How to advance a compound bow

Bow Bootcamp is a 10-part series designed to get you, your gear, and your skills in peak shape for fall. That means gear checks, accessory adjustments, precision bow tuning, and shooting drills to get you completely dialed in. (If you missed any previous installments, check them out here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.)

Years ago, I failed to practice hunting broadheads and it cost me a good bull elk. These weren’t large fixed-blade heads either. They were exquisite mechanics, guaranteed to fly like a pitchfork. Only they didn’t. Don’t make the same mistake. Whether you plan to shoot with a fixed-blade, mechanical, or hybrid broadhead, it’s essential to spend some time practicing and adapting your bow to the broadheads you plan to put on your quiver’s hood.

“Broadhead tuning” is a bit of a confusing term. It almost sounds like you have to tune the broads yourself. In fact, it’s as simple as shooting your hunting head through your already tuned bow to make sure they fly as true as your points in the field. If they do, you’re pretty much done. If they don’t, you may need to do some additional bow tuning to get them in line. Here’s how to act.

Buy extra broadheads for practice and tuning

picture of the mechanical head
This wide mechanical head from SEVR has a set screw that prevents the blades from settling when you practice. Jace Bauserman

When you make your season wide selection, buy an extra pack to use for tuning and practice. Some broadheads come with a practice head in the package, and some practice heads can be purchased separately. My advice: Don’t settle for a practical head – at least not in most cases.

I’ve shot and tested hundreds of different heads over 15 years, and the only two practice heads I’ve shot that routinely fly like the heads they mimic are the ones from Rage and SEVR. The SEVR mechanical wide heads are unique because they have a second hole in the ferrule that accepts an included set screw that locks the blades. This system allows you to practice with the same head you shoot with. I have taken animals with SEVR’s 1.5 and 2.0 heads that I had previously taken hundreds of practice shots with. When I’m not shooting an SEVR or a Rage, I buy a three-pack of the real thing and use them as my practices. I know, it’s a little expensive, but it’s worth it.

Compare the field points with the wide points

If you’ve been following along with this series, your bow is already well tuned and spitting bullets. So grab your bow, field tip arrows, broadheads and a foam target. Set the target at 20 yards and shoot a point in the field at a point no more than 2 inches in diameter. Then make another shot from the same distance with your broadhead of choice. If you know you made good shots with both and both are on point, go back to 30 yards and repeat the process. Stick with the 2-inch dot out to 40 or 50 yards and then switch to a 3- or 4-inch dot as needed at 60 yards.

photo of arrows on target
The author’s field tip arrow (below) and broad tip arrow are both on the white dot target at 60 yards. Jace Bauserman

If your broadhead arrows hit within the same point as your field tip arrows out to 60 yards, your bow is broadhead tuned. I prefer to test my head as far as I’m comfortable shooting in game, but I’ve found that 60 yards is the magic number – meaning if they’re good out to 60, then they’re good beyond 60.

Most mechanical broadheads and even some high-end hybrid-style heads will closely mimic field point accuracy when shot from a well-tuned bow. However, you have to try this for your bowhunting confidence. I’ve also shot a few fixed blade heads that are pretty close, with the Muzzy Trocar being my favorite. But as a rule of thumb, fixed blade heads will impact the target 2 or 3 inches to the right or left (generally right) and/or high or low (generally low) relative to your scope points.

Move the bow view as needed

pictures of arrows on target
This photo shows how mechanical broadheads (top two), field points (middle), and fixed heads (bottom) can all hit different places.

If after the above test you find that your broadheads are not hitting the same spot as your pitch points, the next step is to see if they are grouping well. I don’t mind if my broadheads group differently than my field points, as long as they are grouping. (Remember, you don’t have to risk breaking your heads or arrows by shooting groups at the same point; you can shoot at different points on the target, still get a sense of how they “group”.) In general, if the broadheads are hitting in a slightly different spot from your field point but they are grouping well, all you have to do is adjust the sight. Just make the necessary adjustments to get your head on center and then shoot groups to verify it at at least 60 yards.

Change your tune if necessary

photo of arrow rest adjustment
The author makes a very slight adjustment to his arrowhead to make his head group well. Jace Bauserman

However, if your broadheads are not grouping, or are grouping well at one distance but not at others, or you can see that they are not really flying at longer distances, it is time to change the tune of your bow to placed them on the line. . This step involves moving the base of the arrow instead of sighting the bow, as above. Remember that a little movement goes a long way and with today’s micro-adjustment struts, you can take your time and fine tune.

If your broadheads are hitting to the right of your pitch points, move the rest to the left. (This is the opposite of sight movement, which requires you to move your sight toward your arrow. So don’t get confused.) If your broadheads are grouped a little lower than your field points, move your arrow a little higher. . After every adjustment, no matter how small, shoot a bunch of arrows to confirm it. Never move your vacation and assume you are good to go. Always confirm.

Nine times out of 10, this step will require nothing more than a very slight adjustment to the rest of the arrow. That said, if you’re not careful, it can get a bit jarring, so keep in mind that if you ever need to get back on track, just do a quick tune-up with your breada. Chances are, it won’t be necessary, and in short order your broadheads will be clustered within those 2- to 4-inch spots out to 60 yards and beyond.

Take a test flight with the noise on

Some will frown on this tactic, but it has proven useful for me, so I want to mention it. Try shooting your scope points and broadheads in low light with lighted joints, even if you don’t plan on using lighted joints for hunting. You’re not worried about your accuracy when you do this, and you only want to look for the nock trip (arrow end that kicks left, right, up, or down). At this point in the process, your flared lashes should be flying like arrows, and assuming they are, it’s another confidence booster and a great sign that you’re ready for the fall woods.

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