April 29, 2021
A well-practiced archer is typically a more effective bowhunter. Simply put, the more an archer shoots, the more automatic and more refined his or her muscle memory becomes.
This is crucial when the moment of truth arrives, because despite excited nerves that can quickly ruin a great shooting opportunity, the brain’s subconscious function eventually takes control of the shot, delivering what it has done time and time again: A smooth, fluidlike execution that ends with a deadly arrow through the animal’s vitals.
Without constant, repetitive, and well-thought-out shooting, this type of performance is just not possible. Of course, part of this shooting must be done with actual broadhead-tipped arrows to ensure top accuracy and consistent shot placement on animals.
The problem is, perpetual shooting with broadheads can be costly, as tight arrow groups eventually lead broadheads to slicing other shafts to shreds. Also, broadheads will occasionally strip out of the insert and become deeply dislodged in expensive targets, forcing archers to dig through the foam, eventually ruining the target. Also, constantly aligning broadheads with shafts to ensure wobble-free flight can be time-consuming and annoying, making the whole broadhead-specific shooting process a huge pain. In most cases, for continual shooting purposes on a year-round basis, it’s simply better to screw on fieldpoints and start shooting. This helps you hammer in solid shooting form, day in, day out.
Of course, the dreaded dilemma is when broadheads and fieldpoints impact the target differently. This forces bowhunters to change their sight settings and then back again prior to hunting season, disturbing your natural shooting flow. And, if you’re like me, what do you do when you hunt different critters almost year-round? The frustration is familiar to every bowhunter.
In hopes of eliminating all of this, here are some things you can do to improve point-of-impact problems between fieldpoints and broadheads.
Start With The Bow
Not every bow setup will shoot broadheads in line with fieldpoints. It just won’t happen, no matter what you do. There are many reasons for this. First, broadheads don’t resemble the shape of a fieldpoint; they have bladed “wings” that catch air unevenly and veer off course. Mechanical heads eliminate some of this bladed surface area, but not all of it. Broadheads are typically longer in shape as well, which will alter the arrow’s front of center compared to a fieldpoint-tipped shaft. Both of these attributes can cause broadheads to group differently.
However, a well-tuned bow, with cams that are synchronized and working in unison with one another, can typically group broadheads and fieldtips closely together, if not in the same hole out to 40 or 50 yards, given you make the right adjustments to your bow’s harnesses and arrow rest.
It’s very important to adjust the bow’s draw length and cam synchronization prior to broadhead tuning any setup. This will optimize shooting comfort and speed, and ensures proper nock travel. Be sure to adjust the centershot position as specified by the bow’s manufacturer.
Next, verify arrow flight by shooting arrows through taut paper. I typically shoot from four or five feet away when paper-tuning, then shoot again from 10 feet to ensure the pattern remains unchanged.
The goal here is to achieve a “bullet hole” tear, with only the footprint of the shaft and vanes and nothing else. I tune first with an un-fletched shaft. I wrap about three inches of electrical tape where the vanes usually glue on, so the rear portion of the shaft weighs similarly. This keeps the shaft’s FOC balance point exactly the same. The purpose behind using the un-fletched shaft is to eliminate vane contact and create the smallest tear possible for more precise tuning.
When paper-tuning, attempt to tune out vertical tears first. For a high tear, lower the D-loop on the bowstring or move the arrow rest up. For a low tear, raise the D-loop or move the arrow rest down.
For a tail-left tear, you’ll move the arrow rest very slightly to the left. For a tail-right tear, you’ll move the arrow rest very slightly to the right. I say very slightly because any large tears will have to be resolved by following the next step — tuning the bow’s limb harness.
Once you get the un-fletched shaft flying perfectly, shoot a fletched arrow to confirm perfect arrow flight. If you get irregular rips, or a large tear all of a sudden, then you’ll know vane contact is the culprit. Rotate the arrow nock in such a way as to eliminate contact, or switch to lower-profile vanes altogether.
Troubleshoot this until the arrow exits the bow in a perfectly straight pattern.
Vertical Cam Position
For horizontal tears larger than three-quarters to one-inch wide, avoid moving the arrow rest to the far left or right in hopes of correcting it. Why? Usually this won’t correct the tear, or it will place the arrow’s position so far out from normal centershot that it will cause vane clearance or other accuracy issues.
Typically, when tears like this occur, it has to do with improper nock travel caused by the bow’s limb and cam position. The only way to resolve this is to begin adjusting the string yoke that fastens to the bow’s outer limb. By doing this, you can manipulate the vertical position of the cams’ string grooves, bringing it in line with the bowstring’s path. This ensures a smooth, dynamic takeoff of the arrow, improving accuracy, speed, forgiveness and straight and level nock travel for better broadhead versus fieldpoint consistency.
Your bow may have one or two split yokes fastened to the outer limb(s). Either way, start adjusting the single top yoke first by making one or two twists to one side of the yoke at each juncture, while untwisting the other side in equal fashion. This will keep the harness length and the bow’s timing and draw length the same.
To perform yoke tuning, you must use a bow press to relax the limbs. The EZ Bow Press is a top model to consider. It’s safe, strong, highly adjustable, and allows for fast pressing of the bow.
With a left tear, twist the left side of the string yoke and untwist the right side in equal amounts. With a right tear, twist the right side of the yoke and untwist the left in the same fashion. Do this until you achieve a perfect arrow rip in the paper.
On a bow with a top and bottom yoke, the top yoke tends to yield the most significant tuning change, since the arrow’s position is closer to the upper-axle area. The bottom-axle yoke can be adjusted as well, however, using the same tuning procedure as with the top yoke. Experiment as needed to improve your tuning result.
Once arrows are coming out of the bow perfectly straight, as shown by paper-tuning, it’s time to shoot groups using three fieldpoint-tipped shafts and three equipped with broadheads.
Begin shooting groups at 30 yards, and then compare impact points. If broadheads group to the right of the fieldpoints, move the arrow rest in one small increment (1⁄64 or 1⁄32-inch) to the left. If broadheads hit left, move the arrow rest to the right. If broadheads impact high, move the arrow rest in one small increment down. If broadheads hit low, move the arrow rest up. Do this until both groups merge together.
Next, repeat this process over again, but this time extend the shooting distance to 40 or 50 yards. If impact points don’t change much after adjusting the arrow rest, or if the arrow groups are more than four inches apart to begin with, revert back to yoke-tuning to bring the groups closer together.
If broadheads group to the right of the fieldpoints, make a twist to the left side of the yoke and untwist to the right. If broadheads group to the left, twist the right side of the yoke and untwist the left. Continue to do this until the arrow groups come together. To micro-tune, you can make half-twists to the yoke or go back to making small incremental arrow-rest adjustments, depending on the results. You can also manipulate the bottom yoke on some bows to make more subtle tuning changes.
Beyond these distances, you shouldn’t expect to achieve near-identical impact points with broadheads and fieldpoints. There are simply too many aerodynamic forces at play between the two point styles to expect stellar results at longer shooting distances. Regardless, most regular shooting practice is done inside 50 yards, so this tuning procedure will keep most archers dialed-in and feeling confident for hunting season. Give it a shot!