This is the first of a two-part series intended to help you understand how I tune a specific arrow/broadhead combination to a specific bow for flawless or near-flawless flight. While some of the principles discussed in the article can be applied to all archery, this article is intended for longbow and recurve setups. Please keep this in mind when reading the article or relating it to your friends.
When tuning I consider two separate things.
Number 1 what is going on behind the bow?
Number 2 what is going on in front of the bow?
In this segment, we will consider what is going on behind the bow as it relates to the shooter.
The shooter is really where good arrow flight begins and ends.
You can have the most perfectly set up a bow in the world but if you have a poor shooter you will have poor flight results. Conversely, you can have a mediocre set up with a good shooter and the results will be more than acceptable by most people’s standards.
Over the years I have observed thousands of shooters. That sounds like an exaggeration but consider that when I was attending tournaments as a vendor I generally had a front-row view of the practice bales. On any given day I might observe 250-300 shooters, sometimes more. I attended 10-12 of these gigs a year, for several years. I watched some of the best shooters in the country, some of the worse and lots in between.
Me being the “wonder why” type I was constantly trying to figure out
why the best shooters were the best,
why the worse were the worse, etc.
When observing the best shooters the one thing that I kept coming around to was consistency. That applied to every aspect of their shooting and preparation. Sometimes the guy that won was not the most talented or the one with the best “form”, but the one who was most consistent in preparation and execution.
There are many different things that one needs to be consistent at to become adequate with a recurve or longbow.
In my opinion, however, the most important thing is a consistent draw length and release. This affects the performance of the bow, which affects the flight of the arrow. Without consistent arrow flight, it is impossible to achieve a high level of accuracy.
Without a consistent draw length and release it is also impossible to get consistent broadhead flight which is really where all this is headed.
I have had guys drive for miles to let me watch them shoot their broadheads, analyze the flight and then set them up with the correct spined arrow. They drive all that way only to get here and find out I can’t really help them because they lack a consistent draw length and release. They’ll draw 28″, then 28.5″ the next time, 27.5″ the next, etc. They will release upon hitting a full draw, the next time they hold at full draw a few seconds. They will be pushing and pulling the bow on release then the next shot they’ll be collapsing upon release. Some of the time they will have combinations of all the above flaws.
The sad thing is they have no idea what they are doing wrong and are totally frustrated by the poor arrow flight and inconsistent accuracy.
Why do they not know that they are doing anything wrong?
Several reasons but the main one is that they cannot watch them self’s shoot. Even if they videotape themselves shooting they are watching things after the fact. It’s one thing to see it on a video and say “hey I need to do this and that.” It’s another thing to actually do it while concentrating on something you want to hit.
So how do you go about fixing all this?
Well because we are talking about tuning arrow combinations to specific bows, first we need to better understand exactly what effects the problem mentioned above has on the arrow. When you set up a bow you use a formula to pick out the arrow spine. This may be in a chart form or it may be one in your head but you use a formula. You plug different variables such as draw weight and length into the formula and bingo, out pops the shaft size.
When you do not have a consistent draw length and subsequently draw weight, you are constantly changing the variables you used to pick the shaft you are using. This makes the shaft sometimes a little too weak sometimes a little too stiff, and sometimes just right.
All this adds up to inconsistent broadhead flight. You’ll get decent flight with a field point but a broadhead will tell the truth every time. This is the reason that I use broadheads to arrow tune with. If you can get great arrow flight with a broadhead, you know the arrow shaft is spined right.(I’m getting ahead of myself though, first things first.)
So what’s the cure for an inconsistent draw length and release?
The best thing I have ever seen is a Crick-It clicker. Unlike most clickers that only click at full draw, the cricket also clicks if you start collapsing at full draw. In essence, it clicks both directions letting you know when you are in your sweet spot. This combination of clicking both ways forces you do have a consistent draw length and release. Which is what we are after.
How can it help your release?
The Crick-It forces you to be pushing and pulling at full draw. If you are not pushing and pulling you will start to collapse which will make the Crick-It click. If you are pushing and pulling the instant you relax your fingers the string will jump off and your fingers will fly out of the way. Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t have a bad release, but it should eliminate 90% of the problems encountered with your release.
How does it help my draw length?
If you do not come to your desired draw length it simply will not click forcing you to pull until it does click. The Crick-It is also great for increasing your draw length. If you are short drawing and need to increase your draw length or would like to increase your draw length for the added performance you can train yourself into a longer draw length.
Start by adding an inch to your draw length. Train with this until it becomes comfortable, then add another inch. Obviously there are limits as to how much you can increase your draw length but most anyone can add an inch, people who short draw should be able to add 2″-3″ over a period of time. Remember you are not seeing how far you can draw a bow. You are trying to get the maximum draw length that is still comfortable for you to shoot while hunting. As a reference to all of this, I comfortably increased an inch in a week or less. I went from 28″ to 29″, I could shoot 30″ maybe 31″ but it would not be very comfortable. It wouldn’t work well in a hunting situation either due to conditions such as hunting clothes and shooting positions.
How does the Crick-It work?
1. The main body which clicks has a peel and stick surface and you simply stick it to the belly of the bow. I put them on the upper end of the riser at the end of the limb wedge. You can put it in a number of places this is just where I like to stick them (if you should ever want to take the main body off you can peel it off without harming most bow finishes).
2. There is a string attached to the main body which you need to wrap thru your bowstring. When this string is pulled tight it makes the Cricket click. You adjust the length of the Crick-It string to make it click at your desired draw length. The length can also be adjusted after the Crick-It string has been wrapped through the bowstring. This is done by a small chain link adjustment at the main body.
