SETTING UP A HUNTING BOW
Great bowhunters are masters at reading deersign, choosing hunting locations, and perfecting advanced hunting strategies, but if they can’t make fatal shots on game, they don’t collect the harvest. Make certain your bow is set up correctly prior to entering the timber.
Lucas Archery Shop, located in Moberly, Missouri, has been owned and managed by reknown archer and setup man, Gary Lucas, since 1988. Evidence of Lucas’s expertise lies in the steady hands of the shop’s league shooters. The archers of this league have become tough competition for leagues throughout America. The shop’s league includes several national, and state champions. Lucas credits the shop’s success to teamwork, 24 hour a day indoor range access, and highly motivated archers, however most any league shooter will say, Gary is the brains behind it all. He has unfailingly offered his setup services which have enhanced the skills of the local archers.
Prior to the selection of a bow, Lucas checks for eye dominance. A minority of individuals who are right-handed are left eye dominant, and vice-versa. There are two solutions for this limited minority. An individual in this situation may need to shoot with an eyepatch, or opposite eye dominance can be dealt with by suggesting the buyer purchase a weapon which corresponds to his or her dominant eye. Although eye dominance is important, some individuals with this problem select weapons they are comfortable with, even at the expense of utilizing the undominant eye for shooting purposes. To test eye dominance simply concentrate visually on an object over 30 yards away. Extend your arm out in front of your body with fist clentched. Hold up the index finger and place it on the object which you are visually concentrating on. Close your right eye. Open your right eye. Close your left eye. Open your left eye. The index finger moved way out to the side of your target on one of the two scenarios. When the move occured you were looking through one of your eyes. This is not the dominant eye.
Accurate determinantion of draw length is the second step of the setup. Draw length is determined with a special draw length bow which holds an arrow marked with measurement units of one inch. The buyer simply pulls the draw length bow and arrow, and anchors in three places on the face. These anchor locations are thumb knuckle under the jaw, string to the corner of the mouth, and nose rested on the bowstring. Determining draw length is very important. Lucas states, “Buying a bow at a speciality shop can often be a few dollars more but its worth it. Archers who travel to a local discount store to purchase a bow from a counter display without being measured for draw length place themselves in awkward shooting prediciments. Do yourself a favor. Let a professional assist in the purchase. The long term results will be very rewarding.”
Choosing the right bow for your needs can often be a tricky decision to make. Often times the buyer has a particular bow in mind for purchase. The majority of the time the bow is suitable for the shooter, however sometimes the weapon of your dreams isn’t the best choice. Novice archers should begin with deflex handle bows which have a higher brace height. Braceheight is the distance between the handle and the string. Higher brace heights allow an arrow to leave the bow quicker. An arrow that leaves a bow quicker has less time to be manipulated incorrectly by the archer while it is resting in the weapon. Higher brace heights minimize mistakes. Although many unique and radical cams exist on today’s market which increase arrow speeds, a novice should stick to mild cams or energy wheels. They are more forgiving. Novice archers don’t necessarily need the slowest bow on the market, but the fastest bows on the market can be a poor choice. Fast bows magnify mistakes. Novice archers who experience bad shooting problems may become discouraged.
Veteran archers are afforded the luxury to select the weapon of their choice. Reflex handle bows possess lower brace heights which allow for maximum power stroke. Power stroke is the distance the string travels from relaxed position to full draw. Longer power strokes produce more energy thus increasing the amount of power behind one’s arrow. Solocams and radical cams, coupled with overdraws, increase speed. Speed seems to be today’s tool by which all bows are measured. Lucas states, “Any bow that shoots 240 feet per second or above is suitable for whitetail hunting. Often speed is overated amoung whitetail hunting bows. Deer can jump an arrow traveling at any speed less than 700 feet per second. Today’s state of the art equipment has just recently reached arrow speeds of 300 feet per second. Don’t get me wrong, speed is important, however purchasing a bow that is comfortable for you is the first priority.”
After the selection of a bow, arrows are selected. Lucas recommends no one shoot arrows less than twenty-seven inches in length. For hunter’s who choose aluminum, look no further than the Easton aluminum arrow chart. This chart suggests arrow selections based upon bow weight, arrow length, cam type, bowtype, and anxle length. Arrow selection usually presents the buyer with one of two material choices, aluminum and carbon. This issue has been the subject of popular debate since the introduction of carbon arrows. Here are some of the facts. Aluminum arrows are straighter and produced with tolerances of less than .1000 of an inch. Straighter arrows fly truer. Aluminum arrows are more economical. Aluminum arrows tend to allow room for longer, more helpful fletchings. Carbon arrows provide the archer with greater penetration. Carbon arrows are more durable. Carbon arrows are lighter, making them faster.
