A painful lesson in getting bow ready for the season

Thwack! Ouch! Thwack! Ouch! Thwack! Ouch!

I was limbering up my archery muscle-memory in the side-yard range after a busy summer hiatus. I was past due to tune up for deer hunting season, and found myself getting stung on the left wrist with each arrow release.

I am shooting barebow, my bow a 53-pound, 60-inch Bear Kodiak Hunter. I have been shooting for more than 50 years and had not encountered this problem before. But the nasty red welts atop my wrist said something was wrong.

My first instinct was to review my form. Foot stance, body position, arm position, release anchor-point, bow position, draw length, and so on. It all seemed OK, right in line with a tried and true style (Byron Ferguson) that keeps me confident that I can kill any deer I want to within 25 yards or so. (That is my ethical limit for range with a traditional bow and aging eyesight. Besides, I do not want a sharp-eared deer to “jump the string” and suddenly move when the arrow is in on the way, for flight time is longer at extended range.)

I gave up after about 20 arrows in the first session. It hurt too much to shoot more, and I didn’t want to develop a flinch or other bad habit, which is oh-so easy to do.

I resorted to an Internet search, but most sites were dealing with long-familiar style and form beginner problems, unlike the painful wrist-pinging I was getting, even with my armguard adjusted way down on the wrist.

Next day, the wrist felt OK, the swelling and welts were gone, and I gave it another go. Thwack! Ouch! What the heck? This was discouraging. I stood there, on my range, staring at the bow and thinking out loud.

Then it hit me – fistmele. I had forgotten to check the fistmele, or brace-height of my bow, specifically the exact distance between the knocking-point on the bowstring and the outermost edge of the riser on the bow’s grip.

Just looking at it, really looking at it, my experienced eye told me that the gap, or fistmele, seemed a bit narrow. Of course! Too little gap in the brace-height would allow the bowstring to snap too far forward on arrow-release, which was causing that nasty stinging slap.

I should have known better. I quickly went in and measured the fistmele – less than 7 inches. For my bow it should be 8 to 8-1/2 inches. Most recurve bows shoot best with a fistmele of 7-1/2 to 9-1/2 inches, depending on model or individual bows of the same model.

Too little brace height is easily remedied. You simply unstring the bow, remove the string, and twist it to shorten it, then restring and measure the fistmele. If the brace-height is too much, then lengthen the string by gradually untwisting it.

Back outside, I drew and released again. No wrist-slap. And this time, a bull’s-eye. Encouraged, I shot a few more arrows to be sure. Decent grouping, problem solved.

Traditional arrow-strings will stretch with use, so you need to pay attention to fistmele, or brace-height, on your bow.

And I need to follow my own advice.

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