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Welcome to the 3Rivers Archer's Den

Archer's Den

Welcome to the Archer's Den. Here you will find a gathering of traditional archery stories, tips and techniques, trophy animals taken with traditional bows, and plenty more. Stay a while and learn something. We hope you enjoy and even submit a trophy of your own, or leave a comment on a post.

All posts by support_coleary

Small Game Hunting With Bow and Arrow

By: Dale Karch and Todd Smith

Dale Karch with an armadillo
Good Game Comes in Small Packages

What is THE most hunted animal in North America? The whitetail deer? The black bear? The elk?

Nope! It’s the cottontail rabbit! In fact, more hours are logged in the field each year by small game hunters than any other. Let’s face it; small game hunting is in our veins. Sure there are some die-hard big game hunters that don’t have the time to “waste” on small game. But they’re in the minority, and they don’t realize what they’re missing.

Some of the most exciting bowhunting action on the planet is found in hot pursuit of small game. Whose heart doesn’t skip a beat when he hears beagles on the hunt sounding off? Or, perhaps the thought of floating silently down a small river on the lookout for late summer, early fall squirrels is more to your liking?

Have you ever been jolted back to reality by a pheasant busting up at your feet, a flurry of feathers and a cackle that just about made you jump out of your boots? Or how about stalking the tundra and spruce in search of snowshoe hares, or ranging the arid desert for jackrabbits?

Dale and I have shared some great fun chasing the multitude of spruce hens that inhabit the Alaskan far north.

From East to West and North to South, we all have small game to hunt and we love doing it. It’s exciting, challenging, rewarding, and produces tasty rewards to boot. Small game hunting has a lot to offer the traditional bowhunter. Not the least of which is plenty of action!

Those of us who have taught Bowhunter Education are well versed in the discussion of how broadhead tipped arrows kill by hemorrhage resulting in blood loss in contrast to bullets which kill by shock and tissue damage. The small game point is, in bowhunting, the exception to the rule. These heads, like bullets, rely on converting the energy from the weapon into a package that kills by delivering a powerful blow packed with a heavy dose of shock and, at times, tissue damage.

Small game comes in many shapes and sizes, as do the points we use to hunt them. In this article we’ll cover the various small game heads available to the longbow and recurve shooter and describe their various strengths and weaknesses. You’ll also learn the subtle and not so subtle differences between heads, which should make choosing what you need much easier. Certain heads are better suited for particular situations and really, no single head can do it all. A few come close, but we feel it’s best to keep an open (and educated) mind as you consider the wide selection of options out there.

After kicking around the best way to present the different heads, we’ve decided to feature a selection of some of the most popular small game heads and discuss them individually. This way you’ll be able to get a good feel for different styles of small game blunts available.

The Hammer™ Small Game Blunt

Nail’em with the Hammer! Offered in a Screw-in Hammer and a Glue-on Hammer, they are devastating on all small game and sure to be your new favorite stump shooting blunt. The fluted design with scalped cutting edges grab into small game and keep the arrow from becoming stuck in trees or under grass. The recessed ballistic point delivers killing shock to all sized small game. Made from hardened steel to take hard hits and keep shooting. Offered in point weights of 100 up to 250 grains.

Hammer Screw-in Small Game PointHammer Glue-on Small Game Point
The Hammer™ Blunt features Scalped edges and recessed ballistic point for a powerful shock and hemorrhage option.

Zwickey Judo

Jack Zwickey and his dad Cliff designed the amazing Judo. It took real ‘out of the box’ thinking to envision such an amazing arrowhead. They truly are perfect for realistic bowhunting practice. You can shoot into stumps, trees, cut-banks, and even open fields without fear of losing your arrows. The small spring arms that encircle the head prevent deep penetration in the stumps and ground and they grab tall grass and flip your arrows up so you can find them in grassy fields. Judos are the ultimate stump shooting head. Zwickey even calls it, The Unloseable Point. You’d be hard pressed to find a longbow or recurve toting traditional bowhunter who doesn’t have a Judo or two in his or her quiver. For that very reason they are often called to perform as small game heads and have many small game species to their credit. Zwickey Judos are available in several sizes and in both screw-in Judo and glue-on Judo versions. Be sure to check out the Judo’s big brother, the Kondor Screw-in point. We do recommend that you have over 50 pounds of bow force if you intend to use them for small game.

