I’ve been involved with archery since I was a little kid, but in my late teens, when I started hunting with a bow, one of the greatest sources of frustration I experienced was trying to get my broadheads to fly like my field points. No matter what I tried, I could never get the two to fly even remotely the same. I used to go to the range and spend the better part of the day shooting my field tips and getting my bow perfectly sighted in, consistently shooting tight groups at 20 yards, 30 yards, 40 and even 50 yards. Then, I’d come back the next day or the next weekend to shoot my broadheads when getting ready for the hunting season, and I would find that they would fly totally different than my field points. They’d veer off way to the left or to the right, drop down, or hit high…again, totally different than my field tips, which resulted in many cussing fits and left me scrambling to find a viable solution to fix the problem.
That frustration ultimately led to quite a bit of research and experimentation about how to fix the radical difference in flight between my field points and broadheads. The first thing I did was trying to shoot different styles of broadheads. I probably spent a small fortune investing in many different types of broadheads over the years, from three blade designs, four blade designs, two blade design, mechanicals, etc., all the while hoping I would find that perfectly aerodynamic broadhead that would fly and shoot just like my field points. But, surprise, surprise, that never happened. Some broadheads flew much better than others, but none of them exactly like my field tips.
The next thing I tried to do to remedy the situation was to “tune” my arrows: making sure my arrows were perfectly level and squared at the ends, making sure the blades of my broadheads were perfectly lined up with fletching, etc. That helped a little bit with arrow flight and aerodynamics, but again, it wasn’t a viable solution, especially when shooting a two blade, four blade, or a mechanical head, as the blade profile never matched up with the fletching.
The next thing I tried to do was experiment with different types of fletching material. I tried using actual real feathers on my arrows, I tried a wide variety of different types of plastic vane materials, different sizes and shapes, I tried using a straight fletch, a hard helical fletch, I tried FOBs and other more untraditional style fletchings, etc. Some of those things helped to varying degrees, but at the end of the day, it still wasn’t a fix.
After months and months of experimentation and spending a small fortune on all kinds of different broadheads and fletching materials, I finally learned about paper tuning from talking to some seasoned, much more experienced bow hunters and archers. And, after learning how to paper tune my bow and arrow set-up, that was all it took. It solved my arrow flight problem instantly! Paper tuning is essentially shooting your arrow with a field point (of the same weight of your intended broadhead) directly through a blank piece of paper and analyzing the tear to see exactly how your arrow is flying when it leaves the rest. Paper tuning will reveal if your arrow is cantering to the left, the right, up or down. Correcting those small, otherwise unnoticeable errors in flight make a huge difference when you add yardage and a broadhead to the mix. Assuring that your arrow is leaving the rest perfectly straight is the key factor in getting your broadheads and your field points to fly the same.
As a prerequisite for paper tuning your bow, you should first make sure that your bow is well maintained and everything is perfectly squared, leveled, etc., and that the rest of the components on your bow, as well as your strings and cables, are in good shape. Another very important factor for optimal bow performance is to make sure you’re shooting the right arrow shaft for your particular set-up. To do so, you’ll need to know your draw weight, draw length or length of your intended arrows, and how heavy your tips are. With this information, you can go to the website of any arrow manufacture or just look on the back of a box of arrows at the store, and you’ll no doubt find an arrow shaft selection chart.
In regard to the actual process of paper tuning, if you belong to an archery club or have a reputable range nearby, they will most likely have a paper tuning apparatus, which is just a big stand with a roll of paper. You simply secure a blank piece or section of paper in place and shoot your arrow with a field tip (not a broadhead!) at about 3 yards away, perfectly level, in and through the paper. The tear in the paper will show you exactly what kind of micro adjustments you need to make to either your rest or nocking point. It’s good to shoot a few arrows at a time and make sure you are shooting in a natural fashion just as you would in a normal situation: with good form, attention to the details of executing a disciplined shot, etc.
The goal is to get a perfect “bullet hole” tear as pictured above. Once you consistently produce this perfectly center-punched hole, with three clean, crisp surrounding tears from your feathers or vanes, you are done. No further adjustments need to be made. Your broadheads and field points should fly the same…with very little difference. The chart below will show you what adjustments to make if you are not getting a clean tear.
If you don’t have a range or archery shop nearby, you can easily make a homemade paper tuning set-up. I just get a decent sized cardboard box, cut a hole about the size of a standard piece of paper, secure the paper over the hole with some packaging tape, leave the back side of the box open with no obstructions, place a rock or something on top of the box to secure it a little better, and place a target directly behind it, and fire away!
In summary, there’s a lot you can do to improve your arrow flight and performance, but in my opinion, and after three decades of archery experience, the number one process you can do in order to get your broadheads and field points to fly almost exactly the same is to paper tune your bow properly. To learn more and watch the video version of this blog, click here.
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