3rd In The Series Of Traditional Bowhunting:
Tuning Your Bow
David Williams, Bass Pro Archery Cabin Gurnee, IL.
Well we’ve been practicing our form, concentrating and shooting for groups. By now you have experienced that one arrow that came off your bow effortlessly hitting the target will making you smile. Thinking, how this is going to be so much fun and how this recurve bow is such a simple thing. You just shot the perfect arrow with not much more than a piece of wood gracefully curved at each end and a string tying the two ends together.
In a world of technology and complexities this is just about as simple as it can get when it comes to hunting. It’s a nice uncomplicated machine, with the right amount of labor, and some dignified beauty added. All you have to do is pull to the anchor and let fly. Right?
Like all machines once we get to know them we hear and or feel things that might not be quite right. Rightly so, in comparison to current compound bows, your recurve is simple beyond modern technology terms. But, you didn’t pull it out of the box and just start shooting it and hitting everything you shot at. The Bass Pro Shops (BPS) Archery Staff gets you up and started but it takes shooting to break in and tune your bow. In tuning it’s slightly complex but, just slightly. Here’s where the knowledge of the BPS Archery professional helps with a few pointers, a few adjustments that are necessary until you gain your own experience.
Traditional bows can be adjusted and they need to be from time to time. Your bow can be tuned to your style and arrows if you choose. Your bow can be over adjusted too!
In a traditional bow (either longbow or recurve) the difference between a properly tuned recurve bow and an untuned recurve can be huge. Remember our discussion regarding ask questions…tuning your recurve is a simple subtle response to arrow flight, feel, and sound. This is not hard work, it’s reasonably straight forward that will affect your ability to shoot your bow more accurately and increase your experience, success and enjoyment.
In any traditional community there are a myriad of styles and advice regarding how to and what to do’s that come from experience you have yet to have. Our goal at BPS Archery as mentors is to start your experience with the least amount of complexity and the best success.
Important to remember… We want you to understand and know the basics of tuning so that you may move forward on your own. Understand that ANYTHING you do in the future effects tuning so it is important to know how you want set the bow up for the way you intend to use it. If you tune your bow and later add a bow quiver, it changes the tuning, change string silencer styles or position, changes the tuning, add limb covers or tip protector, changes the tuning!
The closer to a center shot your bow is the easier it is to tune. Shooting off the shelf is one of the many reasons we chose the Sage Recurve?
Brace Height and Nocking Point
The nocking point and brace height are the two major areas impacting your bow and arrow performance. Nocking point and brace height work together. As increasing or shortening its distance to the bow by lengthening or making the string shorter the nocking adjusts the brace height point moves up or down.
Your Sage’s recommended brace height is 7½" - 8½". You can see it has an inch in adjustment. The BPS Archery staff has more than likely put it at 8” as the starting point until you shoot 50-100 arrows to break it in.
If your brace height is too low, arrow flight will be erratic and confuse where your nock point should be…as you learn you will get the feel for it. You’ll kind of do the nock point and brace height together.
Understanding the Bell Curve
For any given bow, arrow, archer combination, there will be a "best" arrow that will give the best flight characteristics. This is the bell curve and you should understand it before you begin the tuning process.
Take a look at the tuning bell curve. For any given bow, arrow, archer combination, there will be a "best" arrow that will give the best flight characteristics. To each side of the "best" are arrow combinations that most folks would consider adequate arrow flight quickly dropping off to unacceptable arrow flight.
The farther away from the best combination, the more critical a good release and form become. So you can see why we started by practicing form and release while shooting groups in Blog 2. The BPS Archery Staff put together Bow and Arrow combinations to put you into the UPPER Thirds of the Bell Curve.
Finding the right place for your nocking point is easy. The nocking point locates the nock end of your arrow on the string at the same place for each shot. It does not do anything else. So why worry about its location? We want to have the most energy from our bow to our arrow for a humane harvest as well as target accuracy. If our nocking point is too high or too low it causes our arrow to go up and down called “porpoising.”
This is the first thing we’ll be looking for. Porpoising happens when the arrow alternates between rising and “submerging” relative to its intended flight path. The image following demonstrates this in action:
These images illustrate what “porpoising” looks like without fletching or bare shaft.
