Paper Tuning Your Bow

When it comes to bowhunting getting perfect arrow flight is one of the most important pre-season check ups you can perform on your gear to get ready for this fall’s hunt. Paper tuning is easy and can be done in your garage or basement. Paper tuning your bow will show you how your arrows fly and what needs to be done to correct it if they don’t.

If your bow is not properly set up, with the sights and arrow rest in alignment the arrows simply will not go where you want them to. When shooting broadheads the added width of the broadhead will catch in the wind as it travels towards the target. This causes the arrow to veer off side and miss it’s mark. Even when everything on the bow looks like it is properly set up just a small variation in alignment can make the difference between hitting your mark or the tree beside it.

To properly paper tune your bow you will need a frame built from 1″ x 2″ or 2″x 2″ lumber. You will also need a sheet of newspaper and a method to attach the paper to the frame such as masking tape or bulldog clips. You will also need a target bag or block to stop the arrows.

Start by building a frame to hold your newspaper, roughly 16″ wide x 24″ tall. Attach legs to the side of the frame to hold it vertically off the ground. The centre of the frame should be at the same height as your arrow when you draw the bow back while standing. Attach horizontal feet at least 2′ long to the bottom of the legs if the tuning is to be done inside or tap the legs into the ground if you are working outside. If you are tuning outside pick a day with no wind to disrupt arrow flight.

Next take a piece of newspaper and tape it flat over the frame opening that is facing the shooter. Make sure the newspaper is tight to the frame with no wrinkles or loose areas. Now take your target bag and place it solidly up on something such as a bushel basket or bail of hay approximately 4′ behind the centre of the frame. The purpose of the target bag is to stop the arrows as they come through the paper. It is necessary for the arrows to completely pass through the newspaper, but since the shooter cannot see the target bag, in the name of safety place it close enough to prevent arrows from going farther than the have to.

Paper tuning is easy to do from this point forward. Stand approximately 5′ in front of the frame and draw your bow with an arrow on it. If you are going to be hunting with mechanical broadheads you can tune using a standard field point the same weight as the broadheads. You can also use a fixed blade broadhead but the target bag (or block) must be designed for easy broadhead removal.

Release an arrow directly in the middle of the paper on the frame opening. The arrow will tear the paper as it passes through. Take a look at the tear pattern, if all you see is a Y shape that perfectly matches the back of your arrow then everything is fine and your arrows are properly tuned. However, this is rarely the case on your first shot. The directions and tear patterns listed below are from a right hand bow. If you are shooting left handed then in the case of arrow rest adjustment the tear marks will be opposite.

A: If you are using a release aid and the shaft leaves a mark on the bottom edge like a capital Y with the two arrow fletchings visible on top then you either have a high nock ring placement or your arrow spine is weak. Try moving the nock ring down a bit and reshoot the arrow. If the same pattern appears in the paper then move the nock a bit more and try again. If you still receive the same pattern then switch to a stiffer spined arrow or move the arrow rest up.

B: If you receive a tear pattern in the paper that looks like an upside down Y with the bottom two fletchings visible then you are probably shooting with a low nock ring placement. Move the nock ring up a bit and try again. Always make small adjustments of 1/16″ as little adjustments make a big difference in flight.

C: Should the paper show a tear that looks like a Y with the bottom of the Y facing left, then move the arrow rest to the left. It can also indicate that an archer shooting without a release aid has an arrow that is too stiff. Try a weaker spined arrow.

D: Should you receive a tear that looks like a Y with the bottom of the Y facing the right, then move the rest (1/16″ at a time) to the right. If you are shooting without a release aid it is a sign that your arrow is too weak and that a stiffer spined arrow is necessary.

E: Finally if you receive a tear that looks like a Y turned diagonally left or right, then you have two or more corrections to be made. Follow the suggestions above to correct nock ring placement and then proceed to correct the arrow rest placement.

Achieving perfect arrow flight is as important as aiming. A properly tuned bow is the only way to hit your mark time after time and paper tuning lets you see how the arrow is traveling through the air. Before your next hunt or tournament take some time to test your bow as see what a difference paper tuning can make. You can click on the photos below to get an enlarged version to really see the tear patterns clearly.

how to paper tune a bow
This arrow has perfect flight and your bow requires no other adjustments.
paper tuning a bow for archery
This tear mark indicates the rest needs to move to the left or in the case of a fingers shooter the arrow is too stiff.
This tear mark indicates the rest needs to move to the right or for a fingers shooter that the arrow is too weak.

Copyright 2019 Mike Wilson