Ever wanted to make your own lighted nocks instead of spending a small fortune on the ones in the store or online? Well, I am going to show you step-by-step how to make your own lighted nocks for bowhunting.
Advantages of lighted nocks
Bowhunters understand that arrows and broadheads can be expensive. On top of that, you never want to lose the animal you just shot.
Now, if you lose your broadhead, your arrow, and your quarry, this can cause full-blown bowhunter’s depression.
That’s where lighted nocks come in.
When you get finished, you’ll have something that looks like a regular arrow nock, but when the string impacts it, it will light up. Then, with a little pull back on the nock, you will be able to turn it off… all for about $2.50 cents each!
They can help you not only find your arrow in low light conditions, but in the event that you don’t get a pass-through shot, you will be able to get a better visual on where your deer or other game runs after impact.
Arrow nocks (NAP and Carbon Express Launchpad precision nocks both sell nocks with a diameter large enough to house most bobber lights. They also tend to have a longer shaft, which gives you more room to house the bobber light).
Sand paper (100-grit works great)
PVC pipe cutters or box cutter blade
Time needed: 2 hours
Step-by-step instructions to make your own lighted nocks:
Remove (cut off) the back of an existing nock
So the first thing we want to do is remove the back of an existing nock with the pvc pipe cutters. Be sure to cut evenly cut all the way around so there’s not a burr on it (if you get a burr, you can use the sandpaper to smooth it out).
Be sure the end of the cut nock fits into the arrow shaft
Once you have cut the end off of this nock, be sure it fits in shaft snugly. If you have a burr from cutting it, use the sandpaper to smooth it out.
You want this part to be a tight fit in the arrow shaft, because whenever you get this inserted, you don’t want it to move back and forth when you’re pulling on the back of the full nock.
Super glue the bobber light bottom into the back of the cut nock
Put some super glue on the bottom end of the bobber light battery. Slowly insert the bottom of the bobber light into the cut nock.
Seal the bottom of bottom end of nock
Put a small bead of super glue on the open end of the cut nock to seal it. You can then set that bottom onto a paper plate to let it dry (2 hours).
Super glue lighted end of bobber light into the full arrow nock
Carefully put a bead of super glue aright around the top of the lighted part of the bobber light.
Be careful not to get glue in between the lighted portion and the battery part of the bobber light. (This would glue the two parts together and prevent the light from coming on when the string impacts the nock).
When finished, let that part dry 2 hours.
Be sure a regular nock will twist easily inside arrow shaft
BEFORE inserting the finished lighted nocks into the shaft, take one of your nocks that does not have a bobber light in it yet and be sure that when you insert it into your arrow, that you can still twist/move it back and forth fairly easily.
If it’s too stiff to move/twist, then take your sandpaper and lightly sand around the long part that goes into the arrow shaft (NOT the cut end) until it moves well enough for you to be able twist it fairly easily with your fingers.
Align nock with arrow fletchings
If you use a rest that requires your fletchings to be pointed a certain direction, be sure you insert the nock in such a way that you will achieve the proper alignment of your arrow with your rest.
Insert finished nock into arrow shaft
Once both ends of the lighted nock have dried, and you’ve also sanded the light nocks well enough for the string end of your nocks to move/twist easily, insert the lighted nock into your arrow shaft.
Test and shoot
Once you have inserted the nock into the shaft, test it by pressing on it to turn the light on, and then untwist the nock until it turns off. Then you’re ready to shoot!
(NOTE: you may need to do some fine tuning of your site, as the added weight at the end of the arrow may slightly impact your current bow site settings.
Zeus broadheads refer to “Smart Head Technology.” What that means is you’re getting the best of both worlds of a both a mechanical broadhead as well as a fixed blade broadhead.
Let me explain…
First of all, the diameter of the upper fixed blades is 1-1/2 inches. Then, the bleeders are 7/8 of and inch wide. So, you’ve got 1-1/2-inches in one direction, and 7/8 of an inch this way, providing almost 2-1/2 inches of total cut.
Additionally, they have a tip containing many little grooves.
And so, it’s designed to fly through the air, and as it spins, to circulate the air around it, much like a golf ball with dimples prevents a vacuum on the back of the ball from making it fly off course.
Similarly, the grooves on the tip help prevent a vacuum on the broadhead. And so, as the head rotates, it rifles and stays right on track, thus flying more like a mechanical.
Additionally, the way the Zeus broadhead penetrates is interesting.
In the wide-open position, it penetrates through normal tissue with that 1-1/2-inch cut. But, when it encounters a hard medium, the upper blades retract. (It takes 48 pounds of pressure to compress the internal steel spring). Once that amount of pressure is achieved, the blades compress all the way down to 7/8 of an inch, the same diameter as the lower bleeder blades.
