Most of us spend hours preparing our archery equipment for bowhunting season, but when season opens, many shift their focus to the act of hunting itself, relegating gear importance to the backseat. This negligence can lead to blown shots or equipment failure, because, like it or not, hauling your equipment around in a vehicle or through the woods for a couple of weeks can change things.
I don't care how bulletproof you think your equipment is, it's still equipment. Mechanical equipment is prone to break down and fail, but on virtually one condition: failure to identify and correct hitches before they become problems in the form of mechanical failure.
Some folks rely on a bow technician to do this, but there are numerous things you can watch for yourself. Here are the 12 I feel are most important.
1. Wax Your Bowstring
In my opinion, your bowstring and cable(s) are equally as important as the riser. Fortunately, they're more easily replaced than a riser, and they're even easier and cheaper to maintain. Depending on your hunting style and how often you shoot, your bowstring and cable fibers will break down and fray. If ignored, they can weaken to the point of failure. The result can be a dangerous blowup, which can hurt you and your bow's other components.
To prolong the lives of your string and cable(s), purchase an inexpensive tube of bowstring wax from your local archery shop. Most bowstring waxes are silicone-based, which helps the string and cable(s) shed water while hunting in rainy conditions. Beeswax works in a pinch, but bowstring wax is best.
When the string and cable(s) show the first signs of wear, apply only a bit of wax at a time, then work it into the fibers with your thumb and index finger with the grain or twist. When finished, your bowstring should look like it did when new — don't leave gobs of wax on it, as they'll collect dust and debris.
2. Inspect Nocks
Most arrow nocks are made of plastic or similar substances, with some being metal. Nocks don't last forever; if you drop your bow or fall amidst rocky terrain while hunting, nock structure can easily be compromised. Carefully inspect your nocks both while shooting on the range and before every bowhunt.
A comprised nock is cheap to replace, but if ignored, it could cause your arrow to fly errantly.
3. Check Arrows for Damage
Like arrow nocks, arrows can be damaged by a fall or contact with another arrow in a target. Before you shoot each arrow, inspect it for damage. Several times I've identified cracks or splits that rendered the arrow in question unsafe to shoot.
4. Replace Rangefinder Battery
I replace my rangefinder battery prior to each season, but I also monitor the remaining battery life to ensure my rangefinder doesn't fail at the moment of truth. If it gets low, I spend the money on a new battery and replace it. I generally have a couple spare batteries on hand, too.
5. Inspect Drop-Away Rest Cord and Timing
I'm an advocate for drop-away arrow rests, but only if they're installed properly. Even then, though, there are a couple of things to watch for. First, always inspect the cord for damage. If you find damage, install a new cord or have a bow technician do it.
Also, depending on how the cord is attached (cable-driven or limb-driven), the cord can stretch or move from its intended anchor spot, which can alter the launcher's drop timing. This can cause erratic arrow flight that no longer corresponds with your sight pins. This isn't common when the rest is installed properly, but it can happen and is worth watching for.
6. Clean Your Release
A release aid is a mechanical device, and dirt and debris can cause malfunction and failure. Such buildup is common if you spot and stalk hunt. Use a can of computer-keyboard cleaner (propelled air) or an air compressor to spray out the debris.
I sometimes spray a dry lubricant into the visible part of the action/mechanism (don't open the release; it will void the warranty), then work the action dozens of times, which brings out more grit and grime and helps prevent corrosion.
7. Check Sight Pins for Broken Fibers
Some bow sights are designed with optimal fiber protection, others aren't. Either way, inspect your sight pins often, especially after hunting, to identify broken fibers. Aiming without a fiber optic is difficult, even impossible for those with poor eyesight. Have broken fiber optics replaced before your next hunt.
8. Replace Frayed String Loop
A proper D-loop reduces/eliminates torque, but it won't last forever. When your bow is all dialed and shooting well, it's tempting to ignore a fraying loop. During my years as a bow technician at a pro shop, customers often brought their bows in for other service, but mention nothing about their frayed string loop. Many are afraid replacing it will change their sight zero.
It can, but most bow technicians can install a new loop in exactly the same spot, which won't change your point of impact. Still, be sure to check on the range before hunting. Sometimes a minor sight tweak is needed. The important part is that it is replaced when frayed, otherwise it could fail. You could end up with a bloody or broken nose if the frayed loop breaks during your draw.
9. Align that Peep Sight
Another problem people often ignore is a crooked peep sight. When crooked, you'll struggle to see through it during dusky conditions, but you'll also likely anchor a bit differently, which could compromise your accuracy. Take your bow to a pro shop and have it aligned so you can see and shoot your best.
If you want the convenience of doing this yourself, I highly recommend Last Chance Archery's EZ Green Bow Press. It's affordable, compact, and makes servicing your bow easy and convenient.
10. Replace Cracking String Silencers
Today's bows are quiet, but I still install string and cable silencers to make my bows even quieter. Like anything, these can wear out and crack. Twice I've had a piece of the rubber silencers break off during the shot and sting my face and neck. It's painful. Inspect the silencers for wear, and replace them before they put your eye out.
11. Tighten Loose Screws
Are you hearing an abnormal buzzing when you shoot your bow? If so, a screw or bolt on your bow or accessories could be loose. Go through and check each one to identify loose ones. Be sure you know each screw's/bolt's purpose before tightening.
12. Check for Loose Fletching
The glue bond between your vanes and arrows may not last indefinitely. Sometimes a corner of the vane starts to separate from the shaft, and this may not be obvious until you shoot and see the vane fly off during arrow departure. I've had this happen a couple of times while target shooting, and the arrow rarely flies true. So, I pay my vanes close attention so it doesn't happen in the woods.
Confidence is Well-Functioning Equipment
There are more maintenance checks than those outlined here, but in my eyes, these are some of the most important. If any of these problems aren't identified and corrected, they could prove dangerous or detrimental to accuracy. I don't know about you, but I need every edge I can get when shooting at game, which is why I don't ignore my equipment during bowhunting season. Knowing, not wondering if, my equipment is working properly gives me confidence.