Walk Back Tuning A Bow And Arrow Rest Explained

As you get more archery experience under your belt, you'll probably start trying to make shots at longer distances. Unfortunately, you may find that something's off. The arrows just aren't landing where they're supposed to. Even small problems in your bow's tuning will lead to big effects on the arrow's trajectory at long distances. This is especially true of the arrow rest, which may send the arrow off course if it isn't centered. Luckily, walk back tuning is an easy and effective way to find out if your arrow rest is misaligned and then adjust it accordingly.

What Is Walk Back Tuning?

Walk back tuning is a way to make sure your arrow rest is positioned correctly for an accurate shot. If your arrow rest is slightly off center relative to the sight, it will send the arrow off at an angle. While this may not be noticeable at short distances, it gets magnified the farther away the target is. It also has a much bigger effect when you're using broadheads than when you're sighting in your bow with field tips.

The process involves shooting at the same place on an archery target from increasingly long distances to see how your arrow rest is affecting the arrow. Then you can adjust accordingly and retest.

How To: Walk Back Tuning A Compound Bow Or Recurve

Tape on a block target for walk back tuning

Walk back tuning a compound bow or recurve is actually pretty easy and doesn't take much expertise to do. First, here's the equipment you'll need:

  • Target (preferably a big one)
  • Easy-to-see tape, like blue painters tape
  • Allen wrenches, screwdrivers or whatever other tools are needed to adjust your arrow rest
  • Rangefinder

To accurately walk back tune your bow, you also need plenty of space to shoot, at least 40 yards. Additionally, it should be a calm day with little to no wind so that you know any errors in your arrow's trajectory is a result of the arrow rest and not environmental factors.

Step one is to make a T with the tape on the front of your target. You don't need to center the cross of the T, but it should be six inches or so below the top edge of the target. You can then make the vertical line of the T pretty long, going all the way to the bottom edge of the target if you want.

Step two is shooting your first arrow. Start with the distance of the lowest pin on your sight, probably 20 yards, but maybe 10. Zero your sight on the cross of the T and let 'er rip. Since you sighted in your pin at that distance, the shot should be perfect. If for whatever reason the shot is off, sight your bow back in, adjusting the sight only.

Once you've made that shot perfectly, step three is to walk back 10 yards and make the same shot. Aim at the cross of the pin with the same pin you used in step two. In other words, even though you're now standing at 30 yards, shoot using the 20-yard pin.

Now walk back again to 40 yards and repeat. If you have more room, you can even continue making shots at 10-yard increments up to 60 yards.

Step four, go check out the damage. Since you were using the same pin for each distance, each arrow should hit the target lower than the last. You need to check for horizontal deviations, though.

For instance, if your arrow rest is slightly angled to the right. Each shot will be progressively farther away from the center line creating a diagonal line away from the cross of the T. If your arrow rest is adjusted perfectly, you'll have a vertical line down the tape of the T.

Once you know how severely the arrow rest is off center and in what direction, it's time to adjust it.  

Adjusting Your Arrow Rest

Adjusting an arrow rest

Whether you are using a drop away arrow rest or a whisker biscuit, adjusting your arrow rest is usually pretty easy as well, but it's confusing for some because, unlike with your bow sight, you should move it in the direction you want to move the shot, the opposite direction that they're landing. In other words, if the shots are landing to the right, you should adjust the sight to the left to move the shots left.

This makes perfect sense if you think about it. The rest is actually interacting with the arrow to determine its trajectory. The sight never touches the arrow. It just gives you information. Still, if you forget, just remember: sight, same—rest, reverse.

Most modern arrow rests have graduated markers that show you the amount you're moving them. You usually have to loosen them, either with convenient knobs, or Allen bolts. Then just shift the rest horizontally and retighten it.

Even a slight adjustment of the arrow rest can make a big difference, especially at longer distances, so you should only try a little at first. Then, even though it takes time, you should repeat the walking back process again. Even if the shots still aren't perfect, you can gauge how much a given amount of arrow-rest adjustment moves the shot.

Walk Back Tuning Broadheads

Target used for walk back tuning Broadheads

Walk back tuning is usually done with field tips, and it decreases the amount of work you have to do when you finally paper tune your broadheads. However, you can actually walk back tune your broadheads, ideally with a practice broadhead, or use the walk back principle with the broadhead tuning method.

To tune your broadheads, your goal is to get them to have the same point of impact, or POI, as your field points. You can do this by simply shooting a field tip and then a broadhead at the same target to see the difference in where they land. 

If the broadhead is landing to the left of the field point, shift your arrow rest to the left until they coincide. However, if you have to move the rest more than ⅛-inch outside the manufacturer-recommended center shot, then you need to adjust the cams instead.

If the broadhead is landing above the field point, you have to raise your D loop. Conversely, if it's landing below the field point, lower your D loop.

Hopefully, if you walk back tuned your bow first, your broadheads will land pretty close to perfect, at least horizontally. If not, you may want to repeat the walk back process again. You can also walk back while tuning the broadhead, shooting it from longer distances to see if it's exaggerating the difference between the broadhead and the field points.

Adjusting Your Bow Sight

Adjusting your bow sight

Frankly, adjusting your bow sight is easier than adjusting the arrow rest. However, unlike the rest, you have to adjust the sight in the same direction, horizontally and vertically, that the shots are landing off center.

Aim at a bullseye. If the arrow lands up and to the right of the bullseye, then you should shift the sight up and to the right. Now try again. Do this until your arrows are landing exactly where you're aiming. 

Walk Back Tuning A Crossbow

Walk back tuning is less beneficial for a crossbow than a vertical bow because the whole point of walk back tuning is to adjust and center your rest. Nevertheless, if you find that you're missing long shots with your crossbow while close shots are easy bullseyes, it's worth a try. 

Use the walk back method to see if shots are getting increasingly off center at longer distances. If so, something probably needs tuning. The cams may be off, or there may be a small irregularity in your rail.

Walk Back Tuning vs Paper Tuning

Archers love arguing about walk back tuning versus paper tuning, but here at Deer Hunting Guide, we just don't get it. Why not do both?

Paper tuning should be your first step to make sure your arrows are flying straight. Use it with an arrow without fletching to tune just about everything: nock height, rest height and even horizontal rest position. Then hit the range or your backyard to do some walk back tuning to get the rest positioned perfectly.

Does Walk Back Tuning Help Me Know If My Cams Are In Timing?

No, walk back tuning in and of itself won't necessarily tell you if your cams are timed, ie, that they're reaching full draw at the same moment. However, you can certainly take advantage of the walk back tuning process to watch your cams and see if they are moving in sync and correctly positioned. A good idea, especially for single-cam bows, is to mark the cam's position when you first string the bow and then repeatedly check that it remains in that position.

Now, that said, although walk back tuning is primarily aimed at correcting your arrow rest, you can use it to make horizontal adjustments to the cams. This is especially true if your shots are really off center at longer distances. If shots are landing far to the right, for instance, you may need to adjust the cams to the right.

Walk Back Tuning Video

Here's a video explaining walk back tuning and demonstrating how it is done.

Final Thoughts

Walk back tuning is a simple effective process to tune the arrow rest of your bow. By using this method, you can easily see if the rest is causing arrows to land to the left or right of center. If they're landing left, move the rest right, and vice versa. Doing so will increase the distance you can shoot from accurately, and that means more success.

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Ron Parker

Ron is an archery instructor and expert bow hunter that lives with his wife and kids in central Ohio. When he is not teaching archery or in the woods bow hunting deer, he is writing informative articles for DeerHuntingGuide.net.

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