Summer is here and that means fall is right around the corner, and it’s time to hit the range. For some of us, the winter is a bleak period where your bow doesn’t see the outside of its case for a few months. After some idle time, your bow may need some maintenance to get back into bowhunting shape. Of course, there are countless methods and regimes that can be followed when beginning preparation for the fall, and this is the method that we at Tooth of the Arrow have found success with year after year. Let’s break down some crucial things that you can do for yourself and your bow this summer, so that you can be more deadly when the leaves start to fall.
- Blank bailing – the most proactive thing you can do as an archer
The first thing we do every year is get our form back in shape. Whether you’ve been shooting for 30+ years, or you are only heading into your sophomore season, everyone can benefit from a little form work after a long winter.
Blank bailing is very simple and can have profound effects on your accuracy. Set up a target in your garage or basement and take a number of close-range shots – about 5 yards is ideal – at a blank target face. We like to cover the target face with a large sheet of paper or a piece of cardboard. The idea behind this is that if there is no spot on the target for you to aim, then your mind can focus on everything else that goes into your shot. Think about your foot position, making a smooth draw, settling into your anchors, and making a clean release. Are you punching the trigger? Are you hitching at your hips? Is your front arm relaxed? These are all questions that are much easier for you to answer when you aren’t focusing on hitting a spot on the target.
As soon as we see some warm weather coming in the forecast, we start blank bailing. As boring and trivial as it may be, this simple practice will pay dividends when you draw back on that big buck or bull this season. Grab a coffee, put on some tunes, and grind out a few shots each day where aiming at a spot on the target is the last thing on your mind. You will be amazed at how much even a dozen or so shots per day for a couple of weeks can leave a mark on your shooting when you hit the outdoor range for the first time this spring or summer.
Check out this post on Outdoor Life for another great breakdown of blank bailing!
- Consider paper tuning
As controversial as the topic of paper tuning is known to be in the archery world, we are big fans of it. Of course, there are many other ways to achieve similar results, but we find paper tuning to be a clear-cut way that shows us proof of our bows accuracy.
Shooting form has a tremendous impact on how your bow will shoot through paper. If you have ever tried paper tuning and found that you get a different tear on every shot without even changing anything, you might want to consider doing some blank bail therapy. After we have blank bailed for a couple of weeks, we always shoot through paper before we take things outside. The blank bailing you have done will help ensure that your paper tears are as accurate and consistent as they can be.
Up and down tears are fixed by either moving your arrow rest vertically or by changing your nock point. This is quite a tedious task, but well worth the time. We recommend setting your arrow so that it is perfectly level, and in line with your Berger button hole (arrow rest mounting holes). From there, you should be able to sort out any vertical tear issue by moving your rest, but if you are having to move the rest a lot, consider resetting your nock point. Remember, every bow is different.
Left and right tears can be fixed by moving your arrow rest, but we much prefer the yolk or shim method if your bow has either of those options. We like to set our rest so that it is perfectly in line with the limb bolts, as this is a known true center mark on a compound bow. To do this, you can put an Allen wrench in each limb bolt, and run a long elastic band around both of them. Now you will have a loop that is about an arrows width that will tell you if your arrow rest needs to move left or right. On a bow that does not have split yoke cables or shims, you will more than likely be great on paper at this point. On a bow with yokes or shims, you can use the yokes or shims to move the string left or right, rather than the arrow rest. We have found this to be a much more accurate method of paper tuning rather than simply moving the rest left or right to correct a tear. You are addressing the problem at its source, rather than putting a bandage on the issue.
If you are shooting bullet holes through paper, it is rare that you will need to do anything else to get your arrows and broadheads flying true, but every setup is different, and it is always worth checking every box before the season begins.
- Walk back tuning
At this point, you will probably be shooting excellent groups on the range. Now, it is time to make sure that your broadheads agree with your setup. With a properly spined arrow, a well-tuned bow, and some time spent paper tuning, we find that we rarely need to do anything more to get our broadheads flying with our field points, but there is one common issue that comes up when switching over to broadheads that you may start to notice at long range. If you find that your arrows are hitting a little bit left or right, especially at distance, and moving your sight hasn’t remedied it properly, you need to walk back tune.
First, put some broadheads on your arrows because they will be more indicative of problems in your setup than a field point. Next, put a spot on your target near the top of the block and take a shot at 20 yards. Now, moving back ten yards at a time, keep aiming at that spot and keep using your top pin. Your arrows will fall in a nice line that matches your pin gaps. If you find that your arrows are hitting to the left or right, you need to make a very small adjustment to your arrow rest. By small, we mean 1/64” at a time. If your arrows are trending left, move the arrow rest right just a hair. If you arrows are falling to the right, move your rest left. This micro-adjustment is often all it takes to bring your broadheads and field points together on the target face.
- Shoot ‘em all!
It is often so tempting to set some of your new arrows to the side and save them for hunting, but we highly recommend cycling through all of your arrows on the range so that they have all been shot the same amount when fall rolls around.
Arrows – like most things – wear out over time. It is actually possible to shoot the spine out of an arrow, which basically means that it is completely worn out. I recall one season when I was at the range, and all of a sudden one of my arrows was not hitting anywhere near the others and was completely inconsistent. I had put two seasons through these shafts, and after some research I had found that I had completely shot the spine out of the arrow! It was actually a bit of a prideful moment, but from that point on I realized that I needed to cycle through all of my arrows when practicing to keep them all at the same stage in their wear. This is pretty much the archery equivalent to rotating the tires on your truck, and a crucial point to keep in mind this summer.
- Shoot the breeze
We often will wait for the nicest, warmest, and calmest of days to hit the range. Let’s face it, archery is more enjoyable on a sunny day. In your first few trips to the range this summer, this is exactly what you should do. There is no point trying to dial in your pins or read your arrows flight on a windy day. However, once you have a few sessions under your belt and you are confident in yourself and your gear, consider stepping outside on a windy or rainy day to do some shooting.
I look forward to these days all the time. A windy, overcast day that makes you a bit nervous about how your arrow may fly is the perfect day to home in on your weaknesses as an archer, and it is actually really fun. Get out and give it a shot, you’ll quickly learn about how much your arrow moves around in different levels and directions of wind. On a rainy day, you will be forced to take some shots with wet, slippery hands and equipment. Take some shots from a kneeling position, or with awkward footing. You will be so glad you did when you are presented with an uncomfortable shot in the woods or mountains, and you know you have been there before.
- Give it a shake
Lastly, this is something I do pretty well every time I hold my bow. I give it a shake! My friends used to ask me at range what I was doing all the time, “why are you shaking your bow like that?" Now, they all do it too. The reason is simple, by holding your bow at the grip and giving it a shake, you will be able to hear or feel anything that has come loose on your bow. It is not uncommon for bolts to loosen over time, and it makes sense. With force being exerted on your bow every time you take a shot, I fully expect something to come loose at some point. By regularly giving your bow a shake, you will be able to catch a loose bolt before anything serious happens as a result.
We hope these steps are helpful is getting you ready for this season, and keeping you ready all year long. At Tooth of the Arrow, our goal is to not only provide you with the highest quality broadheads, but also useful information to help you become a better archer and bowhunter! While everyone has their own thoughts on the best way to prepare for the season, we hope these 6 steps that we follow will help you!
If you have any questions or would like to discuss the topic further, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com
We are always more than happy to talk arrows and broadheads with fellow bowhunters!