Archery Prep: Marching To A Different Tune

Tune your bow setup for maximum performance.

Tim Knight | July 11, 2017

After deer season was over this year, I waited a couple of weeks and decided it was time to put out two feeders and some mineral licks for the deer. I was careful to tuck them away in the swampy cane thickets, far away from where they’d interfere with any turkey hunters. The only issue with this is that hogs can and will find these feeders.

One trick to use when putting up standing feeders for deer where you have hogs is to put the barrel of the feeder up against a tree, and then ratchet-strap the barrel of the feeder to the tree after you fill it. This ensures that a big hog won’t knock one of the legs out from under your feeder, causing it to fall to the ground where the hogs will destroy the feeder.

After being up for a couple of weeks, I went to check on the feeders, and as luck would have it, the deer had taken to both of them. But one had sign of a big hog coming to it—large tracks and the mineral block had almost been chewed into two pieces. Not to mention the mineral block had been moved several feet away from where I had placed it in a large depression under the feeder. Deer will lick the blocks, but hogs will chew on them. It has been my experience that when a large boar hog takes up at a feeder, he will bed close by and stake a claim to the feeder and not allow any other competition at the food source.

It was time to address this problem, so I grabbed my Lone Wolf climber and my PSE Carbon Air bow and headed to the feeder. When I got close to the feeder, I pulled out my iPhone to check the wind direction, and low and behold what the weather app said was totally different than what the wind was actually doing when I got to the feeder. This is truly the biggest advantage to a mobile climber, in that you are not handicapped to a certain wind direction like with a lock-on or ladder stand.

I picked out a tree downwind of the feeder that put me a little more than 20 yards away. I attached my safety harness to the tree, and up I went. The time was 4:30 p.m., and the feeder was timed to go off at 5 p.m. This was before the time changed back to daylight savings time. A quick note here is that I set my feeders to go off once a day in the afternoon approximately two hours before dark, with a run time of 12 seconds. With 200 pounds of feed, this gives me more than 60 days of feeding. Always pour your feed into plastic 5-gallon buckets to inspect for lumps or chunks of corn cob that can and will lodge in your spinner plate, causing your feeder to hang up. After the first corn feeding, I will start to mix corn and supplemental nutritional feed to the feeder, along with peanut butter powder that deer absolutely love. Antler-X-Treme is an excellent supplemental feed. Not only do deer love it, but it contains ingredients that controls worms and parasites on your deer.

I had just settled in my climber and pulled up my bow when the feeder went off. Now it was a waiting game. About 20 minutes before dark, I could hear an animal splashing water in a nearby slough and shaking the water off. I could actually hear his ears slapping his body as he shook the water off. This was followed by cane snapping as he approached the feeder. It was quiet as he stood just out of sight for several minutes checking the wind and his surroundings. Then, like a ghost, he appeared, cautiously circling the feeder and constantly raising his head to check the wind. Nothing, and I repeat nothing, can match the ability to smell you better than a mature boar hog.

I eased up off my seat and grabbed my bow and hooked up my release. I am pulling 60 pounds at 29 inches of draw set at 90 percent let-off, with a 452-grain total weight Redhead X-1 Pro arrow tipped with the all-steel, 165-grain Bipolar broadhead. This means I am holding 6 pounds at full draw. My arrow speed is 281 fps, and it is trailed by the new flashing lighted nock by Ignitor.

This combination has great momentum and FOC (front of center) and more than 76 foot-pounds of kinetic energy.

I patiently waited for the hog to give me the correct shot angle as he fed around inside 25 yards. As he started to make his move to get broadside, I eased the bow back and waited for the perfect angle, which is slightly quartered away. The beauty of 90 percent let-off is that you can hold your bow back as long as necessary without arm fatigue and wait for that perfect shot angle. I settled my pin behind the hog’s shoulder, keeping in mind the whole time the angle of the shot and where the arrow will exit on the opposite shoulder. In my personal thought process, I am thinking “aim, aim, aim…… squeeze,” and the Bipolar was launched.

