Nock tuning your hunting arrows
Recently, I’ve written quite a few articles on last-minute tuning tips and tricks to squeeze every ounce of accuracy out of your setup for this coming season. We’ve covered a lot of the obvious and commonly misunderstood techniques and have really delved into the how and the why. One last technique that is a go-to for my tuning is nock tuning. Nock tuning is a very simple process that requires little to no prior experience and can be done with any arrow out of any bow and with any fletching configuration.
The idea behind nock tuning is to rotate the arrow on the string in an effort to find the “sweet spot” of the arrow from a tuning standpoint. There are some tools, such as a spine tester, that can really cut down on the experimentation time with this process, but I’ve found that spending the time to do this the old fashioned way generally leads to a more accurate and forgiving setup.
Stiff side, weak side
If you were to take one of your arrows, stand it on end and apply a perfectly vertical force, the shaft will bow in one direction and one direction only, every time. This is because each and every arrow will have one side of the arrow that is stiffer than all of the others. This stiff side of the arrow can react differently to the bow after being shot, depending on its orientation to the string. The nock tuning process is a natural way of finding each arrow’s stiff side—or weak side— to consistently match all of your hunting arrows to each other. The resulting outcome is a set of arrows that will be far more accurate than if they were simply pulled from the box and shot.
The tuning process
In order to start this process, an archer will need a few pieces of gear lined out and ready to go:
- A tuned bow—more on this process can be found here.
- One designated tuning arrow; this will establish our “zero.”
- All of your hunting arrows with broadheads attached and perfectly spun.
The starting process for nock tuning is fairly straightforward. To begin, I like to establish my number one arrow that all of my tuning will be based on. By using one arrow, I can establish a baseline for my bow that all of my remaining arrows will be tuned towards. Generally speaking, this is the same arrow I would have used in prior tuning efforts, such as paper tuning or walk back tuning. Establishing your number one arrow is nothing more than simply grabbing one from the pile to start with. I will usually spin all of my shafts on an arrow spinner and select what I feel is the straightest for this.
For my first shot, I will step out to a comfortable distance where I know my accuracy will be great, generally 20 to 30 yards. I will shoot my designated tuning arrow and make any sight adjustments if needed (Note: At this point, if your broadheads are not impacting with your field points it will be important to go back and retune for this prior to nock tuning). After the bow and tuning arrow has been zeroed for the determined shooting distance, I will begin shooting my remaining hunting arrows. To begin, each arrow will get shot once and sorted based on their point of impact from my tuning arrow. Arrows that strike in the same location will get set into a good pile while arrows that missed the mark will get placed into a bad pile. Arrows from the bad pile are shot again before anything is changed to ensure consistency.
Once the bad arrows have been shot for the second round, it is time to start the nock tuning process. All that is involved here is simply rotating the arrow on the string a full 120 degrees for a three fletch arrow or 90 degrees for a four fletch arrow. Basically, if your cock vane is orientated up, you will rotate the arrow to the left or to the right until the next vane is now orientated up. From here, the bad arrows will be shot again and then sorted into a new good and bad piles. These steps are repeated until all or most of the arrows are sharing the same POI as our original tuning arrow.
This process will generally get 90% or better of your arrows shooting the same but every once in a while there may be some remaining arrows that just won’t tune. For me, these remaining arrows usually get delegated to practice arrows or will be used for grouse and other small game. However, often the fletching can be stripped and the arrow can be refletched with the vanes now orientated in the negative spaces between the original fletching locations. Once fletched, the arrows can be shot again in an attempt to find the stiff side of the spine.
All of the vanes on my arrows are always the same color which can make the orientation process much less confusing once each arrow has been nock tuned. If refletching is not an option, another great tactic is to simply take a silver sharpie, paint pen or something similar to add an index mark to an arrow once it has been tuned.
More bang for your buck
The nock tuning process can also save archers money as this will generally greatly increase the accuracy and consistency of cheaper arrows as opposed to spending the money on arrows advertised with tighter tolerances. Personally, I’ve found that I can often get similar results from both cheap and expensive arrows when using this method. This subject was recently covered in-depth by Trail Kreitzer in this great article. Best of all, this tuning process is extremely easy for anyone to do and it’s free! The next time you are questioning yourself or the accuracy of your bow give nock tuning a try; you may be surprised at the results.