By P.J. Reilly
When it comes to setting up a bow, it’s the little things that make a big difference.
It’s the objective of every archer who looses an arrow. And when you hit it, you feel good. Real good.
Bullseyes aren’t just about feeling good, however. The more you hit in practice sessions, the more confidence you’ll have in your shooting abilities. That confidence is worth its weight in venison when you’re in your stand at full draw on a bruiser buck.
Your mind is racing, your heart is thumping and your nerves are tweaking. That’s not the best physical state to be in when you’re trying to score a perfect shot. But confidence in your abilities and your equipment will help win the day.
That’s why bowhunters are so diligent about practicing during the offseason. The question is, are you taking advantage of everything available for your bowhunting rig?
Do you find that no matter how much you practice, you just can’t tighten your groups to the point that you’re constantly breaking nocks at 20 yards? Such accuracy is possible for any bowhunter.
There are a litany of products on the market that can help improve accuracy. For this discussion, I’m not talking about gadgets used only by competition archers that wouldn’t hold up to the bumps and bruises the woods dish out. I’m talking about gear for bowhunters.
These products won’t negate the need to practice, but they can help you find the bullseye on a more consistent basis.
PEEP SIGHT, RETINA LOCK
Consistency is the key to accuracy. Do the exact same thing every time in drawing, aiming and releasing, and you’ll soon need to shoot different spots with every shot in order to keep from damaging arrows.
A peep is a circular device that’s tied into your bowstring, which you look through at full draw to see your bow sight. The peep’s purpose is to align your head, your eye and your sight each time you put your pin on a target.
Without a peep, your eye can drift up, down left or right. It’s nearly impossible to ensure aiming consistency without a peep.
Why would anyone consider not using a peep? Well, you lose some light when you look through a peep. In low-light situations, it’s possible a deer you can see clearly with your eyes will be shrouded in darkness when looking at it through your peep.
Personally, I’ll give up a few minutes of extra shooting light in exchange for the knowledge that I’m always in perfect alignment when taking aim through a peep. Consider this: If my head/eye/sight alignment is off by just a quarter inch when shooting at a deer 40 yards out, it’s likely I’ll miss that deer entirely.
Opt for a peep with a quarter-inch hole. That’s big enough to minimize the problems with low light, yet small enough to achieve consistent alignment. Smaller peeps improve your alignment and accuracy, but they allow less light to reach your eye, thereby increasing the light problem.
Conversely, a bigger peep allows in more light, but it also allows room for error when trying to maintain consistent head/eye/sight alignment. With a bigger hole, there’s more room to range up, down, left or right while still seeing your sight. That’s not good.
Some sights incorporate Retina Lock into their construction to further ensure proper head/eye/sight alignment. Retina Lock is a circle on the top of the sight’s scope ring. Inside that circle is a dot. You know everything is aligned perfectly when the dot sits perfectly inside the circle. If it’s not, then something’s off. Think of it as a 360-degree level that lets you know if you have changed anything about your alignment.
In keeping with the theme of head/eye/sight alignment, we come to the kisser button. It’s a piece of plastic or rubber attached to your bowstring 1.5 inches above your nocking point. At full draw, the kisser button should sit right at the edge of your smile line. For right-handed shooters, it would sit at the right side, and vice-versa for lefties.
When you come to full draw, you lock the kisser in the corner of your mouth. If your head creeps up or down the string, you’ll know it with a kisser button attached. It’s a don’t-even-have-to-think-about-it reminder. Use a kisser in concert with a peep to perfect your head/eye/sight alignment.
Some bowhunters like the idea of the kisser button, but they don’t like the way they feel. You can tie a piece of dental floss or extra serving material to the spot where you’d attach a kisser. The goal is to have something on the string to get you to anchor at full draw in the same place every time.
Now that you’ve got your head aligned, it’s time to make sure your bow is straight. For consistent shooting, you want your bow to be perfectly vertical when you shoot. Obviously, we’re talking about compound bows here. Recurve and longbow shooters have their own style.
If you tilt the top of your bow left or right – called canting – it’s going to affect the point of impact.
Mount a level on the bottom of your sight. Many sights come with levels already attached. Ideally, the level will be situated just below your sight pins so you can quickly check to make sure the bubble is in the middle as you aim. If it is, you know your bow is straight.
A sight level comes in especially handy when you’re hunting from a treestand or in hill country. Aiming down from a stand or across the side of a hill, it’s easy to become disoriented from absolute vertical. The level negates this problem.
The D-loop has become the norm in all circles where archers use mechanical releases. A D-loop is a piece of string or a half-moon metal ring that’s attached to the bow string above and below the nocking spot. It ensures equal tension on the bowstring above and below the nock when you draw.
The traditional method of attaching metal nocking points on the string above and below your nocking point, and then clipping your release below the bottom nock, can cause arrow pinch. That can throw off your tuning horribly since it causes the arrow to come off the bow high.
A D-loop eliminates nock pinch and pulls the string from directly behind the arrow nock, encouraging better arrow flight.
D-loops also save wear and tear on your bowstring’s center serving. Over time, the jaws of a metal release can cut through the serving and damage the string. Re-serving a string is not a simple task. Tying on a new D-loop is.
Because many bowhunters like their bows to be light and compact, they either shun stabilizers or choose very short ones. But the positive influence of a stabilizer on accuracy is unquestionable.
A stabilizer adds weight to the bottom of the bow, helping to keep it vertical. It offers a counterbalance to your sight and quiver, and helps steady your sight pins.
A stabilizer also combats torque — assuming it’s long enough. Hand torque is an archer’s worst enemy. Torque happens when you twist the bow handle left or right. Proper hand position on the grip eliminates torque, but few shooters are perfect every time.
The problem can be compounded by gloves or bulky jackets you most likely don’t wear when practicing.
A stabilizer that extends beyond the limb pockets helps fight torque by adding weight in front of the bow.
Some of the latest bows have risers radically recessed inside the limb pockets. On some, it can be 4 or 5 inches from the stabilizer mounting hole out to the pockets. That means you’d need at least an 8-inch stabilizer to get its full benefits. A 10-incher would be even better.
To get the best performance out of a stabilizer, choose one that concentrates the weight at the end. If the weight is evenly distributed through the stabilizer, it won’t be as effective at fighting torque and settling your sight pins.
Balanced stabilizers are better than no stabilizer, but the concentrated weight out in front of the bow is the best way to go. How much weight you want there is a matter of personal preference.
LONG SIGHT BAR
Hold the tip of a pen directly in front of your eye, and use it as if you were aiming at some point 20 yards away. Now hold that pin at arm’s length and take aim. When the pen is close to your eye, you’ll notice the point appears larger and covers more of your target than when it’s out at arm’s length.
The same goes for your bow sight. The farther away from the riser it is, the more precise you can be. How far out you want it is a matter of preference.
Consider this – and the same principle applies to your stabilizer – when you’re thinking that you don’t want anything sticking way out in front of your bow because it might get in the way, nock an arrow. How far out in front of the bow does it sit before you draw?
Your arrow sticks out much farther than any hunting stabilizer or bow sight. A sight with a 4- or 6-inch bar is nothing by comparison.
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This article was published in the July 2014 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.