Zwickey Judo Small Game Head
The Zwickey Judo is known as “The Unloseable Point,” thanks to the small spring arms that encircle the head.

Snaro Bird Points

What an attention-getter! This is one popular head, probably because of the four loops of wire on a steel blunt. This head has advantages and disadvantages. They’re heavy (200-300 grains) and wind resistant so they slow down your arrow. This makes hitting moving game, especially at longer distances, more difficult. When you see the big loops you think, “Hey, I’ll still get my animal or bird even if I’m off a little.” But the truth of the matter is, if you miss, this head is not going to get you rabbits and squirrels. You need a lot of power behind this head to take advantage of the wire loops. If you don’t have the power, you may hit your target with the loops but you won’t have enough power to kill them. We think the best use of these is on birds, and then specifically when you’re aiming for the head. In that situation, a near miss will result in a bird in the hand more often than not. When the wires connect on the head or neck of a bird, they’re very effective. Snaro Bird Points come in three wingspans; 2″ (200 grains), 3″ (250 grains), and a 6″ (300 grains). Offered in screw-in only.

Screw-in Snaro Bird Point
Snaro Bird Points are most effective against birds.

Bludgeon Small Game Blunt

Made of a hard hitting rubber-plastic. Great for stump shooting and small game hunting. The raised tips offer small game killing shock, yet enough to help prevent sliding under the grass. The Bludgeon blunt is 7/8″ wide at the tip and tapers back to 5/16″ at the base of the head. Offered in 125 grains screw-in only.

Hard Hitting Bludgeon Blunt
Saunders Screw-in Bludgeon Small Game Blunt

Flat-Nosed Steel Blunts

These points are still quite popular with bowhunters and they do a very good job at killing small game. The Flat nosed deals the shock and a small chamfer helps to prevent skipping. They are stamped with diameter and grain weight for easy identification. If they have any down side, it’d be that they’re small in diameter so they don’t pack as hard a hit as do the wider blunts and, when used on wood arrows, impacts on the sharp corner of the front flat will often break your arrow. The solution to that is easy though: don’t miss! But, of course, that’s easier said than done! Still, these heads are a great deal, they’ve been around forever, and they’re every bit as good today as they ever were. They’re available in both glue-on blunts and screw-in blunts, so they’ll appeal to any small game hunter.

Glue-on Steel Blunt
Screw-in Steel Blunt
Steel Blunts are a popular, effective, and affordable small game head.

3Rivers Bunny Buster

The Bunny Buster rubber blunt is so handy it deserves to be included in every bow hunter’s small game repertoire. The basic concept of a hard-hitting rubber blunt has been tested and battle-proven for over 50 years. This one, with its one-of-a-kind parallel-to-tapered internal slot, can be slipped over tapered or non-tapered shafts or even over other points on wood, aluminum, or carbon arrows. There’s no tapering and no glue needed. Wood arrow users can give new life to an arrow that breaks off behind the head by pulling an extra Bunny Buster out of their pocket and slipping it over the broken end of the shaft for an instant small game or stump-shooting arrow. Make sure to always keep a couple handy.

The Bunny Buster offers more that just convenience; it packs a deadly knockout punch on small game, yet bounces off trees and stumps making it an excellent roving or stump shooting arrow as well. This is a distinct advantage over solid steel blunts. Glancing blows with steel blunts often break wooden arrows, the Bunny Busters bounce and reduce the risk of breaking arrows. Rubber blunts like the Bunny Buster have been successfully used on all sorts of small game, including; snowshoe hare, jackrabbits, grouse, pheasant, squirrel, and more. These blunts deliver a tremendous amount of shock to their target with minimal tissue damage. Whether you use the Bunny Buster as your first choice for small game hunting, or as a secondary head for arrow repair, you’ll be pleased with their power and performance.
Bunny Busters are available in sizes to match most arrows on the market and weigh approximately 120 grains.

Bunny Buster Blunts
A versatile small game head, the 3Rivers Bunny Buster, is great for hunting or stump shooting.

