How to Tuning A Compound Bow Arrow Rest

When trying out a few different broadheads for an upcoming big-game hunt, I realized two important procedures that I had neglected to perform on my bow. One was walk back bow tuning my arrow rest and the other was setting the 2nd and 3rd Axis on my bow sight.

Why You Should Walk Back Tune Your Arrow Rest

As I said, I have recently been experimenting with different broadhead options and while I did my testing at a maximum range of 30 yards, it wasn’t until I stretched the distance that the weakness in my system began to show its face. And, despite the fact that the average treestand bow-shot happens between 15-20 yards, I like to push the limits of my equipment and increase my maximum, effective killing range (MEKR) whenever possible.

Walk back tuning of your bow can dramatically improve accuracy of your arrows

My broadhead, which seemed to fly so precisely at 30 yards (matching my field points) suddenly began to develop a mind of its own when I hit 40 paces. However, instead of looking at the head in question with a skeptical eye, I knew exactly where the problem lies. It could be found in my arrow rest. The only way to fix the problem was to Walk Back Tune it.

How Do You Walk Back Tune Your Rest?

While the term might sound complicated the procedure is rather simple to perform. But, before we discuss the “how” let’s cover the necessary items you will need.

  1. Large Target: Try to find the biggest one possible.
  2. Duct Tape or Blue Painters Tape
  3. Shooting distance of at least 40 yards
  4. Allen Wrenches
  5. Range Finder
  6. Calm or No Wind.

Start by using the tape to make a T on your target face starting at about 6 inches below the top of the target. Depending on the speed of your bow, the vertical portion of the T might need to be longer or shorter.

Once you have made the T on the target face it is then time to shoot your first arrow. Starting at 10 or 20 yards, aim exactly where the horizontal and vertical portions of the T connect. If your arrows don’t hit the mark then adjust your sight only. Keep adjusting your sight until your arrow impacts the intersecting lines. Once that happens it is time to move further away from the target.

Using the same pin you used for the first arrow (20 yards) walk back to 30 yards and launch an arrow at the same intersecting point on the T. Then, walk back to 40 yards and, using the same 20-yard pin to aim with, shoot an arrow at the intersecting lines on the T. Repeat this process for 50 and 60 yards if possible. Again, all shots are taken while aiming at the same intersecting line of the T using only your 20-yard pin.

View of the T, starting six inches above the target

Once completed, you will find that of course, your arrows will fall from the top to the bottom. However, the critical detail will be which side of the tape they landed on; either right or left of the centerline on the T. You will notice that the further the distance of the shot, the further away from the centerline your arrows will be. This is normal as the greater the distance the greater the influence on arrow impact.

Adjusting Your Arrow Rest

Unlike sighting in your bow (when you chase the arrow with your sight’s pin), walk back tuning requires that your arrow rest be moved in the direction you want the arrow to go. For example, if your arrows are falling to the left of the centerline on the T then you will want to move your arrow rest to the right. Conversely, if your arrows are falling to the right of the centerline on the T then you will want to move your arrow rest to the left.

If an arrow is to the left of the blue T line, adjust your rest to the right.

Believe me when I tell you it only takes a minute amount of movement in order to drastically change your arrow’s point of impact. More than once I have overcompensated and pushed my arrow beyond the desired impact point.

So, after making a small adjustment to your rest repeat the process to determine if more movement is necessary and in what direction. Pretty soon all of your arrows should impact the vertical line on the T from top to bottom. Remember, use only your top pin for all shots.

The Basics of 2nd and 3rd Axis Adjustments

I once thought that the 2nd and 3rd axis adjustments on my bow sight were more suited for the western big-game bowhunter. However, while prepping for a western hunt I realized the importance of setting these adjustments not only for elk in September but also for my favorite whitetail stand in November. As it turns out, the 2nd and 3rd axis adjustments are both critical for dead-on accuracy; especially in hill country or when shooting uphill, downhill, and even side-hill.

The 2nd Axis adjustment (which can be done with your bow leveled and resting) is probably the easiest to understand as it runs through the shooter’s line of sight and is adjusted by rotating the sight housing like the hands on a clock (clockwise or counterclockwise). Up close you might not recognize any effects if things are out of whack. However, at longer distances, your accuracy will suffer.

The 3rd Axis adjustment (which should be done while you are at full draw) influences the rotational axis that your sight level moves on. In other words, it is like a door swinging open either toward the shooter or away. Both of which you do not want.

Instead, when you reach full draw, your bow’s bubble level should be exactly perpendicular to your line of sight. You don’t want the level to angle (or hinge) toward you or away from you. If it does, even if slightly, the difference in angle will be enough to ruin your uphill and downhill shots. This typically results in left and right misses.

leveling bow for improving accuracy

Second and Third Axis adjustments are made differently depending on what type of sight you are using and the manufacturer. Therefore, it is best to refer to your owner’s manual when attempting to adjust them. My intent with this article isn’t to show you how to do it but the importance of doing it.

However, one universal tool that will be needed is a level that attaches to your bow. You can either purchase one or you can build your own. I built my own and spent the money I saved on something else hunting-related.


While you might be knee-deep in hanging tree stands and organizing trail camera images, don’t neglect the most important variable in your whitetail efforts—your bow. After all, nothing else matters if it isn’t tuned to its maximum potential. With Walk Back Tuning and 2nd and 3rd Axis adjustments, you can rest assured that it will be.  

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