Full parking areas at shooting ranges. A buzz of excitement at pro shops. It can only mean one thing. Bow opener is here and bow tuning is underway.
In the weeks leading up to the season, bowhunters spend more time shooting than any other time of the year. The increased use of equipment takes its toll. Bowhunters focused on field success must give their archery tackle a thorough once-over to ensure all details are covered.
Bows, arrows and broadheads all require a last-minute checkup before they are carried into the whitetail woods. This is best accomplished a week or two before the season officially opens to ensure adequate time in the event that a major problem is discovered.
To start with, modern bows have a bevy of moving parts all working in sync to produce tack-driving results. Compromise one part of the system and accuracy will suffer. So it’s a good idea to begin with the basics even if there have been no signs of a decrease in accuracy.
After a shooting session, assemble these items:
- Light-colored permanent marker
- Set of Allen wrenches
- Tube of thread-locking fluid
- Super glue.
- Use the marker to mark where the rest and sight settings fit against the riser. This is a visual reminder that both accessories haven’t moved. If either gets bumped out of place, even a subtle change will be evident.
- Hold the bow firmly in one hand and then smack the top part of the riser and the then bottom part of the riser with the palm of the other hand. The goal is to listen for a buzz, which will emanate from accessories or accessory screws that have worked loose. Occasionally, the same screws will work themselves out over and over again. Use your allen wrench to loosen those screws, and put thread-locking fluid on them to keep them tight. When investigating potentially loose parts and listening for vibration, it’s important to make sure that the bow is set up exactly how it will be in hunting scenarios. This includes stabilizers and one of the most-common noise producing accessories — the quiver. Bow-mounted quivers are larger, extend far from the bow’s riser and have a tendency to work their way loose over time. Thread-locking fluid on quiver mounting brackets can alleviate a lot of the worry. That may seem like overkill. But with whitetails, especially heavily pressured deer, it’s important to cut down shot noise every way possible. This is even more crucial for hunters who prefer to bleat at walking deer to stop them, a trick that works well but also puts the deer on alert.
- Investigate strings and cables. If they are fraying at all, apply a coat of wax. Rub it deep into the fibers. With peep sights, check out the serving. A drop of super glue on the serving will ensure that the peep stays put. This also applies to string loops as well, but remember that a little super glue can go a long way on a length of serving. Use too much and it will be difficult to remove the serving from the string if specs change or the bow is sold.
Nothing takes more abuse during pre-season practice than arrows. Tight groups with touching arrows are always confidence builders, but in those groups arrows might have nicked one another and compromised performance.
Before shooting carbon arrows it’s a good idea to visually inspect them, and then flex them to check for splintering. Inspect aluminum arrows for dents and misalignment. If they all appear to be in shooting-shape, the next step is to take a look at vanes and feathers.
Rippled or torn vanes will almost always result in poor shooting. The same goes for worn out feathers. Even if arrows with compromised vanes or feathers seem to fly true with field points, they likely won’t when tipped with a broadhead.
After culling out arrows with bad vanes, take the time to shoot each arrow with a field point (after warming up with a couple rounds of shooting). If any of the arrows hit outside of the bulls-eye or any appear to tail-whip or pinwheel, shoot them again. The key is to look for consistent flight characteristics. If an arrow pinwheels or leaves the bow with a tail whip during every shot, try turning the nocks a quarter of a turn and shoot again. If the problem persists, cull those arrows, too. Once the truest-fliers have been identified, it’s time to break out the broadheads.
Tuning and shooting broadheads is a crucial step before season opener. It doesn’t matter if you use mechanical, expandable or fixed-blade heads. They all need to be shot to prove they will fly true.
To do this, start with the arrows already identified as perfect fliers. Shoot a couple of practice rounds to get warmed up. Then, tip one of those arrows with a real broadhead (not a practice broadhead), and shoot it at the maximum edge of effective range. For some that will be 25 yards, others it might be 60. To point is, shoot the farthest distance where accuracy holds up in tight groups. This simply provides more opportunity to witness flight issues.
If the broadhead-arrow combination flies perfectly, use a marker and on a vane put a plus sign, “+.” If the arrow doesn’t hit a bulls-eye, shoot it again. If the second attempt flies off course, it’s pretty safe to assume it was the arrow or broadhead, not a poor release or temporary bad shooting form.
The goal is to shoot every potential hunting arrow with a real broadhead to ensure a quiver full of quality fliers. This is much easier to do with fixed-blade heads because one head will hold up through multiple practice shots, meaning it’s only necessary to sandbag a single, expensive head. For mechanical or expandable shooters, the endeavor might be a bit more expensive. After every shot with these heads you might need to fold the blades back in and use a tiny drop of super glue to hold them in place for the next shot. Some models might only require a tightening of the tiny screws that hold the blades in place to be shot again. Either way, each shot should feature an arrow tipped with a head that is in the proper closed position.
Successful hunters are sticklers for leaving as little to chance as possible. The peace of mind of knowing bows, arrows and broadheads will function perfectly fosters confidence, which is the fastest-track to short blood trails and warm gut piles.
–Tony J. Peterson is gear editor of Bowhunter magazine.