Understanding Bow Timing

Bow techs like to talk about timing, but many hunters don’t even know what it means. What is timing? How much does it matter? When should a hunter adjust timing? This blog will answer each of these questions and provide the basics of timing.

What is timing?

Timing refers to whether the cams rotate in a synchronous motion. Most bows shoot their best when the cams rotate around and finish their cycle at the exact same moment. Imagine watching a bow in slow motion; if one of the cams finished its cycle and stopped before the other it would create a ripple in the string, torquing the arrow.

As a bow tech I place timing second on my check list after setting center shot. When paper tuning a bow can have perfect timing and a bad tear or poor timing and a good tear. Hoyts in particular often shoot better when the top cam makes contact slightly early. But, for the most part its best to set timing dead on and then move on to address other factors.

How to test and adjust timing

To check your bow’s timing you’ll need a draw board. Here’s a great video showing how to build your own.

When your bow sits at full draw both stops should contact the cable or limb (depending on the style of bow). If one of your draw stops makes contact before the other, you’ll need to adjust the bow’s timing. The cables control the cam’s rotation and timing. If the top draw stop contacts first, you’ll add a twist to the top cable. Add twists to the cable closest to the riser, that wraps around the cam as the bow is drawn.

Remember that twisting a cable makes it shorter. Each twist will account for about an eighth of an inch, so take your time. Lastly, only add twists as removing twists can cause your serving to slip.

Single Cam Bows

Single cam bows were originally seen as the antidote for timing issues. The thinking went, “If a bow only has one cam, then it can’t go out of time.” That’s not actually true, but you also can’t test timing the same way as mentioned earlier. Instead, most single cam bows have timing marks. On Mathews models (single or double cam) the cables should pass through the middle of the timing hole when looking straight down on a cam. On bows like PSE and Bear the cables should pass between dashes on the cams. Check your owner’s manual for details specific to your bow.


Understanding timing sets a hunter apart from a large portion of the hunting community, and it’s a great first step in learning to tune a bow. While perfect timing won’t solve all your issues, it will mean there’s one less thing to worry about. Thank you for reading and let me know if you have any questions. Stu


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