Troubleshooting arrow flight

Traditional archery is archery at the purist form: Simple, easy, and without the complexity of the modern bows. The bow… The string… and the arrow. It doesn't get much more simple than that.  

Even though trad equipment is trouble-free, there are a few key components that will give you the accurate arrow flight you are looking for. Proper grip, solid anchor, correct arrow spine, and exact string nock position is a good platform to launch accurate arrows.

Each one of these warrants attention and focus. I’ll be covering more of these in later postings, but for now, I’ll be talking about string nock positioning.  Proper string nock position can make or break good arrow flight with all the other components exact. The slightest nock misalignment can throw even the most accurate shot off kilter!  Arrows can whip and kick, and even plane off course, especially when the arrow is driving a broadhead.

Good string nock placement is a constant magical dance with the bow. A traditional bow, like us humans, is like an ever-changing, breathing creature.  You must balance the breath of the bow. That sound crazy, yet it’s true. There are so many factors that constantly change,and the biggest variable is you!

But even with the human factor out of the way, there are other variables that constantly change. Strings stretch, weather conditions change*, and even the wearing out of rest material on the bow’s shelf will greatly affect arrow flight.

Ever heard the phrase, “Become one with the bow”? Avid traditional archers know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s when the bow becomes a natural extension of your body, when the shooting of the bow becomes instinctual and connected to your very core. This connection is essential to knowing your bow, and in turn, knowing the flight of your arrow. This awareness is critical in recognizing when things change with your bow…or with your shot. When things change with your bow, so does the nocking point of your arrow. One factor affects the next; hence the dance.

When everything is balanced/correct, your arrow flight is straight and true. When it's off, the flight will be, too. When I notice or “feel” my shots not being right, and I see the telltale signs that things are off, I consider the constants. I’m shooting the same arrows, the same weight tips, my anchor point is the same; What could have changed? 

My first “go-to” when looking for the “unbalance” is my string nock positioning. It’s quick and easy to check! A simple bow square will tell all. Is the nock in the correct position? Has it slipped up? Metal string nocks are quick and easy to use, but if not properly crimped, they’ll move position. That’s why I like a tied string nock.  Properly tied using string/serving, string nocks can be easily moved and tuned. Nine times out of ten, this will be your issue -- and an easy fix. If the string nock is out of position, move the nock back into the known correct location on the string, and you should be back in business.

This fix is obviously for shooters who already had their bows tuned and shooting properly. Next week, I’ll be talking about setting the bow up from scratch.  How to properly select and match arrow spine with your bow weight, and how to tune your nocking point to get those arrows shooting straight and kick free.


*Weather can affect many components of archery. Wood, whether it used for bow risers, limbs, or cedar arrows, can be affected by heat, moisture, and cold. Exposure to direct sunlight will change your gear’s response. Even the finger tabs or shooting gloves can be affected by the elements. Archers shooting in the cold with heavy and bulky clothing will see the affects of changed anchor points. It’s important to account for these changes and learn how your shooting will be affected.