Article by Rod White, NFAA Bowhunting and Event Coordinator. Rod is an Olympic Gold Medalist and Professional Archer. Subscribe to the NFAA Youtube Channel and watch NFAA Talks with Rod White at: https://www.youtube.com/user/NFAAUSA/feed
SOMETIMES…just sometimes, coming out of the indoor season you build that magical target setup that seems absolutely perfect. Sometimes, it can take weeks, to dial in your setup. Regardless if you are building a field bow, outdoor target rig, or 3D setup, keeping it in tune can be extremely challenging because of a number of factors. These can include, but are not limited to: basic wear and tear, strings settling in, humidity, occasional shooting sessions in the rain, dust, and mud. They can all have an impact on the way your bow shoots. Not to mention, changes in our form, especially for those of us shooting field or 3D archery in changing elevations. As much as we all hope we’re going into mid-summer with the same form consistency as we left the indoor season with, it’s highly unlikely that the amount of time we put into our form and shot execution is anywhere near what we do inside at 20 yards. It’s just a fact that the amount of variables that come into play when shooting outdoors at multiple ranges, translates into less available time for working on consistent shot execution.
With all that said, here’s a quick rundown of things I do with each and every setup I build to ensure things stay on track with my number one target bow. Many of the same things can and should be done with hunting setups as well. Some supplies you’ll need are a notebook (or the spreadsheet I’ll mention shortly), pencil, calipers or small ruler, measuring tape, a “T-Square” for measuring nocking height, a camera (your phone, if it has a camera in it, is more than adequate), and a fine tip sharpie. If you go through this entire process, it can become a regular part of your regimen, each and every time you build a bow. Over time, you’ll log an invaluable journal that will help you save immense amounts of time troubleshooting individual setups, as well as speeding up the process of building new setups in the future.
The first thing you’ll need to do once you have your bow shooting like a champ, is take inventory. By that, I mean take inventory of EVERYTHING you have included in your bow and arrow system. To make this process easier, I’m including a Google Excel Spreadsheet that you can download and keep with your notes to document the key details and measurements. The document I’ve shared is a direct copy of my current setup. You’re certainly welcome to use it as a reference to understand how I’ve inputted my own data and values. To customize it, simply change the values, data, and measurements to suit your personal bow and accessory data. The fields in blue font are where you would change information. The field that computes actual bow let-off percentage is in red and is a formula that shouldn’t be edited. It’s an output value. You’ll find that it’s highly likely that any bow you are shooting will not have an actual let-off as advertised. This is why I left the field as a formula. I’ve found that my holding weight is VERY important to my ability to aim and is definitely a value you should make sure that you are also measuring. There are two tabs on the spreadsheet at the bottom. One that says Bow Details and the other that says Sight Mark Data. Yes, I duplicate the information from the first page to input into the second page when I’m using programs such as Archer’s Advantage or Archer’s Mark to create sight marks and tapes. Watch for more on that in another blog post. The link to the spreadsheet is here:
I would also encourage you to keep your journal on an app in your phone. On the iPhone, I use the simple app that comes with the phone called “Notes”. It syncs across all my devices. I travel for tournaments and hunts frequently throughout the year, so I can access it virtually anytime. You can also access the this sheet (link above) from your phone as well, with most smartphones. It’s much easier to make quick notes in the “Notes” app during tournaments, but do what works best for you.
Taking inventory is as simple as documenting virtually everything measurable about your setup that you can think of. Even if it’s not on my list, there may be some things you are using or have that I don’t, because of the brands or models of gear that you use personally. I’ve broken the list down into categories for you below.
- Make, Model, Year
- Axle-to-Axle Measurement
- Poundage (Both Peak and at Full Draw)
- Draw Length (As measured by ATA standards)
- Strings – Manufacturer, Aftermarket, Strand Count, Materials, Center Serving Type and Diameter, locations and types of string weights or silencers if used
- Position of string dampener if present
- Nock Loop – Material and distance from string to loop
- Nocking point/String Loop Height
- Cam Rotation, Draw Stop locations (if applicable), Timing, and Cam Lean
- Make, Model, Arrow Diameter, GPI (Grains Per Inch), Length (from the inside of the throat of the nock to the end of the carbon on the point end of the shaft)
- Finished Arrow Weight, Bare Shaft Weight, Vane Type and Length, Point Weight, Nock Make and Weight, how you prepared the shaft and vane for adhesion as well as if you used acetone or other cleaning agents, and the type of glue used
- Make, Model, Length of both back bar(s) and front bar
- Weight Configurations on both back and front bars
- Launcher Angle and Blade Thickness (if applicable)
- For Drop Aways – Use a draw board and mark your arrow as the launcher hits it’s full upright position. Measure the distance from the point to the mark on your shaft and note that distance.
- Mark the horizontal and vertical position of the rest or take a picture if marks are present by the manufacturer
- Distance from the back of the riser to the front of the rest housing
Sight – These notations are mostly for creating sight tapes and realizing speed changes. The sight itself has virtually no measurable effect on the tune of the bow itself, except that the weight of the sight could have a slight change in arrow impact. I have yet to see measurable impacts on arrow impacts at even long range.
- Once sighted in, using your calipers, measure the distance from your 80 yard to your 20 yard mark and note both the distance and the marks that you used to measure. You can use this data should you need to put a new sight tape on and are not be able to find the exact same manufacturer of sight tape that you used before. Many commercial sight tapes have a number or letter associated with the specific tape you use.
- Center of your peep to sight pin
- Center of your peep to the center of your arrow
- Notch or hole where your sight is secured to the sight base
- Scope manufacturer, lens power, fiber or dot diameter, lens manufacturer
- Peep manufacturer, hole diameter, and clarifier or verifier power if applicable
In addition to entering and storing all of the above information, I take a lot of pictures of how I take measurements, the setup in general, and markings I make so that I can reference them as needed if I have time to work on trying something new or attempting to make any micro tuning adjustments.
This information is also helpful in determining sight marks when using specialized programs like Archers Advantage and Archers Mark. Two particular measurements are vital for those programs. The Peep to Pin distance, and the Peep to Center of Arrow Distance.
Depending on certain components and accessories, you may have to get creative on how you measure certain things, like launcher blade distance from the rest housing or cam rotation.
For Cam Rotation, I use a fine point pencil to draw a line along the outside edges of the cables where they cross certain portions of the cams. And I also draw lines along the limbs as a secondary reference for cam rotation. I prefer to use a pencil for these rather than marker so I can make changes easily and the multitude of marks I make with the pencil ensures that even if I smudge a mark accidently during the season, there will likely be an extra reference. Specifically on my Fanatic 2.0 with the Triangle stops, I used a silver sharpies along the edge so that in the event one gets bumped, I can quickly tighten it back in place.
All of this information takes less than a half an hour to collect and document. It can save you days of frustration if new strings are ever needed, cams rotate due to string settling or stretching, or when building a back up bow.
In most cases, you’ll find the most basic information about the bow itself, including: the draw weight, cam rotation, axle-to-axle length, brace height, draw length, nocking point and loop positioning and length. These will be the most critical elements when building a back up bow of the same brand and model. Although there is a lot of data I record that I may never use again, I’ve never been sorry I didn’t record it all and often times I wish I recorded even more!