The arc is always the same.
Most bowhunters engage in a ton of summer target practice, but once the deer season opens, the frequency of those sessions plummets. Then, they take their bows out into the field where they get rained on, knocked around, and generally abused. Occasionally, they sit in hot trucks for days on end.
Sometimes, this abuse will bump a sight or rest slightly off-kilter. Or, it might allow strings and cables to stretch just enough to move a peep sight or nocking point. Do you know where you don’t want to figure out that this has happened? On stand.
A better bet is to conduct a mid-season checkup, or better still—a weekly checkup. I usually do this before an evening sit so I’m just coming off of some target practice when I hunt.
Most of us have a hard line in the sand for how far we will shoot a deer. That’s the end of your effective range, and it’s a good thing to know. For me, that line is 40 yards, so when I’m checking my archery equipment during the season that’ll be as far as I shoot.
I’ll start with a couple of warmups at 20, then back up and shoot middle distance ranges out to 40. I’m looking for two things with these quick sessions.
The first is obviously accuracy. If I can’t hit the vitals on a 3D target at 25 yards, I’m in trouble. Something has changed, and I need to figure it out. But, you can also be pretty accurate and have poor arrow flight, especially if you’re practicing with field points.
This will be noticeable in one of two ways. The first is looser groups than you were shooting in summer. While this might just be from a lack of practice, it might also be due to equipment or tuning issues. The second is tight groups that have shifted slightly off target. This is almost always due to something like your rest dropper arm or peep sight having moved just a tiny bit.
If you see either of these issues play out at close ranges, then you know it will only get worse at extended ranges.
Also, if you notice any wobble, corkscrew, or fishtail with your arrows, that means something is up tuning-wise. If this happens with field points, it’ll be amplified with broadheads—even mechanicals. In the simplest terms, this means it’s time to diagnose and treat the issue before you go hunting again.
Poor hits happen, but they shouldn’t happen because something is out-of-whack on our bows and we failed to figure it out before hitting the stand. It only takes a dozen or so shots to diagnose an issue. That’s a better way to spend your time than a hopeless grid search after a poor hit, or sitting in your tree pondering how you could have whiffed on a good one at point-blank range.