A clicker, or draw check, makes an audible noise (click) when an archer hits his desired draw length. They are used by almost all Olympic archery shooters to achieve the precision accuracy needed to succeed in that field. They work great as a signal, or trigger, to release the arrow.
I recently decided to use a clicker as a training aid. I needed to get back to the basics of anchoring on every shot instead of short drawing and trying to “sneak up” on it; as my coach Rod Jenkins informed me I was doing. I set a commitment goal of using a clicker religiously for three months. Part of that three month period included spring turkey season though. Which I most certainly was not going to miss.
Clickers are available in several different styles. For hunting, the type that attaches to the string as well as the bow works best with all arrow points including broadheads and blunts. What I used here is the Crick-it Draw Check Clicker. While the light string and adjustable ball chain that comes with clickers works fine on the target range, I felt concern over its longevity in the field and the noise of the click when trying to take a super quiet, close hunting shot.
I consulted with Jason Wesbrock who has successfully used a clicker for years. Jason is an amazing bowhunter, world champion archer, and star of Masters of the Barebow Vol. 5. I took some tips from Jason and incorporated them into my own experiments and came up with a system that worked well for me on the hunt.
Steps for Setting up a Clicker for Hunting
Step 1: Remove the clicker blade, the piece of metal that makes the noise, from the clicker. For the Crick-it clicker mine required a Phillips screwdriver.
Step 2: You want to remove the chain grommet from the clicker blade. It may require a small amount of force, but be gentle.
Step 3: Slide nylon cord through the hole where the ball chain was. As not all nylon cord is the same diameter, it may require drilling the hole to pull the cord through. You want it to be a tight fit though.
Step 4: Using a hand lighter, singe the end of the nylon cord and extinguish it by pushing it straight down into a couple drops of water on a flat, non-combustible surface. This should leave a hard, flat collar on one end of the cord. You can test to see if the end will hold by pulling on the cord to get the blade to make the click sound.
Step 5: To silence your clicker blade you can apply heavy duty outdoor tape to the center of the blade. The more layers you apply, the quieter it will get. It is up to you how much this will be.
Step 6: Reassemble your clicker by screwing the blade back onto the plate in proper position. It is now ready to be installed on your hunting bow.
Step 7: Clean your top bow limb with denatured alcohol and a clean rag several inches below where the string separates from the bow limb. You want the clicker on the top limb so the least amount of nylon cord is used, and it stays out of the brush when moving.
Step 8: Remove the sticky backing from the clicker and press onto the center of the top bow limb with the string positioned down.
Step 9: Mark the bow string where you would like the clicker nylon string to be located so it resembles the photo.
Step 10: Unstring your bow, divide the bow string strands at the mark and insert the end of the cord through about a half inch.
Step 11: String your bow, and double check brace height and position of the cord. Sometimes the string will twist. If the cord is twisted unstring and remove the cord and insert again from the other side.
Step 12: Once the cord is straight you can adjust the length by pulling it to the correct length to click at the desired draw length. I cut off the extra leaving about ¾” of cord and burn the end (be careful here). On a Flemish twist string the cord will stay in position. On an endless loop type string you may need to serve above and below the cord to maintain position.
For silencing the clicker, I tried a number of different suggestions and ideas and have settled on what I believe is the perfect solution. A piece of Scotch brand outdoor mounting tape stuck to the face of the blade silences the click consistently; the bigger the piece the quieter the click. You can even make it silent if you want and still feel the clicker break in your string hand. I ended up preferring a piece of scotch tape approximately ¼” by ¾”.
My turkey hunting was very slow that year. When a jake came into my hen calls I decided to take the shot. I hit anchor and pulled while aiming until the muffled click went off and my arrow disappeared in the sweet spot.
I have shot larger toms, but I’ve never been more pumped about making a great shot under pressure and staying on the road to shooting success.
