy, and how to fix those issues.
1. Nock fit: This is often a neglected factor even by experienced archery shops. A tight nock fit will definitely cause tuning issues. Ideally I like to have the nock snap on pretty easily. I prefer to have the nock spin around the string if I flicked it without any resistance (off the arrow of course). If it’s too tight and binding it will cause inconsistencies and wear on your center serving, which over time will change the way the arrow is coming off the string.
The check/fix: With an arrow nocked, hold the bow horizontally with the arrow pointing down to the ground. Just give the string a light tap in the arrow should come off fairly easily falling to the floor. That is the proper knock fit.If the arrow will not come off, your nock fit could be too tight and if that’s the case you can try serving your string with a smaller diameter.
2. Improper draw length: Everybody wants speed these days, but sometimes chasing speed can rob you of accuracy which ultimately is the most important thing in hunting. I like speed just as much as anyone but accuracy and penetration trump speed in my opinion. Having your draw length set up properly will not only give you the most accuracy but also consistency. When your draw length is too long, typically your body is too stretched out and your drawing arm is too far back and pointed behind you. This causes your bow arm to be out of alignment with the arrow, potentially increased facial pressure with the string, and you lose the bone on bone structure and T-formation that will really give you consistent shot execution time after time.
The check/fix: Your bow arm should be parallel with the arrow on the horizontal plane. If it isn’t, try shortening your draw length a touch to bring it in. In the photo above, you can see me with a bow that is 1″ too long in draw length. Notice my draw arm is out of alignment with the arrow. When shortening your draw length, it may feel strange at first, but it will improve your accuracy and consistency when set up correctly. Another potential indication that your draw length might be too long is when your upper body is leaning back away from the target. Essentially you’re reaching your face and body back to meet the string.
3. Grip: Although it’s common knowledge that the grip is vitally important for consistent accuracy, there are other factors to consider. An improper grip can potentially cause significant hand torque and a headache while tuning. Your bow hand is the only part of your body that’s actually touching the bow and can have dramatic effects on your accuracy and tune. The proper bow grip should consist of your knuckles in an approximate 45° angle with the bow sitting at or inside of your lifeline. Also consider the balance of the bow. If you have a heavy site and/or a quiver mounted you’re adding a lot of side weight to the bow. If you have to counter that weight by adjusting your grip or grip pressure you are torqueing your bow and it will affect accuracy. A lot of hunters could benefit from some off-set stabilization but sometimes adding additional weight is an unwanted fix. A lighter sight or a closer mounted quiver can help reduce the side weight of an unbalanced bow.
The check/fix: Adjust grip so that the bow sits medial to the lifeline in your palm. Your knuckles should be angled approximately at a 45 degree angle. Draw your bow back with your eyes closed, anchor and then open your eyes. If your bubble is not level (assuming your second axis is set correctly) you have to torque your bow to get it back to level and this is robbing your accuracy. Experiment with adding weight to offset side weight from your sight/quiver combo and/or with using lighter accessories. Ideally you wouldn’t have to change grip or grip pressure to get your bow to level.
4. Arrows: The funny thing about arrows is that so many guys spend over $1000 on their bow and then buy poor quality arrows. If you’re going to spend that kind of money on the bow, get the best arrows that you can afford to match it. There are plenty of great choices out there but that doesn’t guarantee you will get 12 quality arrows when you buy a dozen. For instance, I bought a dozen of a brand I shall not name that is considered one of the best arrows money can buy. The weight differences between the dozen arrows varied by as much as 10 grains. While this may not show much of an effect at 20 yards, it absolutely will when you get to longer ranges. Also make sure to spin test every arrow. Depending on the straightness tolerance you may get some that have a slight wobble through them. An arrow that has significant wobble is strictly a practice arrow for me and I don’t consider it for hunting or for tuning purposes. I tried out a dozen new shafts that had a straightness tolerance of .001. They were the most expensive arrow shaft I have ever bought and 10 out of the 12 wobbled like crazy. Thankfully the company returned them for me and sent me a dozen that spun true.
Check/Fix: All arrows need a little love, so weed out the bad ones and utilize the good ones to maximize your accuracy and forgiveness especially when you consider shooting with broadheads. I like to spin test an uncut shaft and cut from the end that wobbles the most or possibly a little from both ends to get to my 28”. Next I square both ends with the G5 squaring tool. Then I spin test all arrows again with all components installed to see if they pass the test. You can take it a step further and have them spine indexed for maximum accuracy. After all arrow components are installed I weigh each arrow to make sure they all fall within an acceptable weight, which for me is within 2 grains of each other.