Are you one of many archers that can shoot 20 arrows at 20 yards and have all of them in the bull’s-eye, only to back up to farther distances and find your shots going awry either left or right? Join the club you are not alone! One of the most frustrating things in the world of archery is an inconsistent arrow grouping at different distances. The honest truth is that the reason behind poor consistency in terms of shot placement can come from many different areas. So many areas that I could write a book on it, and many people have. For the sake of this article and the space I was allotted I am going to discuss how to correct right and left misses based off of three tuning methods I use to help align your center shot (arrow rest).

Many novice and some not so novice archers, when they experience off course arrows simply will make adjustments to their sites. While this will fix the issue, to some point, it will not fix the underling cause of the problem…most of the time that underlying cause can be attributed to your center shot alignment; more specifically your arrow rest is not set in a perfect position to allow for true arrow flight.

As I just mentioned there can be many factors why you are experiencing right to left misses. So before we start ask yourself the following questions:

Do you shoot with proper form?
Are you shooting the correct arrow for you bow specs?
Are your bow’s components in line with the manufacturers suggested specs?
Has an experienced archer set up your bow?
Have you checked the timing of your cam and/or yoked tuned your bow?
Do you shoot the correct draw length?

If you answered yes to all the questions… you are ready to move on to the horizontal tuning methods I will discuss below. However if you answered “no” to any of the questions this is where you first need to look as far as your right and left misses goes. Going any further with the shot tuning methods is pointless as the underlying cause to your problem might be due to one of the above questions.

So moving forward and assuming you answered yes to all the questions lets dive into three shot tuning methods that are meant for adjusting your arrow rest to achieve perfect center shot. The end result hopefully will be a cure for your right or left misses that you have been agonizing over. Please keep in mind that we are using field point tips for all of the following tuning methods.

Paper Tuning

The first of the three is by far the most popular tuning practice used by archery shop technicians and individual archers alike, mainly because it is quick and easy to perform. Essentially what paper tuning does is tell you what your arrow is doing by the results it leaves behind when flying through a taut sheet of paper. From these results you can then adjust your rest and/or nock point to fix the impurities of your results.

The setup up is really simple. You will need a sheet of paper (a roll of butcher’s paper works great) that is a minimum 2’x 2’. A lot of archers will frame the paper onto a piece of cardboard box that has a cutout in the middle of it. Or some individuals will make a frame out of some PVC piping and simply attach a sheet of rollable paper to the top of the frame. There are actually manufactures that sell paper-tuning stands, but with a little ingenuity you can create one yourself fairly easily. (See illustration 1) It is important when paper tuning to have the paper fairly taut and right around shoulder height.

The actual shooting is just as simple. Make sure you have a target butt six feet behind your sheet of paper. Next, from around four to six feet fire an arrow through the sheet of paper and observe the result. Below are the variations of results you are likely to see from a paper tune test and the remedies for each.

*Results show right-handed shooters results using a mechanical release aid.

Tear High:

Move nock point down in 1/16” increments.
Check and see if fletchings are contacting the arrow rest on release.
Shoot a stiffer spine arrow, decrease bow weight, and/or reduce arrow length.

Tear Low:

Move nock point on string up in 1/16” increments until tear has been eliminated.

Tear Right:

Move rest to the left in 1/16” increments until tear disappears
Make sure arrow has proper clearance from cable guards/cables.
Be mindful of hand torque.

Tear Left:

Move rest to the right in 1/16” increments until tear has been eliminated.
Be mindful of hand torque.
Decrease bow weight.
Shoot a stiffer spine arrow.

Combination Tears:

If you have a combination of the above tears start your adjustments with the vertical tear first and then move on to the horizontal adjustments.

Perfect Tear:

This is what you are working towards.

*At times you may have to apply opposite adjustments to the ones listed above. The type of arrow rest and release aid combo can alter the flex of the arrow and tear patterns opposite to those listed above.

It is always a good idea to shoot at least three arrows first before making any adjustments to rule out any fluke shots either good or bad. Once you have fired a group of three arrows make adjustments to your rest accordingly and repeat the process until you are achieving a perfect pass through. Then step back to ten feet and double check that you are still getting a perfect tear and the arrow wasn’t just in recovery position at the first distance.

The only downside to paper tuning is that it doesn’t give you any results from longer distance shots. So if you have a perfect tear at four feet or ten feet you are assuming you have a perfect tear at 40 yards. Wouldn’t this be a great thing?! Well in the world of archery nothing is that easy and a perfectly paper tuned bow can still have some unwanted results at longer distances. That is why I always encourage archers to start with paper tuning and once you are getting good results move onto another tuning method that applies to longer distances.

Walk Back Tuning

Walk back tuning is a method that gives you real distance information on your center shot alignment. That is why combined with paper tuning it is really good way of center shot tuning your bow. The negatives with this method are it requires a decent amount of room to perform correctly (nothing less than 40 yards) and it can be time consuming. Other than that this is a great way to tune your shots.