National Thank You Month video
When we learned that January is “National Thank You Month” we knew we had to send a special greeting to our friends and customers. Here’s a video we put together with a special message from the 3Rivers Archery staff. THANK YOU!
Here at 3Rivers Archery we pride ourselves on being “The Longbow & Recurve Experts.” But even we have an off day now and then. Here’s a blooper reel showing some of our mistakes while filming the “Thank You” video.
What is the Astra Shot Trainer, and What Will it do for me?
For those of us serious about shooting their bows, the shot trainer is for you. The Shot Trainer helps with building ‘shot muscle’ in order to improve your accuracy down range or chasing big game. The Shot Trainer delivers excellent warm-up before hitting the hunt and can keep seasoned hunters working smoothly on the range and in the tree stand.
The Astra Shot Trainer looks a little different than standard bowhunter kit, and might even draw some curious looks from salty old hunters when you’re pulling it out of the gear bag at the range, but it represents huge value in what it can offer when worked into a normal practice routine.
Using the device is kind of like Babe Ruth putting a few weights on the end of his bat and swinging it around before taking them off and stepping up to the plate to slam a home run.
How The Shot Trainer Works
The Shot Trainer wakes up the body by reinforcing what needs to happen in the shot – supercharging the muscle fibers and brain response – as demonstrated by the body’s response to the first shot after removing the connecting strap. When you release the bow string, the kinetic energy of the bow is transferred to your elbow, forcing you to maintain back tension strength and direction through the shot sequence. The first shot is the most dramatic, but you can see the benefit after the first 10 minutes of use, and with long-term and regular use the results will radically improve your shot confidence, stability, and accuracy.
How to Set up and Adjust the Astra Shot Trainer
Wearing, adjusting, and using the Shot Trainer is a pretty simple affair. Slip the sleeve over the arm (offered in two sizes) and adjust the slack while the draw fingers are curled, similar to full draw but not holding the string – about 1” slack is a good starting point. When adjusted too short, the string won’t move when released, too long and the slack in the material can cause a whip action on the arm or neck, which stings a little. To avoid the ‘Kiss of the Shot Trainer’, it is better to sneak up on the right adjustment by starting too short and gradually increasing the length.
Always refer to the owner’s manual and understand all warnings. Full instructions for usage and adjustment can be found at the 3Rivers Archery web site.
The Shot Trainer guides and strengthens the large, archery-specific, lower trapezius shooting muscles in the back by harnessing the draw weight that would normally disappear from the archer’s draw-hand/arm/shoulder as the arrow is released. The feeling of being tethered to the bow string is unique and you have to be ready for it, so be ready to hold technique while catching the draw weight of the bow.
After putting the sleeve on and adjusting to the proper range, start slowly and get used to drawing and holding at full draw for a comfortable beat before letting the bow down gently. This a great way to start out and use the training aid as a safety catch or dry-fire preventative in case the string grip slips while drawing and letting down the bow during warm-up.
The Shot Trainer can handle any bow weight but standard recommendation for archers is to start with a bow in the teens to twenty pound range for draw weight, or even a stretch band. This is simply to avoid injuries and help an archer understand the proper adjustments and feel before moving onto that custom 75# longbow or other potent shaft launcher and being painfully humbled by the heavier draw weight. Compound shooters will also get all of the same benefits as any other archer, but remember to never use the Shot Trainer on a compound bow. If you’re a compound shooter that wants to use the Shot Trainer but doesn’t have a non-compound bow to practice on, there are a great deal of tutorials online for how to make a hardware store PVC tube bow for a few dollars. This solution will work the same as any other non-compound bow with the Shot Trainer.
When adjusted in the proper range, the device might tug a little for some archers as they’re raising the arms and hands to draw the bow. Once the draw is started, the tugging is usually gone for most archers; this depends on the adjustments of the device, body size and shooting style.