The tiller distance must now be set. The tiller distance is the distance from the inside of the limb to the string. Two tiller distances exist. They are the top of the limb, and the bottom of the limb. The distances must be exactly the same for release shooters. For archers who don’t shoot with releases, choosing to use fingers, the tiller distance should be 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch greater at the top limb measurement than the bottom limb measurement.
Be sure to check the time of each wheel or cam. Both wheels or cams must be turning to reach the cables at the same exact point and time. If they are not timed equally a simple twist of the cables may be all that is needed.
Choosing an arrow rest isn’t too complicated. It is recommended finger shooters utilize “shoot around” rest. Release shooters should utilize a “shoot through” rest, like the TM Hunter. “Shoot through” rests provide greater arrow clearance to reduce the possibilities of fletching drags. These rests should be equipped with shrink tubing to reduce the noise of metal drag as an arrow passes over them.
Release shooters sometimes use metal nocks to prevent release tips from touching arrow shafts. This is not recommended. The archer should utilize rubber eliminator or cushion bottons. The rest should line up with the string and center of the handle in the initial setting of the rest. Future adjustments to the location of the rest may be required after paper tuning results are gathered. Moleskin may be placed beneath the rest, under the overdraw tray, or against the side of the riser to reduce noise in the event an arrow is pulled off the rest during draw. Nocks are to be set 1/16 of an inch above square until paper tuned.
Releases are recommended. They provide the archer with an easier pull, and insure that the bowstring is drawn in the same manner on each arrow. A variety of releases are available. Release types include calipers, ropes, etc.
Following the addition of rests, nocks, or releases, paper tuning is performed. Paper tuning is a must. Paper tuning is the only way to determine arrow flight accurately. Shooting arrows at close range, through stretched paper, produces one of five tears-the high tear, the low tear, the left tear, the right tear, and the good tear. Contrary to popular opinion the tears occur as result of the following improper setup techniques:
1. High tear-The rest is too stiff. The wheels are out of time. The arrow selected is too stiff. The nock point is too high.
2. Low tear-The nock point is too low. Incorrect spring tension on the rest. The wheels are out of time.
3. Left tear-Rest incorrectly aligned. This requires the alignment of the rest to move in the opposite direction of the tear. (Follow the direction of the tear with the rest.) The arrow selected has too weak of an arrow spine.
4. Right tear-The arrow selected has too strong of an arrow spine. Rest is incorrectly aligned. This requires the alignment of the rest to move in the opposite direction of the tear. (Follow the direction of the tear with the rest.)
A peep site is a mandatory tool for serious archers. To set the peep site, the archer must draw the bow to the three anchor points. These anchor points include knuckle under the chin, string to the corner of the mouth, and nose tip to the bowstring. The setup man determines the location of the peep site, after drawing and anchoring.. This location must be a level setting corresponding to the field of vision. The peep site is then simply tied in a stationary positin on the bowstring. To increase the amount of light allowed entering the peep site, simply drill the hole out to a larger outside diameter. This will increase the number of shots one is able to take advantage of on evening hunts.
Quivers come in all shapes and sizes, however the three most popular types of arrow quivers include hip, bow attached, and bow detachable. When selecting a quiver keep several things in mind. Purchase a good long quiver that doesn’t produce noise. Attached quivers can often vibrate. Continually check the tightness of the quiver screws throughout the hunt season. If you decide on a quiver which detachs from the bow, it is customary to detach the quiver upon arriving at the stand. Make certain your bow is sited in without the quiver. If one sites the bow in with a quiver full of arrows attached, rest assured the bow will shoot differently when the weighted quiver is detached. This mistake can cost you the buck of a lifetime.
Choosing sights for the bow is no longer a difficult choice. Bottomline is basic pin sights are outdated, and archery scopes on bows are difficult to operate. Scopes also disqualify one from entering a monster buck harvest in the Pope and Young Record Books. Adjustable, fiberoptic sights may be the route to go. A number of reputable companies manfacture fiberoptic sights. Question your local archery shop for what type is best for you.