Killing that big hog with a bow can be attributed in large part to equipment, and to the attention to detail in making sure my equipment is set up properly.

Everyone loves when the UPS truck pulls up and delivers a new bow, and not just any new bow, but one that has all the latest technology that has solved the archery problems of the past. My latest box contained the PSE Carbon Air with the new Evolve Cam System. I could hardly wait to finish my work that day in my taxidermy studio, so I could get home and set it up in my shop. If you are not confident in your abilities or lack the basic knowledge to tune your own bow, then either educate yourself, or refer to your closest professional bow tech.

The procedure in this article is how I personally set up my new bow.

The first thing I do with a new bow is check and set my peak weight to my personal preference. I do this by bottoming both limbs to the max, and then I back them out one-quarter turn. From this point, I back each limb out equal numbers of turns, one limb and one turn at a time, until I reach my desired draw weight. Some bows, like the new Carbon Air, actually have a lock-down screw to secure the limb in place once you set your poundage. Make sure to loosen these set screws before adjusting poundage, and then tighten them back after you set your poundage.

After I set my draw weight, I tie on my string loop and attach my arrow rest. I then line my arrow shaft up with the cut grooved lines on the riser shelf for left and right setting of the arrow, and I set the shaft to level nock travel by the cut grooved line above the rest mounting hole.

These tuning lines are also a PSE exclusive and are a great starting point to tune your bow.

After this, I check the draw length with my draw board, and I do this with the new string loop attached. The length of your string loop must be factored into your total draw length. Another new feature with my cam system is that the draw length can be adjusted without a press, and the draw stop moves with the draw length module. The let-off can also be adjusted to 80, 85 or 90 percent let-off without a press and just a simple adjustment of a set screw.

Next, I nock an arrow and check for proper arrow length. A good rule of thumb here is to cut your arrow off where the end is slightly past the arrow rest mounting hole on your riser. I prefer for my arrow shaft to be a minimum of 1 inch past my arrow rest launcher arm at full draw.

Make sure you are shooting the proper arrow spine for your bow and point weight by referring to the arrow chart on the box your arrows came in. Or, look it up on the internet. Keep in mind when you lengthen an arrow or increase point weight you decrease the arrow spine. And when you shorten your arrow or decrease your point weight, you increase your arrow spine.

I also prefer a limb-driven rest like the Smack Down Pro, where the control cord attaches to the limb of the bow and not one that ties into your cable system. I don’t like putting anything on a timed cable system like a binary-, -two- or hybrid-cam system that works on timing. The cord can and will create drag on the cable it is tied into. You can also have issues of it slipping on the cable it is tied to.

The limb-driven rest causes no drag on your cable or string system, plus the limb-driven rest picks up the launcher arm much faster and drops it much faster, which gives you optimal rest clearance for your arrow.

My next step is to shoot the bow about 20 to 30 times at point-blank range into my bag target with a field point. This helps to set and seat the strings and cables before you start your tuning process. The next step is to make sure your tuning shaft has the exact same point weight as your broadhead and is the exact same length from nock to tip as your arrows with your broadhead attached.

Now it’s on to the paper tuning rack. There are two types of paper tuning for a bow. One is tuning with a bare shaft, and the other is with a fletched shaft. I prefer a bare-shaft test, and the reason being is if your bow will shoot a bullet hole with a bare shaft, it should shoot any point accurately as long as it weighs the same and spins straight.

Refer to the arrow rest’s instructions on adjusting your rest for a correct paper tune. The purpose of fletchings is to provide steering to straighten the arrow’s flight after launch. The less the fletching on your arrows have to correct arrow flight at launch, the quicker your arrow will recover, and the straighter it will fly. If you get a bullet hole with a bare shaft but you get a tear with a fletched shaft, you are getting contact somewhere in the launch cycle.

