As we enter August, early archery seasons are around the corner in many areas.  With that in mind, my thoughts always shift from fishing to bowhunting. It’s time to prepare for the season, and what you do now will likely determine the outcome. 

The first and perhaps most-important step is checking over your equipment and performing any preventative maintenance needed, as well as tuning it for maximum performance and accuracy.  Here are a few tips to help ensure you get the most from your bow this season:

Run that checklist

Although a lot of archers shoot year-round, for many people, this is the first time your bow has been out of its case since last hunting season. Before beginning the tuning process, check over your bow’s limbs, string, cables and cams. Check the limbs, looking for any cracks or fractures; although rare, these could lead to a catastrophic limb failure.  Check your string and cables, looking for ant nicks, frays, severe discoloration, or extreme serving wear. Make sure you don’t have any chips or dings in the cams that could cut a string or cable. If you find any things, have these parts replaced immediately. If you’re unsure, consult your local pro shop. If your string set looks good and is less than 2 years old, apply a quality string wax to the unserved areas of both string and cables and rub it in gently.  Wipe off any excess to prevent attracting dirt.

Do the twist

The next step is to add twists to the string/cables to compensate for elongation, and return the bow to factory specifications for axle length and brace height. Modern compound bows are designed to exacting specs and will perform best when they are correct. This requires the use of a bow press, and in most cases is best performed by a pro-shop technician. Doing this will help to eliminate any excess noise and vibration caused by string over travel, making the bow more efficient. It will also allow the bow to reach full poundage.

Once the string and cables are twisted to the proper length and several arrows have been fired through the bow, put the bow on a draw board to check for proper cam timing and straightness. Once your bow is properly set to specs, timed and the cams are straight, double check for proper peep rotation and arrow rest timing — if using a fall away rest. Next, check both nocking point and center shot. If everything looks correct, it’s time to paper-shoot your setup and check for proper arrow flight.

Always paper tune a bow

By shooting a field-tipped arrow through a tight sheet of thin paper from 6 to 9 feet away, you will be able to evaluate your arrows’ flight and make adjustments to correct any problems.  

For a hunting setup, I always try to achieve a “bullet hole” of perfectly symmetrical rip with all three fletches visible — perfectly straight arrow flight. Once you achieve this, double-check by firing a broadhead-tipped arrow at a target, followed by a field-tipped arrow. If they fly to different points of impact, you may need to repeat the previous steps. Once these arrows impact the same spot on the target, you are ready to sight your bow in.  

After dialing in your bow’s sight, all that remains is to practice, practice, practice some more. Make sure to practice proper form, as this builds good muscle memory, critical in clutch situations in the field. Remember, it’s not the total number of arrows shot, it is the quality of the shots taken. With some time spent at the range, you will be ready when opportunity presents itself. A little time spent now, leads to a full freezer and trophy wall later.

Back to the draw board

A draw board is a device that uses a winch to slowly draw back a bow, allowing you to stop the draw at any time and examine timing and cam length. Being able to look at those factors without having to hold the bow, you are able to be more precise, yielding better results. Adjustments can then be made to correct any issues, making your bow more accurate and efficient. I use a draw board from Last Chance Archery; it fits onto my Last Chance Bow Press and allows for micro-adjustments by adjusting the worm bear on the press itself.