The first shot after taking the Shot Trainer off is a profound experience and just a few minutes of use is capable of providing this remarkable effect. The archer will feel a well controlled, powerful release that’s as clean and precise as a match trigger. This can be witnessed, but to truly be appreciated, must be felt.
The Shot Trainer is all handmade in the USA and built with durable and comfortable materials. The whole rig barely weighs anything and takes up a tiny piece of real estate, so it’s easy to throw in the truck, bag, or box for a few warm-up shots before hitting the trail or doing some range work.
Some of us barely warm-up or stretch at all prior to shooting and adding another step may be outside of habits or preferences, but with a tool that offers so much with minimal investment in time and money – the Shot Trainer is right on target.
3Rivers Archery is proud to announce the promotion of Dave Echterling, longtime 3Rivers Archery Technical Expert, to his new position on our management team as our Customer Relations and Sales Manager.
“I’m very excited to fill this role,” Dave says. “We have a really good team in place.”
Background in Archery
Dave has been shooting a bow and arrow since childhood. He first started with a compound bow, but shifted to a longbow about a decade ago when the compound became too easy.
Employed at 3Rivers Archery since 2009
Veteran of the United States Marine Corps, where he was a gunner on a Light Armored Vehicle
Honorably discharged at the rank of sergeant on Oct. 22, 2005
Two deployments to Iraq, one in 2003 and one in 2004
Married with two children
Outside of traditional archery, he enjoys shooting firearms, camping, and doing anything that involves the outdoors
Learning to serve your own bow string is a simple and valuable skill to learn. Really, it’s as easy as learning how to start the serving, how to tie the serving off at the end, and acquiring a feel for maintaining good tension in between. Of course, we need to select the appropriate material for the particular application.
As far as traditional bow strings, there are two main string serving applications to be concerned with – center serving and endloop serving (for an endless loop bow string). Center serving is a great place to start learning. It’s the most likely serving to need replacing during the life of the string. Plus, both Flemish twist and endless loop bow strings have center servings. Only an endless loop bow string will require endloop servings.
The center serving stratifies two main purposes. Number 1 – it protects the bow string from direct contact with clothing, fingers, nocks, etc. and #2 – it creates the appropriate diameter and release material to accept the arrow nock. Most modern serving material for traditional bow strings measures .018”-.022” in diameter. The three typical materials are polyester, spectra, and nylon.
Selecting the Material
I love Brownell #4 Nylon – .018” serving material. I make a LOT of B-50 bow strings. I use #4 serving material on all the endless loop end servings and on all center servings for my 14-strand strings accepting classic glue-on nocks. If I were serving a 12-strand string for classic nocks – I’d probably select the slightly fatter .021” Halo serving material for a better nock fit. Halo is also a good choice when working with some of the skinnier low stretch materials as well, as it grips tight.
Starting the Serving
There’s more than one way to start a string serving.
The objective is to catch the first loop of string so that it holds as we add successive wraps over the tag end and begin moving our serving along.
One experienced string builder I know starts with a simple overhand knot. Another standard method is to simply lay 2” of serving on the bow string and just start serving over the tag. My favorite method is to split the string in half, and pass 2” of tag end through the strings and start serving over the tag end. It’s best to set those first few revolutions by hand before letting the serving tool snug up to the string to take over and speed the process.
For my first hundred or so Endless loop bow strings I built, I used an inexpensive Bohning plastic string server and it has done its job well. More recently I’ve obtained a metal AAE string serving jig. I notice marked improvements in the tensioning system, weight, and slightly shorter height of this jig.
Center servings are typically 7-10” in length – according to preference. The idea is to start about 2-3” above where the arrow is nocked, and end somewhere near the bottom of the grip. You want enough coverage above and below the nock point where you contact with your fingers or arm.
Spinning the Jig
With a bow laid out in front of you, and the top limb to the right, begin the serving approximately 2-3” above the nocking point on string. Lay down 8-10 wraps over the tag end of the string (I do these all by hand). At this point, move the remainder of tag end out of the way and continue wraps with the string jig until a good length of center serving has been laid down.