So, say if they compress all the way into a bone and you go, “Well, then I don’t have a blade.” No, you still have 7/8 of an inch this way and 7/8 of an inch the other way. It’s not that much different from a Slick Trick standard. So anyway, it’s designed to do that.
But, after it cuts through whatever hard surface it has encountered, the spring forces the blades back open to their full 1-1/2″ diameter.
Before testing, I was thinking, “Oh, that’s creative!” But, to be honest, I was a bit skeptical, so I wanted to put these broadheads through the wringer and see how they performed.
So, again, the thought here is that you get the best of both worlds. You get deep penetration due to the the blades compressing when they hit a hard surface. But, you get a larger cut through softer mediums like animal tissue and hide.
I realize that some might say, “Hey, I don’t care about that test, because I don’t hunt MDF and I don’t hunt steel plates.” Good for you. They would be kind of hard to eat anyway!
It’s easy to read the back of a package and gain some information on the specs of a broadhead. And, you can certainly read magazine ads about a head or look online to get info. But, if you’re like me, you want to know, “How well is this head going to hold up and how well does it penetrate?”
Well, hopefully my testing will give you some data points to consider as you are selecting your broadhead.
In terms of materials, the Zeus broadhead tip is really interesting. It’s constructed of 441 steel, so it’s a really strong, hardened steel. The ferrule is 7075 aluminum. So, it’s stronger aluminum than any other broadheads are using right now.
All of the blades are stainless steel. The tip of the head unscrews. You can take out the 100-grain hardened tip and then screw in a longer tip that weighs 25 grains more, thus making it a 125-grain broadhead. I like that.
And the 125-grain tip is a lot longer and looks like it would penetrate really well.
The Zeus head looks to be of good craftsmanship. It also spins true.
Let the tests begin
As in all my tests, I shot the Zeus head with my Bowtech Realm SR6 set at 73 pounds with a 27-inch draw length.
I’ll be honest. This head surprised me. When I first was reading about it, I thought, “Oh man, what kind of a newfangled weird thing is that?”
But, as you saw, even at 80 yards, it flew just like my field points. I was really impressed. It flies extremely well, just as advertised.
I was also a little suspicious of the durability. But, shooting it into two half inch sheets of this MDF, it held up really well. The blades were like brand new.
And then I shot it through another layer of MDF that was preceded by a stainless steel plate. And, it held up well to that as well. There was a little bit of bending in the bleeders, but that’s a lot better than breaking. If they bend, I can live with that. If they break off, I get concerned about that. And the tip, of course, held up well.
The blades still stayed in great shape as well.
The spring got some damage, causing the blades to collapse a little bit more than the full inch and a half. But, they are coming out with a little assembly package where you can put in a new spring there and get it replaced like that.
So overall, I would say this is a really creative head. Penetration wise, it did really well. The penetration is the best I’ve tested so far in terms of this medium.
To this point, I’ve been shooting this medium of MDF with the foam in front of it on a dozen different broadheads. The Zeus penetrated the best of any of them.
Now, I will say, the blades collapsed. So, by design, it didn’t cut all that tissue as it’s going through all those mediums. But, it did penetrate deeply.
When it comes to putting out trail cameras, I always start a little earlier than most people. But, it’s understandable that not all hunters want to waste batteries and time going to check them.
So, if you are already very familiar with the property you intend to hunt and have an idea of the summer patterns of the bucks on that property, you could wait until late July or early August.
Trail Camera mounting tip #1 Hot zones are Bedding and Feeding Areas
As I have learned more and more about deer hunting – and more specifically, buck behavior – it has become clear that it’s imperative to determine where bucks are bedding and feeding.
So, how can you set up the trail camera to get daylight pictures of those bucks?
Well, once you have an idea of where they are bedding and feeding, set up your trail cameras on routes that deer take to and from these areas until you begin to get daylight pictures of bucks.
Getting these pictures may be easier if you hunt near agriculture such as corn, soybeans, sorghum, etc. than if you are hunting large stands of timber or hardwoods.
Locating bedding and feeding areas are the first step to identifying the travel routes that bucks are using to move between the two.
If you only hunt large forested areas, then you might want to focus on open areas in the timber that have a lot of previous deer sign.
Another thing to focus on in these types of forested areas is browse pressure on native vegetation. For example, if you look closely, you may be able to see the tops of some of the plants and vegetation that have been nipped off. If there is too much browse pressure, then you might need to use a supplemental food source or deer mineral until deer season (if it is legal in your area).
Another way to get great early season bucks on camera is to get trailcam pictures near mock scrapes or active scrapes from last season. I look for open areas or trails that might have a brushy limb or vine hanging over bare ground or low vegetation.
