That big buck is dead… it just doesn’t know it yet,” laughed Jeff Harrison, the Mid-Atlantic big buck specialist, as he flashed a picture of a big velvet antlered buck he’d captured on a trail camera. Harrison takes one or two record book bucks each year and frequently tags the first one on opening day. I joined him at a local archery shop as he began setting up his fall hunting bow.

Like many proficient archers Harrison tweaks his equipment at home, yet welcomes the specific tools an archery pro shop provides. Also, staff pros like Courtney Blank can “eye-ball” a set-up in a heartbeat because of their experience.

Biscuit and a Loop

Bow Set Up_2008 03 27_0320Installing a rest was the first order of business and this set-up included the popular Whisker Biscuit. Most shops recommend setting the arrow level, rather than nock-high. Step two was to add a string loop which increases the life of the bow string and makes the release of the arrow more forgiving.  Blank used a pair of loop pliers made by Viper, a tool specifically designed for crating string loops. Don’t skimp on loop material either. Perhaps you can jerry-rig one from discarded bow string, but nylon loops are very inexpensive, stretch very tightly and won’t pull out or fray when the ends are burned with a cigarette lighter.

Naturally Centered Sight

Bow Set Up_2008 03 27_0277_edited-1The sight is the next element and Harrison recommends using the concentric circle concept when selecting a pin sight. The human eye naturally centers an object in a circle, (the basic principle of the peep sight in firearms) and this concept works doubly well for archers. Select the largest peep sight available and a sight with a round pin guard. In this way, your mind will naturally center the pin guard concentrically inside of the peep hole. After your practice it a few times, the concept comes naturally.

The range of your game and type of hunting will determine the number of pins to choose. If you are primarily a tree-stand hunter, consider a pendulum sight that automatically compensates for yardage as you tilt the bow downward. With a speedy arrow, even a single pin can be effective to 30 yards. Harrison chose the Sword sight for its nearly indestructible fiber optics and a clearly visible bubble level to help keep the bow vertical.

Quiet Please

Limbsaver Broadband2 001The quieter your bow’s release, the less likely a spooky buck will jump the string and Limbsaver makes a series of products that work well to hush vibrations. Chief among them is the Broadband Limbsaver model that dampens sound by reducing vibration. It’s easy to install and you should immediately recognize the difference. String leaches and “Catwhiskers” will help reduce string vibration while a vibration reducing stabilizer will both give extra forward weight balance and absorb vibration. My new Hoyt Spyder 30 comes with a standard string-stop that also tames string vibration.

Arrows: Heavy or Light?

Once the bow is equipped, arrows are the next choice, but heavy or light weight? “A lot of people get hyped over heavy arrows, but I think the choice between speed and mass is a wash with today’s fast bows,” Harrison said. “I’ve taken 40 deer in the past five years shooting a 330 grain arrow with never a problem and I like the added speed for judging distance. If you are three to five yards off, you don’t miss the bottom of the deer.”

Group Tune for the Final Touch

003Finally, Harrison recommends group tuning. Begin with paper tuning in the shop, but shoot a group at 20 yards. Once you get decent groups, draw a vertical line on the target and move back to 40 yards. If your group moves to the right, adjust the rest to the left, like a rifle scope or gang adjust the sight in the direction toward the point of impact. “Tight groups won’t come immediately, but group tuning will catch what paper tuning may miss,” he says.

Tune your gear now. In spring and early summer, a pro shop will give you lots of time and attention. Wait until September and it’s, “take a number and stand in line.”