While 99% of compound bowhunters will never hold podiums, chasing perfect arrow flight is still a worthy pursuit. That old saying "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you'll land amongst the stars" has some real merit when it comes to bowhunting and understanding your equipment. Achieving optimal arrow flight from a compound bow is a pursuit that demands attention to detail and a commitment. It's not an easy feat and quite frankly, at times can be pretty frustrating. However, you owe it to yourself and you damn sure owe it to the game you pursue. In this blog, we'll explore five tips to help you enhance arrow flight, elevate your archery hunting game, and ease the pain of pursuing perfect arrow flight.
What is perfect arrow flight?
Before we dive straight into the tips, we first need to understand what we are seeking in terms of "perfect arrow flight". For too many people, perfect arrow flight is a bullet hole through paper. Paper tuning is a meere starting point and does not guarantee perfect arrow flight down range. In fact, most arrows have yet to even recover from the power stroke of the bow and show their true flight characteristics at a paper tune distances of 6 feet.
Perfect arrow flight should be measured at hunting distances, where the arrow will impact an animal, so unless you plan to harvest every animal at distances between 6-10 feet, your work has just begun. There's a few different methods in gaining down range insights of your arrow's flight characteristics.
While this method isn't perfect, it's will show flaws in arrow flight. Simply having a buddy record your arrow throughout it's flight path from multiple angles with a cell phone using slow-motion (high frame rate) can provide some insights. We'll also come back to this method later in the article. This should be done with both bare shafts and fletched arrows to recognize what types of problems your fletchings are masking. Also, once you get going make the same comparisons with field points vs broadheads.
Remember the paper tuning comment? Well, it turns out shooting through paper at distances will give you an exact snapshot of how your arrow is behaving down range. Shooting through paper out to huntable distances in 10 yards increments is a really good way to understand what kind of flight characteristics your arrow has down range. The downside is it takes a tremendous amount of time to gather accurate data and then actually deciphering it.
The third process we'll mention takes the least amount of time but really only shows what happens when impacts happen at distance and nothing in between. However, if you combine this with some slo-mo footage, the gap of information closes. Just shooting bare shafts and fletched arrows into a foam style target and noting the position of the arrow's back end will will get you where you need to be. The goal is to have the arrow shaft hit and penetrate the target in a straight line from your shooting position. Using soft foam or bag style targets won't cut it here as the material will not provide an accurate depiction of the direction your arrow penetrated the target. A dense foam target, setup where your arrows "should" impact completely perpendicular is the only way to go.
Why is Perfect Arrow Flight Important for Hunting?
While hitting the mark of where you're aiming is always the most important task in bowhunting, obtaining perfect arrow flight is critical if the word penetration means anything to you. With all the talk in the bowhunting community about achieving optimal penetration, people instantly gravitate towards gear to achieve those results...More F.O.C., heavier arrows, faster bows. But if you talk to any crafty bowhunting vet who really understands archery equipment and the direct correlation to penetration, they all will say a perfect hunting arrow in flight is the highest priority factor in penetration. With all things being equal, an arrow with perfect flight will always out penetrate an arrow with flight flaws. There are physic or scientific reasons for this blog but we'll leave it in this blue collar statement: An arrow with perfect flight simply carries K.E and P throughout it's flight path. It's really that simple.
Now let's get into the tips!...
1. Bow Tuning and Setup:
A well-tuned and properly set up compound bow lays the foundation for excellent arrow flight. Begin by ensuring that your bow is properly tuned, including checking the alignment of the bowstrings, cams, and arrow rest. Consistent and precise nocking points for your arrows are critical to achieve maximum transfer of work from your bow to your arrows. If your bow is not properly tuned, it can result in erratic arrow flight, decreased accuracy, and decreased penetration.
Additionally, pay attention to the cam synchronization and limb alignment. Misaligned components can introduce torque and affect arrow flight. Regularly inspect your bow's components, and consult with a trusted archery tech if needed adjustments are outside of your wheelhouse. A well-tuned bow is the first step toward achieving optimal arrow flight.
If you're unsure of what a properly tuned bow looks like, revert back to a friend taking slo-mo phone footage of your cams when you're shooting. Shoot through paper. Take reference measurements of your rest and nocking points. Compile all this information and reference the manufacturer's recommendations.
