By Tracy Breen
Competitive archer Burley Hall believes in tuning his own equipment. By doing so, he finds himself on the podium regularly.
-- If you are a bowhunter, you probably have a bow, a sight, a rest, and a pile of arrows that you have come to trust like an old friend. As the saying goes, if it isn't broken, don't fix it. When we find a setup that seems to work for us, we usually stick with it for a while. However, relying on what worked in the past can rob you of accuracy.
I recently interviewed world champion archer Burley Hall who said there are a few things that separate competitive archers from most bowhunters. For one, competitive archers are more willing to work on their own equipment. They also tend to seek out anything new that has the potential to increase shooting accuracy.
Every competitive archer I know is constantly trying new equipment and tweaking their current equipment. An adjustment here and there often results in more wins. For bowhunters, those tweaks might result in more critters on the wall. Below are a few things that might help increase your accuracy when shooting a bow.
All professional archers use peep sights. In most cases, peep sights improve almost every archer's accuracy. Pro shooters use peeps with a small-diameter hole because the smaller the hole in the peep, the more accurate the peep is. However, many of these pros use a larger diameter peep when hunting because the larger peep lets more light in. If you don't use a peep because you can't see through it very well, choose a peep designed for hunting. Most peeps designed for hunting have a large diameter hole that will improve an archer's shot.
One fine example is the new String-Splitter from Sterner Duttera. It's in a class of its own. The String-Splitter is larger than a traditional peep and served to the string like a peep. The String-Splitter is shaped like the letter "A." To aim, archers simply need to align the large open dome (bottom half of the A) with the top of their sights and shoot. The wide field of view coupled with the large V-shaped separation in the bowstring allows more light to come through than a conventional peep.
Another must-have accessory is a stabilizer. Many bowhunters don't use them because they believe their bow is quiet and shock-free, but destroying bow shock is not the only thing stabilizers do. Hall uses an extremely long Doinker Stabilizer when he competes in tournaments and a shorter version while bowhunting. A Doinker stabilizer has a weighted front end that destroys vibration, helps balance the bow and keeps the bow steady in the hand, which results in tighter groups. If pro archers use stabilizers, shouldn't all of us? Accuracy is most important to guys like Hall. At archery tournaments, you won't find an archer who shoots without a stabilizer on his bow.
Building your own arrows is another method to increase the accuracy of your set-up. Most professional archers build their own arrows because they know they will invest the necessary time to build them correctly the first time. Most archery retailers who build arrows build them correctly most of the time. The problem is that arrows need to be built correctly all of the time. If a nock isn't glued in properly or if an insert isn't aligned properly when glued, the arrow won't fly true.
Fletching your own arrows can greatly increase your accuracy.
Most bowhunters and professional archers who build their own arrows screw a broadhead into an insert before gluing the insert into the arrow. After they place glue on the insert, they make sure the blades on the broadhead line up perfectly with the fletching. Once the fletching and broadhead are in unison, the insert is allowed to dry.
Pros usually take their time when gluing the fletching. They make sure there is enough glue to have a durable, long-lasting fletch but not so much that the flight of the arrow could be affected. If you build your own arrows, you need to take the time necessary to make sure everything is done properly. The guy at the pro shop may have built 20 dozen arrows before he built yours. He may not have been 100-percent accurate. I've seen fletchings come off and inserts pull out of arrows on the first shot after bringing them home from the pro shop. This doesn't happen if you build your own.
If you are going to fletch your own arrows, you should purchase a grain scale. A grain scale will tell you how much your arrow weighs. I have seen bowhunters use arrows that are too light for their set-up, which can result in poor arrow penetration when hunting. With a grain scale, you will always know the weight of your arrow. If your arrows are too light, you can take the necessary steps to increase their overall weight. When fine tuning arrows, consider using one of today's extra-tough super short vanes. Small vanes don't look like they could steer an arrow, but they actually make arrows fly extremely accurately. Duravanes' Predator Vane is short and is one of its top selling vanes. These short vanes are catching on with many archers and bowhunters, too.
For a few hundred dollars, you can set up your own pro shop.
Regularly replacing your bowstring is another way to keep your bow shooting accurately. The bowstring is often overlooked by bowhunters until it is extremely worn out or broken, but Jarrod Fondie from Vapor Trail Bow Strings says that bow strings should be replaced every couple of years. Over time, strings stretch and wear. This can cause timing issues, which can create several problems including reduced accuracy. Regularly changing bow strings can prevent these issues from arising. Some strings can even help increase arrow speeds.
If you are serious about having a perfectly tuned bow, you may want to buy all of the equipment required to set up and tune a bow. For a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a press and the gadgets needed to do the work. A new bow will only be accurate if they guy who set it up took the time to do so properly. Making sure your nock and string loop are placed level with your rest is something I've seen not happen repeatedly. If everything on your bow isn't level, your arrow won't fly accurately.
Slow-motion cameras often reveal an arrow that is shot out of a bow that isn't set up perfectly level will have tail kick as it leaves the bow. This robs your bow of accuracy. For less than $50 you can buy the needed levels to make sure your arrow is always set right on the string. For less than $100 you can purchase a bow vise so you can easily work on your sight, your rest, and everything else on your bow. Getting a sight put on properly and a rest properly tuned can take some time, but when it is all said and done, having an accurate bow is worth it.
Building your own arrows and setting up your bow may seem like a daunting task. After all, your bow might shoot just fine. However, if you take the time to do this and research new products, your overall set-up will probably be more accurate, partly because you did the work yourself and took the time to do it right the first time.
I am not saying every pro shop does a bad job setting up bows and building arrows. I know some pro shops that do a wonderful job at tuning bows and truly treat every customers' bow like that is the only one they have to work on. But, if you set up your own bow and arrows, you are in charge of quality control.
If you are having a hard time coming to grips with replacing that sight you have had for 10 years, or if you struggle with the thought of throwing your old arrows into the hopper, realize that thinking outside the box, trying new things, building your own arrows, and setting up your own bows is often what separates a good shooter from a great one.
Burley Hall has dozens of national titles and is always trying new things. He never lets others touch his equipment. The outcome for him has been more arrows in the bull's-eye and more critters on the wall. Technology is changing archery gear almost as fast as computers are changing the world. Much of today's technology makes being accurate easier than it has been before.
Who would have dreamed of sights that automatically adjust to the available light outside, bows that would shoot 300 FPS, fletchings that are two inches long or string levels that are laser operated? Times have changed.
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-- Tracy Breen