For some time I’ve been pondering trying to capture the basics of my setup methods for PSE’s in one location. I get a lot of PM’s helping guys trouble shoot and end up typing bits and pieces of it over and over based on their need at the time.
Let’s see if I can organize my thoughts and assumptions here and I’ll start by setting aside a few “universals” in how I tackle my own bows and I probably can’t do it without exposing my own politics on a couple of tuning concepts but I’ll try.
1. Draw length- My draw length is set to support my form and shot. That’s it. It is fine tuned to my pin motion and my own form of group tuning. If your draw length is off such that you contort your body to fit into the bow, you can’t expect tuning (or grouping) to go as it should. Later I may fine tune my draw length by pin motion and groups (misses).
2. Arrow selection- I am blessed with a longer than average draw length. I also don’t have a “need for speed”. My target arrows and hunting arrows are all built heavy. The lightest arrows I own are 433 grains. I don’t ever push the envelope to the weak side on spine. In my opinion, tapping into speed is the only reason to go light on spine (so you can use a lighter GPI arrow). So, I always choose a shaft that is “stiff enough” and may choose over time to break it down a bit with point weight. My arrow selections are based on quality and specs that will finish in a weight range that I want. I’m not going to fret over helping you choose the right spine in this write up. There are tools for that.
3. Grip- it will make or break your tuning endeavor. First and foremost, you must be able to repeat the grip over and over again. Then, you may find that you need to be able to alter it slightly to test the result of having done so.
4. Finishing the shot- like grip. Even when you can tune “perfectly”… it won’t make more x’s, 12’s or dead deer for you. Good shots make those. A good test would be to take one shaft and repeatedly punch paper or bare shaft, if you can’t produce identical tears or group with the bare shaft…. Tuning shouldn’t be your first priority. You’ll chase your tail tuning and your time could be better spent. When you can bare shaft groups and identical tears you’ll soon come to realize that the tune doesn’t make nearly as much difference in scores or groups as it is made out to. Good shots make good groups and good scores….not good tunes.
Now, I realize those things don’t make me “normal”. That’s ok but one thing I want to make clear, tuning is much easier with an arrow that is stiff vs weak. After much testing, the only time I’ve seen softer spines equate to better scores or groups are where a bow had nock travel I couldn’t remove (or chose not to pursue). During tuning, if we know our arrow is at least “stiff enough”, we have a safe assumption. The arrow is showing us nock travel that is in the bow, with minimal chance of anything else. We tune the bow to the arrow (remove the nock travel) and the end result is a bow that is very tolerant of a variety of spines.
5. Center shot and nock height- I won’t dwell on these things like most “tuners” do. Here’s why; I let the bow tell me what it wants during tuning and early in its life. Nock height to me is defined by the way the bow aims and tunes. Center shot is where it tunes…not a measurement. I do not use walk back or French tuning at all, ever.
a. If you think you need walk back tuning, I’m going to challenge you. Check your sight setup (2nd axis specifically). Check your shot…are you centering in the peep the same as distance increases? And lastly, set your windage at the long range first. Then move up and see if you still think you need to move your rest via “walk back” tuning. Walkback tuning implies that there is one magic location that a bow will not drift left or right with increasing distance. This is simply not correct.
So, those are the basics concepts that are always in my mind. Let’s assume I’m taking a new bow out of the box.
1. First things are to set the specs on the bow. Draw weight, draw length and synch are the most important. I generally set ATA at this time as well (mostly so that I have a record of a starting point). If I know the cam system/bow well, I may already have some personal ideas about how I set my timing and synch. With any hybrid cam, it is a safe assumption to synch the cams so that the top cam hits slightly ahead as a starting point.
a. Let me time out and explain a couple of dynamics at play with just about any hybrid cam system. The timing marks are almost irrelevant. They really are an indication of letoff and valley more than anything else. If the timing marks move towards the string, letoff and valley length is increasing from factory spec. If ATA is correct, it is also an indication that you are making a longer draw length than the module/stop would indicate. If they move towards the riser, letoff and valley length is decreasing and the opposite is true regarding draw length vs factory positioning. When the cams are synched perfectly (as defined by us during tuning and setup) the timing marks will probably not be dead on the cables.
b. Let’s talk about twisting and the effect of each move on a hybrid cam;
i. Buss cable- a twist in the buss cable advances the top cam (makes it hit sooner), it lengthens draw length, decreases ATA and increases letoff/valley (assuming timing was even before the twist).
