How to Paper Tune a Bow

Midwest Whitetail • August 14, 2023

With archery season just around the corner, having a properly tuned bow can greatly improve your bow's performance and your shooting confidence. When the chance of a lifetime presents itself, it’s important to have your bow and equipment as finely tuned as possible. If your bow isn’t shooting how you’d like or you’ve just purchased a new bow setup, these tips from Midwest Whitetail’s Owen Riegler can help!

Bow Setup

Before you start paper tuning, it’s always good to make sure your arrows are the right length and stiffness (spine) for your bow. Most arrow manufacturers will provide a chart to help you determine the proper length and arrow spine to accommodate your draw weight and length. Using the wrong arrows can and will throw off your shots and can negate your tuning efforts.

It’s also important to make sure you’re shooting with the correct form and not over-torquing your wrist. Improper wrist position can create unnecessary torque on your bow and throw arrow trajectory off. Make sure your draw length is appropriate and that you can comfortably shoot your bow multiple times. Fine-tuning your form first will ensure consistency and yield more accurate results when it comes to paper-tuning your bow. 

The first thing you’ll want to look for when paper tuning is the center shot distance from your riser to the middle of your arrow rest. Most manufacturers recommend a distance of 13/16”. Setting your rest up this way should get you centered pretty close to where you want to be. This will save you time and requires less adjustment throughout the tuning process.

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Most manufacturers recommend a distance of 13/16” from riser to center of arrow rest

Try and set your nock and rest height so the arrow is level and adjust from there. While bows and rests will vary, this is a great starting point.

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Paper Setup

The most necessary tool in a paper tune is the paper itself. There are several types of stands and paper specifically designed for paper tuning, but you can also set up your own at home. You just need some sort of paper target firmly attached to a frame around the sides. Make sure the paper is pulled tight and allows plenty of room for the arrow to completely pass through.

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Once the paper is set up, you’ll want to place a target a few feet behind your paper. This ensures your arrows have a proper backstop after passing through the paper.

Taking the Shot

When everything is set up and ready to go, it’s time to take the first shot. Stand a few feet away from the paper and take a shot. It's a good idea to make your shot as level as possible. A slight downward angle won't affect too much but will slightly enhance a high tear.

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Evaluating the Paper Tear

A perfectly straight shot, or "bullet hole" means your nock passes through the paper right behind your point. Your shot will leave a distinct tear in the paper where the tip and nock hit if not properly tuned. Understanding these tears is essential to getting your bow dialed in for the perfect tune. Below are examples of tears and proper fixes for each scenario.

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  1. Perfect Tear: The point of the arrow hits center and the nock follows directly behind, creating a centered three-pointed star shape.
  2. High Tear: A high tear results when your nock passes through the paper above where your point does. To fix a high tear, move your nocking point down or move your arrow rest up.
  3. Low Tear. A low tear happens when your nock passes through the paper below where the point impacts the paper. To fix a low tear, either move the nocking point up or move the arrow rest down. 
  4. Left Tear: A left tear occurs when the nock passes through to the left of the point. To fix this, a right-handed archer will need to move their rest to the right (towards the riser) or move the string left. For left-handed shooters, you should still move the rest to the right, but away from the riser.
  5. Right Tear: A right tear results when the nock passes through the paper to the right of your point. This can be fixed by moving your rest to the left or your string to the right.
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Final Tips

A paper tune is a great way to get your bow shooting properly. Be sure to start out level and adjust as necessary. Having the correct spine and arrow length is also crucial for a perfect tune. Adjustments to the rest are generally the simplest, but sometimes adjustments to the cams or your D loop may be necessary.

Once the proper adjustments are made, you should see significant improvements in your arrow flight. In addition to a paper tune, you can do a walk-back tune and then a bare shaft tune to add even more precision to your arrow flight. Now that your bow is tuned and ready to go, it’s time to hunt!

--Midwest Whitetail