This is something that often frustrates the average guy who is doing his or her own tuning. You think you have a tuning issue, when in reality you have a fletching contact issue. Not all drop-away rests truly drop away in time. It is also possible for a fletched arrow tune to be slightly less than perfect due to the much larger hole a fletched shaft creates in the paper. A bare-shaft bullet hole does not lie.

Another great new feature of the Evolved Cam system is that it has a floating yoke system on both cams to balance and control cam lean. Cam lean has always been an issue with binary-cam systems without a yoke system to adjust them. Uncontrolled cam lean will result in not being able to tune the bow properly, and if severe enough, it will cause the bow to derail at draw or after the shot. The only cure for this condition is to shim or move the cams left or right by having to completely disassemble the bow. This can be tricky even for some bow techs.

It took a total of four shots to tune my new bow.

Once the bow shoots a bare shaft properly, I attach my sights and stabilizer and any other accessories to my bow. I then sight-in my fletched shaft with field point at 20 yards, and then I pull that arrow and mark the hole with a piece of tape. Next, I shoot the bare shaft at the exact same point of aim as the fletched shaft. I then mark that spot and shoot my broadhead, making sure it spins straight first. It is not wise to shoot multiple carbon arrows at the exact same spot, especially with broadheads. Once your bow will shoot a bare shaft, fletched shaft and broadhead on a fletched shaft to the same point of aim at 20 yards, your bow is tuned.

Never shoot a broadhead on a bare shaft!

The next step is to fine tune your sights with your broadheads at different yardages. I shoot one pin sighted-in at 25 yards, and with my setup it gives me a plus or minus 1-inch margin of error from 0 to 33 yards. Anytime you change anything on your bow, you must retune, no matter how simple you think the change may be.

I contacted Kris Wall, a well-known bow tech in the Athens area and regular contributor and problem solver at the Woodys web board ( and ask him what kind of arrow tune he preferred and why

“I prefer bare-shaft tuning for hunting applications,” Kris said. “A bare shaft and a fletched shaft with a broadhead react exactly the same coming out of the bow. A bare shaft has zero steering from the front and the rear, while a fletched broadhead shaft has steering from both the front and the back. You may ask how they behave the same then. If a bare shaft comes out of the bow point right, nock left, then it will continue on a path to the right because it can’t correct itself. A fletched broadhead that comes out of the bow the same way, point right, nock left, will also continue to plane to the right because wind from the front of the arrow is pushing the broadhead in that direction. The fletching can correct some of it, but not all of it, if the bow is out of tune. So, I prefer bare-shaft tuning to get the arrow coming out of the bow as straight as possible. When you accomplish this, there’s minimal frontal steering on the broadhead, and the shaft should hit where your field points are given your arrow components are all straight.”

Out of all the bows I’ve tuned for myself and others, I’ve yet to find a broadhead that won’t shoot well when a bow is properly bare-shaft tuned. I do like to keep my speeds in the 280 to 300 fps range for fixed heads. That seems to be a great, manageable speed to keep things shooting well with fixed heads.

The 165-grain, all-steel Bipolar broadhead found its mark and drove home behind the hog’s shoulder as it angled to and lodged in the opposite shoulder. The impact almost knocked him off his feet as the big boar hog let out a muffled grunt and went tearing out of there. The flashing green lighted knock sticking out of his shoulder reminded me of a lightning bug you see in the summer time. After an 80-yard mad dash, there was one last loud crash, and then all went silent, except for that one squirrel that was doing that long, drawn-out squeal bark they do when they can’t figure out what kind of booger man was crashing through his woodland domain.

I sat back down in my climber and was thinking to myself, that hog had some big teeth and man that was a big animal. I waited a good 30 minutes before I got down and took up the track. As soon as I got to the feeder I could see the lighted nock flashing, so I went straight to it to start my track job and the blood sign was unbelievable. I took out my phone and videoed the recovery from there, which was not far. You can watch the recovery on the Facebook page for Bipolar Broadheads.

You can and will improve your bow’s performance and arrow penetration when you decide to march to a different tune.

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