Tuning Your Own Bow


Each year, many bowhunters head to their local archery Pro Shop to have their bows tuned. This often includes a new string, possibly a new sight, and a new rest. Bowhunters often pick up new arrows and look at all of the new gizmos and gadgets on the market that promise to make us better archers. The problem with relying on a Pro Shop to get your bow ready for the fall is they often have dozens of bows waiting to be looked at. Some new bows need to be set up. Old bows need to be worked on. Archery shops want to do the best they can for customers but unfortunately there is always going to be a bow that gets worked on Friday at closing time. After a long week of working on bows, corners get cut and your bow isn’t tuned as well as you hoped it would be. On more than one occasion when I picked up my bow after waiting over a week to get it I discovered that it didn’t shoot as well as I hoped it would. Maybe my rest wasn’t tight or my nock wasn’t level. The result was a bow that wasn’t shooting well.

As the saying goes, if you want something done right you need to do it yourself. This is true in archery. The good news is that for a few hundred dollars you can have a bow shop of your own and all the equipment necessary to set up your own bow. Since you want to shoot well, you will take the time to make sure your bow is shooting properly. Bowhunters often view setting up a bow as an impossible task which requires experts. The truth is modern day compound bows are fairly easy to work on. Many of the problems archers used to have are gone thanks to solo cams and drop away rests.

Click the start button below to watch a short video on properly setting up your own bow.


Having a bow press is a necessity
A bow vise is a must-have for putting on new strings and cables.
When investing in archery equipment, the first thing you will want to purchase is a bow press. A bow press allows you to change your string in a matter of minutes, put on a peep sight, and allows you to change limbs or a variety of other things if needed. There are a variety of presses on the market. The most popular is probably the stationary press made by Apple Archery Products. They can cost hundreds of dollars. If that cost is a little out of your league, portable presses are also available. They can cost less than fifty dollars and fit in your pocket. One of the more popular portable presses is the Bowmaster. They require some getting used to but once you understand how they work, you can do routine maintenance without any trouble and are great for taking along on hunting trips should something go wrong with your equipment while you’re in the field..

One of the biggest reasons you should invest in a press is to assist with changing bow strings and cables. Strings have come a long way in the last decade. The Mathews Zebra Twist Strings and Winners Choice Strings as well as many other brands can last a long time if taken care of properly but should still be inspected and replaced on a regular basis to ensure optimum bow performance and arrow flight. To ensure your string lasts a long time, regular maintenance is required. It is not a bad idea to wax your string every time you shoot. The wax will protect your string and keep it from fraying and breaking. If a string breaks while hunting, you are out of business. Keeping your string in good shape is a must.


Having a D-loop can help keep your string in good shape and increase your accuracy. A D-loop keeps your string from getting worn because you will be clipping your release aid onto the loop instead of onto the string. Most D-loops are made of a heavy string-like material and can take some practice to tie it on correctly. If you don’t have the dexterity to tie one on, Metal D-loops are available. They can be screwed onto the string in a matter of minutes. One popular metal D-loop is the called Ultra-Nok.

Using a D-loop or an Ultra-Nok puts the forward thrust directly behind the arrow and the nock. This translates into cleaner arrow flight and better broadhead flight. Attaching a release aid directly on the string below the arrow can result in nock pinch, a sloppy release, or excessive wear on the string. Learning to tie your own D-loop or buying a metal one is an easy way to take your bow setup to the next level. When setting the D-loop up, you will want to attach the nock at the same time which can be done with a pair of nock pliers. Use a level to ensure the nock is set up properly.

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Half the fun of getting your bow ready for fall is buying new accessories. One component every archer needs is a drop away rest. It wasn’t very long ago that most of us used a rest which required the arrow to constantly be in contact with the rest when the arrow was launched. This often resulted in arrow vanes or feathers which brushed up against the rest as it leaves the bow, causing the arrow to kick left or right as it headed for the target. Drop-away rests simply drop out of the way as the arrow is launched. Therefore, the arrow flies true and does not come into contact with the rest once it is launched which results in better arrow flight and tighter groups.

