In theory, shooting an arrow is a simple matter of nocking your arrow, sighting and releasing. but all too often, problems such as arrow porpoising raise their ugly heads when hunting with a recurve bow.

Improper bow setup can cause unwanted movements in an arrow’s flight path, leading to weaker shots and missed targets.

An arrow’s ideal flight path is perfectly straight. Straight flight makes your shots as accurate and fast as possible, especially when every shot counts while hunting.

Arrow porpoising happens when an arrow moves vertically (up or down) as it flies through the air, sometimes causing missed shots at longer distances. Luckily, with some effort, porpoising is a relatively easy fix.

Fixing Arrow Porpoising By Adjusting Nock Height

Improper nock height tends to cause porpoising. The first step to fix porpoising and straighten your shots is to figure out which direction the porpoising happens.

To do this, shoot a few arrows in a target and examine them. Is the nock end pointing up or down? This will tell you the direction.

If the nock end is pointing up, you will need to adjust your nock up to counter this movement. If the nock end is pointing down, you will need to adjust your nock down to counter it.

Make small adjustments of about 1/8 of an inch. Then shoot a round of arrows to see if the adjustment has improved the flight path.

How is Porpoising Different From Fishtailing

Porpoising is often confused with fishtailing. While both concern an arrow’s movement in flight, the exact movement is different.

Arrow fishtailing is the opposite of porpoising. Porpoising is vertical movement in the air. Fishtailing is horizontal (left or right) movement in the air.

Fishtailing can be identified using a similar method to porpoising. Shoot a round of arrows into a target. If the nock ends are pointing left or right, your arrows might be fishtailing.

The most common cause of fishtailing is weakness in the arrow spine, but it can also be caused by arrow rest position, spring tension, and more.

How Bare Shaft Tuning Your Recurve Bow May Help

Bare shaft tuning recurve bows is one of the most effective methods for correcting many problems bowhunters might experience with arrow flight. As the name suggests, bare shaft tuning involves stripping the arrow’s shaft bare of fletchings. 

Fletchings help correct an arrow’s flight path. Without fletchings, all imperfections in flight will be easier to spot and correct, whether the problems are caused by porpoising, fishtailing, or something else.

To start bare shaft tuning, first, gather a group of both fletched and bare shaft arrows. You will need to compare the flight paths of both to understand what needs to be adjusted. Make sure you have a good amount of both types to get the best information possible from this test.

Next, shoot all of your fletched arrows at a target. Use your best aim because any imperfections in your form will also be exaggerated when shooting bare shaft arrows.

Once you have finished shooting the fletched arrows and are satisfied with your shots, go ahead and start with the bare shafts. 

Keep the fletched arrows in the target and shoot for the same area. Pay attention to how most of the bare shaft arrows fly and notice any differences from the previous group. Are they flying wide left or right? Is there a significant wobble mid-flight? Do they over-correct vertically? Are they simply off the mark every time?

Most importantly, observe your grouping for the fletched arrows compared to the bare shafts. This will give you a strong indication of what needs to be tuned. 

If your bare shafts are missing left or right, try adjusting the arrow rest towards the direction of the bare shaft. If your bare shafts are missing higher or lower, try adjusting the arrow rest in the opposite direction of the bare shaft. Keep making adjustments until you are satisfied.


Porpoising can be a frustrating problem for bowhunters. The up or down movement can turn an otherwise accurate shot into a potential miss. Thankfully, solving this problem is as simple as running a small test and making gradual adjustments to your bow as needed.

Also, bare shaft tuning your recurve bow is one of the best methods to uncover and solve porpoising, fishtailing, or any flight path issue.

Of course, there may be other factors affecting the flight of  your arrows and, consequently, accuracy. It's possible you have to go through and spine align your arrows to ensure they are consistent. 

Taking the time to do a little bit of testing will give you almost instant results with noticeable smoother flight and arrow groupings just about guaranteed. 

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