To begin what you will need is a target butt that is fairly wide, that is stacked to your shoulder height. On the target place a 3” circle directly in the middle at the top of the target. Stickers or tape work great, but you can always marker in a circle on your target if you don’t have anything else available. Next you need to use tape or marker to place a vertical line directly in the middle of your target, just make sure to use a level when doing so. You are now ready to start releasing some arrows. (See illustration 2)

For this method it is important to note that you will only be using your 20-yard pin for all shots. Start out by shooting an arrow at the 3” target at 20 yards. If you have plenty of arrows you can shoot a group of 3 to give you more precise readings at every distance. If your sight is already dialed in at 20-yards you should hit the target. If you don’t hit the target don’t worry about it, as we will adjust our sights at the end of the process.

Now step back to 30 yards and fire another arrow or group of three at the bull’s eye, remember to use your 20-yard pin. Your shot should hit considerably lower, that is to be expected as you are using your 20-yard pin. Notice where the shot hit horizontally and move back to 40 yards and fire another arrow with your 20-yard pin. Continue this process at 10-yard intervals (5 yard intervals will do if space is limited) until you run out of room on the target both vertically and/or horizontally.

Walk up to your target and notice your results. If you have a bow that is in perfect center shot tune you will notice the pattern that is hitting in a vertical pattern or dang close. Since you are performing this tuning process it is highly likely you won’t see these results on your first try.

More than likely you are seeing a pattern shown in Illustration 3 and 4. What is happening is your arrow rest is not in the correct position. As you shoot farther distances the more awry your shots become. Now is when we start to make adjustments. Remember we are trying to find our center shot so all adjustments at this point will be done to the arrow rest. Do not touch your sights yet!

If your pattern is similar to Illustration 3 then you need to move your rest to the right in small increments of either 1/16” or 1/32”. If you have results similar to Illustration 4 then move your rest to the left in small increments.

Now go back to 20 yards and complete the process all over again and make the necessary adjustments, again to your rest only. Hopefully what you notice is your arrows are starting to form a vertical line (Illustration 5). Again don’t worry if they are hitting the vertical line on your target. We will fix that with site adjustments at the end. Repeat the process over and over again until you see your arrows in a vertical line as shown in Illustration 6. Once you reach this point it is now time to lock down your rest as you have just achieved perfect center shot for horizontal misses.

Now its time to adjust your sight pins. If your arrows were to the right of the vertical line on the target move your site window to the right. If your arrows were hitting left move your site window to the left. Remember to always chase your arrow when adjusting your site. Do this until all of your arrows are now hitting on the vertical line of the target or until very close.

Congratulations you have just achieved a walk back tune of your bow. As I said earlier it can be timing consuming, but the end result should yield far better results than you previously were seeing.

Modified French Tuning

Modified French Tuning (MFT) is similar to the walk back method but it can be done at shorter distances and is often considered to be a quicker method. The goal is to get your sight pins and rest horizontal position lined up perfectly.

Start out by taking a target butt and stack it so the bull’s-eye is at shoulder height. Tack a string to the top of the target and attach a weight to the other end. Make sure the string is dissecting the exact middle of the bull’s-eye. You can draw on a line or use tape, but for the MFT method I believe a string works the best (Illustration #7).

At 3 yards release an arrow at the string splitting the bull’s-eye. You can use any pin you want; typically I will use my 20-yard pin. If your arrow misses to the right adjust your site housing to the right. If you arrow misses to the left adjust your site housing to the left. The goal is to hit the string dead on and have your arrow impact just below the center of the bull’s-eye. This may take some time and patience but once you accomplish hitting the string step back to a farther distance (any distance will do) I step back to 10 yards. Fire a three arrow group. Now observe the middle of your grouping, if it is to the left of the string move your rest to the right 1/16” at a time. If the middle of your grouping is to the right of the string move your rest to the left 1/16” at a time. It is important not to move your site at the longer distance, only move the rest. Take as many shots as possible until your three arrow group’s center is splitting the string.

Now go back to three yards and shoot another arrow. If your arrow is hitting to the right or left of the string make the necessary adjustments to your site housing until your arrow is hitting dead center of the string just under the bull’s-eye.

Now return back to your longer distance and release another three arrow group. Keep making adjustments to your rest either to the left or right, depending on your results. Repeat this process until you are able to fire a single arrow at 3 yards that hits directly under the center of the bull’s-eye and your three shot grouping has the string dissecting it at your longer distance.

This will give you a perfect center shot and pin alignment, and hopefully fix your right to left blues. Remember during this tuning method to always adjust your sites when shooting the close distance and your rest during the longer distance. Also adjust your sight housing the same direction your arrows are hitting and your rest in the opposite direction your arrows are hitting.

Having a properly tuned bow is a must both in terms of hunting and target shooting. Misses of all shapes and form leave doubt in an archers mind so take that doubt away and spend some adequate time tuning your bow. Hopefully after some time spent tinkering with these center shot tuning methods your horizontal misses will be all but a forgotten headache. If these methods don’t provide some progression then there is probably another factor contributing to your horizontal misses. Revisit the questions I listed at the beginning of the article and make sure you can answer “yes” to each one of them…be honest with your answers…there is no sense lying to yourself because the truth lies in your accuracy or lack there of. Shoot straight and shoot often!