Tying off the Serving
There are various techniques for tying off the serving, but the two most common are back-serve and needle pull through. I use back-serve to tie off all of my endloop and center servings. Back-serve is a difficult technique to explain without showing (watch our YouTube video below for a visual). But once you’ve tried it and understand it, it’s magic – it becomes immediately understandable and…easy.
Learning the techniques to build and serve my own endless loop Dacron bow strings has given me great freedom. Suddenly, it meant used bows became cheaper. You can get a great price on a vintage bow with no string – or a damaged string and build your own in a half hour. Bow string and serving materials are cheap. I found Anthony Carrara’s book, Shooting the Stickbow, to be a valuable learning resource and reference guide for this.
Method A: Back-serve
Stop serving approximately 1” before reaching the point where you would like the center serving to end.
Hold the last loop tight at the string with right hand and pull out 10” of serving to make a large loop. Place serving jig 4-5” down the string and continue serving 12 more revolutions, but this time wrap from left to right with successive revolutions coming toward the completed section. The jig will be passing through the large loop of 10” of serving string we made. After we have these dozen revolutions on the string, and holding everything in place with left hand, pull another 10” out from the jig and place the jig to the right of your work with the exposed length of serving laying along the string. Then grab the large loop and start wrapping it around the string away from you as we have been doing with the jig. Each wrap will remove one of the dozen revolutions from the left of the loop and place it in line against the center serving. Once you have back served all 12 revolutions to the end of the center serving, quickly pull the jig tight to pull the slack from the loop through which secures the work.
Method B: Needle Pull-through
An alternate method is to stop serving at the same point. Hold work tight with right hand. Take an 8” piece of serving material and fold it in half. Lay this halved piece of string along the area where we need to finish the end serving, with the folded end of the string oriented to the left (direction of the already placed serving) and the tag ends to the right. Complete the final 12 revolutions over this folded length of string. Cut the serving material free of the jig, leaving a few inches of material after the last wrap. Take the end of the last center serving loop and pass it through the small loop produced by the folded end of the ‘needle’ string, which is now peaking out of the end of the center serving.
In either case, pull that tag end snug, which will snug up those last twelve loops. Snip excess string leaving 1/8” exposed. Using a heat source like a cigarette lighter, quickly light the exposed end and smash flat against the serving. This creates a swollen dot which helps to lock the end.
The tools and materials are inexpensive, and you have just added a precious new skill to your archer’s toolbox – every bit as simple and important to know as fletching an arrow.
Flemish twist bow strings have been made from hemp, flax, or linen likely for centuries, and were widely used until the recurve production boom in the 1960s and 70s when machine-made endless loop bow strings became popular for production bows. Modern bow string materials came along after the second Word War, and today we have many varieties of low-stretch materials. Flemish twist strings are enjoying a resurgence today, both with the many custom longbows and recurve bows, and the surging popularity of the great glass laminated recurves of the 50s, 60s and 70s.
There is much debate regarding the merits of modern bow strings of Flemish twist design vs. endless loop design. While there are no absolutes – and a bow’s design, as well as an archer’s form, are additional variables which may skew the data – generally it is accepted that a Flemish twist bow string has a greater effect on brace height when twisted in one direction or the other. Other arguments still open to debate are that an endless loop string may be a hair faster or that a Flemish twist string is somewhat quieter.
Building your own Flemish twist bow string is not difficult, and while it is possible to build strings without any specialized tools – there are some tools that will make the task quicker and easier. Of course we need bow string material, serving material, and a sharp knife. A Flemish string jig is a useful tool to help quickly and accurately measure off the staggered length strands required in the string bundles and highly recommended for the beginner. String wax, appropriate to the string material selected, will be needed. Needle nose pliers and a lighter will come in handy to neatly finish off the center serving. Optionally, a string stretcher can be used to pre-stretch the finished string, which will need to otherwise be “shot in.”
