Bare Shaft Power Tune

December 12th, 2008 / Posted by
Bare Shaft Power Tune

By Bill Winke

Equipped with broadheads, your hunting arrows are more sensitive to in-flight factors than are your practice arrows. Surely you know that the combination of broadheads and poor arrow flight will cause wind planing. But, even for advanced archers, tuning can sometimes leave a person scratching his head. There is one simple shooting test – an acid test for archery – that will provide important feedback on the most difficult elements of tuning to isolate: bow hand torque and fletching contact.

Shoot a bare shaft through paper and you’ll learn important information about your arrow flight and your shooting form. When you remove the fletching from an arrow you make it much more critical of tuning and release errors. Finger shooters have used bare shaft tuning for years, but it is just as valuable for release aid shooters when done correctly.

Fletching interference is the most frequent cause of tuning problems. By removing the fletching from an arrow and shooting it through paper you can isolate interference as a possible cause. For example, if you are paper tuning a fletched arrow and get a left tear, the cause may be the position of your rest, bow hand torque or fletching contact. On the other hand, if you are shooting a bare shaft and get the same tear, you can immediately eliminate contact and work on the other two variables.

Once you have tuned a bare shaft you can again shoot one with fletching to find out if you have corrected the problem, or if contact is occurring. If you believe you have contact the nock must be rotated slightly to make the fletching fit through the rest. If this doesn’t work the degree of helical can be reduced slightly to improve clearance. Before you throw up your arms or wave the white flag, also take a look at your rest. It may be too restrictive to allow the fletching to pass cleanly. In that case, simply spread the support arms until they are just able to prevent the shaft from falling through. At last resort, you may also consider trying a different rest style.

Better shooting form results in better arrow flight. These tips will help you eliminate your form flaws so even bare-shafted arrows produce a bullet-hole.
Just relax: Tension results from straining to hold the bow at full draw. It’s nearly impossible to keep the pin from bouncing all over the target when your fighting the draw weight. Don’t be too proud to turn your bow down a few pounds (one turn on each limb bolt reduces draw weight by 3 to 5 pounds). You can always turn it back up as your strength improves with practice.

From the ground up, your whole body should remain relaxed throughout the shot. However, a relaxed bow arm is especially important. Bend your bow arm just enough to unlock the elbow causing your arm to relax more fully and act as a shock-absorber for the shot.

Use your back: The large muscles of the back are best suited for supporting the shot. Try this: After getting to full draw, relax all the muscles except your back. Feel the weight of the draw being supported by the large muscles just above and between the shoulder blades. To better feel these muscles at work, try flexing your back in a way that pulls your shoulder blades toward each other. The muscles you feel tensing are the same ones you should be relying upon to lock you in at full draw. These muscles can be built up very quickly and don’t add tension to the shot.

Releasing the string: With fingers, the correct trigger is the simple act of relaxing the back of your string hand. The string will slip out smoothly. The best finger shooters release the string with only two fingers. Consider dropping your top finger off the string once you reach full draw.

Mechanical release aids require a different approach. Two simple steps will have you squeezing the trigger instead of punching it. First, don’t release the arrow as soon as the pin crosses the center of your target. Let it float there for a second or two. This will defuse the nervous tendency to mash the trigger, which if unchecked, can quickly lead to an ugly condition known as target panic. Second, as your pin starts to settle on the target, rest your finger on the trigger. After a couple of seconds, simply curl it smoothly in one steady motion.

Follow through: The follow-through in archery is both mental and physical. It serves to hold everything together long enough for the arrow to escape the bow. Many bowhunters snap their grip hand closed at the same moment they release the string – destroying accuracy. A wrist sling may help you keep your hand relaxed and your fingers limp without the fear of dropping your bow.

Shooting a bare shaft through paper give critical feedback on all elements of tuning including your shooting form.

Shooting a bare shaft through paper give critical feedback on all elements of tuning including your shooting form.

Your bow arm is another important part of the follow-through – maybe the most important part. Keep it steady and resist the common tendency to drop it when you release the string; it shouldn’t move one inch until the arrow hits the target. Follow-through mentally by staying focused. Continue aiming until the small spot you’re trying to hit disappears at the end of your arrow.

Shooting a bare shaft through paper at a range of three to five yards also provides immediate and extremely critical feedback on the quality of your grip. Several years ago I was helping a buddy tune his new bow. He’s left-handed and for some reason we simply could not eliminate a hard left paper tear. Tears that point left for a left-handed archer and to the right for a right-handed archer are very rare among release aid shooters. I was perplexed. An hour later we’d tweaked just about everything and yet the problem persisted. In an effort to determine if it was some kind of weird contact problem, we removed the fletching from one of his shafts and shot it through the paper. It slashed even more wildly to the left.

The light bulb came on in my head. I took my buddy’s left-handed bow and shot it right-handed. The arrow made a perfect bullet hole on the first shot! Even though my friend is an accomplished archer, I immediately knew he was holding the bow wrong. He was trying to shoot the new bow using the same hand position he’d used on his old one. By experimenting with a couple of minor grip changes my friend was soon making a perfect bullet hole, as well. He found that by simply applying a little more thumb pressure to the side of the grip he could solve the problem with no discomfort or loss of accuracy.

This brings up an important point. I’ve tuned many different bow styles through the years. Every one of them required slightly different grip pressure to make it tune properly. That is one reason why some bowhunters get stuck on one bow brand – their bow hands have learned to seek the proper no-torque position automatically on familiar grips. The quickest way to determine if your bow hand position is faulty is to shoot a bare shaft through paper.

In my own shooting I’ve been able to isolate various departures from correct form that were destroying arrow flight and making good accuracy literally a hit and miss deal. When you’re shooting fast arrows, 240 fps or faster, it becomes more difficult to group exposed blade broadheads consistently beyond 25 yards. If you hurry the release, or get a little tense, the arrow will veer badly. The trend is toward smaller heads to solve this problem. This “solution” only treats the symptoms of the ailment, and only partially at that. It is better to eliminate the root cause of shooting problems: grip tension, hand position and a rough release. Shooting a bare shaft through paper gives you the feedback you need to become a better archer.

Bare shaft tuning means something different to finger shooters and than release aid shooters. For years, finger shooters have shot unfletched shafts in order to determine what corrections to make to their bow and arrow setups when tuning. If you wish to try this proven technique, first shoot a group using fletched shafts and mark the center. Next, from the same distance, shoot a group using bare shafts and mark this center. If both groups have essentially the same center your system is tuned. However, if the bare shafts plane off-line you’ll have to make corrections.

Here is general guideline to the proper corrections when your bare shaft groups are different from your fletched shaft groups. If the bare shaft group is to the left, try a more flexible shaft, increase point weight or turn up bow poundage. If the bare shaft group is below, move the nock point down, check fletching contact with the rest and check wheel timing. If the bare shaft group is to the right, try a stiffer shaft, a lighter point or reduce your draw weight. If the bare shaft group hits high, check wheel timing or move your nock point up.

Do you ever bare-shaft tune?

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