Tuning a Bow:
The Key to Consistent Shooting

Tuning a bow requires following some careful steps, but it isn’t that difficult. If you purchased your bow from a local dealer, they will probably help you set up your bow for free. If you want to do-it-your-self, or if you are re- tuning a bow that you have had for awhile, here are some instructions.

The first step is to make sure your “limb tiller” is the same length from the string at each end of your compound bow. Measure from the point where each limb meets the riser (handle part of the bow) out to the string. They should be the same distance from the string. If not, adjust one of the bolts until they are. If your cam and wheels are different sizes you should measure a line between the two axles. A string tied from one axle to the other will work best for that measurement instead of the bow string itself.

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Nock Point

The next step to tuning a bow is to establish a good nock point on the string. If you are a finger shooter, use two brass crimp-on nock sets above your arrow. Two assures no slippage. Most release shooters use a knocking string loop. Metal loops are also available. A loop saves wear and tear on your string, but make sure your release is not too long for the loss of draw length.

When your bow is drawn, you want to have your arrow resting at a 90 degree angle to the string. (If you have a drop away rest the rest will rise when the bow is drawn.) Your arrow should cross the center of the rest attachment hole as you look from the side as it sits on the arrow rest in a fire position. Make up or down adjustments to your arrow rest, if necessary.

Square it Up

Use an archer’s T-square to determine the nock point. Place the top of the “T” on the string, and then slide it until the front of the T-square sits on the arrow rest (loaded up for drop away rests). Mark a line on the string that is 1/4” to 1/8” above the center of the hole used to mount your arrow rest to the bow riser. The T-square will help you determine this spot easily.

This mark is where the bottom of the crimp-on nock set or the bottom of the top knot of your release loop should be placed. Remember that the string will create an angle which will pinch the arrow when you draw the bow, thus the fraction of an inch is needed to allow for that pinch. Crimp on your nock sets with nock crimping pliers, or attach the string loop according to the directions on the package. Leave enough distance between the two string loop knots for the arrow nock to sit snuggly at the angle of the string at full draw without being pinched too tightly. If it’s too tight, the arrow can be “spit out” by the string pinch.

Set your horizontal arrow rest position (left to right) by looking down on it from above the bow with the bottom cam on the floor. Align both limb adjustment bolts together as you look down from the top end. For release shooters, adjust your arrow rest right or left until it is in line with these two bolts (for most bows this will be center). You can also use a long stabilizer and line the arrow up parallel to that. The goal is to make sure your arrow is pointing straight out from the front of the bow.

For finger shooters, the arrow should be slightly to the left for right-handed shooters, since the string is twisted by fingers in the opposite direction. Now you’re arrow will be square with the bow and string and your nock point will be at a good starting point. Paper tuning might require some minor adjustments later, after sighting in your sites.

Make Sure Fletching Doesn’t Contact the Rest

The next step to tuning a bow is to assure good clearance for your fletching as the arrow flies past the rest. A drop away rest does a good job of that. So does a Whisker Biscuit type full capture rest. Even with a drop away rest, for more precise bow tuning you might want to experiment with adjusting your nock position (rotating the nock on the arrow) in order to make sure the fletching flies past the rest untouched. Once the best positioning of the fletching is determined, simply set the nock the same on all your arrows.

Now you’re ready to sight in your bow by adjusting your sites.

Select the Best Arrows for Your Equipment

At this point you will have made great progress in tuning a bow. All of this depends on you having the best arrow for your bow, however. Experiment with different arrows at the archery shop to determine which kind shoots best with your equipment.

Appropriate spine and length of arrow is necessary to match your draw length and draw weight. Arrow manufacturers provide charts for their arrows that tell you the optimal spine and size arrow you should use for your draw length, arrow tip weight and draw weight.

Tune Arrows to Broadheads

As for length, make sure the arrows are cut by the dealer when you buy them to meet your draw length and tip needs. Gluing in the inserts based on how the broadhead works best on your arrows is yet another small step in tuning a bow to match your arrow flight. With inserts in but not glued, screw in your chosen broadhead and spin it on the table. Does it wobble? Turn the insert a little until the wobble stops. Mark the arrow and insert. Put glue on and line up the two marks. Do this with each arrow as insert/broadhead combinations are all different.

Check Cam Timing

Another tip to fine tuning a bow is to make sure your cams are timed to bottom out at the same time at full draw. They should both get to that point simultaneously at the end of your draw. If they do not, have them adjusted. The cable harnesses can be shortened or lengthened on either end by twisting it slightly to lengthen or shorten it to match the timing of the other harness. Have this done at a shop, if you don’t have a bow press and experience with the process.

When your through tuning a bow it should perform for you consistently. Now all you need is practice, practice, practice in conditions that simulate hunting situations to be confident of a responsibly taken shot on an animal.

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