Keep in mind, when tuning your bow there's more than one way to skin the cat. Tiller tuning, adjusting cable tension, yoke tuning, cam shimming, torque tuning, etc are all ways to accomplish the end goal but if you're a newbie going down this road it's best to consult a wily vet or bow technician who is willing to spend time with you.
2. Arrow Selection and Spine Matching:
Selecting the right arrows and ensuring they match the bow's specifications becomes the most critical point after a well tuned, in spec, bow for improved arrow flight. Static arrow spine, or stiffness, plays a crucial role in how the arrow reacts to the transferred work applied from your bow. Choosing arrows with the correct spine for your bow's draw weight, total arrow length, and point weight is paramount. If you're spined wrong, chasing perfect arrow flight becomes a whole lot harder and quite frankly may be impossible.
Outside of getting the static spine correct, how your arrows are built make a difference and will contribute to your arrow's flight characteristics. Ultimately the build process can be more important than items like arrow straightness tolerances. Having square components with proper tolerances come into play here. Additionally, completely the arrow build around the shaft's first dynamic bend or dynamic spine will provide arrow to arrow consistency that eliminates the need to nock tune. Having each arrow shoot the same, with identical flight characteristics definitely expedites the pursuit of perfect arrow flight.
When it comes to arrows, you'll need to do some research here. Using available resources like spine charts to get things right and if you're unsure about ANYTHING, ask questions.
3. Perfecting Your Release:
External inputs and variables matter any time there's a human involved. It doesn't matter if the discussion revolves around manufacturing or shooting a bow. External inputs and variables need to be eliminated or at least consistent. Your shoot process needs to be consistent and clean. Hand torque, string pressure, anchor points, and trigger punching are all human inputs that can and will affect arrow flight. A clean and consistent release minimizes string torque, reducing the likelihood of arrow deviation. Focus on a smooth and controlled release, pulling through the shot, avoiding any sharp or immediate trigger pressure. Come up with a shot release process that works for you and get consistent with it. Remember, 99% of us will never be podium holders with perfect "archery form" but being consistent goes a long ways.
There is no substitute for practice, attention to detail, and honesty with yourself of what the problem is. If you're unsure of what kind of variables you as the shooter are introducing, reference some additional slow motion phone footage.
4. Centering Your Peep Sight:
The peep sight is a small but crucial component that can impact arrow flight. Ensure that your peep sight is properly aligned and centered so that your anchor points allow for proper peep and sight alignment without introduced string pressure. A misaligned peep sight can lead to inconsistent anchor points and external facial pressure on your bowstring, affecting both accuracy and arrow flight.
To center your peep sight, draw your bow with your eyes closed and anchor. When you open your eyes your peep should align with your sight housing. Adjust the peep sight until it appears perfectly centered within your sight housing. Do this at a multitude of target distances. While there are various opinions on this, a common sense approach is setting your peep by using a common bowhunting distance. In the whitetail world, that distance maybe 30 yards. In the western world it's probably something like 50 yards. This ensures a consistent anchor points, face pressure, and helps in maintaining a straight arrow path while improving overall accuracy.
5. Consistent Grip and Stance:
Maintaining a consistent grip and stance is often overlooked but can significantly affect arrow flight. Gripping the bow too tightly or adopting inconsistent hand positions introduces torque, leading to erratic arrow flight by those unwanted external inputs. Focus on a relaxed grip, allowing the bow to settle into your hand without interference.
Maintain a consistent stance with your feet shoulder-width apart and perpendicular to the target. This provides a stable platform for your shot execution. Consistency in grip and stance minimizes variations in shot execution, resulting in improved arrow flight and increased accuracy. The big argument here is that in real world hunting scenarios, bowhunters are often contorting their bodies to capitalize on encounters. Very seldom do those encounters come in a place where solid level ground present the possibility of being properly postured. However, practicing proper posture and body alignment is important as you go down this road, simply to eliminate variables and understand how your arrow is behaving in close to ideal scenarios. Once you're at a place where you're overly happy with your arrow flight go practice those real world scenarios.
In conclusion, achieving the perfect arrow flight from a compound bow requires a holistic approach that encompasses bow tuning, arrow selection, release technique, peep sight alignment, and consistent form. By paying attention to these details and incorporating these tips into your archery routine, you'll find yourself on the path to enhanced precision and more successful shots in the field or on the range.
Author: Chad Sylvester, Exodus Co-Owner/Founder