Two types of stablizers are available for puchase. These include weighted and hydrolic. Weighted stabilizers are simply used for balance, and reduction of movement in the bow. The new trend in stabilizers is hydrolic. Hydrolic stabilizers perform additional functions which include removal of shock produced by arrow release, length, steadiness, and reductionof bow movement. Offset stabilizers are designed in the shape of a slanted “V”. The shape is designed for bows setup with permanant quivers mounted directly to the bow.
To reduce shooting noise, Lucas recommends some form of string silencer. There are presently three types including rubber cat whiskers, puffs, and tarantulas. Lucas states, “Any of the three will work, however I prefer tarantulas.” An advantage of rubber cat whiskers have is they don’t collect debris as the hunter travels through the woods.
Lucas doesn’t recommend gametrackers. These devices are spooled string containers which affix to your bow. One end of the string is tied to your arrow. When game is struck by an arrow, attached to a gametracker, the string simply unwinds as the animal runs, thus creating an easy track for recovery of the animal. Lucas states, “I don’t want anything attached to my arrow which may disturb its flight. Gametrackers may be fine up to about twenty yards.”
To maximize success at perfecting archery skills, learn how to relax the non-shooting hand. This is difficult for most archers as they fear they will drop the bow when doing so. Wrist slings are the answer to this problem. Wrist slings rid the archer’s fear of dropping the bow, thus allowing him to relax by actually attaching the shooter to the bow. This tool reduces tension of the bow.
Broadheads are the final product selection for any archer who has just setup his or her bow, and is wishing to harvest game in the field. The current debate among broadhead users revolves around stationary bladed broadheads versus expandable broadheads. I am not a fan of expandable broadheads. Whether or not they effectively perform their desired function, I simply don’t trust them. They don’t appear to be bonecrushing to my eye with their flimsy weak moving blades. Opinions may vary. One thing is certain. Old, conventional two-blades broadheads may provide greater penetration, but they are seriously outdated. The traditionalists can have them. I shoot tri-loc stationary three bladed broadheads. They line up with fletchings easily. They are durable. They penetrate easier than expandables, and the blade replacement is simple. Lucas swears by expandable broadheads, with an emphasis on the Spitfire. Lucas states, “Expandable broadheads are more accurate, but don’t afford as much penetration as the stationary bladed broadhead. I performed a test on the Spitfire broadhead. I placed a piece of cardboard in front and behind my archery target. I shot hundreds of arrows through it, and checked each shot to see if the expandable broadheads were opening on each shot. The Spitfire opened up 100% of the time during my experiments. I don’t recommend them for extremely large big game animals of penetration reduction.”
Traditional bows are fun, even a joy, to use. Traditionalist archers enjoy the sport of archery as a reflection of the past. Bowshooting becomes a way of life for some of them. Traditional archery is a step back in time to a simpler, and more relaxed time when the bow was a piece of art and culture. Traditionals bows can be built of one material, but most bows are built of wood and fiberglass with fine adhesives. “The two major types of traditional bows are the longbow and recurve. Longbows are by nature, slower than recurves. Longbows which project average length arrows are reaching speeds of 200 feet per second. Longbows are much lighter and trimmer than recurves. Recurve bows may have a deflexed riser, the bow’s limbs pointing back toward the hunter after the fadeout section, with the recurve portion beginning a few inches from the tip of the limb. Ancient archers learned that curving the limbs out and away from the back of the bow stored more energy than straight limbs. That’s a law of physics, but the differences today in the shooting abilities of the two bows are less than they once were. The difference can be spotted in a second. The longbow’s limbs are straight. When strung, the string does not lie on any portion of the limb, as it does with the recurve. And it’s still safe to say that the two bows feel different in the hand, do no carry alike, and have, all in all, different natures.” 2
Tuning a traditional bow, is usually a permanant state for the bow after completion. Tuning these bows is mainly a matter of adjusting the brace height and nocking point, coupled with the use of correct arrow spine. The bow must be setup with the accessories it will hold during the hunt before tuning. The instuctions which accompany a traditional bows dictate a brace height measurement. Double check this measurement to assure its position is correct. If the brace height is correct, one must begin to work either down or up the brace height measurement scale to arrive at the correct setting for you. The instruction suggestion on brace height is........merely a suggestion. Try working towards a higher measurement first. A longer brace height produces a more well-behaved bow. The brace height is manipulated on a traditional bow by twisting or untwisting the bowstring.
