How to ... fine-tune your bow for optimal performance

  • Article by: BILL MARCHEL , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 19, 2013 - 8:48 AM

Proper axle-to-axle distance varies from bow to bow. Manufacturer specification for the bow above is 40 inches.

Photo: Photos provided by Bill Marchel ,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

– Confidence is huge in most undertakings. This is especially true for the hunting archer. A close-range shot at, say, a big whitetail buck is especially unnerving. This is compounded if, well … your compound bow is out of shape.

If you haven’t had your bow-and-arrow combination looked at by an archery professional, late summer is the best time to do it. Minnesota’s archery deer season is only two months away.

So, that’s just what I did last week.

“The first thing we do is to check the bow for cracks or stress fractures,” said Scott Thesing, manager and pro staff technician at Archery Country in Brainerd. “We don’t want to get hurt, or have the bow blow up on somebody.”

After Thesing gave my bow the once over, he proceeded to check a few critical measurements. First he measured the axle-to-axle length. Then he checked the timing marks and brace height. These dimensions are specific to each manufacturer and bow model. The measurements on my bow were right on. Had my bow string or cables been stretched or worn, the problem would have shown up during the measurement process.

Next he checked for cam lean. Without getting too technical, a bow that displays cam lean generally has a problem with the Y-cables. My bow showed no cam lean.

“If a person shoots a lot, he or she should replace the string and cables on their bows once a year,” said Thesing. “Otherwise, every other year is fine.” I had my string and cables replaced late last summer.

Now it was time to actually shoot an arrow. Thesing performed what is called the “paper test.” He shot my bow-and-arrow combination several times through a sheet of paper placed at very close range, roughly three feet. This test not only determines whether my bow and arrow has the correct combination of draw weight, arrow length and arrow spine, it also determines whether there are problems with the placement of the arrow rest (on the bow) or the nocking point (on the bowstring).

Ideally, the arrow should penetrate the paper leaving a perfectly round hole. An elongated tear in any direction shows there is a problem. Adjustments can be made in several ways. If the arrow’s spine (or its stiffness) is too great or too light, an arrow with a different spine can be used. If the arrow’s spine is correct, then an adjustment of the arrow rest or nock point is in order.

My arrows were on the stiff side for my bow’s draw weight, a fact that revealed itself with a slightly elongated hole. Thesing tried an arrow with a different spine weight and was able to shoot perfect holes.

So, I left Archery Country with a dozen new arrows and a slightly thinner wallet. What’s important, though, is that I now know my bow and arrow combination are performing top-notch.

This fall, when, hopefully, I draw on that big whitetail buck, I’ll have complete confidence in my bowhunting equipment.

The rest will be up to me.

Bill Marchel, an outdoor writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.

  • related content

  • Archers can test their bows by shooting paper targets at close range. Properly tuned bows will leave perfectly round holes.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Detroit 6:00 PM
Portland 6:00 PM
Sacramento 6:30 PM
Boston 7:00 PM
Dallas 7:00 PM
Denver 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
New York
Charlotte 7:30 PM
San Antonio
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
Washington 9:30 PM
Toronto 6:30 PM
New Jersey
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Chicago 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Temple 6:00 PM
Winthrop 6:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Lafayette 6:00 PM
Northeastern 6:00 PM
Wake Forest 6:00 PM
Florida State
Rhode Island 6:00 PM
Delaware 6:00 PM
James Madison
South Carolina 6:00 PM
New Hampshire 6:00 PM
Seton Hall 6:00 PM
Binghamton 6:00 PM
American Univ 6:00 PM
Elon 6:00 PM
Wright State 6:00 PM
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Penn State
Duquesne 6:00 PM
SMU 6:00 PM
South Florida
Hartford 6:00 PM
Stony Brook
Albany 6:00 PM
Hofstra 6:00 PM
William & Mary
UNC-Asheville 6:00 PM
Radford 6:30 PM
Char Southern
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 6:30 PM
Notre Dame
Texas Tech 6:30 PM
Oregon State 7:00 PM
Arizona State
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
Drake 7:00 PM
Lehigh 7:00 PM
Rice 7:00 PM
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Wichita State
Nebraska Omaha 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
Northern Iowa 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
Louisville 8:00 PM
Boston College
St Johns 8:00 PM
East Carolina 8:00 PM
Georgia Tech 8:00 PM
Miss State 8:00 PM
Ole Miss
Clemson 8:00 PM
NC State
Indiana 8:00 PM
Kansas 8:00 PM
Oregon 9:00 PM
Air Force 9:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 10:00 PM
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
UMBC 6:00 PM
Akron 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Memphis 6:00 PM
East Carolina 6:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
Murray State 6:00 PM
Eastern Illinois
Kent State 6:00 PM
Central Michigan
UT Martin 6:00 PM
Tennessee St
Eastern Michigan 6:00 PM
Western Mich
Bucknell 6:00 PM
Indiana 6:00 PM
Michigan State
Colgate 6:00 PM
Fordham 6:00 PM
Duquesne 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
George Mason 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Detroit 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 7:00 PM
Oklahoma St 7:00 PM
Kansas State
West Virginia 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Denver 7:00 PM
South Dakota
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Austin Peay 7:00 PM
Kansas 7:00 PM
Iowa State
Bowling Green 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Penn State 7:00 PM
San Jose St 8:00 PM
Air Force
Boise State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Utah State 8:00 PM
San Diego State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Nevada 9:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question