UPDATED ON: May 1st, 2015
“They don’t make them like they used to.” In most cases, that statement is a lament at the lack of quality it today’s marketplace. It’s a true statement for bowhunting gear, too, but in a good way! Today’s bows and accessories are a far cry from the relics that were used just 15 years ago. Yes, things have changed – but for the better.
But just like a high-performance car needs to be maintained, so do our modern bows. And if my bow is a racecar, it is one that is raced, not shown. I try to take good care of my bow, but I also hunt hard. In the last year my hunting bow has seen 4 different states, temperature swings of more than 80 degrees, took trips up and down mountains and treestands; as well as sat through rain, sleet, and hail storms. That’s a lot for a bow to endure.
“On day 5 of a weeklong elk hunt, the author took a hard fall and slid 20 yards down a mountain side while his bow was only partially protected in his backpack. Here he is at camp making sure everything is still in working order and that his sight marks are still on.”
So, whether you’re preparing to get your bow in shape for another year of hunting, or wondering how you can protect the investment that you have in a brand new setup – consider these bow maintenance suggestions.
Your bow’s strings are like tires on a car; they are a wearable part that must be maintained, and more importantly, inspected and replaced when necessary. You can extend the life of your strings by waxing them regularly. This helps keep the individual string fibers protected from things like moisture and UV rays. Be sure to use wax frequently, but not heavily. A little bit goes a long way!
In addition to waxing, be sure to inspect your strings serving for separation or wear. The serving is a critical element to protect the string in the most critical areas. Don’t forget that serving isn’t just in the center of the string, it is also used everywhere that the string and cables come in contact with the bow’s cam. Inspect the string and cable serving, as well as the loop ends for wear at the cam. If your serving is separated or worn, consider having your string reserved before you have to make the big investment of an entirely new string.
“Here you can see worn serving that needs to be replaced. Also note the rough edge that has developed on the cam itself; this is something that might need to be repaired or replaced so that it doesn’t continue to fray new serving or strings.”
Next up on your string, and also another wearable item, is your D-Loop. Inspect the D-Loop for frays, but also keep in mind that a D-Loop can be severely weakened even if it doesn’t looks like it’s coming apart. I have gotten into the habit of replacing my D-Loop twice every year – once right before hunting season, and once right after. I’ve never had a loop fail me when following this routine, and I shoot thousands of shots every year.
“Here is a D-Loop that has been through thousands of shots and is beginning to fray. This loop might hold for a while, but it is best not to risk it and replace a loop in this condition as soon as possible.”
The limbs on your bow are like the transmission on a car. They transfer the power and make things move. Limbs (and transmissions) are generally tough, but they can break down; and when they do, it is catastrophic.
Inspect your bow’s limbs for any chips, cracks, or splinters. I have seen numerous guys come into bow shops that blew up their limbs because they cracked them during hunting season, but didn’t realize it until they got their bow out to shoot it a couple months later.
“The chip in this limb is merely cosmetic. You can see that the surface finish is chipped, but the composite limb material itself is fully in-tact. If there were any cracks or splinters, this would be something to worry about.”
Measure and Mark
Knowing some key measurements on your bow will help you determine if something has gone out of whack and needs some attention. Just like a car needs an alignment or tune-up, sometimes our bow needs some attention from the bow mechanic. One way to tell if your bow needs this professional attention is to measure your bow’s specifications. If you find that your bow’s measurements are more than .125-.25” out of spec, then it’s time to visit your local pro shop for a professional “tune-up.”
“Simple tools, such as a $9 bow square can help any archer keep an eye on their bow’s measurements and specifications. In this photo the author is using a bow square to measure the bow’s brace height.”
If you have a newly setup bow, or find that everything is still in tune, then mark the position of your bow’s cam(s), so that you can keep an eye on those reference marks and make sure something hasn’t moved out of sync.
Actually, when my bow is setup, tuned, and sighted-in, I mark every measurement that I can think of – not only the cam position, but also where the rest and sight is set, where the peep and d-loop are installed, etc. It is wise to keep a close eye on these reference marks throughout the season, and also make sure that all bolts, screws, and other fasteners are locked down. If you find that a particular fastener tends to loosen itself, use some purple (low strength) thread locker to help keep it in place.
Finally, consider how you store your bow. The main enemies here are heat and moisture. If at all possible, keep your bow stored in a case that is kept in a location that is free from great temperature swings or exposure to moisture (including excessive humidity).