3Rivers Tiger Claw Blunt

One of our most popular small game heads is the Tiger Claw Blunt. The Tiger Claw Blunt has a reputation for putting small game down for good. They’ve proven themselves time and time again as hard-hitting, quick-killing heads. They utilize a flat faced leading edge that transfers the shock to the animal followed by a sharp edged “Claw” that tears its way through soft tissue causing many small game animals to drop on the spot. The 3Rivers Tiger Claw is very effective on all small game. Available in a 145 grain glue-on version only.

Tred Barta Small Game Blunt
The Tiger Claw Blunt is a quick-killing small game head.

The Head Saver

Designed for the wood arrow stump shooter. The Head Saver keeps your field point or blunt connected to the arrow after the wood shaft has broken behind the point. Works great for stump shooting and small game hunting. Great money saver!

The Head Saver
The Head Saver is a ‘life saver’ for glue-on points

Field Points

We’ve included the field point because some folks just don’t know any better. In a word, DON’T. Don’t use field points for small game hunting. They don’t kill quickly and it’s not fair to the animal.


Broadheads are not intended for small game hunting, but sometimes they are used. Most of the time it’s a big game arrow used to shoot a small game animal when the bowhunter didn’t bring any small game arrows with him. We don’t really recommend broadheads for small game, but we have seen excellent results on game birds like grouse and pheasant. The risk of shooting clear through your animal is high and if using dogs, broadheads are strictly prohibited. Still, sometimes bowhunters will choose to use broadheads. Recommend you take a look at Zwickey Scorpio Broadhead Stoppers as they help limit penetration of broadheads. Good for turkey hunting too!

Zwickey Scorpio Broadhead Stoppers

Like the birds and animals they were designed for, Bunts and Small Game Points are available in many shapes and sizes. From simple flat-faced steel blunt to exotic Snaro Bird Points and everything in between, there’s a head for every use and every bowhunter.

Keep Hunting
Dale Karch & Todd Smith

For more information contact:

3Rivers Archery
PO Box 517
Ashley IN 46705

260-587-9501 or check us out on-line at

Basic Longbow and Recurve Set-Up

by Dale Karch and Todd Smith

Dale and Teresa outdoors shooting their Tomahawk longbows
Dale Karch of 3Rivers Archery

Imagine you just picked up a new bow and it’s the first longbow or recurve you’ve ever owned. How do you get started? What do you do first? What steps do you take to get your bow out and start shooting? Read on for the answers!

For the scope of this column we have to assume that your shooting form is solid. The one constant in all of the set-up and tuning tips that follow is that your form is not flawed. If we can agree that the form is good, then the symptoms and cures outlined below will be valid.

This entire tuning system is based on the adjusting of the arrow, string, and bow to achieve the desired results. The challenge is getting all three factors working in harmony, producing shot after shot of perfectly flying arrows. Once you’ve accomplished that, you’re there!

Most traditional longbows and recurves are shot right off the shelf; meaning they have no adjustable rests or plungers. They are, however, somewhat adjustable if you know a few basic tricks. With these kinds of bows, it may be easier to tune the arrow to your bow, but we’ll share with you some of the techniques traditional archers use to help tune the bow to the arrow as well.

If your bow comes to you ready to shoot, consider yourself lucky. Most new bows need to have an arrow rest and arrow plate installed before you shoot them. The arrow rest is attached to the arrow shelf of your bow and serves as a soft, smooth surface for your arrow to launch from. On the sight window side of your bow, just slightly above the arrow rest is where you’ll install an arrow plate. Like the rest, this arrow plate provides a soft, smooth surface for the edge of your arrow to slip around as it clears the sight window. Before you even string your bow, install your arrow rest and arrow plate.

Arrow Plate and Arrow Rest
Arrow Plate and Arrow Rest

When purchasing a new bow, find out if it comes with a bow stringer. If it doesn’t, make sure you get one. Always use a commercial bow stringer when stringing and unstringing any bow. If you do, you’ll avoid potential physical danger to yourself and your bow. Your grandfather may have used the “step-through” method, but that is totally unsafe for you and the bow, and should NOT be done, even in a pinch. Using a stringer is not really an option; it’s simply something you must do! We can’t stress that enough.

