It always surprises me how many traditional shooters have poor arrow flight and loud bows. It's pretty easy to tune a traditional bow, but there are more adjustments than people realize that will improve arrow flight and quiet a stickbow down. Here are some basics I've learned over the years that will help you get your recurve or longbow shooting its best.
Setting Brace Height
Each bow has a sweet spot that deserves to be found. Start with the manufacturer's recommended brace height, then adjust the brace height an eighth of an inch at a time up to an inch above and below the suggested measurement. You will know when you are at the perfect brace height for your bow and your shooting style when the bow is the quietest. It's as simple as that.
This process is easier if you shoot a Flemish string. Use a bow stringer to slide the top loop down your longbow or recurve and pull the string loop off the lower limb, then twist it a few twists at a time before putting it back on and shooting again. Once I find the sweet spot, I write it down on the bow with a marker for future reference. Make sure you occasionally check your brace height. Depending on string material, new strings can creep quite a bit in the first week, and a bit more over time as they age.
Setting Your Nock
A nock set's purpose is simply to mark where to consistently place your arrow on the string to get the best arrow flight. Most traditional bows shoot best with anywhere from a level to a half-inch high nock set. The proper way to set this is to use a T-square, but I often put an arrow on the string, eyeball center, place my nock set, and then adjust up or down from there until it shoots well.
Quieting Your Bow
On my recurves, I like to add some moleskin to the belly of my limb tips where the string contacts it. I use a piece about six to eight inches long from the string groove down. Once the brace height is set, I also like to add a pair of string silencers.
Centershot Or Feather Flip
If your arrows still aren't flying perfectly, it's time to check if your bow is centershot. The easiest way to do this is to nock an arrow and, looking from behind the bow, use your dominant eye to line up the string in the center of the limbs, top and bottom. If your arrow isn't lined up perfectly with the string, you can try to build up the shelf to bring the arrow into alignment.
Fletching contact with your rest or riser can also cause poor arrow flight. If you suspect this to be the case, then feather rotating — or feather flip as I call it — is the solution. Simply rotate your nock to change the position of the feathers as they pass over the rest and riser, until you minimize contact.
If you're still having problems, check your tiller. On a recurve, this is measured from the string to the inside of both limbs at the end of the riser. On a longbow, it is measured at the point where the handle narrows into the top and bottom limbs. Most are set 1„8" to 3„8" greater on the top limb. Since all traditional bows are set up to shoot the arrow above the handle, the tiller is offset to allow both limbs to work evenly. If the tiller is not correct, or if you're shooting with three fingers under, on a bow that was tillered for a split-finger shooter (or vice versa), this could be the problem and explain why you have to set your nock super high or low to get good arrow flight.
Some bows, like the Hoyt Satori, have an adjustable tiller to allow for different shooting styles. If you cannot adjust the tiller on your bow and are still having tuning issues after checking everything else, try an aggressive nock position change (one inch higher or lower) to help fix the issue. If this doesn't help, try changing your finger position from split to three fingers under, or the other way around.
A well-tuned setup means a quieter shot, and perfect arrow flight means a faster arrow that will penetrate better.