First thing to do is establish some specs – string length, strand count, and number of bundles or plies. If an old string is available that gave the bow a proper brace height, measure for string length. Hang the old string by a nail and pull taught. Measure with a tape measure from the outside end of one loop to the outside end of the other. This is our string length. If no string is available, we likely have some investigative work to do. AMO is an industry standard for defining bow lengths. Many bows have their AMO length written, or printed, on the lower limb. If AMO length is not known, we can arrive at the measurement of the unstrung bow by measuring from nock groove to nock groove along the back of the bow (side that faces away from the shooter) following any curves. As a general rule subtract 4” from the bow length for recurves, and 3” for longbows, to arrive at the preferred string length. This works most of the time, although I have seen an occasional longbow which wanted only 2” shorter than its’ AMO length and some recurves which needed 5” shorter. Contact the bowyer if you can for recommended brace height and string lengths.
Next, we need to consider strand and bundle count. Flemish twist strings are typically made of 2 or 3 bundles depending on the desired strand count. An appropriate number of strands should be used to accommodate a given bow’s draw weight, and failing to use enough strands could void a bow’s warranty and/or result in a potentially dangerous failure. There may also be times when we wish to add an extra strand or two for a tighter fit on a particular arrow nock. For example a 14 strand 2-bundle bow string with a .018″ serving may fit a GT nock well, while a 3-bundle 15 strand string with .021″ #4 serving would give a better fit for a glue-on classic nock. 14 strands of B-50 is plenty strong enough for a 45# traditional bow.
3Rivers Tip: Many people recommend using 15-18 strands of Fast Flight string material in a bow string, or 12-15 strands of B-50 string material for most common weight bows.
Brownell’s Dacron B-50 string material should be used for vintage recurves and longbows. Modern stickbows typically have reinforced bow tips making them safe to use modern low stretch bow string materials. There are some who will say you can use low stretch on any bow, and others who will use nothing other than Dacron – even on their modern bows with reinforced tips. It’s my suggestion that if you cannot confirm with the bowyer or manufacturer, use Dacron B-50 to be safe. For our demonstration purposes here, I am using B-50.
The bundles of a Flemish twist bow string are made up of groups of strands which are successively shorter by half inch increments at each end. This is what gives the string its elegant taper of loop into main body as the ends of the bundles get woven back in. By running our strands around a Flemish string jig, the taper gets figured for us. Wrap the string continuously around all the jigs pegs for a given length string – 5X for a 5-strand bundle, 7X for a 7-strand bundle, etc. When we cut the strand from the jig we end up with multiple staggered length strings. Run a cake of string maker’s wax over the last foot and a half of each end of the bundle and smooth them together, assuring also that no kinks exist throughout the middle of the bundle’s length. Make 2 or 3 bundles depending on the required strand count. Make each bundle a different color.
It’s time to form the first loop. Line up the ends of the bundles and measure 7-8” in from the end and clamp the string securely. I use a large binder clamp. You can go 7” if needing a smaller loop, 8” for a larger loop. Getting the loop size just right is a feel thing that will come with some experience.
3Rivers Tip: When building for a recurve bow the upper loop is larger to compensate for the wider limbs, so be sure to add approximately one inch more for this.
Next, we mount the clamp to something stationary so that the tag ends are facing us. Twist the individual bundle tag ends tight up to the clamp in a clockwise direction to the right, and then begin braiding bundles together by pulling on the right twisted bundle and crossing it over the other bundle(s) to the left – keeping good tension on the entire workings. Each time you grab a new bundle in your right hand, pull and twist it tight to the right before crossing it over to the left of the previous bundle. After two or more inches of braid, bend the braided area over to the body and check loop size.
