Your car gets a regular tune-up, and if you’re musically inclined, so do your piano and guitar. You tune up your shootin’ iron before every season, so why not the business end of your archery equipment, the broadheads that tip your arrows?
Too many bowhunters skip this step when getting ready for the season, believing it isn’t as important as it really is, especially if you’re shooting mechanical broadheads.
While it’s true that mechanical broadheads have come a long way in performance and dependability, they still need to be tuned to achieve proper flight. Confidence in your shot is paramount for bowhunters who have worked hard to put themselves in the position of harvesting that buck of their dreams. Skipping this step can cause a lot of unnecessary heartache.
How does one properly tune broadheads to fly with pinpoint accuracy? It’s a lot simpler than many believe. First, the archer needs to understand that broadheads are an extension of the arrow; it all starts with the arrow, making sure it is properly spined. Far too many hunters choose arrows based on look or brand and what they shot in the past. Choosing an arrow that’s too light for the bow will cause a lot of stress when it comes to tuning your bow to shoot accurately.
“You can never have too much spine on your arrow,” said Mitch McKay of Gold Tip Archery. “Choosing an arrow that has more spine than you are accustomed to can improve overall performance and accuracy in your hunting situations.”
Once you have the proper arrow, choose the broadhead you want to shoot: Fixed blades or mechanical — often called expandable. Within the fixed-blade realm, you have two styles to choose from: cut-on-contact and chisel-point. Both have their pros and cons, and both are equally capable of anchoring your game.
Fixed and mechanical broadheads are tuned differently. If your choice is a fixed broadhead, the next step is to make sure the weight of the broadhead is the same as the field tips you’re shooting in practice. If you’re shooting 100-grain field points, you need to shoot 100-grain broadheads. Once that balance is achieved, attach the broadhead to the arrow.
It’s imperative that you check the alignment of the broadhead to the insert; a spin test is best for this. Simply tighten the broadhead to the insert, set the tip of the broadhead on a hard surface, spin the broadhead and arrow and see if there is any wobble. If there is no noticeable wobble, that arrow is ready, but chances are, out of a pack, two out of the three broadheads will have a noticeable wobble, usually caused by the broadhead not being property aligned with the insert. This is usually caused because the broadhead isn’t properly aligned with the insert. Adjust the alignment by putting pressure on the opposite side to align the fit to the shaft. This can be simple or take a bit of time but it is time well spent.
If you are shooting a three-blade, fixed broadhead, align the blades with the vanes or feathers by sighting down the arrow.If you have trouble, you have several options, depending on how your inserts have been installed. If hot glue was used, heat the insert and spin it until the blades are aligned. If more permanent glue was used, you can file the end of the insert to tighten the broadhead further into the insert, or you can add a nylon washer to adjust the alignment. If this still doesn’t get you where you want it, you can always remove the vanes and re-attach them to align.
Before making any further changes, shoot an arrow with a broadhead at a distance such as 20 yards and notice the impact point. Then, shoot a field point. If the two arrows wind up touching or very close, you’re finished; if not, there’s a bit more tuning to do.
In order to make the arrows hit at the same place, adjustments are made to the arrow rest, not the sights. Move the rest in the direction of the broadhead hit. If it hit the target high and right, raise and move the rest to the right and shoot again. Keep making adjustments until all arrows are hitting in the same place. Remember, when moving your rest, less is more; small adjustments will have a greater impact that you can imagine.
If you still can’t get things settled, you have one last chance. Many hunters opt for speed, and with companies marketing faster and faster bows, too often we are looking for speed to compensate over our ability to judge yardage. When it comes to tuning broadheads, especially fixed blades, larger and longer vanes or feathers will help stabilize the arrow in flight. A minimum of 4-inch vanes should be used as a final step.
Mechanical broadheads are a bit different. While their flight is generally more true than fixed blades, Take the same steps as with a fixed broadhead, but make sure to use the practice blades that come with the hunting points. These typically do not open on impact; there really is no need to have them open into the target; you are trying to control the flight of the arrow, not measure penetration. Take the same steps, but because two- or three-blade mechanicals fly more true, you should not need longer vanes or feathers, and aligning the inserts is typically the only adjustment needed. If you still need to make adjustments, make very small adjustments to your rest and the nocking point to finalize your tuning.
Tuning is an important part of preparing for your hunt this fall. Skipping this step or assuming your bow will shoot the way you want it to can cause a lot of sleepless nights. While it may take a bit of time, it can usually be done in about 15 minutes. And after the hundreds of hours spent preparing for hunting season, 15 minutes tuning your broadheads is time you will be thankful for when the buck of a lifetime steps into range and you know and have confidence that your shot will be true.