I’ve got some great video of a target buck tending a scrape and chasing another 3-year-old buck away from it. These are the types of areas I will key in on and look for locations to put deer stands in hopes of taking a successful shot on a mature whitetail.
Then, I might set up a scrape dripper in hopes of increasing the buck activity in that location. If the bucks and does are already using a scrape now they will more than likely continue to use it during the season.
I have seen as many as 20 open scrapes on a 300 yd trail that led from bedding to food. Some bucks will travel up to three square miles for a safe food source. The bucks on that particular scrape line were bedding 1,000 yards away and traveling almost every night to and from that food source to bed.
If you want to your trailcam strategy to yield the best intel possible, you need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone and do some scouting off the road. Some of the best sign and bedding areas are off the road a good bit, but may be closer than you think.
I have cut through 10 yards of thick brush and vegetation off a main trail and all of the sudden, boom… a big buck travel corridor! If you find water or a swamp, even better. Now you have a funnel, bedding, and a water source.
Deer are edge creatures, so if you find where the terrain transitions from hard woods or pines to swamp or thickets, then you should find good sign, or at least some type of deer trail.
When I’m scouting, I look for droppings, deer tracks and old rubs. Once you practice looking for these long enough, you will begin to get an eye for a good place to hunt or hang a trail camera.
Rubs and other buck sign are good locations to consider mounting a trail camera.
If you hunt swamps like I do in the South, then you might feel overwhelmed by the amount of water. But, deer like to bed in swampy areas because it is cooler, and they can detect predators farther away.
A lot of times, aerial pictures taken when there is still foliage on the trees makes it impossible to see these deer trails coming in and out of a swampy area. So, because pines and hardwoods hold their foliage longer, pictures taken during Winter or before Spring green-up will show transition areas better.
If you can only find does, keep looking, because the bucks will be nearby within a couple hundred yards.
Water, funnels and fences
Another way to use aerial maps to hang trail cameras is to look for tree lines and natural funnels.
Agriculture, fence lines, and water all make great natural funnels for deer to travel. Deer do not feel as comfortable going across an open field, through water, or over a tall fence.
While deer can jump over or go under just about anything, they will default to openings in fence lines.
When it comes to water, I have seen deer chase through two feet of swamp water, but they would much rather go around it if they can.
The “diamond in the rough” in swampy areas are trails in the mud coming in and out of the swamp as deer will often skirt around the edges of water.
Field Edges and corners
Field edges and corners are also great places to hang trail cameras.
Deer will come out of just about anywhere if you have a good stand of bedding area along a field, but for some reason, they seem to prefer coming out of the corners.
On one of my hunting properties, there is a corner of a field that also has a water source that deer will skirt around. This area makes for an awesome trail camera spot. In one pre-season, I have gotten pictures of 10 different bucks coming back to bed.
If you are having trouble getting daylight pictures of bucks, try glassing the field and see where they are coming out at in the afternoon.
I have also seen bucks come out of the middle of a strip of trees off a field. It all just depends on where they are bedding, and you will not know that unless you watch where they come out at in the afternoon or go back to in the morning.
If baiting is not legal in your area, cellular cameras are a great option if you do not want to intrude on the area once it is set up. There are certainly huge advantages to not disturbing or leaving unnecessary scent in the area you are hoping to hunt.
Cell cameras allow you to wait until you see the buck you want using the area before going in for the kill.
I typically run three cell cameras and eight regular cameras. I use my cell cameras mainly to tell me when it is time to go refill the feed. In my opinion, you can pattern deer just as well with standard trail cameras.
You should, however, be more careful when you check the regular trails cameras. Typically, I like to wait until around noon to check my trail cams, or I check them late at night after I know deer are already in the field feeding.
I shot my biggest buck in 2019 after using a regular trail camera. I noticed he was coming in the second day after I put out corn and deer lure, and I was able to take him just as planned.
When I set up a new trail camera, I mount it to a sturdy tree, at a height of about 3 feet off the ground. Or, I will set it up at a height where it can cover the most field of view.
I make sure to clear vegetation and try and get a northern camera direction unless it has a lot of overhanging foliage or forest canopy to shield the sun. Facing the trailcam East or West can cause the sunlight to interfere with the pictures as well as producing false triggers that result in unwanted pictures.
Mounting Tip: you can use is using your smart phone camera and flipping it to selfie mode. Put the back of your phone on the trail camera, and you can get a good idea of what your camera will be seeing.
I also hang cameras parallel to the trail to catch the movement as well.
You do not want to face the camera directly across the trail or you will end up getting pictures of just tails or brow tines.
As deer season gets closer, you can also use video determine the direction the bucks are traveling to the bait sites or how they are using travel corridors. (when using still shots only, it can be hard to tell which directing deer are moving).
If you are trying to save your trail camera’s battery, I would set it to a three-picture burst and then switch to video when the season starts.