Summer is the time to sweat the details of your autumn bowhunting.
Waiting until the velvet is gone, winds are cool, and the air has the musky smell of decaying leaves may be waiting too long.
Is your bow hyper-tuned and squeak free? Have you sighted in and practiced with broadheads? Is you bow string and serving in good shape? These are just a few questions you should be asking yourself.
A firearm hunter would never dream of going afield without sighting in his weapon, yet many bow hunters climb their favorite treestand with a bow that’s seriously out of time. A bow that’s not timed properly is less accurate, reduces arrow penetration, and creates more noise when shooting. For a bow to be in time, the wheels or cams must roll over at exactly the same instant. Gradually, all compound bows lose this delicate balance and must be re-tuned.
Cable stretch is the main reason compounds go out of time. Normally one cable must be slightly shortened to correct this problem. This type of work is best handled by a certified bow technician at a trusted pro shop.
Not surprisingly, high-speed bows with hard cams go out of time faster than bows equipped with energy wheels or round wheels. Single-cam bows like the Darton Cyclone, Mathews Solo Cam, and others keep their tune much longer than conventional bows, but they, too, need periodic timing adjustments.
Arrow rests are another trouble spot for compound bows. If the rest isn’t adjusted properly the arrows may leave the bow with a sideways whip or the vanes contacting the rest, cable, or bow riser.
Arrow rests are adjustable for sideways movement much like the windage adjustment on a rifle sight. The object is to achieve a true center shot where the string, rest, and riser are in perfect line.
A bow square is the best way to adjust an arrow rest and string nocks. Once the rest is set up for center shot, it must be fine-tuned by shooting an arrow through a sheet of paper suspended in front of the target.
The tear in the paper shows whether the rest must be adjusted slightly in or out or whether the string nock should be raised or lowered. A bullet-like hole means the arrow rest and nock set are perfectly aligned. The best way to paper tune a bow is at a pro shop with the help of a knowledgeable bow technician.
The type of rest a hunter chooses can also cause problems. Shooters who use a release aid are best served with a shoot-through-style rest. Finger or tab shooters should opt for a plunger-style rest that’s a little more forgiving.
Draw your bow in a quiet room and listen for any squeaks, pings, clicks, or other noises. Next shoot the bow and listen for additional noise. Arrow rests, cam bushings, cable guards, and quivers are the most likely places a bow will make unwanted noise. Now’s the time to replace worn shrink tubing or moleskin on arrow rest arms. It only takes one metal to metal squeak to spoil a hunt.
Cam or wheel bushings can be lubricated at a pro shop to insure they roll over smoothly and silently. Also check to be sure all machine screws and other hardware on the cam or wheel are tight.
Cable guards/cable slide are common noise makers on a bow. When a cable slide moves along the cable guard it may make a dragging sound or slight squeak. Usually this is caused by dirt or grit on the cable guard.
Clean the cable guard carefully using a spray cleaner and then dry with a soft cloth. Never lubricate a cable guard. Lubricants tend to pick up grit and dirt and lead to more problems. If after cleaning the cable guard, the slide still makes noise, the slide itself may need to be replaced. In some cases the cable guard may become scratched to the point where it also needs to be replaced.
Quivers are one of the worst noise offenders. Most quivers are made of several parts screwed or bolted together. The first step in quieting a quiver is to check that all hardware is tight, including the dovetail bracket that mounts to the bow.
Even with all hardware tight, a quiver can still be a noise problem. The vibration of shooting the bow frequently causes the arrows to rattle. One solution to this problem is to use a hip quiver instead of the models designed to fit your bow.
I discovered an unique quiver bracket produced by Bohning known as the Sidewinder. The Sidewinder bracket attaches to your belt and accepts most quiver styles. The adjustment range allows me to position my arrows for just the right position when walking, stalking, and even inching along on hands and knees. Best of all, it gets the quiver off the bow so that it can’t make noise and throw the bow off balance.
The serving on your bow string also needs to be checked before heading afield. If a serving slips or unravels in the field, the string nocks will also move and the point of impact can be seriously changed.
On my hunting bows I use a Dacron serving instead of the monofilament servings that come on most strings. Servings made of Dacron thread are more durable than monofilament. Release shooters will notice that a Dacron serving lasts two or three times longer than the standard monofilament serving.
A serving tool and spool of Dacron thread is a good investment for those who do their string maintenance chores at home. If you don’t have a serving tool, any pro shop can do the job for a few bucks. When the string is served and new nock sets are installed, the bow will need to be paper tuned again to make sure nock adjustment is perfect. The final step is to coat the string and serving with a little wax to preserve it.
Assuming you’ve chosen an arrow that’s correctly spined for the peak draw weight and draw length, it’s time to fine tune arrow flight with broadheads. Achieving good broadhead flight is one of the most frustrating aspects of bow hunting. Several factors can lead to poor arrow flight, at times making it difficult to determine the culprit.
The arrow nock is a major cause of poor arrow flight. Arrows equipped with glue-on nocks should be checked to be sure the nock is aligned properly. Place the arrow on a spin tester and watch closely to see if the nock wobbles when the arrow is spinning. If the nock wobbles even slightly, arrow flight will be adversely affected. The problem could be a nock that’s not glued on perfectly straight or an arrow that is bent.
Replace the nock first and spin test the shaft again. A nock alignment gauge makes it easy to mount nocks properly. If the arrow still wobbles, chances are the shaft is bent and should not be hunted with.
The best arrow flight is usually achieved with broadheads that feature a modest cutting diameter. Fixed-blade broadheads with a cutting diameter of 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches can be tough to work with. This is especially true if the bow features a heavy peak draw weight and arrow speed upwards of 240 feet per second.
A wealth of good broadheads are available with cutting diameters ranging from 7/8 inch to 1-1/8 inch. Some of my favorites include the Rocky Mountain Titanium 100 grain and Premier 75 grain, New Archery Products Thunderhead 85 grain, Golden Key Dead Head 85 grain, Gold Tip FireFly 110 grain, Satellite Aero 120 grain, and Bear Bruin Lite 90 grain.
Any of these broadheads will provide excellent arrow flight when matched to a properly spined arrow and a bow that’s tuned properly. However, the point of impact with broadheads isn’t likely to be exactly the same as field tips. Before hunting the bow must be sighted in one more time using the exact model and weight broadhead to be used in the field.
It’s often said that bow hunting is a game of inches. Success rarely comes easily or quickly, but most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.