When an appropriately sized loop has been reached pinch the sections together at their intersection at the bottom of the loop and carefully remove clamp. Place our unsecured loop on a hook or peg to start the process of joining the loop tags to the string body. Align same colored bundles from tag ends with same colored bundles in the body and smooth together. Before proceeding to splice the two together, it is a good idea to add about seven revolutions of back-twist to our newly joined body bundles and loop tags. This will help as we proceed twisting clockwise into the body. Give each joined tag and bundle at least seven counterclockwise twists to the left. For each twist, place your hand further down the string until the seventh twist occurs near the very end of the first loop’s tag end. Now pinch each bundle up tight against the newly formed loop intersection. Try to keep bundles at far end of string from tangling as we work this first loop.
Follow the same process that was used to form the first part of the loop. Pull right furthermost bundle taught and twist the uppermost part tight against the loop intersection point. Cross it left over the other bundles and repeat. Continue this process until all tag ends have been blended into the main string body and then add one more series of pull, twist right, cross over for all bundles and stop. Secure this stopping point with a twist tie to keep the work from coming apart as we proceed to the next step.
Leave the string on the hook/peg and stand back with the opposite ends of the bundles in you hands. It’s imperative here that we check that all bundles are of equal length at the other end of the string before proceeding. If they are — great. If not, a small adjustment to one of the bundles may be made by giving a couple of clockwise twists to the right to shorten by a small increment. If the lengths differ greatly, then something went wrong. Keeping the equal length bundles pulled out somewhat taught, add about 20-25 clockwise twists to the right to each bundle.
Next, measure from these tag ends so that we may repeat the steps above to form the second loop. Do everything as before and in the same direction. Clamp the string bundles 7-8” from the end and secure the clamp with the tag ends facing you. Twist each bundle up tight against clamp and begin… pull, twist to right, cross over to left. Follow all of the steps again to form the second loop same as the first and secure with a twist tie. Take the newly formed string, with twist ties in place, and pull it tight between your thumbs. Examine the string that all bundles have an equal amount of pressure on them throughout the string body. If any one of he bundles sags, the string will be no good. All bundles should be doing an equal amount of work. If it looks okay, place one loop on the hook again, pull tight and add another 20 or so twists to the entire finished string and remove the twist ties.
The finished bow string should be either put on the bow to stretch and settle in for a couple days, or pre-stretched using a string stretcher. While the string is in this settling in phase, it’s a good time to apply some additional bow string wax and burnish the string with a piece of leather until the body becomes nice and rounded. After some initial stretching, a center serving can be wrapped onto the string, while the string is on the bow. Consider arrow nock fit when selecting serving material. It is recommended to start the serving three inches above where the arrow nock sits on the string, and continue down seven inches to give protection from clothing, armguard, etc.
Apply some temporary nock points with string or tape. A good starting point is 5/8” above the point level with the shelf (recommend using a t-square). Once a good nocking point location is established, install either brass, or tied-on, nock points. I prefer tied-on using a serving thread of a diameter slightly greater than the center serving and tied with a nail knot. If your arrow nock’s fit is loose enough to let nock slide up and down on the string, a second nocking point should be added below the arrow.
Proceed to tuning with appropriate arrows and heads, fine-tuning by adjusting brace height up and down by twisting the string. Do not untwist a Flemish string too far or the string can come apart. One full twist per inch of string is a good place to be. When arrows are flying well, decide if string silencers should be used. There are fur silencers that can be inserted between the string bundles and wrapped around the string with the other end also inserted through the bundles. Cat whiskers or wool puff silencers can be tied onto the string using a double constrictor knot of B-50 string material. Place the silencers 1/4 of the way down from where the string contacts the upper limb, and place the other silencer 1/3 of the way up from where the string contacts the lower limb. Adjust as necessary.
Shoot the new bow string in, readjust tune, record that optimal brace height and nocking point location and then build a back-up string! See – there’s nothing to it…