Around this time of year, I glance up at my calendar and suddenly realize archery deer season is almost here. Rifling through a closet full of camo, boots and hunting equipment, I pull out my compound bow and feel guilty that I haven’t shot it since last year.
I’m not the only one. Lots of hunters pick up their bows just before deer season. Thankfully, I work with some dedicated bow hunters who remind me not to just dust it off and climb into a treestand. Hunters like Jennie Richardson. The world champion archer’s competition bow is honed like a well-tuned sports car year-round, but in late summer, she tunes up her family’s hunting bows before they all take to the woods.
The first thing she checks is the string and cables. “The more heat in the area where you store your bow, the more the string and cables can stretch,” Richardson said.
“One of the things I check is the nocking point, to make sure it hasn’t changed since last year,” she said, referring to the point where a shooter places the arrow on the bow string. “If it has changed, that means the string or cable has stretched.”
Bill Mitchell, the foreman for Taylorsville Lake Wildlife Management Area and a frequent bow hunter, advises hunters to check for frays, separated strands, and excessive wear on the serving – the nylon string wrapped around the bow string for protection. Ideally, he said, hunters should have let off the draw weight at the end of last season before putting their bows away. This takes some of the stress off the limbs during storage. He recommends hunters change their bow strings every three years for safety. Year-round shooters, he said, might want to change their strings every year.
“Before you change the string, take some measurements: where on the string the nocking point is – how far above or below center – and the same with the peep sight,” Mitchell said. “You want to be able to emulate those measurements on the new string.”
For hunters who don’t have a bow press or don’t feel comfortable changing their own string, archery shops will usually do this as a free service or for a small fee. While the string is off the bow, ask the technician to pull the axles out of your bow and re-grease them.
After checking the string and cables, Richardson looks for splinters on the bow’s limbs, and loose screws where the sights, stabilizer and arrow rest attach to the bow.
“I’m going to do a visual observation to make sure the limbs are intact, the rest is secure, the bolts are tight,” she said. “Due to the warming and cooling of the weather, if you don’t store your bow in a constant temperature, things can move.”
Next, wax the string and cables to protect them from moisture and wear. Go ahead and crank down your bow’s draw weight if everything else appears in good working order. You may need to start with a lower draw weight than you ended with last year – it often takes a few weeks of practice to re-build muscle. Start out slowly to prevent soreness and poor shooting form.
“For the person like me who pulls the bow out of the closet each year, you don’t want to over-indulge in practice,” Mitchell said. “The old saying is ‘practice makes you good; good practice makes you perfect.’”
Shoot just a few arrows at a time, and stop before you get tired. Ending on a good note is not only good for your confidence, but also for your accuracy.
“You don’t want to end when you’ve missed the target and your arrow has gone out into the field,” said Mitchell. “You want to end with a group of arrows inside the space of a tennis ball, and say ‘Now, it’s time to go in for supper.’”
Author Hayley Lynch is an award-winning writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. She is an avid hunter and shotgun shooter.