Story and Photos by: Jared Bloomgren
Setting up your own bow is a common practice that many archers would like to have more insight on these days.
Heck, I know many veteran archers who have never set up their own bow. In my opinion, most archers don’t know what they are missing by having someone else set up their equipment. The process can be very enjoyable and quite relaxing. Besides, not everyone lives close enough to a pro-shop to easily have a professional set up their bow. Knowing how to set up a bow yourself can save you time and money. The knowledge you gain about your own equipment can even save your hunt if you ever experience a problem in the field.
This is a very simple discussion to help you learn how easy setting up a bow can actually be. Picking out the best bow is an entirely different subject. I won’t get in the weeds on that subject, nor will I get into a technical discussion about advanced bow tuning. Tuning is an entirely different discussion that has many components. Rather, I want to focus on the process of setting up a bow from scratch. This is very easy to do with a basic understanding of the process.
As a kid, I didn’t have fancy tools for setting up a bow. Living out in the country I was a long way from a pro shop. I had to rely mostly on myself to get the job done. Although I didn’t do a perfect job nor did I have the perfect set-up, I consistently had success harvesting animals. I can guarantee that not many of my bows, in my early years, would shoot a bullet hole through paper, but they were set up reasonably well and all were very lethal.
For this discussion I will focus on setting up a compound bow. It could be a single cam, twin cam, hybrid, cam and a half, soft, medium, hard, or no cam at all - these concepts apply to them all. Think of this as the quick & dirty down-on-the farm bow set-up process. Those of you who are experts, don’t beat me up too bad on the details. As I mentioned, this method worked well for me in the past. We all know that there’s the perfect way to do something, and there is the way it often has to be done with limited tools and limited help. This discussion has the latter in mind.
Setting Draw Length
Having a draw length that fits you is very important. Most compound bow users have their draw length set too long and it causes shooting form and accuracy to suffer. You’ll also likely experience string slap on your bow arm if the draw length is too long. String slap is painful and drastically affects arrow flight.
To find the correct draw length, first use a tape to measure your wingspan. Stand erect with your arms spread out to the sides, palms facing forward. Measure the distance from the tip of the middle finger on the left hand to the tip of the middle finger on the right hand. You will likely need to enlist the help of a buddy to take this measurement. Take that number and divide by 2.5 to get the correct draw length. If you use a D-loop to connect a release, deduct 1/4″ to 1/2″ from the calculated draw length to account for the loop. More on the subject of a D-loop later in this discussion.
If the draw length of a bow needs modification, these adjustments are made at the cam. On some compound bows, draw length can be adjusted by moving the draw length modules on the cam. Other bows may require a total cam replacement to adjust the draw length. Please note that cam replacement will require the use of a bow press.
On most modern bows the draw length can be adjusted on the cam using a simple torx or allen head wrench set. Just move the set screws to the proper location for your draw length. It is always a good idea to follow the recommendations in the owner’s manual provided with your new bow to make the adjustments to your calculated draw length.
Proper Rest & Nock Set Up
For years I “eye-balled” my arrow rest set up and had great luck. Only the critters I hunted would complain if they could. For this discussion let’s reference some important areas on the bow in regard to setting up the arrow rest.
The Berger Hole is the threaded hole in the riser where the arrow rest attaches. This hole is as close to the center of the riser that you can get. Just grab an allen wrench and bolt your rest on. Now nock an arrow and adjust the rest until the arrow is located as close to the center of this hole as possible. If you are installing a drop away style rest, the launcher of the rest should be up. This will ensure the arrow is in the right spot.
If you are using a drop away rest, move your nocking point up about 1/16″. This allows for the natural rise of the arrow when you release the string. This has worked great for me when using a drop away. You will also need to tie the rest into your string or attach it to a limb. Follow the instructions sent with the rest to help with this.
Next look at the shelf of the bow. The arrow should sit parallel to the shelf of the bow. Most bows offer a parallel shelf which makes this fairly easy to once again “eye-ball.” Once you find the spot where the arrow and shelf are parallel, that is when you can set your nocking point on the string. The goal is to have the nock area at a 90 degree angle to the string. I recommend using an inexpensive Saunders Archery Squaring tool to achieve an exact 90 degree angle.
