When it comes to successful bowhunting, second-guessing your equipment is never a good thing. Sadly, I can’t tell you how many times I arrived in hunting camp only to find out that my “dialed in” rig was suddenly shooting several inches off due to a stretched bowstring, loose sight screw or wiggly arrow rest arm.
Nowadays, I avoid lousy shooting equipment as much as I can by conducting a series of mid-year maintenance checks to ensure everything on my bow is performing perfectly.
Consider a new bowstring. Today’s bowstring fibers are certainly stronger, faster, more creep-resistant and longer-lasting than ever before. They can conceivably last a handful of hunting seasons with no problem, but this isn’t a guarantee and certainly not the case with heavy use. Why risk ruining a hunt—or worse yet, creating a serious safety hazard—by stretching the lifespan on such wispy, synthetic components?
I replace my bow’s string and cable harnesses every two seasons, and sometimes every year, depending on how often I shoot the bow during the off-season. Some archers like to inspect the condition of a bowstring by looking at its outer appearance. They look for extreme dryness, fraying, deformity and loose servings as a sign of trouble and cause for replacement.
Although this is good medicine to go by, it’s not 100 percent reliable. I’ve had very “good looking” strings fail just before a hunting trip. In many cases, it’s not the fibers that are visible that you have to worry about; rather, it’s the fibers that are hidden by tightly wrapped servings, especially where the string comes into contact with the sharp lobe on the bow’s cam(s). Constant pressure in this area can cause fibers to break down eventually, jeopardizing their length, shape and holding strength.
The same can be said for a bowstring’s center serving (that portion where the arrow nock snaps on the string). This area receives constant wear and tear from arrows being clipped on and by the fact that it forms a sharp bend every time you pull back the bow. For all these reasons, I recommend full string/harness replacement on a regular basis.
When replacing strings, remember to choose the same strings your bow came with or, better yet, go with a premium- custom brand, such as Winner’s Choice, which are my favorite.
No. 2: Apply wax.
Regardless of your choice in bowstrings, waxing the fibers regularly is a must—about once every 2 weeks depending on use. This will keep the fibers well conditioned, smooth and protected from moisture and heat. This will lengthen their lifespan and keep them more creep-free as well. There are many types of string wax on the market, but I prefer BCY’s ML6 or new X-Wax.
I prefer to apply wax on a hot, sunny day so it penetrates effectively into the deepest parts of the bowstring. In colder weather, you can get wax to melt quite easily by using a thin piece of leather, wrapping it around the string, and sliding it up and down the string until friction causes the wax to melt. You can also use a blow dryer to warm the wax (not the bowstring).
When waxing, be sure to cover all areas of the bowstring and cable harnesses, from the “open” fibers to the surfaces of all outer serving materials. Wipe off any excess wax with a dry cloth.
No. 3: Check nock fit:
How the arrow nock engages the bowstring is critical. It must clip on with the correct amount of resistance, otherwise accuracy and proper tuning will suffer. Too tight or too loose is a bad thing. Over time, wear on the center serving can cause nock fit to become too loose.
What exactly is proper nock fit? Although it’s often difficult to describe, here are four things to consider: 1. The nock should clip on quite easily, but it shouldn’t clip on so easily that you don’t hear an audible “snap.” 2. Once clipped on, it should be able to slide up and down the string, but only with some resistance. 3. There shouldn’t be any side-to-side wiggle between the nock and the serving; the nock’s throat should be the same size as the diameter of the bowstring serving, not bigger. 4. The nock should be tight enough so that it can hold the weight of the arrow when it’s tilted downward.
If you suspect poor nock fit, then you’ll have to change the thickness (diameter) of your string’s center serving. This procedure is sometimes tricky to do for first-timers, but any archery tech can show you how it’s done. Choose thinner diameter serving (.021) or thicker (.024 or .026) depending on nock fit.
No. 4: Inspect center serving.
Along with nock fit, make sure your nock-set and/or your string loop is seated securely to the string and that the center serving material isn’t deforming or slipping, which is a common problem.
Loose center serving is easy to detect when it has visible “gaps” along the serving wraps. But sometimes this isn’t the case and you’ll need to grab the serving strongly with your fingers and see if you can move it up or down. If it slips even a hair, it needs to be replaced.
