How to set up a compound bow for hunting

Bow Bootcamp is a 10-part series designed to get you, your gear and your skills in top shape before the first fall season. That means gear checks, accessory adjustments, precision bow tuning, and shooting exercises to get you fully dialed in at the right time. In Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, we did a full bow check and got your arrows fully ready. Now it’s time to set up your bow for shooting.

We’ve arrived at the point most bowhunters dread – setting up the bow. Don’t be scared. We’ve got you covered. Setting up and tuning a compound bow is easier than ever before. Modern bows are remarkable machines built to exacting specifications, and today’s accessories are no different. I set and tune between 15 and 20 bows a year, and I can tell you that many, if not most, of the bows are perfectly timed out of the box. This means you don’t have to do much more than set the bow correctly and hit the beam. Here’s how in seven steps.

Step 1: Attach the bottom of the dart.

photo of darts rest
This QAD dart rest is bolted to the Berger hole, but other models can be installed via a dovetail mount. HIGHT

Arrow rest mounting has changed significantly over the past three years. Many models still connect to the riser via Berger bow hole(s), but some models, such as many from QAD and others that have adapted QAD’s Integrated Mounting System, mount to a pair of dovetail slots recessed in the rear of the bow lifter. . The good news is that they are all very simple to put together. Simply level your bow on a bow vise, follow the rest manufacturer’s instructions to install it on the riser, and level the eyeball. Do not close it too tightly yet.

Step 2: Time your departure.

photo of the bow cable
The author pulls the string of a prop released through the cable of a bow. Jace Bauserman

If you are using a drop rest, you should now attach the rest cable to one of the bow limbs or the bottom cable, depending on the rest model you are using. Time off is not difficult. You can use a draw board if you have one, or you can just draw the bow with a release setting to no flare and watch the rest’s arms lift up. As you draw, the rest arm should reach its vertical position at about the same time as your bow cams rotate to take off. Some breaks, like those from QAD, have timestamps to help you; in this case you need a friend to watch the time marks while you draw.

If you need to speed up a cable break, simply cut the cord that goes into the bottom cable. If you need to slow down the rest, extend the cord. When using a limb-driven support, the limb will do the rest for you as long as the tether is tight. Much of the quality vacation will come with good guidance. Eventually, you’ll need to service or otherwise provide a cable-driven cut in the lower cable, but don’t do that yet, because you might want to fix that first.

Step 3: Level an arrow to find your dot point.

picture of arrow and level
The author uses an arrow level to help find the exact point of impact. Jace Bauserman

Next, take one of the arrows you built in Part 3, place it on the raised arm of the other part, and then attach it to the string in a place that looks level. Now eye the arrow closer, and adjust the curve of the arrow up and down the string until it looks perfectly level. The arrow should exit the string, dead center through the Berger holes of the bow.

Next, attach an arrow level or use a laser level device to confirm and fine tune. I always start with a fixed level point, knowing that I can adjust the rest up or down if needed later in the tuning process.

Make a pair of marks on the string with a fine-tipped silver Sharpie, one above the arrow and one below. Remove the arrow and you’re set to tie in your D-loop. Some bowhunters will tie a nock set, which is nothing more than a string serve that covers each silver mark. I do this, but it is not mandatory. In my opinion, the cam groups help with accuracy and prevent scratches, and if you need to change your D-ring, you attach it above and below the cam group. But if you want to skip it, that’s fine.

Step 4: Tie in a D-loop.

Before you tie a D-loop for the first time, pull up a Youtube video of a certified bow technician doing it and follow along as practice. The process isn’t complicated, but you’ll want to master it.

Start by cutting a piece of D-loop material about 5 inches long. You can always cut back; while you’re learning, having more effort to work with makes it easier. Place the bow horizontally on a bow press with the string facing up and start practicing. Slow down the video you’re watching and fit every loop, twist and turn perfectly.

Once you’ve completed the process, tie your D loop around the silver marks on the bowstring. Use a pair of pliers to pull the loop tight, trim off any excess material, burn the ends of the cord underneath, and use the butt of a lighter to press the burn into the joint. Finally, verify that the nodes are facing each other properly. If they don’t, do it until it’s right. You don’t want a D-loop to come off as you draw your bow, so double check and be sure.

Step 5: Install your viewport.

photo of compound bow
After installing the sight, draw your bow out and make sure the sight lines up perfectly with the sight box. Jace Bauserman

Now it’s time to install your viewport. Typical sight height is usually between 5-1/2- and 7-inches above the center of loop D. You may find that your ideal height is more or less, but this range is a good starting point. If your bowstring is brand new, the string manufacturer will put a piece of serving string in the middle of the bowstring, and it’s there for a reason. This string splits the strands in half so that half of the string sits on one side of the viewing point and the other on the other half. If you bought a used bow and it didn’t have a peep inserted, or you removed your peep for some reason and have no idea where the half and half would be, press the bow, guess, insert the peep and see. It is very easy to tell if you have more thread on one side of the tap than the other.

After you have pressed the bow and split the yarn strands half and half, insert the peep. Then release the pressure on the limbs, and the string will catch the snare and absorb it into the string. You will serve the tap eventually, but not yet.

Step 6: Assemble your bow sight.

The next step is to attach your bow sight. Insert the screws that come with the sight into the riser and your sight is attached. It’s that simple. After that, go outside, draw your bow with a loaded arrow and a target set at close range, close your eyes, crawl to your anchor, and then open your eyes. The center of the sight should line up with the ring around the sight housing. If not, you just have to scroll up or down until it happens. This is a process and you want to make sure the sight to sight alignment is perfect before you attach your sight.

Step 7: Serve the viewport.

Just like learning to tie a D-loop knot, watching a Youtube video will provide clarity for this step. There are many ways to connect to a taped view; the main purpose is that once connected, the tap does not move.

This is. Your bow is almost ready for tuning and range. But first, shoot a few arrows to make sure that there is no contact with the dart sheets and rest and that the latter is measured at the right time. Then go ahead and tighten the rest on the riser and secure the slack cord tightly to the bottom cable. Finally, don’t take wild rides – arrows that obviously fall hard left, right, up or down. If the arrows fly reasonably well, you’ve done your job and are ready (with a few important caveats) for Part 5 of the series, paper tuning.

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