Bow Bootcamp is a 10-part series designed to get you, your equipment, and your skills in peak shape for fall. That means gear checks, accessory tweaks, precision bow tuning, and shooting drills to get you totally dialed in. This installment is all about walk-back tuning to get your left-to-right arrow flight perfectly dialed in. (If you missed any previous installments, check them out here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.)
In the last installment of this series, we got your bow sighted in and then worked on a repeatable shot process. Now that you are stacking arrows consistently and confidently, it’s time to fine tune your arrow flight by walk-back tuning. It’s a simple process that doesn’t take long, and it’s a must-do, because walk-back tuning ensures that your rest is in perfect alignment with your string and that your arrows are therefore leaving the bow in a perfectly straight line toward the target, with no left or right stringing at various distances.
Paper tuning is great, but it only tells you how an arrow is flying at one very short distance. That’s why it’s not uncommon for a perfectly paper-tuned bow to hit a tad left or right of center farther out. It’s also why you can sometimes be throwing darts at 20 or 30 yards, but several inches left or right at 60. To really fine tune the alignment of your rest and string, so that your arrows are coming off perfectly straight and hitting on the same vertical plane all the way downrange, you need to shoot at multiple distances. And that’s what walk-back tuning is all about. Here’s the drill.
Step 1: Set up a target for walk-back tuning.
Start with the biggest target you have. A large bag target will work, but I recommend using a Block Range Target or a Block Infinity. If you don’t have a big enough target, visit your local pro shop, as you can usually use their targets for a small fee. Next, use a level to run a piece of duct tape along a perfectly horizontal line all away across the target face. (I like bright orange tape on a black target or black tape on a yellow or white target.) Next, use a tape measure to find the middle of that line, and then a level or a plum bob to run a perfectly vertical line of tape across the face of the target top to bottom.
Step 2: Shoot 20 yards with your 20-yard pin.
Stand 20 yards from the target, and go through the entire shot routine you’ve now mastered. Don’t get in a rush, and don’t skip a step in your shot sequence. The goal is to hit the center of center where the two lines intersect. If you followed the instructions from the last installment, you should be dead on. As long as you know you executed the shot well and the arrow is where it’s supposed to be, move back to 30 yards. If the shaft is a tad off, no worries. It was probably you. Pull the arrow and shoot again. If, however, your arrow is consistently off, especially if you skipped the last installment, you may need to adjust your sight slightly. Once your are dead-on at 20 with your 20-yard pin, leave that arrow in the target, and move back to 30.
Step 3: Shoot at 30 yards with the same pin.
Repeat the process—still using your 20-yard pin. Your shot will be low, of course, but that’s okay. The goal at this distance is for your arrow to be dead in line on the vertical tape right below the 20-yard arrow, which should be sitting in the center of the two-line intersection point. If it’s perfect or very close to perfect, move to 40. If it’s clearly off left or right (feel free to pull this arrow and shoot another to confirm), move your rest, not your sight.
There are two things to remember when moving your rest left or right. First, a little movement goes a long way, so take it slow. Second, if your arrow is consistently right, move the rest to the left and vice versa. (Rest movement and sight movement are opposite. When moving the bow sight, we chase the arrow; that is, if we are shooting right, we move the sight right. When using the rest to make horizontal adjustments, we move away from the direction of the arrow.)
Step 3: Keep moving back, using the same pin.
Repeat this process moving back in 10-yard increments, always using the 20-yard pin, to as far back as you feel you can trust your left-to-right accuracy. As you go, keep making very slight rest movements, as needed, until all of your shots at varying distances line up perfectly (or nearly so) along the vertical tape. I have found over time that if my bow-and-arrow combination is walk-back tuned to 60 yards, I’m typically good out to 100 yards.
Step 4: Confirm your tune and lock it down.
The last step is to simply spend a day shooting at 3-inch or smaller dots on targets at various distances, from 20 yards to as far out as you like to practice. If you know that your are executing your shots well, and you are hitting dots at all ranges, with no consistent stringing to one side or another, then your did your job well.
With the tuning process complete, use a silver Sharpie to mark the position of your top and bottom cams where each meets the top and bottom limb. These marks make great reference points if you must re-tune down the line. It’s also a great idea to write down or take a photo of the position of your rest (horizontal and vertical), and add any sight notes you feel will help. I also like to measure the distance of my peep sight at this point. To do this, I run a measuring tape from the center of my arrow’s nocking point on the string (between my nock sets) to the center of my peep sight. I also mark the position of my peep with a silver Sharpie.
An Alternative Way to Walk-Back Tune
It’s worth mentioning here that there is another way to walk-back tune that some archers prefer because it avoids the process of taping lines across the target face. Here, you use single-dot target face and start at a distance between 3 and 5 yards from the target. This close to the target, your 50-yard pin will likely be the one that puts your arrow in the target’s center. For simplicity, we’ll assume here that it is. (That may seem counterintuitive, but try it.)
Once you put a shot in the center of the dot at 3 to 5 yards, leave that arrow in the target. Then move back to 50 yards and shoot at the same dot with your 50-yard pin. If your bow is properly walk-back tuned and your rest is aligned, both arrows should be stacked together. If they aren’t, make the necessary rest adjustments until they are. Some archers like to shoot a group of arrows using this walk-back tune method, which is fine, but it may cost you some carbon.
With either method, take your time to make sure your bow is dialed in perfectly. It’ll pay off once you hit the field.