The toughest thing about using a fall away rest is it often needs to be secured to one of the cables on the bow. The rest will need to be served onto the cable with serving string. In order to do this properly, you need a bow press. Once the string on the rest is attached to the cable, as the cable goes downward the launcher arm on the rest is raised holding the arrow as you bring your bow to full draw. There are a few drop away rests that have a quick attachment disk which screws onto the cable which makes installing a drop away simple and easy for the novice. There are also drop aways that have no strings attached and are launched by inertia which makes attaching a drop away rest a piece of cake.

Regardless of what type of rest you use, the most important thing you need to remember when setting it up is that the rest must be centered properly on the riser shelf, and the arrow needs to be perfectly level while cradled in the launcher. To make sure this happens, a few tools are required. A center shot gauge, a string and arrow level, and a bow square are needed to ensure your nock and rest are square. All of these can be purchased for less than fifty dollars. The levels are attached to the nock on the string and to the arrow to ensure everything is level. The level on the string ensures everything is vertically level. The level on the arrow as it sits on the rest will ensure your arrow is level. The center gauge will tell you if your center shot is perfect. All of this may sound complicated but once you have the tools in your hand, everything is self explanatory.

With your nock located in the right place and your rest centered properly and level, your arrow flight will be consistent and correct every time you shoot. You may need to adjust things a little after the bow is set up, but the levels and the center shot gauge will take the guesswork out of setting up your new rest and making sure everything is level.


A bow vise is great to have when attaching new accessories
Using a bow vise can make attaching new accessories much easier.
Once that is set up, you can put a new sight on or make sure that the one you are using is set up properly. Sights are often banged around and knocked out of position while they are in storage. Sights are usually attached with allen screws and can be attached in a minute or two with an Allen wrench. One they are in place, a square can be used to make sure they are properly aligned with the string. Sometimes you may need to move the sight left or right to ensure it is aligned properly with the bow string. Regardless if you are setting up a bow or not, making sure the Allen screws are tight before heading to the woods is a must to ensure your sight is accurate. I have heard more than one story of hunters being at full draw on a buck and having their sight plummet to the ground. Each time a bow is shot it produces vibration which can loosen screws on a sight.

When attaching sights, rests, and string loops, you will need a bow vise. A quality bow vise is around fifty dollars and provides the freedom to move the bow in a variety of positions to make attaching bow accessories simple. A bow vise is a must.


Once your bow is set up, paper-tuning it is the easiest way to determine if you did everything correctly. Paper tuning consists of shooting arrows through a large piece of paper. If something isn’t perfectly level or square as the arrow impacts the paper you will see a tear that kicks to the right or left as the fletching passes through the paper. If everything is shooting properly, you will see a clean hole with the outline of the fletching as it passes through the paper. If the nock, the rest, and the arrow aren’t level and centered, you will see tears in the paper which show the arrow kicking around as it passes through the paper. Fixing it can be as simple as tweaking the rest up, down, left or right.

Last but not least, when purchasing equipment you may want to invest in an arrow cutoff saw and a fletching jig. Pro shops may rush the gluing process when gluing in arrow inserts or gluing on fletching which may result in arrows that fly inconsistent due to gobs of glue left on the shaft. Maybe they didn’t use enough glue which results in fletching coming off the shaft or inserts that fall out easily. Either way, building your own arrows can give you a truer flying arrow which makes you a better shot.

Purchasing all of the equipment you will need to have your own bow shop can be expensive which is why many guys buy a few items a year until they have everything they need. Once you have all the necessary equipment you need and you understand how to use it all, you will most likely end up with a bow that shoots better than you ever thought possible. You will also understand what to do when something goes wrong.

Understanding how to set up a bow properly can take some time. The first time you set up a new bow or fine tune the bow you have been using for years could take you a full day. However, after you have done it a time or two, maintaining your bow or setting up a new one can be done in a matter of a couple minutes or a couple hours, depending on what you are doing. In the long run, having your own bow shop will save you money because you won’t be paying someone else to work on your bow. You will be more satisfied with the end result because your arrows will be hitting the bullseye more consistently.

Getting your bow tuned for the fall season may seem like a task too large for you to handle, but with all the equipment set up in your garage or basement, you can practice on your bow as often as you have time. Practice makes perfect.


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