(Click Arrow for Bow Stringer Demo)

There are quite a few bow stringers to choose from and they’re all pretty good. We recommend the rubber pad pressure type like the Selway Limbsaver Recurve bow stringer or Selway Limbsaver Longbow bow stringer. Both products use a moveable rubber pressure pad on the top limb and a non-moving cup or pocket on the lower limb. Follow the directions included with the stringer, and you should have no problem stringing or un-stringing your bow. They’re designed for both longbows and recurves, so with one bow stringer you’ll be set for any bow you might encounter.

Using a Bow Stringer to String your bow
Stringing a longbow

When you buy a new longbow or recurve, chances are the bow has never been strung before. Or, if it has been strung, that it hasn’t been shot much. New bow strings, especially the Flemish-twist style, will stretch. We recommend that you string your new bow and either let it sit overnight (not recommended for self bows) or take it out and shoot it straight away. This will cause the string to settle-in and stretch about as much as it’s going to. As a bow string stretches your brace height and nocking point will change. Bear that in mind that when “shooting in” a new string. Once the initial stretch is gone, your string should be much more consistent and you should notice little if any additional stretching.

Note: Always carry at least one spare pre-stretched and set-up string with you. If you accidentally cut or break a string, it’s good to know you have one ready to go that shoots just like the old one.

Bow Brace Height
Bow Brace Height

Now you need to get your brace height figured out. What is the perfect brace height? The true answer is, “Wherever your bow shoots best.” It sounds too simple, but it’s true. You experiment to find the best brace height for you and your set-up. It may even change if you change to different arrows. You have to actually shoot arrows from the bow to see how the changes in brace height affect your arrow flight. Here are some guidelines…

Longbows generally are never braced lower than six inches and recurves rarely less than seven. Many modern longbows like to be braced at or around seven inches and recurves, depending on design, between seven and nine inches. Brace height is determined from the deepest portion of the grip.

Setting the Nock Point
Setting the Nock Point

Note: You can measure your brace height from whatever point on the bow you wish, back to the string. Some folks measure from the middle of the sight window, some from the belly side of the arrow shelf, and some from the deepest portion of the grip. If you’re discussing brace height with someone, make sure you’re both on the same page. Regardless of where you measure from, brace height is a critical measurement for tuning your longbow or recurve. For measuring brace height, nothing beats a T-Square.

Checking Brace Height with a T-Square
Checking Brace Height with a T-Square

Anyone shooting traditional bows needs a T-Square for both measuring brace height and for measuring string nock location. It is a safe bet, that there is a T-Square found in nearly every archery tackle box in North America. We’ve always used the aluminum version here at the shop. It’s easy to use and lasts for generations. Back to brace height…

If you brace a bow too low, the feathers will hit the shelf before the nock leaves the string. The arrow actually stays on the string past the brace height measurement. It travels forward a bit before pulling itself loose. If the feathers come into contact with the shelf before the nock clears the string, your arrow flight will be erratic. You’ll be prone to having the string slap your wrist with ultra-low brace heights too. The bow will be a bit smoother and pull a little less at the lower brace heights and conversely if you short-string your bow, the weight will increase slightly and the angle of string pinch will increase. You can’t hurt a bow with a high brace height, but you can hurt performance. The bow will pull harder and the short string will force the limbs to stop short in their travel path, robbing you of energy. You should be looking for the “sweet spot” – that special brace height where the bow feels good during the draw and release, and your arrow flight is crisp, clean, and straight.

It’s best to start at the manufacturer’s suggested brace height and twist up and down from there. When using Flemish twist bow strings, you can twist the string tighter to shorten it, thus raising the brace height or you can remove twists to lengthen it, lowering the brace height. Caution: You must be careful when removing twists from a Flemish twist string. These strings rely on opposing twists to stay together. If you remove too many twists, the string loops may unravel and your string may come apart. It can be re-twisted, but many archers don’t know how to do that.

Once you have your brace height figured out, you need to get a nocking point in place. A nocking point allows you to nock your arrow at the same place on the string every time. You can use the common brass crimp-on nock sets, or you can tie on a nocking point using regular string material.