With nock-sets, I don’t recommend brass clamp-ons or rigid release loops due to the damage or “scrunching” they often cause to serving material. Tie-in nock-sets and soft loop material work better. Replacing worn away or damaged nock-sets or string loops is relatively easy with a little bit of knowhow and practice. Again, an archery tech can show you how it’s done.
No. 5: Lube moving parts.
If your compound bow is fairly new, chances are its wheels have sealed ball-bearing bushings, which don’t require lubrication. However, conventional bushings do require a couple drops of Teflon or silicone-based lubrication on a regular basis. Most bow manufacturers recommend lubrication every 1,500-2,000 shots for non-sealed bushings, but in harsh hunting conditions, apply lube every couple of days to maintain proper bow function. (Note: Do not use “penetrating oils” such as WD-40, Fast Break, etc. for lubing wheel axles and bushings.)
When replacing bowstrings, it’s a good idea to go ahead and remove the bow’s cams and wheel axles and inspect them closely for straightness and function since the bow is already being pressed. Roll axles on a flat surface to check for straightness. Remove old lubrication using a light degreaser or denatured alcohol and then apply new lubrication, and then reinstall components once everything looks good.
With conventional cam bushings, be sure to check how tight the bushings hug the axle. There should be little to no play, otherwise, be sure to replace old bushings with new ones. You can call the bow manufacturer to get replacement parts or purchase them from a topnotch archery dealer.
At this juncture, it’s also wise to inspect all other moving parts on the bow, including the limb bolts, limb pockets, limb rockers (plastic wedge that the bottom of the limb capsule sits on), cable guard and arrow rest.
Nearly all bows come with grease on the limb bolts and the contact points where the limb base meets the limb pocket. The grease on the bolt is to minimize friction (and noise) when turning the bolts in and out for draw weight adjustment or when backing out the bolts for servicing the bow in a press. Grease on the limb rocker is to reduce sticking/ noise, particularly as the bow is being drawn back. This grease will erode over time, especially when exposed to the elements. You can clean all these parts and apply new synthetic grease (i.e. white lithium) as needed.
(Note: When removing the limbs from the bow, be sure to inspect them closely for hair-line fractures or major nicks. Report anything suspicious to your archery dealer for warranty inspection/ repair.)
With the cable guard unit, it’s best to wipe it clean using isopropyl alcohol. This will remove dust and grime, which can create friction and noise. With insistently noisy cable guards or slides, apply a light coat of wax silicone to see if this remedies the problem.
With arrow rest springs and moving parts, do the same, if suggested by the manufacturer, cleaning all areas and applying a very light film of dry or silicone-type lubricant.
No. 6: Test for noise.
After hundreds of shot arrows and lots of field use, any bow will begin to come apart—cosmetically speaking. This means small screws will buzz loose, fleece-silencing pads will peel away, and rubber string or stabilizer material will break down from sun and heat exposure. For this reason, periodic testing is required to pinpoint potential noisy spots.
I use three steps to check for bow noise: First, I firmly tap the bow’s riser with my fist to shock it a little. I do this several times and listen for any vibrating components, especially those coming from the arrow rest region. Next, I pluck the bowstring with my fingers, creating yet another form of vibration, and again, listen for buzzing sounds. Last, I shoot the bow several times at a close target, indoors if possible, to check for additional sounds. At this stage, I also determine if fleece or Teflon silencers are needed to hush the arrow being drawn across the rest.
Usual problem areas include loose axle E-clips (remedied with a dab of slowcuring fletching glue), drop-away arrow rests with a lot of arm play (often fixed by tightening the arm mechanism), and string silencers that are poorly designed or aren’t positioned low enough on the string (more toward the arrow). Other areas to inspect are loose screws on a bow grip or plastic fiber-optic shrouds on bowsights. You should tighten, lightly glue or apply fleece to every possible trouble area.
Also, if the rest on your bow doesn’t provide full arrow containment, nock an arrow and determine how it clanks against the bow as if an accidental popoff were to occur. Any area that creates noise should be covered with fleece silencing pad.
Maintenance is a part of everything in life, and bowhunting is no exception. If you pay attention to the details and make sure your gear is performing properly throughout the year and prior to hunting season, success is usually a small step away.
Bonus Archery Video Tip: No Rangefinder No Problem