Because of the fact one has to manipulate the string to adjust the brace height, the nock point has been completely assaulted. To readjust this problem, you’ll need a bow square and a pair of archery pliers. Clip the bow square onto the string so the ruled portion lies on top of the bow’s shelf. Place the nock set as high as one half inch above square for starters, which gives the arrow as light point downward. This assures the nock set is located above the arrow’s nock. The goal is to move the nock set downward during tuning, ending up about 1/8 inch above the horizontal when the bow is tuned. Remember in traditional archery there are many deviations from general setup rules. Sometimes you simply have to use what works for you.
After setting brace height and nock point, gather a variety of different arrows to experiment with. This is called trial tuning. Wood arrows are spined in five pound increments to match bow draw weight. Longbow shooters prefer less arrow stiffness. A stiffer arrow seems to be more forgiving. Try about ten pounds over normal spine.
Traditional archers will need far less equipment. The whole idea with tradionalists is to de-modernize. Explainations of the equipment for traditional bows would be endless as equipment is made by the shooter to make the bow a “part of” the shooter. The “work” is artwork and culture. You’ll need goves, tabs, arm guards, a quiver, a wide array of arrows, string silencers, and a whole hell of alot of patience. Traditionalists preserve the ancient culture of the bow and arrow, which sometimes we all seem to have forgotten.
Bowhunter’s spend countless hours in the field, finding a hunt location, scouting deersign, and patterning the buck of a lifetime. We sit for hours waiting for that one shot at a specific animal. A bowhunter’s worst nightmare is to miss the shot he have worked so hard for. The moral of the story is quite simple. If you bowhunt whitetails, you’re gonna miss a shot from time to time. We miss shots. Why do we miss? Novice hunters often experience “buck fever”. I must admit, when a mature whitetail is traveling to within bowrange I still get excited. Adrenaline flows, heartrates increase, and anxiety presents itself in mild form. A bad case of “buck fever” can manifest itself in the form of shakes, sweat, and bad judgement of distances, and shot choices. It’s only normal to experience excitement, but when the excitement results in a missed shot you can bet you’ve experienced buck fever. When a mature buck approaches your stand location take a moment to apply the following “buck fever” prescription:
1. After identifying the racked animal as a “shooter”, don’t look at the rack again. Concentrate on the body, and pick a specific area for shot placement. Wait to study the rack during field dressing.
2. Slow your breathing. Yogi’s in the middle-east have been slowing heart rates for centurys. Simply pause to take about ten long deep breaths. Concentrate on slowly yourself down.
3. Upon drawing your bow, hold your breath during the shot. Rapid breathing can result in hand and body motion, which in turn results in the unsteadiness of the bow.
4. Pause to determine the specific yardage of the oncoming deer.
Misjudging yardage is a common reason why we miss. I have implemented a couple different tactics to eliminate the guesswork. Prior to climbing onto stand, pace off different yardages from the base of the tree you have selected to hunt from. Yardages look different from the elevated treetops. You might even want to tie short flouresant ribbons as specific yardage markers. Beware, flouresant markers give away your stand location to other hunters. Prior to the rangefinder I implemented the aforementioned procedure. Rangefinders are truely worth their weight in gold. With the implementation of this tool, I can simply check specific yardages while on stand, to become familiar with bowrange yardages.
Hunting bows must be sighted in for broadheads, not field tips. Fletchings must be lined up with blades. I recommend the hunter have arrows setup with practice broadheads. Use these arrows to sight in the bow. One also needs to possess a set of arrows, equipped with broadheads, for hunting.
Practice shooting from a treestand. Shooting from elevated positions is quite different than standing on the level ground.
During the cold winter months hunters dress in several thin snug layers of clothing, rather than one or two bulkky upper-body garments. Top off your themal underwear, T-neck sweater, wind-stopper shirt and other trim clothes with a well-insulated vest. Bulky clothes can not only cause your bowstring from brushing your chest or forearm during the shot, but they can actually prevent you from drawing the bow. Flatten clothing with a large armguard and archery chest protector.
Each archer must develop a system that remains consistent from shot to shot. Anchor in three locations on the face. Thumb knuckle under the chin, string to the corner of the mouth, and nosetip to the string. Place feet shoulder width apart, slightly parrellel and open. To draw the bow, push with the non-shooting hand, while pulling with the shooting hand. Use your back primarily.
Make certain your bow is setup correctly, and apply good shooting techniques with much practice.
1. Gary Lucas, Lucas Archery Shop, Rt.2, Box 73N, Moberly, MO. 65270.
2. Traditional Archery, by Sam Fadala, Stackpole Books, 5067 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg, PA. 17055, 1999, page 21.