When a bow doesn't shoot right, the problem can almost always be traced to the arrows. Of the more than 100 carbon and aluminum shaft sizes currently offered to archers, only a handful have the proper stiffness to leave your bow cleanly and accurately. The other 90-plus sizes will wobble no matter what you do.
Smart shaft selection is the first all-important step to perfectly flying projectiles. And make no mistake: If your arrow isn't flying exactly right, accuracy will suffer. It'll suffer with field points and even more with fixed-blade broadheads.
Finding Perfect Flight
Before you zero in on perfect arrow flight, you must do two basic things. First, select an arrow shaft recommended by the manufacturer to fly well from your specific bow. The best arrow shaft selection charts consider a number of key factors, including your bow's peak draw weight and let-off, personal draw length, type of compound cam or wheel, method of bowstring release and preferred arrowhead weight. Once such specifics are factored in, the chart recommends one or more shaft sizes likely to shoot well with careful tuning.
In a nutshell, arrow selection charts are telling you which shafts have the proper stiffness (spine) to flex correctly as they leave your bow. Too much in-flight flex (called dynamic spine) indicates a too-weak condition, which makes perfect flight impossible. Not enough flex (too stiff) is also the kiss of death on accuracy. Easton and other arrow companies have spent thousands of hours testing the flight characteristics of various arrow shafts so selection is easy for you.
A second priority on your start-up list should be arrow quality. All shafts are not created equal, and all manufacturer claims are not necessarily correct. In general, the minimum straightness tolerances published by Easton and other reputable arrow companies are reliable. I won't hunt with shafts more crooked than +/- .003-inch (three one-thousandths of an inch). Beyond this tolerance standard, I can tell a difference in the way fixed-blade broadheads group. With mechanical, open-on-impact broadheads, shaft straightness is a bit less critical, but not by much. My accuracy with mechanical heads noticeably begins to suffer when I shoot arrows with a shaft tolerance of more than +/- .006-inch.
In my mind, the only way to tune a bow is by shooting through stretched paper. Trying to watch for arrow wobble is a joke because arrows fly too fast to identify subtle problems. Bare-shaft planing tests touted by some target archers are too rough to work with flight-sensitive broadheads. Such tuning might work for tournaments, but not for animals.
Paper-tuning is easy. Begin by stretching newspaper or butcher paper across a homemade wooden frame about 24 inches x 24 inches, or cut a square hole in a large piece of cardboard. Use thumbtacks to stretch the paper tight from all four corners, and prop up the paper frame so you can shoot through it. In hunting camp, you can set up a makeshift paper-tuning easel by jamming two arrows in the ground about 2 feet apart and stretching newspaper between these shafts with clothes pins.
Next, place a sizeable target butt like The Block 3-4 feet behind the stretched paper. Shoot a field-point arrow though the paper from point-blank range (about 3 feet away). The paper tear that results will tell you all you need to know about fine-tuning your setup.
If you have trouble telling where the point of the arrow enters the paper, smear lipstick or grease pencil on the arrow's tip. This will leave a round smudge precisely where the point has passed through.
For a right-handed shooter, a tail-left tear means a weak arrow. A tail-right tear means a stiff arrow. A tail-high tear means the nock locator (nocking point) on the bowstring is too high. A tail-low tear means the nock locator is too low.
You'll never get a perfect “bullet hole” through paper on the first shot. But with a little luck, you can achieve a hole no larger than the arrow fletching by making a few minor bow adjustments.
If arrows tear tail-high, you must lower the nocking point on the bowstring or raise your arrow rest. If arrows tear tail-low, you must raise the nocking point or lower the arrow rest. Make small adjustments until you achieve good arrow flight.
If arrows tear tail-left, finger-shooters should move the arrow rest to the left, but release-shooters should move the rest to the right. If arrows tear tail-right, finger-shooters should move the rest to the right, but release-shooters should move the rest to the left.
Unfortunately, these textbook tuning steps aren't always enough. Most chronic tuning problems consist of persistent tail-right or tail-left arrow flight. Tail-high and tail-low paper tears almost always disappear after bowstring nocking point or arrow rest adjustments.
At their best, arrow shaft selection charts only approximate ideal shaft flex as the arrow leaves the bow. To pinpoint exact sideways flex and achieve arrow flight perfection, you might need to further fine-tune your arrows or bow.
One way to eliminate weak arrow launch (tail-left for a right-handed shooter) is by reducing the draw weight of your bow. Drop a few pounds of peak weight, and your arrow might straighten out.
If you don't want to change draw weight, or if draw weight adjustments fail to solve the problem, there are other ways to stiffen shaft performance and eliminate tail-left paper tears. You can switch to a lighter-weight arrowhead (100 grains instead of 125 grains, for example). If arrow shafts are even slightly too long, you can shorten them and stiffen flight. Generally, cutting 1 inch off the end is equivalent to dropping peak draw weight 4-5 pounds.
To eliminate tail-right paper tears, you should reverse the foregoing procedures. Increase the bow's draw weight. Use longer arrows. Increase arrowhead weight. Each step will produce noticeable paper-tear results. In combination, all these steps can turn a badly tearing arrow into a perfectly flying arrow.
The final step in arrow tuning is shooting broadheads through paper. Broadheads—particularly those with fixed blades—amplify small tuning troubles. They often create unacceptable paper tears when field points of the same weight appear to be flying well.
Begin by shooting broadheads through paper from 3 feet and then tune as best you can. Next, step back and shoot from 6 feet and then 20 feet. If broadhead arrows pass through the paper without tearing beyond the diameter of the broadhead or fletching, and do so at all three distances, your arrows are ready for big game.