Bow Tuning 101

February 19, 2009 by  

By Andrew Gegelman

For most bow hunters, tuning their bow means being able to hit what they are aiming at. And for others they just hope their bow will become tuned by itself. But they are wrong. Tuning your bow now might mean the difference between trophy and tragedy.

First things first, you should not attempt to tune your bow if it has just been purchased, (new) or you have had a new string and cable put on. The string and cable will stretch, and the quality of components will depict on the amount of stretch that will occur. Most strings that bow manufacturers put on will eventually stretch to the point that they are not very accurate. The string and cable can stretch many inches, it does not happen all at once but you will know when it has stretched out of tolerance. I just recently had the string and cable on my bow replaced, after I had trouble with inconsistently flying arrows (it had to be in a 3-D tournament). Needless to say my score was just slightly below average and my confidence and pride was injured.

Once we have gotten our bowstring and cable broken in, we can look at some arrows. Most manufacturers have arrow charts where arrow lengths, draw weight, draw length, and point weight are taken into account. These charts are a good place to start, and find your arrow size. One thing to keep in mind if you shoot a release is that there is very little bend on the arrow when compared to shooting fingers; this gives the release shooter the advantage of shooting virtually any arrow. Even if the arrow is over or under spined the bow could tune without a problem, but if not you might want to select a different weight arrow.

After we have our arrows cut and put together we start with the tiller. The tiller is normally measured from the point where the limb meets the riser out to the string. Either measure with a ruler or a string. Measure the top and bottom of the riser. If the measurements don’t equal each other, adjust the tiller by tightening or loosening one limb bolt or the other until the tillers match exactly.

Next make sure your nocking point and rest are adjusted properly. Adjust the rest so the center of the arrow’s shaft goes through the center to upper 1/3 of the hole where the rest attaches to the bow. Then crimp the nocking point on the string or tie your string loop but not too tight so you can’t move it. Then use a level on the arrow to make sure that it is level with the sight window. Next is to check your center shot. The center shot on most bows should be between center and 3/16” to the left of center for a right handed bow. To find the center shot, take a piece of masking tape and place it just above where the limb meets the riser. Measure the limb and place a small mark at the center of the limb. Make another mark 3/16” inch to the left of center, and then do the same for the next limb. With the arrow on the rest, line up your string along the marks. When the string is aligned with the marks it should bisect the center of the arrow shaft if it does not adjust your rest accordingly.

Peep sights are one of the easiest but most overlooked aspects of bow tuning. With the peep in the string but not tied into place, nock an arrow and draw your bow with your eyes closed. When you open your eyes you should be able to see through the peep without moving your anchor or the bow, if not adjust until you can.

Now we are ready to tune your bow. The first step is to make sure there is no contact of your fletching to either your rest or riser. The best way to do this is a powder test. Spray the back six or seven inches of the arrow, and also spray the rest and the shelf. Shoot your arrow at a target and carefully remove it for inspection. Check the shelf and rest. If any new marks have shown up you are getting contact from your fletching. Depending on where the marks in the powder are depends on what you should do to correct this. If the marks are on the rest, or in contact with your fletching, rotate your nock to eliminate contact with your rest. If there is contact with the shelf, change the spring tension on your rest then repeat.

Next is paper tuning. Paper tuning makes it easy to see what the arrow is doing when it leaves your bow. Set up a piece of paper about six feet away and shoot through it into a solid target. If there is a clean hole, the diameter of the arrow with three tears where the vanes went through. Shoot the same arrow a few times to check your consistency. If the tear is vertical or at an angle, adjust the nock height. If the point of the arrow went through lower than the nock end, lower the nock or raise the arrow rest. If the tear is to the side adjust your arrow rest the direction of the tear until you get bullet holes. Once you are shooting bullet holes, step back a few feet and try it again. If it is good there your arrow is traveling straight.

The last thing you need to do is group tune your bow. After you sight in your bow, go to your maximum accurate range, shoot a group and note any shots that were just poor shots, caused by you. Next shoot another group, but back your top limb off ¼ turn then see if your groups get better or worse. Repeat until you reach one full turn. Then return the top limb to zero and repeat the test for the bottom limb, using a different paper target. Once you have completed this, set your bow to the tiller measurement that grouped the best overall and adjust your sights to the new setting.

With some patience and a little effort, you can eliminate any thoughts of missing the buck of a lifetime due to a poorly tuned bow.


8 Comments on "Bow Tuning 101"

  1. Tom on Thu, 26th Nov 2009 6:58 am 

    Good article and advice. Thanks Tom

  2. Doug taperek on Sun, 7th Mar 2010 4:21 pm 

    how would i fix my bow string i went to shot it and the string came flyin off the bow is a darton model 50mx

  3. dan gruetzmacher on Sun, 17th Oct 2010 12:09 am 

    I’m new to archery and i recently purchased a PSE stinger. I seemed to be shooting fine for the first 100-150 arrows, but last time i went I shot 3 out of 30 arrows completely off target at 40 yards. I moved up to 20 yards and had a 4″ pattern for 8 arrows. It has the string that PSE puts on their shoot ready bows. Should I replace the string, or am I just making some other mistake. Any feed back would be great. I live in southern california and trust me its really hard to find people who hunt or want to help you out.

  4. Justin Patterson on Sat, 26th Mar 2011 6:49 am 

    100-150 arrows isn’t very much. I shoot competitively and if I had to change strings after every 150 arrows I’d be doing it every week. I hate to think how many shots I have on my current string but its well into the thousands. I just started a 3D league last week, its ready for a new string now but ill wait until after the league to change it. The bow is an Archery Research which is owned by PSE, I’m sure I have the same string you do, I dont think your string is getting worn out, Ill bet its just breaking in. Happy shooting.

  5. Dan Kuszewski Springfield, MO on Sun, 7th Aug 2011 10:02 pm 

    I am shooting the new Kryptic Pro from Redhead (Diamond), and very happy with it. I had the D loop, peep sight, draw length, and draw weight set up at an archery shop. I put the sights and arrow rest on myself so they didn’t have too, but they did adjust the rest to make the arrow sit level when its nocked. I went to the range to sight in my bow and was able to get it sighted in, but my sights are lowered as low as they could go and my first pin (20 yrds) is in the middle of the sights causing the other pins to be on the lower half of my sight picture. It shoots fine but just really curious as to why the sights are sitting this low. Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Justin Karman on Fri, 16th Sep 2011 7:21 pm 

    I just purchased a used Hoyt bow. It shoots right consistantly. I’ve had friends that shoot a lot more then I have, we all shoot a smilar pattern. (so I don’t thinks ALL me)
    Which way do I need to adjust the sights to correct it?

  7. chance on Wed, 28th Sep 2011 10:09 pm 

    push (adjust) your sight pin toward the error. (i.e. if you are aiming center and hitting right of center, adjust the pins to the right; if to high, move pins up; too low, move down; too far left, move left.) Im sure you get the picture.

  8. Paul yorks uk on Wed, 10th Feb 2016 2:01 pm 

    Just bought an elite energy 35, previous bow was a stringer X. I observed arrows going left, some good paper tunes but many points right and fletch one inch left. Ive realised I maybe putting my face to deep into the string and hence ”wobbly” arrows. Im from great britain, comppound isnt so regular here, so any ideas pls let me know.
    The Beaut Elite is now set up for center shot, rest and sight. Prior to this i had to shift the sight left to hit gold, this wasnt working out right.


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