We are fast approaching archery season in every state and if you haven’t been out shooting your bow, now is the time. If you are like so many other hunters, myself included, who just got a new bow before the season starts, this really applies to you! If you want to have a successful 2014 archery season, you have to shoot accurate arrows. An accurate arrow is the culmination of an archer who has practiced his shooting and a bow that is well tuned and sighted in perfectly.
The purpose of my article this week is to help beginners, and veterans alike, accurately sight in their bows. What I am about to talk to you about assumes that your bow has been properly set up from the start. By that I mean your arrow rest has been put on correctly and properly adjusted; your nocking point is level; your peep sight rotates perfectly for your draw and perfectly surrounds your sight pins at full draw. If you use a kisser button, and I recommend that you do, make sure that it is set up perfectly for your draw. If you are an experienced hunter, you already know what I am talking about. If you are a novice, I strongly recommend that you have your rest, peep sight, sight pins, kisser button and D-loop put on and adjusted at a professional bow shop. For me, I rely on the boys at BB Archery in Independence, Missouri.
Once everything has been put on the bow properly and tested by shooting multiple arrows through paper to ensure a perfect bullet hole with three perfect lines for you fletchings, you are ready to sight in for accuracy. I recommend if it’s a new bow that you shoot no less than 100 arrows before getting serious about making sight adjustments. I would shoot those first hundred arrows very close to a target and not worry about where the arrows are hitting at all. In fact, many of my first arrows of the season are shot with my eyes shut concentrating 100% on replicating my shooting form each time. The key to archery success is to develop a consistent shooting technique that you use every time you release an arrow.
My shooting style is that I draw the bow back and the first thing I do is anchor my thumb joint behind my jaw. When I am drawing and anchoring, I’m really not paying any attention to my pins, my peep or anything else on my bow. Once the web of my thumb is tightly anchored to my jaw, I make sure that my bowstring rests tight against the right side of my nose. A lot of excellent shooters, and it is probably the preferred method, rest the string on the tip of their nose every time. Because I have a relatively short draw length and I am trying to maximize every inch of draw I can get, I have learned to consistently bring my string to the side of my nose.
Once my thumb is anchored on my jaw, and the string is snug to the right side of my nose, I make sure my kisser button rests in the corner of my lips. Once you draw back and anchor at the same place every time, if your kisser button is appropriately set up, this should be an automatic deal. However, I believe a kisser button is important to consistent accuracy because it gives you one more reference point to ensure consistent shooting.
The next thing I do is look through my peep sight and make sure that the visual picture of the circle around my peep sight rests perfectly on the circle surrounding my sight pins. If your peep sight does not line up perfectly with your sight pin circle, your shot will not be accurate. Once you are anchored tightly to your jaw, your string touching your nose at the same point every time, your kisser button in the corner of your mouth, and your peep sight perfectly surrounding your sight pins, you have established four reference points that if you replicate all four of these each time you shoot an arrow, your accuracy should be very consistent.
As canting your bow to one side or the other can affect accuracy down range, I always peek at the bubble level on my sight pins to ensure that my bow is perfectly perpendicular. At that point, the only thing left to do is get the appropriate sight pin on the target and squeeze the release.
I could talk for hours about shooting technique and lots of little things that are important, but before I move on to sighting in your bow, I want to mention a few other points. I believe stance is critical to arrow accuracy. When shooting at ground level or in a tree stand, I always try to make sure I have a slightly open stance. For a right handed shooter, that means your left toe would be slightly back from your back foot allowing your chest to be slightly open. This is equally true from a tree stand as if you are standing on the ground. If you shoot from your tree stand in a sitting position, it is important that you get your front knee out of the way so you can open your chest slightly when drawing your bow. If you were watching MacMillan River Adventures last year when I failed to do that and the bottom cam of my bow struck my left knee causing my arrow to miss an extremely nice Kansas buck when it hit 20 inches low in the dirt below the buck.
While we are talking about shooting from a tree stand, or if you find yourself shooting at a steep incline, you need to make sure that you bend at the waist when aiming as opposed to simply tipping your bow down. Think of it like this. Draw back with your bow arm 90 degrees from your body. If you have to shoot down out of a tree stand or down a steep bank, bend at the waist as opposed to lowering your arm to make the shot. Your accuracy will suffer immensely if you do not follow this tip.
Also, I believe it is extremely important that you do not shoot with a locked bow arm. A slight bend at the elbow of your bow arm will ensure that your string does not get hung up in your clothing or slap your arm during practice. It is also important that when you draw your bow arm that your bow arm and your drawing arm are perfectly lined up. Your bow arm should be perpendicular in the front and your bent release arm in the back should be at the exact height. If you simulate a bow drawn looking in the mirror, you should look like someone in a disco doing the “Water Sprinkler” dance!
