As mentioned in last month’s installment, my first Western bow hunt in the early 1990s caused me to focus on and become enamored with the process of bow hunting.
Up until then I had only hunted white-tailed deer east of the Mississippi River at close range from elevated stands. Honestly my game was sloppy when it came to proper preparation. This was sufficient when taking shots within 25 yards, but wouldn’t suffice at the longer shot distances and more open terrain of Wyoming.
Mechanical broadheads were in their infancy. String materials were of much poorer quality. You had to really work to get fixed blade broadheads to shoot accurately at distances over 25 yards. This was also before the days of internet and ready access to “how to” information. So everything had to be learned firsthand (and often the hard way).
Bows available in the early 90s were extremely primitive compared to today’s modern compound bows. Bow risers were often not cut out for a true centershot. And string materials were of much lower quality, constantly stretching and changing the tune of a bow.
Bows were much longer overall, making them unwieldy in many hunting situations. They were also generally much slower shooting, making distance judgement even more crucial in the absence of range-finding technology.
My Browning Maxim bow, for example, was 44 inches axle-to-axle length and shot my aluminum arrow at only 235fps. Arrow shafts were of good quality, but the tolerances of components such as nocks and especially inserts left a lot to be desired. So more attention to detail was necessary to achieve a given degree of accuracy back then.
Still, I am glad I was able to experience these challenges. They have made me a better bow technician as well as hunter. And I have a greater appreciation for the ease with which newer technology allows for bow setup.
Once I started to stretch out my shot distances, I quickly found that my broadheads were shooting inconsistently at longer distances. This led to me seeking answers as to why. First, I paper tuned my bow, ensuring my arrows were flying straight with my target tips. After some adjustments, I achieved perfect arrow flight. My broadheads were now hitting in the same area of the target as my target tips. But they weren’t grouping nearly as well. I learned that this was due to poor tolerances in my arrows’ inserts.
Because of a loose fit, my inserts were often crooked in the end of my arrows causing broadhead misalignment. This off-center alignment led to a rudder effect. Because no two were out of alignment exactly the same amount, my broadhead groups were poor, especially at longer distances.
The solution was to carefully heat the end of the aluminum arrows then spin the insert (they were glued with hot melt cement back then), floating the glue evenly and thus balancing each broadhead. I even went so far as to spin them on a dial indicator. Once they were properly spin balanced, my groups immediately tightened up, even as far as 70 yards out.
All of this time spent tuning my bow and fine tuning my arrows made my bow deadly accurate with both target tips and broadheads, regardless of the distance. This would prove to be key to my success on my upcoming hunt. Although technology has vastly improved the tune-ability of modern compound bows and made broadhead alignment almost a sure thing, these same principles still apply and I use them often today. Archers who weren’t around to experience these issues much of the time don’t appreciate how good we have it today. And they are often at a loss for what to do if they have a problem. Next month I’ll tell the story of that trip, and how well it all worked out.
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