When tying the nocking point, I like to add additional serving on both sides of the nock before installing the D-loop. This helps alleviate nock pinch and makes for a cleaner release of the arrow. Just mark the nock point and add serving on both sides as shown in the following photos.
A common mistake when tying in the D-loop is improper string angle. Make sure that each point where the D-Loop attaches is coming off of opposite sides of the bow string. This does make a difference. If the D-loop is not in the proper posting the string will twist each time the bow is drawn and peep sight alignment may become difficult.
Now hold the bow with an arrow nocked and face it away from you. Look down the arrow and line the arrow up with the string. Does the arrow look to shoot to the left or right? If so, adjust the rest in or out until the arrow is in line and parallel to the vertical axis of the riser. This will get you fairly close to what we call a center shot. It can be difficult to get the exact center shot so I recommend an EZ Center Shot Tuning Tool to assist with this process.
The EZ Center Shot Tuning Tool
The EZ Center Shot Tuning Tool establishes center shot by utilizing a mechanism that attaches to the limb bolts. Rubber tubing stretches between the mechanisms and a plastic slider then shows where the center shot would be. This came in very handy!
The EZE-Center Tool
An alternative tool I highly recommend is called the the EZE-Center made by Easy-Eye Archery Products. It is easier to use that the EZ Center Shot Tuning Tool and has really spoiled me.
The EZE-Center tool is an aluminum laser tool that attaches to the bow riser and easily establishes center shot.
The EZE-Center is very easy to use and very accurate. It attaches to your riser where the sights normally would. The bow sight must be removed. Simple adjust the rest until the laser (red dot) travels all the way down the mid-line of the arrow from the tip to the nock. This tool makes it very easy to ensure you have things centered perfectly. The EZE-Center tool retails for about $100 and is worth every penny.
Moving on to the sights, there are a plethora of these on the market. Once you have decided which bow sight you like, bolt it on. Again, if you nock an arrow, you can line the string and arrow up and look at your pins. All three should line up fairly close together. This will help you get your left/right adjustment on your sight fairly close right out of the gate. Each individual sight pin is then adjusted on a case-by-case basis. Once your top pin is sighted in for say, 20 yards, you can set each sequential pin up for 30, 40, 50, 60, etc.
Remember when sighting in your bow to make sight adjustments that chase your arrow. For example, if your arrow is impacting high, then move your pin up. If you are impacting right, then move your sight housing right.
The peep sight is an integral part of the bow system. The peep allows consistent sight alignment which of course leads to consistence and more accurate shooting. I like to marry my peep sight up to match the size of my sight housing so they fit together well. This means that circle of the peep sight hole matches up to the round shape of the sight housing. Lining up the circles is an easy way to be consistent shooting your bow.
Peep sights come in various sizes. I prefer 3/16″ diameter opening. Installing the peep sight within the bow string can be the hardest part of setting up a bow. It usually requires a bow press to relieve tension on the string and allow the peep to be inserted between the strands of the bow string. There are tools available to separate strings and install peeps under pressure, but I have damaged multiple string attempting this. If you attempt to install a peep without a bow press, first decrease draw poundage by turning out the limb bolts. This will reduce tension on the string. There are also portable and inexpensive cable presses that can help with this task but these can only work on certain bows due to limb/cam configuration.
Once the peep sight is installed within the bow string, adjust the location of the peep until it naturally lines up with your eye while at full draw. Finally, used serving thread to tie the peep sight into a fixed position. There are a number of methods to accomplish this. In fact, too many to discuss here. I recommend watching a YouTube video for visual instruction tying in a peep sight.
At this point just tighten the limb bolts back to your design draw wight and hit the range. The rest and nocking point are set reasonably close to center and the peep sight is lined up with your eye. You are ready to hit the practice range and make final sight adjustments.
Remember, this discussion focuses on a quick set-up process that anybody can do. It isn’t a technical discussion that gets into the weeds of advanced bow set-up or tuning. As you take the steps to set up a bow yourself, there is no doubt you will begin to learn better and new ways to do things. We are all individuals and we each have our own ideas. If nothing else, this discussion will just help you get started doing the work on your own and advance your knowledge and understanding of your archery rig . You may even find some enjoyment in the process. By using these steps, I can normally set up a bow with simple tools and get it to shoot very well. I am certain you can to. I can promise that you’ll become a better archer by learning how to set your own bow.