Routine maintenance on your bow or crossbow is always important, but especially before hunting season begins and you’re about to head out to the field.
Triad bows are the simplest and quickest. You need to check the riser for cracks or dings, check the limbs for delamination and check the limb bolts to make sure they are snug and not wrench tight, only hand tight. That is if you have a takedown bow. Wipe your bow down with a dry rag, check the limb tips and especially your string for breaks. Wax the string and use a piece of leather or a leather glove to rub the wax in well by heating it up.
This is also a good time to check the brace height, to see if it has stretched more than half an inch. The brace height is the distance from the handle’s deepest point to the string. When you buy a bow, you should always measure this distance, which is the manufacture’s recommended brace height distance for that bow. Record this distance or punch it in your phone notes. New bow strings stretch a lot and when the string stretches, the bow shoots faster as the string moves farther and farther away from your face, thus increasing your draw stroke. This is not good. You want to keep the string brace height the same, so your draw stroke is consistent. Less expensive strings stretch more than better strings, which have more strands and better string materials.
Only use a stringing tool to remove or apply any string to your bow; never use your legs to apply strings, as that can twist the limbs. Never store a traditional bow standing up. If you are using your bow regularly and you have fiberglass-covered limbs, leave the string on. It’s good to leave the string on when not in use because the wood takes on a set, but that is only on fiberglass-covered limbs. If you are not using it for an extended period of time, remove the string and store in a takedown position.
When your string stretches, it may move the nock point higher, making your arrow point downward. Have it checked for proper nock height by someone who knows that correct position. If you do not have a triad bow with fiberglass limbs, then do not leave the bow strung when not in use. Self bows should actually be de-strung after each round of shooting.
Crossbows should first be dried off well with a dry cloth. Check all your nuts and bolts for any missing or loose nuts. Check your strings for broken strands. Check the brace height also on crossbows. Recurve crossbows often have a line on top of the rail to mark the brace height, or a line should have been put on with a white-out brush. When the string is more than half an inch out, it should be shortened by removing the string and twisting the string back to its proper length, just as all other bows.
On compound crossbows, there is also a recommended brace height. With compound crossbows, check your cam synchronization – are both cams rotating at the same time. With less expensive compound crossbows, it’s common that the strings stretch a lot, and inconsistently on each cable, and the cams get out of sync. Only a qualified person should adjust this for you, as a bow press is required to correct this. This is why recurve crossbows are simpler, as they always re-center the string. They too need the brace height maintained to its correct distance. Spin your rubber bumpers if you have them on your crossbow. Check the limbs for cracks.
If you own a recurve crossbow, the string can be removed for the off season, if you are not going to use it for more than eight months. Check the cams for creasing, look for rust and oil your trigger once per year. Wax the string well and rub it in, but do not wax the served areas. Check the limb tips for cracks. Check your scope mounts – if you see that one bolt is loose, then you may choose to lock tight it with nail polish or light Loctite. Apply rail snot to the top of the rail. Check your centre serving – if it is broken or split, you can have just the centre serving replaced.
If a set of strings are over four years old, you may want to have the strings replaced. Even if a string looks fine from the outside, after years of shooting the inside of the strings under the serving may be broken, as there are thousands of foot pounds of pressure each time you shoot an arrow. We have removed the centre serving and observed how the only thing holding the strings intact was that centre serving. The strings under the serving were all broken from years of use.
Now compound bows, they’re way more technical. First, wipe it down with a dry cloth, check for rust from the last snowfall or rain you were in, try and get it off or wipe the area with some light oil. Check all your sight bolts, rest bolts, limb pockets, riser and limbs for any delaminating. Check the ends of the limbs. Check your peep rotation and get it adjusted now rather than waiting until next season. Replace your rubber, if you have rubber on your peep. Check your cam synchronization. Pull your bow back and either look in a mirror or get someone to watch that the stoppers on each cam are hitting at the same time, on two-cam bows only. If it’s a single-cam bow, there are tuning marks that the average person does not know, so you should ask a bow shop if they are in tune or not.
Put an arrow against each cam and see if the arrow runs parallel to the string. If the arrow is not parallel, you may have some cam lean. If this occurs, you will need to bring your bow in for a service. Also, lay an arrow down on the shelf backwards with an arrow in the rest and see if the arrows are running parallel or only slightly high at the nock end. Whisker biscuit rests must be level, not nock high. Check your rest to make sure there is no fletch contact.
Your string on the rest can stretch or move, effecting its timing. Especially check limb-driven rests with a much longer string. Centre shot is not able to be checked without proper archery tools. This ensures the arrow is directly behind the string and the arrow is not pointing either right or left, but straight in line with the string for maximum efficiency. Are your strings frayed anywhere? Don’t leave it until the day before hunting season to realize you need a new set of strings. You should always replace both strings and cables, not just one, as they will stretch at a different rate when you mix old strings with new. If you are getting new strings, request all the same colour so they stretch consistently. Coloured strings stretch differently, as different dyes effect stretching. Plus, different rolls of string are not as consistent as building all the strings from the same roll. For instance, we own a commercial stringing machine and stretch our strings at 370 pounds and for over 12 hours. Factories stretch the strings at 370 pounds for an hour only, as they are an assembly line.
Be sure to replace any batteries if you have a light on your sight or if you are running a Garmin or other range-finding sight that requires batteries. Wax the bow strings well and rub in with a leather or glove. Only wax non-served areas.
If you would rather have someone qualified service your bow, bring it into your local bow shop. Your bow should be checked annually and serviced properly to be ready for the next hunting season. If you’re going to spend the time and money to travel for that hunt of a lifetime or 3D shoot, you don’t want to find out too late that something is wrong with your bow or setup.