3. A trick to adjusting for draw length is to use a tape measure and a marking pen to mark an arrow at the desired length. Mark the arrow on the top side so you can see the mark as you are drawing the bow. Be careful not to pull too far, as soon as you hear the click, release. If you overdraw the Crick-It you can damage the clicking mechanism. A side note is be careful not to let someone with a longer draw shoot your bow while the Crick-It is attached or they will damage the clicking mechanism. I learned this the hard way! If someone really wants to shoot your bow detach the Crick-It’s string first.
4. The Crick-It is also extremely helpful when tuning because you KNOW your draw length is not a factor if you are getting bad arrow flight. Of course, they are excellent for beginners but are just as helpful for people who have been shooting a while. I know they have helped me….and I was happy with my shooting before I started training with one.
5. When you install the Crick-It one thing that will instantly jump out at you is how inconsistent your draw length was. On the flip side, you will be impressed at how quickly you are trained to perfect it. When hunting season comes around ( or you enter a tournament which prohibits clickers) and you don’t want the clicking noise you can take the clicking mechanism off while leaving the main body stuck on the bow. This makes it easy to put the clicker back on after hunting season, or during hunting season when you think you need the training.
6. Whether you decide to get a Crick-It or not you still must have a consistent draw length to tune your set up. Then and only then will you be ready to move onto the 2cd set which I will cover later.
Tuning The Arrow To The Bow – Part 2
Please keep in mind when reading this article or relating it to others that it is intended to be used in conjunction with recurves, longbows and selfbows. While some of the archery principles will cross over to compounds, some will not. This being the case it could cause more harm than good when using it with compounds.
In the first segment of this two-part article, I stressed the necessity for the archer to do their part in order to obtain a good arrow flight. In this segment, I will cover the process in which you match the arrow and broadhead combination to the bow and shooter combination.
Over the years I have used several tests, such as bare shafting and paper tuning, but my favorite test for tuning stick bows is a flight test using broadheads. To me it is the ultimate test because it really doesn’t matter how a bare shaft flies off your bow, you are still going to have to fletch it up and put a broadhead on it to hunt with. When you fletch it up and put on the broadhead it isn’t the same “shaft” anymore, you have changed it into something else.
Also, it doesn’t matter what the hole looks like in the paper that is 10 feet in front of you. You must have the broadheaded arrow flying like a dart 90 feet or more downrange. Having a good hole in the paper doesn’t guarantee it will be flying good at 30 yards either.
So with that in mind let’s go through the process I use to tune the arrow and broadhead to the bow and the shooter.
1. Start with an arrow size chosen by reading my previous articles. While I don’t pretend they are fool proof the charts and formulas that I have are derived from years of trial and error (not to mention loss of hair from intense frustration ).
2. Install the broadhead type and grain weight that you would like to use. A side note here: It is advantageous to pick a broadhead type that comes in several different grain weights, i.e.; 100 grains, 125 grains, 145 grains. Doing this will allow you to switch broadhead weight to tune your arrows as needed later on.
3. Spin check your arrows to make sure your broadhead is aligned with the axis of the shaft. You can do this by either spinning the broadhead like a top on a workbench or laying the arrow in a spin checker and rotating it. Either look at the broadhead and make sure that it is spinning true to the shaft. If there is any wobble in the broadhead you will need to get the wobble out. On a wooden arrow, this will involve warming the head up and adjusting it until the wobble is gone. On aluminum arrows, you will need to warm up the threaded insert in the shaft and/or broadhead and try to get the wobble out
4. When you have the broadhead spinning true you are ready to shoot. When shooting the arrow you should not really be concerned with where the arrow hits the target. You should only be concerned with how the arrow flies.
In fact, I like to shoot at a large object like a dirt bank when doing this test so I can concentrate solely on the flight of the arrow. The reason I am not concerned with where the arrow hits the target is because a broaheaded arrow cannot fly properly from a stick bow unless the arrow is spined properly.
5. If the arrow is spined properly and flying clean the accuracy will be there given adequate practice. You should do this test without using an armguard. If the bowstring comes into contact with your arm or armguard it will not give an accurate “reading”.
Generally, this will cause the arrow to kick off the bow. (This is the reason that I shoot a bow during the offseason without an armguard. Learning to shoot this way will help keep the string off the armguard when you have to use one during the hunting season to hold down your jacket sleeve.) By not using the armguard you will know whether the string is coming into contact with your arm, causing bad arrow flight.
To get accurate readings from this test you will need to shoot the bow using a target-style form.
Hold bow vertical with the limb tips at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock.
Draw and release arrow the same every time. This is where the cricket comes in handy.
Watch the arrow flight as it leaves the bow.
6. Below are the flight characteristics you should encounter, their interpretations, and the corrective measures. All the characteristics are described for a right-handed shooter, left-handers should apply the opposite, i.e.: change 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock, 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock.
The arrow should do 1 of 5 things:
Nock leaves at 9 o’clock -too stiff- use longer arrow, use weaker shaft, use heavier head.
Nock leaves 10 to 11 o’clock, arrow is too weak to correct without going to a stiffer shaft.
Nock leaves at 12 o’clock, probably a nocking point problem, adjust string nock up. If the problem persists the arrow is probably too weak and you will need a stiffer shaft.
Arrow leaves clean, but the arrow “flutters”, this is sometimes hard to see and interpret. Sometimes the arrow will dart in an unpredictable manner, sometimes it will fly okay. Sometimes it will look like the fletchings are bigger than they normally look with field points. Arrow is a little too weak, use shorter arrow, lighter grain weight broadhead, or use a slightly stiffer shaft.