ii. Control cable- a twist in the control cable slows down the top cam, shortens draw length. It’s effect on ATA, valley and letoff are dependant on the others.
iii. String- a twist in the string shortens draw length, valley and decreases letoff. It plays a role in ATA and draw weight but it is secondary to to the buss.
iv. All- a twist out produces the opposite effect.
c. Cable rod or flex guard;
i. You should preliminarily set this prior to moving on. This should be done to provide minimal clearance off the first obstruction. On most of the flex guard bows, it would hit the string stop first. If you aren’t running a string stop, it will be in your sight picture before it hits the shaft at full draw or most vanes on the shot. I eyeball mine to be at the edge of the riser at brace height (not on a Dominator) to provide relief but not put them in my scope housing at full draw. Your tolerance for this may vary from mine.
ii. The flex guard bolt will move. I highly recommend removing it, adding loc-tite and replacing it. After initial adjustment, mark it with a silver sharpie or similar.
iii. I also run a small rubber washer behind mine. It does quiet the bow and seems to assist in it not wanting to vibrate loose. Others use hard plastic washers with success.
So, at this point, I have set my draw length and draw weight and preliminarily set my timing. Since I’m in and out of the press during this time, I also pre-set my top cam pre-lean to be minimally like \ when viewed from behind. Lay an arrow on the side of the cam just to get a better visual of where it is. Don’t over think it. If the shaft touches somewhere around the nock point, its good enough to start. I also check the bottom cam but we’ll circle back to the both cams shortly.
Let’s tie the nock point in. The reason I don’t do this before setting my other specs is that adjustment to the buss and control cable move it. I don’t want to tie it in, do my twisting and then find it isn’t where I wanted it to start with and have to re-do it.
1. Nock height- I said I wouldn’t dwell on this and I won’t. I use a basic bow square and tie the top of my bottom nock set in level with the center of the berger hole on a new bow. After I know a bow and cam system, I may learn through tuning and shooting that a slightly different nock location works better.
2. Hard nocks- I use superglue and cotton thread to build my hard nocks inside my loop. Some say not to put superglue anywhere near a string but over the last 25 years or so, it’s never hurt one of mine or that I setup for others. I tie in my top nock allowing for a tiny amount of play over the nocks I use to reduce the severity of nock pinch. ~1 serving wrap worth of play.
3. Install your loop. I measure mine with a caliper. Generically, the inside spread of my loop is .575”. I do change this based on the release and the bow. You need to know this measurement so you can replace them easily and stretch to the same length as it is highly critical to your anchor and accuracy. I can absolutely feel .020” difference.
Now I install my rest.
1. Height- Nothing fancy. I eyeball it so that the shaft sits level or very slightly nock high. Tuning will tell me what it needs later on.
2. Center shot- I do this by eye generally as well. I don’t measure it. If I am inspired for whatever reason, I use the two-arrow method where one is laid against the riser face and the other on the rest and adjust the rest to parallel. The reason I don’t really bog down on this is….. wait for it…. It doesn’t really matter. As we adjust the cams, the center shot of the bow changes. I tend to start with my rest centered in the grip (or window in the case of a Dominator).
So, hopefully I haven’t lost you yet. I don’t even like discussing the above because it’s individual and doesn’t really matter. We want to tune the bow to ourselves. At this point, I like to put some arrows through the bow to settle the strings before I even start tuning. I may immediately feel a needed draw length tweak or timing/draw curve adjustment I want to make….might as well do as much of this as we can before we worry how the arrow is flying.
Tuning- 1. For most shooters, it’s going to be easiest to start in front of the paper at about 6’.
2. Maybe you get a bullet hole. If you’re a “paper tuner” I’m going to encourage you to shoot from multiple distances (say 6’-10 yards) to get a real picture of arrow flight. I might also encourage you to do the same with a bare shaft. It will show you more clearly what the shaft really wants to do.
3. I generally make sure that nothing is WAY wrong through paper and then step to our 20 yard range and start bareshafting. The two methods are really equivalent but the bare shaft more clearly illustrates the flaw. You can arrive at the same point and quality of arrow flight with either with some effort and understanding. Bullet holes don’t necessarily mean the best groups. Many target shooters prefer a tail high or high left.
a. Paper tail left = bare shaft right.
b. Paper tail right = bare shaft left.
c. Paper tail low = bare shaft high.
d. Paper tail high = bare shaft low.
4. Broadhead tuning is another equivalent to paper or bareshaft just illustrated differently.
a. BH left = paper tail right….
b. And so on…..