Lastly, use your back muscles when drawing, holding, and shooting your bow. Your back muscles are much bigger than your arm and shoulder muscles so take advantage of that. A lot of archers will complain of shoulder problems or difficulty drawing their bow in cold weather or in awkward positions because they simply try to draw using their arm and shoulder only. Your accuracy will greatly improve if you use back tension when drawing, holding your anchor point at full draw, and continue using constant back tension at the time of release.
Now, let’s get to the real reason why I wanted to write this article! Once you get everything set up properly and you’ve developed a consistent shooting method, mark off 20 yards and start the sighting-in process. I highly recommend using the same range finder when establishing the yardage used to adjust your sight pins that you will use all fall during hunting applications.
Also, I strongly recommend that you put a perfect cross on the target that you are going to use to sight your bow in. This will give you a horizontal and vertical reference point so you can accurately adjust your sight pins accordingly. Once you have your cross on the target and your 20 yard mark, it’s time to shoot some arrows.
Shoot 5 arrows with as perfect consistent form as you can. By this time, all 5 of those arrows at 20 yards should be within a maximum 5 inch diameter; the tighter the group the better. If all 5 of those arrows are hitting right in the center of the cross, you’re 20 yard pin is perfect and you can move back. If they are not, some adjustments will be needed. If all 5 arrows are to the right of the vertical line and above the horizontal line, you will have to make two adjustments to your bow sight.
At 20 yards, you are not adjusting individual pins. The first part of sighting in is to get the entire pin group set at 20 yards. Therefore, because your arrows are right of the vertical line, you will have to move your entire pin group to the right. Due to the fact that all of the arrows are above the horizontal line, the entire pin group will have to be moved up. The easiest rule of thought to keep in mind when adjusting your bow sights is that “the pins must move in the direction of the mistake”. In short, if your arrows are hitting above your aiming point, your sight must be adjusted up to correct that situation. If your arrows are hitting below your aiming point, your sight must be adjusted down to correct for that mistake. If your arrow is hitting to the right of your aiming point, your pins must be moved to the right to correct that inaccuracy. Lastly, if your arrows are hitting to the left of your aiming point, your pins must be moved to the left to compensate for and correct that problem. In my instance, all of the arrows were up and to the right so I adjusted my up and down up and I adjusted my right to left to the right.
If you look at the next picture, you will see that I did a perfect job in my upward adjustment but not quite enough moving my pins to the right. My distance sighting is perfect but my right to left “windage” is still slightly to the right. I need to make one adjustment to correct this and that is to move my sight pins slightly more to the right; again, towards my mistake!
After that adjustment, you can see that all of my arrows are perfectly located in or slightly around the dead middle of the cross so my bow is perfectly sighted in at 20 yards.
At this point, you back up to 30 yards and shoot again. Your right to left should not be affected by shooting a greater distance and you should only be adjusting the yardage, or up and down, component of your sight pins hereafter. However, slight adjustments in windage, right to left, are sometimes needed once you get out to longer distances as a longer arrow flight will be a more true representation of accurate pin settings.
Depending on how many pins you are utilizing, once you get the entire pin group set at 20 yards, you will have to individually adjust your 30, 40, 50, and so on and so forth, pins individually. For myself, my top pin is sighted in at 30 yards and I use that pin for everything 30 yards and in. I simply adjust slightly lower if the animal is 20 yards or closer but I feel much more comfortable with my first pin being at 30 yards. Some people have a 10 yard pin and that’s perfect if that works for you.
Lastly, no matter what some people would lead you to believe, shooting arrows is not an exact science. The best archers in the world cannot draw their bow and keep their sight pin perfect on their target at all times. When you are at full draw, it is perfectly normal for your pin to float up and down and around where you are aiming. Don’t let that panic you. The key is if you are shooting at a target, concentrate on the dead middle and let your pin gently float around and try to keep it as close to the center as humanly possible. When you are relaxed and the pin is right there, release the arrow. The same is true in a hunting application. When you’re at full draw, pick a specific spot on the animal that you are going to shoot and concentrate on that spot. Bring the appropriate pin to that spot and let it gently float as near and around that spot as humanly possible and when you are comfortable and the pin rests on your aiming point, release that arrow with confidence.
If you have set your bow up properly, have developed a consistent shooting style, have sighted your bow in appropriately and, most importantly, have practiced, you will have no worries when the moment of truth comes. You will simply enjoy the mystical flight of the arrow!
Shoot Straight My Friends Keith