For installing brass nocking points you’ll need a set of nocking pliers and, of course, a package of brass nock sets. They’re easy to install and easy to move as you’re expermimenting to find your best nocking point location. Tip: When experimenting with different nock locations, don’t crimp the nocking point too tightly. Crimp it just enough to keep it in place until you decide if you have to move it again. Once you get it where it needs to be, crimp it on firmly. After that, you don’t want it moving on you. How about a few tips on figuring out where the best spot for the nocking point is?

As a general rule, if your arrows are porposing (wagging up-and-down) during flight, you have a nocking point problem. We find that most traditional bows like to have the nocking point approximately 1/2 inch above the shelf. Start by attaching your nocking point 1/2 inch high. This means that the bottom of the brass nock is 1/2 inch above the arrow shelf. Your T-Square makes this measurement easy. Your arrow is then placed on the string under the brass nock and you shoot. If your arrow flight looks good, congratulations!

If you see an up-and-down “porpoising” of your arrows, you’ll need to try raising and lowering your nocking point until the flight is straight, and really all you see is your arrow nock flying straight away from you.

If the arrows are wagging side-to-side (fish tailing), it’s an issue of spine (where the stiffness of your arrow does not match the bow weight or bow design). Fish tailing can be manipulated by trying points of different weights. We offer field points from 70 grains all the way to 250 grains. Adjusting point weight is an easy test for figuring out what’s wrong with your set-up. We even have test kits available with several point weights in one package. With a test kit you can shoot your arrows with several different weight points until you find the one that flies best. For instance, if your arrow looks like it wants to go straight but always impacts the target to the left of where you’re shooting, it’s too stiff (For a right-handed archer, opposite for a left-handed archer). Test this by switching to a heavier point. If by increasing the point weight you see your arrows impacting more directly in line with where you’re aiming, then your arrows are a bit stiff and needed the extra weight to make them flex more. Likewise if your arrows are more or less jumping out of your bow and impacting to the right of where you’re aiming, try a lighter point. The arrow may be too weak and need to be flexed less to get it to shoot where you’re looking.

Note: Once you find the right combination, record it in a notebook so you can always refer back to it. It’s a good idea to keep a record of each of your bows and the set-ups and products that work best with it. It’s recommended that you record each of your batches of arrows as well. It’s not always easy to remember how you built a particular set. Also, this way, if you find a combination that works extremely well, you’ll know how to duplicate it.

Another method of defeating fishtailing is to install a small shim of leather or even a small piece of toothpick behind the arrow plate to push the arrow further away from the sight window. If this helps clean up the arrow flight, the arrows were too weak and needed to be pushed out a bit from the sight window.

Another facet of setting up a new bow is how shooting the bow feels during and after the shot. Recurves especially benefit from both string silencers and brush buttons. String silencers dampen the after-the-shot string vibrations and quiet the string down fast. Longbows are typically much more quiet to begin with, but a small string silencer on them can make the shot feel better to the archer as well.

Bow String Silencers Installed
Bow String Silencers

Recurves also have an issue with brush, sticks, grass, and twigs getting caught between the limb and the bowstring. For that reason every recurve bow string should have brush buttons installed on it. They come in two sizes and either size works well. When deciding on which size to use it’s really just a personal preference.

Brush Buttons
Brush Buttons

One last bit of gear that is often overlooked when thinking about setting up a new bow, is a quality bow case. You’ve invested your time and money into this bow, right? Doesn’t it make sense to protect it? There are many cases to choose from. On the high end there are hard cases, even suitable for airline travel. In the middle you’ll find nice fleece-lined nylon cases that do a very good job. And finally, at the very least, there are knit and fleece bow socks. For as lightweight as they are, they do a fine job protecting your bow. Whichever way you go, remember, every bow deserves a case. You want a lot from your bow, so keep it safe in its own bow case.

3Rivers Travel Bow Case
3Rivers Travel Bow Case

With the techniques outlined above you should be able to get any traditional longbow or recurve shooting accurately in short order. Familiarize yourself with these techniques, think about how they interrelate, and you’ll have some “ah-ha” moments. Once you understand the relationship between bow, bowstring, and arrows, you’ll have what it takes to have a perfectly matched set-up at all times.

See all available Longbows and Recurve Bows here at 3Rivers Archery.

For more information contact:

3Rivers Archery
PO Box 517
Ashley, IN 46705

or check us out on-line at

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