So now forget about where your nocking point is set. At BPS Archery we start at the rule of thumb: 1/8th inch above 90 degrees. Now your nock point should be put at the point where your arrow shoots the best. Period. The nock should always be above the arrow. There is no right or wrong place for your nock point it’s the best for you. A good example of this is that my personal nocking is different on my 3 traditional bows and on the Sage Recurve we are using in this Blog.
You need to be settled into either Split-finger or Three-finger styles and your RELEASE must be consistent or it can look like a nocking point issue.
Your brace height is the most important adjustment in your recurve bow. Brace height is the distance in inches from the string to the bow when the bow is strung. The Archery Manufacturers Organization (AMO) specifies that the measurement be taken from the string to the center of the plunger hole… this excludes a lot of traditional equipment. Some bow manufacturers measure it from the deepest part of the grip. Your Sage is measured like this so you will measure it this way all the time.
Brace height is adjusted by using a longer or shorter string or by twisting or untwisting the string. Your brace height will affect the following in order of importance:
- Arrow flight
- Arrow speed
- Bow noise
- Stability of your bow
- Life and longevity of your bow
Most recurve bow shooters I meet shoot their bow too high…after discussion and watching them shoot we drop their bows down as much as an inch. After this find they are shooting better than before. The brace height adjustment can do more to affect the bows performance more than all the adjustments together.
Brace height determines how long your string stays on the arrow or keeps pushing the arrow. So, we want to find the lowest brace height for your bow, arrow and style of shooting. Make sense?
Exactly where the lowest brace height for your bow is varies from bow to bow and manufacturer to manufacturer. Remembering your Sage bow is a recommended 7½" - 8½" inches from the factory based on its design and materials. There will be a specific brace height at which your bow will feel and perform its best.
Now generally speaking lower brace height will speed up your arrows and pull easier. A higher brace height will make your bow quieter and cure arrow flight problems.
If you don’t want to mess with brace height adjustments and experimenting, just take the brace height to the maximum. For some this is easier, but expect a harder pulling bow and a slower arrow.
Matching your Arrow to your bow. “ The archer and the bow set the arrow on any bow.”
The arrow is more important than the bow. Any bow can be tuned to launch the right arrow with accuracy, but the wrong arrow won’t fly well from any bow.
Remembering that the BPS Archery staff using your draw length and bow poundage chart to best recommended the correct spine for your carbon arrows and practice points. If anything has changed in your style or form you should let the BPS Archery professional know. Why choose carbon arrows? You have probably seen Traditional Shooters using aluminum and wood, but carbon arrows are very forgiving and easier to tune for beginners.
The best thing about learning to tune your bow is that it is yours and once it’s done it’s done. You shouldn’t have to do it again until you add something or change something on your bow.
The tools used for tuning your bow can be found in BPS Archery store or catalog, are as follows:
How to get better once our bow is tuned?
Once that arrow is loosed and on its way all we can do is watch the outcome…and many a traditional bow hunter has come back saying, “how did I miss by that much? Or Crap! My arrow must be in another state by now!” this has happened to all of us.
The key to getting better is practicing.
I advocate shooting and practicing as much as one can do, especially if you’re going to hunt. Going to local clubs for 3-D shoots and/or joining in Leagues is the best shooting practice. Targets at home or local range are good but they are static and noiseless. Shooting in an event or league gives you different ranges and the noise of comrades’ joking and putting the pressure on us.
Cold Shots or First Shots, means shooting just one arrow at the target. Why is it important to start thinking about shooting these shots? We are hunting and want that first shot to count for a humane ethical harvest. That’s what all this practice leads up to…is our success in the field from that one shot.
A lot of cold and first shot issues are mental if we know our equipment from practicing and tuning to achieve that absolute best we can from our bow and arrow. First shot shooting is our mental tune up in focus, concentration and confidence. Some call it “buck fever, nerves or choking.” The worst is blaming your equipment (if you have been practicing your shooting you should know your bow by now). The best way to overcome any of these labels is to be mentally prepared. Period.
Before you start your practice, focus and concentrate on your first shot! Closer to the season, I will go out at odd times of the day like early morning, just after dinner and string my bow and shoot a first shot from different angles; then put my bow away. I will leave my arrow in the target and think about. It’s the old scout in me “Being Prepared.”
Don’t get me wrong here; I still practice shooting lots and lots of arrow through my bow(s) to keep my form and release dialed in and strength up.
“Perfect Practice Makes Perfect!”
Next in this Series: Fitness…
Previous in the series: Traditional Bowhunting: Instinctive Shooting
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