How to properly set up your hunting bow

Don’t wait until the last minute to get your bow ready for hunting season.

Properly setting up your bow is crucial

Throughout my bow hunting career, I have refined my process for setting up a bow. And I continue to do so even today. That being said, the basic procedure is still the same as it always was. By sharing how I approach this, I can hopefully save some of you many of the pitfalls that I have encountered along the way. 

Certain steps must be followed in a specific order if you are to be successful. Failure to do so often results in frustration, additional work, and even total failure. I highly recommend that you consult a pro shop if you are not completely knowledgeable about and/or comfortable with the adjustments needed.

After unboxing a new compound bow, I first assess it for any shipping damage. Next I make sure that both the string and cables are in their respective tracks on the cams. 

If all looks well, I first mount the arrow rest to the riser. After that, I adjust the rest for center shot and tie on the nock loop, squaring it to the arrow rest. Next I check the cams for proper lean and timing. This varies by both model and manufacturer and is most easily checked on a draw board. Most pro shops will perform this step for you for a reasonable fee. Assuming all is well, I then proceed to the paper tuning rack. If I can get a good paper tear with both fletched and bare shafts, I am then confident that my arrow spine is correct and I have achieved straight arrow flight.

Sighting in your bow should be done in a controlled setting, before you take aim at wild game.

Range time

The next step is to mount the sight and any other accessories, then I proceed straight to the range. At this point I am only attempting to verify that my tune is perfect. I sight the bow in at 20 yards using practice points. Then I use a fixed blade broadhead to check my tune.

 Hunters are mainly concerned with how accurately our broadheads fly. Perfect setup, arrow flight, and proper form lead to perfect broadhead accuracy. We owe it to the animals we hunt to accept no less. 

By shooting a broadhead-tipped arrow (at a broadhead target of course), and then following with a practice-tipped arrow aimed at the same spot, any flaws in your tune will be revealed by variations in their points of impact. The two arrows should strike the target in the same spot or very close together.  Any other result is less than acceptable. The list of issues that can lead to variation here is endless. Professional help makes this much less frustrating to diagnose.

Once I have both my practice tips and broadheads flying to the same point of impact, I level all of the axes on my bow sight. This ensures ultimate accuracy at varying ranges as well as steep uphill or downhill shot scenarios. I then remove the sight and begin breaking in the bow at a 5-foot shooting distance.

Removing the sight eliminates the urge to aim and allows me to focus on my shot process. The male brain was not designed to multi-task, and if the sight is on my bow it only distracts me from focusing on proper form and shot execution. 

Finish it up

After around 500 shots, I retune the bow, straighten out my peep rotation, remount my sight, and repeat the broadhead flight test. Only once that is perfect, do I finish sighting in my bow. Now I know my sights will be set for the season, and I probably won’t have to repeat this task. I generally do this over several days, rather than trying to cram it into one shooting session. Tired muscles lead to inconsistency, which can be frustrating when fine tuning a sight.

Each year I see countless customers come crashing in at the last minute before leaving for a hunt in an all-out panic because their broadheads aren’t flying well. This could have easily been avoided by following the steps outlined above. This is a tried and true method that has stood the test of time. Hopefully it can help some of you avoid this during your own bow hunting journey.

About Sammy Romano 53 Articles
Sammy Romano is a lifelong hunter who has worked in the archery industry for more than 24 years. His expertise includes compounds and crossbows. He can be reached at

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