By Pat Lefemine, Founder of Bowsite.com
All bowhunters want to shoot better. I know I do. And like many others, my accuracy had plateaued. I was great at 20 yards, proficient at 30 yards, and fingers crossed at 40. While I consider myself a proficient bowhunter, I don’t consider myself a great shot.
I wanted to change that. But first I needed to check my ego and challenge everything I was doing for decades. And it all started because of my Mathews Phase4.
I got my new 2023 Mathews Phase4 in mid-November. I sighted it in and practiced a bit before using it during the late season. I didn’t shoot it as well as my V3X but I could still kill deer with it. I knew it wasn’t the bow, it was me, so I decided to find out why. One thing led to another and over the next few months I would tear it all down and, in the process, turned this Phase 4 into my very best shooting bow to-date and effectively doubled my comfortable shooting range from 30 to 60 yards.
I identified four problems: Arrows, Bow Tune, Release, and Form. I’ll take each problem one at a time starting with my arrows:
First Problem - Arrows
My Phase4 was delivered at 70lbs with a 27” draw. I tied in my peep and grabbed the arrows I’d been shooting with my V3X. They should have flown the same, but they didn’t. I had slightly inconsistent arrow flight and somewhat reduced accuracy. I’ve been increasingly frustrated with arrow quality, and it was time for a change. I talked with some trusted experts here on Bowsite and decided to try Easton Axis ‘match grade’ shafts. The quality was significantly better than my previous shafts in both consistency and straightness. Since I was tearing my arrows down anyway, I didn’t stop there. I did a deep dive on arrow components and after a lot of trial and error, I found this arrow build was superior to anything I shot previously:
Easton Axis match grade shaft, 4” wraps, Q2i Fusion Vanes with a 3-degree left offset in 4-fletch configuration, and Iron Will’s HIT inserts and Shock Collars.
Second Problem - Bow Tune
Before I fletched my arrows, I spent a week bare shaft tuning. On paper, I had a significant right tear - about one inch long. Moving the rest helped somewhat, but I was going far beyond Mathews’ recommendation of 13/16“ from the riser. I pressed my bow and swapped the top-hat bushings on the cam. While this is an advanced step best done in a pro-shop, I was confident in my technical abilities. It worked. I was able to keep my rest at the 13/16” mark and got a perfect bullet hole on paper with bare shafts, fletched shafts, and even with my 100 grain broadheads. My arrow was shooting like a bullet out of the Phase 4 and I saw immediate results in both arrow flight, shot consistency, and accuracy.
Detailed Video on my Four Steps
Third Problem - Release
With my finely tuned Phase4 and my new arrow build I was shooting better than ever. Still, every few arrows my index finger release was sloppy. I didn’t think I had target panic, but maybe I did? I was slightly punching the trigger. Not on every shot but enough where it affected consistency and accuracy. I knew all about the benefits of shooting a thumb release, but I liked the feel of my index release and was resistant to change. I remembered an article by Randy Ulmer where he discussed the moment when he realized his index finger release was limiting his potential. He switched to a thumb-style release and noticed a significant improvement in his accuracy. So, I decided to give it a try. I bought a thumb-style release along with a release training aid so I could practice with it. Some guys say the thumb release feels unnatural, but I picked it up quickly. After my first shot using the thumb release, I was hooked. Honestly? I wish I had tried this 15 years ago!
Fourth Problem - Form Problems
I had a great shooting Phase4, the best arrow build I’ve ever made, and was now comfortable with a thumb release. All that was left was to break decades of bad form habits starting with my grip. I’ve always death-gripped my bow. I can’t get myself to do a high wrist with my fingers sticking out, so I tried a modification that’s somewhere between that, and choking the hell out of the bow. There are outstanding tutorials on YouTube but the one I found to be the best for me was Levi Morgan’s style of grip. It’s a variation of the high wrist but you are still gripping the bow. The other form problem was not using my back muscles to fire my release. Instead of my thumb releasing the string, I get my release just to the edge of firing, then I squeeze my shoulder blades together until it goes off. I’m still perfecting both but so far, the results are amazing. I’m having more fun than ever and have effectively doubed my comfortable range in just a few months.
I guess the old saying is true - you can teach an old dog new tricks.
It took me months of research, experimenting with new arrow builds, advanced bow tuning, perfecting my shot, and lots and lots of practice before turkey season was on. My comfortable distance went from 30 yards max, to 45 yards max and I was shooting the best I’d shot in my life. Now I needed to know if I could translate all that change into a stressful hunting situation. I would find out, twice - first in Ohio where I called in a dinner Jake and made a fantastic shot. A week later I headed to New York where I called in the biggest Tom of my life and took him with a Texas Heart Shot that put the giant gobbler down in ten steps.
With the confidence I have with this Phase4, I am now working on the next challenge which is extreme accuracy at longer distances of 60-70-80 yards. I won’t shoot animals at those distances but now I’m not afraid to practice those shots on targets.
Sometimes you have to check your ego, and tear everything down to improve. Don’t be afraid to try it. It worked for me, and it can work for you.