Rush is on to Get Bows Ready for Hunting Season

By Patrick DurkinAugust 21, 2011

LAST UPDATED: May 8th, 2015


If bow mechanics could plan inspections and maintenance work for us, they’d schedule our appointments at least two months before opening day.

But because they can’t do our planning for us, archery pro shops are now witnessing the annual mid- to late-August panic as frantic bowhunters rush in each morning when the doors open. Bowhunters nationwide are praying a quick visit to their local pro will cure a bent cam, frayed bowstring or broken sight pin.

Peter Hilton prepares to shoot a crossbow from his grandfather’s tree stand in northern Wisconsin.

Yes, they know they should have begun practicing soon after Memorial Day to help detect problems before they became emergencies. But they don’t pay for “I warned you” lectures from mechanics. They need repairs or replacements, and they need them now because deer season is opening within days or weeks, and they must catch up on practice.

To be fair, most folks east of the Mississippi River are the calmer procrastinators, because most whitetail seasons don’t open for a few more weeks. (Unless, of course, they’re leaving in two weeks for long-awaited trips out West for elk or pronghorn.)

An archery pro works on a compound bow in the shop’s press.

If lucky, their archery pro will have replacement parts in stock, and fix things while they wait. And if really lucky, their mechanic will pull them aside, hand them some WD-40 and wax, and quietly remind them to keep their bow’s axles, strings and cables clean and lubricated.

I know this because I’ve been there often the past 40 years while preparing for archery season. In my case, I start practicing around April Fool’s Day, and wait till mid-August before addressing possible problems. Then I, too, start panicking, and hope everything can be solved through red-faced reminders. I guess I’d rather suffer free humiliation from an overworked mechanic than pay for services not truly needed.

Peter Hilton lines up a shot with a crossbow while  learning how to shoot different kinds of bows.

So far this year, my compound bows, sights, rests and releases have worked fine. Plus, recent checkups suggest they’ll remain ready when our crew leaves for Idaho on Labor Day. Therefore, it being mid-August, I turned to the crossbow last Monday as a possible source of anxiety. It was working fine when last shot in December.

With me that day were Tom Heberlein of Lodi, Wisconsin, and his grandson, Peter Hilton, 12, of Menlo Park, California. We thought it would be fun to stake a 3-D deer target near a tree stand behind Heberlein’s shack in Wisconsin’s North Woods, verify the crossbow was shooting straight, and then teach young Hilton how to arrow fake deer.

After Peter and I climbed into the box stand, I hauled up the crossbow, cocked it and settled into the stand’s chair. I then slid an arrow into place and centered the scope’s crosshairs on the target.

When everything looked right, I squeezed the trigger.

Nothing happened.

I squeezed harder.

Still nothing.

Hmm. After removing the arrow and standing up, I reattached the cocking ropes to the bowstring, pulled hard and recocked the bow. As I reloaded the arrow, I saw the lever on the bow’s dry-fire preventer slide into position.

Progress. That hadn’t happened the first time.

After centering the crosshairs again, I pulled the trigger. The arrow thumped the target where I aimed. Peter then fired three “killing” shots before the crossbow again stopped shooting. We got it working one more time and put it away.

An archery pro inspects a crossbow to ensure it’s ready for the hunting season.

The next day I called the manufacturer, TenPoint Crossbow Technologies, and spoke with Barb Terry in customer relations. She advised applying a drop of light oil fore and aft, and on both sides, of the safety. This would ensure the string would engage the cocking mechanism.

She also reminded me not to manually engage the safety before cocking the bow. The safety activates itself upon cocking the bow.

Of course, if I had reread the manual first, I would have relearned all this. It’s the No. 1 item on TenPoint’s troubleshooting list. Terry was too polite to point this out. I did as she suggested and the crossbow’s functions returned.

Imagine that.

This proves once again that no matter how hard manufacturers try to anticipate and solve such problems beforehand, they can’t force us to read the operator’s manual.

And that’s why so many bow mechanics stay busy each August, no matter how skilled they might be. They, too, can’t force all of us to do simple maintenance on our own.


Patrick Durkin
President at Wisconsin Outdoor Communicators Association
Patrick Durkin is a lifelong bowhunter and full-time freelance outdoor writer/editor who lives in Waupaca, Wisconsin. He has covered hunting, fishing and outdoor issues since 1983. His work appears regularly in national hunting publications, and his weekly outdoors column has appeared regularly in over 20 Wisconsin newspapers since 1984.
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