If you’re anything like me, you spend the summer anticipating your first bowhunt of the year. Whether it’s a big trip out West, or your whitetail opener around home, you need to take gear prep seriously. All the pieces of the puzzle need to be in order; you need to control all the things that are within your control. If your lack of preparation causes something to go wrong at crunch time, you’ll have a hard time forgiving yourself. The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” definitely applies when it comes to bowhunting equipment.
Here’s a checklist of items I go over as I prepare for the new season.
1. String serving: I’ve seen some very bad looking center serving on bows in hunting camps. A loose or separated serving will eventually slip and your nocking point will move up or down the string. This is going to make your arrow miss high or low as well as fly poorly. Study your serving; if you see it getting loose, fix it immediately.
2. Peep rotation: If your peep sight doesn’t rotate perfectly back to square when you draw the bow, you need to fix it now. Never assume it will somehow get better once you start hunting; it usually gets worse with time.
3. Loose parts: Thump each bow limb firmly with your palm and listen for vibration. You can also twang the string a few inches to see if anything buzzes. If it does, work through your bow from one end to the other to find and fix any loose or vibrating parts.
4. Screw it tight: Screws and bolts can come loose during a tough hunting season. If you have a bolt or screw that occasionally comes loose, put a dab of blue Loctite on the threads and tighten it down firmly.
5. Cable slide: Squeaky cable slides spook game. This squeaking usually occurs on wet or frosty days. Avoid any chance of a screeching slider by keeping it very well lubricated or replacing it with one made of Teflon.
6. Nocking loop: Unless you’ve done so recently, replace your nocking loop at least two weeks before hunting season. This way, you will never have to worry about breaking one during the season, even if you shoot every day.
7. Practice with a full quiver: If you’ll be hunting with a quiver on your bow, you definitely need to practice for at least a few days with the quiver in place and filled with arrows. The quiver changes the bow’s balance slightly, something you need to get used to well in advance of the hunt.
8. Spin test your arrows: The easiest way to make sure your broadheads are mounted squarely on the arrow shaft is to spin the arrow in the palm of your hand. If the arrow is perfectly straight and balanced, you shouldn’t feel any wobbling. If it vibrates, replace the broadhead and try again. If you can’t get the shaft to produce a clean spin no matter what you screw into it, set that particular shaft aside to be used only for practice.
9. Replace your nocks: The arrow’s nock takes all the force that drives the arrow forward. If it’s bent or damaged, arrow flight will be erratic. Nocks take a beating during practice; replacing them now is an inexpensive way to ensure they will be straight and strong for the season.
10. Practice with broadheads: Even though I am fairly sure what will happen when I screw my broadheads onto perfectly tuned arrows and load them into a perfectly tuned bow, I still practice with broadheads every year just to be safe. How your bow shoots with broadhead-tipped arrows is the true acid test of all your off-season practice and tuning efforts. Don’t wait too long before you run some full-fledged hunting arrows through your bow.
11. Last-minute form fixes: During the last two pre-season weeks, I always make a point of working hard on my weaknesses. For example, if I’ve been getting into the trigger a little too hard and not squeezing it as I should, I’ll focus on this.
12. Realistic practice sessions: If you only have a few weeks before the season, it’s too late to worry about building strength by launching large numbers of arrows. Instead, shoot a very limited number of arrows under realistic conditions and focus carefully on each shot. If you’re going to be hunting from a treestand, practice from one. If you’ll be wearing a facemask, thick gloves and a heavy coat, practice in this gear. You’ll shoot differently when wearing your full hunting outfit, but if you spend the last two weeks getting used to the new feel, you’ll shoot much better and more confidently in the field.
We spend a lot of time and money on bowhunting. We buy the right equipment, take vacation time and spend long hours scouting. There’s no reason to go into the season without first eliminating as many potential problems as possible. Good luck this hunting season!