Tuning your Bow

By: Steve Gougeon

bow tuningIt was a hour before sunrise when I stopped to help my wife Lori into her tree stand, I wished her good luck and went on to my stand that was about 200 yards away. As the sun rose I saw movement to my right it was a large 6 point that we had seen in summer, grazing in the soy bean field at the far end of the property. I was watching him closely as he made his way across the thick cover he stopped and turned slightly he was now headed right for my wife. The rest is her story,” he came in and stopped behind some brush. I could not get a good shot. He moved slightly and was stomping his front leg, he knew there was danger. As he turned to leave, there was a hole in the brush, I drew and released. The arrow zipped through the small hole in the brush and buried itself up to the fletching. I was confident in that shot because I knew my bow was well tuned. Was it a risky shot maybe, but, I had confidence in my equipment.”

Getting your bow ready for the oncoming season is more than dusting it off and flinging a few arrows at a hay bale in the back yard. It begins with tuning your bow and practicing, there is nothing better than practicing. Because when you have a shoot now or lose it forever shot you have to know that your equipment will perform. Your bow has many moving parts that can wear out or squeak at the worst moment.

I will start with the cams of your bow; weather you have a one cam or two this will apply.

Cam and shafts should be taken apart yearly to inspect for wear of the plastic bushings and wear shims.

Thoroughly clean with a alcohol type solution inspect axle shafts for gouges or nicks on the wear surface of the shaft. Check to make sure the cam does not have excessive lateral movement when on the axle shaft. If a cam is dragging slightly you bow will shoot erratically. The way to check for timing is to slowly pull the bow back and watch to make sure both cam roll over at the same time, this is done easier if you have a second person or lower the draw weight. I had a bow that was in time when you slowly pulled the bow back but…was shooting all over the place, turned out that I had a lower cam that had dirt in the bushing and was dragging causing the bow to be out of time. That is why it pays to take the bow apart and clean it.

The next thing to look for is for nicks in the cam itself where the string is in contact with the cam. Usually you will find them on the bottom cam from the bow hitting the ground while being lowered from your tree stand or being rested on the ground, it is a sure why to damage your string. The nicks can easily be fixed with a small file our sand paper. Clean out any excess wax that has built up in the string grooves well. When you re-assemble the cam in the limb check for excessive space between the hub of the cam and the limb you can use plastic washer to shim this. Be careful too much of a good thing can cause problems make sure the cam moves freely . This will allow the cam to move freely but not in a sideways motion. Use of a oil free lubricant is best the graphite based ones have worked best for me. Use a small amount of the axle before you put it back together will ensure no parts will stick on you. Regular oil will get thick in low temp keep that in mind if you use oil it also attracts dust and dirt.

I am going to talk about the arrow rest in this section. I will be talking mainly about the shoot through type rest because that is what most people are using today. If you are using a prong type that has a protective coating on the prongs to silence the arrow, remove all the shrink tubing or mole skin from last year. Use 600-800 grit sand paper and lightly sand the prongs (steel only).If you shoot carbon shafts you may find that this is extremely silent to draw on, you can lightly sand your arrows as well to remove any nick or imperfections in the shafts. I have been doing this for a few years now and it has worked great. Clean all moving parts of the rest with alcohol and lubricate with a graphite type lubricant, a little goes a long ways.

Your sight should be checked to make sure that they are no loose parts that will rattle or come loose. You should check it over for cracks in the plastic or broken pins. The fiber optic tips can get cracked or come loose. Now is the time to get it fixed or replace the sight. They are too many types of sights to talk about all of them. As long as you like the sight and are able to shoot accurately with it, it should be fine.

The cable guard rod and slide are very simple, you need to make sure that it is smooth and free of dust and dirt. If the plastic part is worn now is a good time to replace it with the new Teflon one’s. They wear better and are smoother on the rod. If they are any nicks or scratches you can sand the rod as well, I find that the Teflon ones wear longer and do not chatter like the plastic ones do. I have not had any experience with the type that has roller in them so I can not give you any help there. I can say that they would seem to be nosier that a sliding type. I try to keep the hunting bow as simple and basic as possible.

The string all bow have them, the first thing to look at is the serving on the string. Look for fraying ends or cuts in strands of the main string, if no strands are cut the string can be re-served. The cables should be inspected in the same way as the string. With the new strings on the market they will last a long time however they do stretch I spoke with the Zebra company and they recommend that the string be replaced after it reaches a max of 1/2-inch stretch. String stretch on a two-cam bow cause the cams to be out of time. This will cause erratic arrow flight and more than likely a frustrated shooter. On a one-cam bow it will cause the groups to be lower, you can adjust your sight a small amount or add a twist to the string to compensate for the stretch. In my opinion one cam bows are easier to tune because they seem more forgiving. Where as my two cam bow, I know right away if something as slipped or moved the arrow flight is effected to a much greater degree than the one cam. My hunting bow is a one cam where as my target bow is a two cam. I have also found that the one cam is slightly quieter than my other two cams bow all being equal.

Since you have now checked the string, rest, sight, and cable and guide, Your job of tuning will be easier. The first thing that I do is bottom out both limbs and turn out the limb bolt in equal amounts. This will give you equal tiller setting most bows are set up from the factory to shoot at the same setting. Tiller is the distance from the limb to the string you would measure this at the end of each limb pocket to ensure that you are getting and equal reading. Now you will need to make sure that you arrow is roughly centered with the rest and that the sight pin is lining up over top of your arrow and that the arrow is at almost a 90 degree angle to the rest. I would start about a 1/8 to1/16 high on the nock this will make sure you are clearing the rest when you shoot. Now re-check you arrow is in line with the sight pin if it is not move the sight to align with the arrow. You are now ready to paper tune the bow that is another topic in it self.

When you shoot it may be easier if someone stands behind you to watch the arrow flight, make small corrections. Do not worry about where the arrow are hitting at first just make sure they fly good and are hitting in the same general group. When you are done tuning it is time to set your sights. With a properly tuned bow you will be a more confident shot and that will make you a better hunter. They are several books written on tuning that are much more specific on each type of bow. What I have written here is a general guide to tuning.

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