So if you're reading this now, and you haven't started already, well, I guess you're as late as I am. How do I know? Because I should have written this article a month ago. Guilty as charged.
Nevertheless, there's still plenty of time, but if you want to avoid a last-minute scare of unpreparedness, don't wait any longer. Get your bow gear out and begin to tweak it for success.
Give your gear a good once-over, or even take it to your local archery pro shop and ask for a good inspection and recommendations.
One of the most catastrophic findings would be to find cracked or splintered limbs. Inspect them well. Look for stress lines or cracks. For solid-limb bows, look especially carefully where the limb forks towards the cams and around where the axle holes are drilled. Carefully slide your hand along all surfaces of the limbs to feel for small splinters, which would be a sign of potential failure. Sometimes it may be just a flaw in the paint or finish; if you're unsure, have an expert look it over.
Most manufacturers recommend a string be changed every three years or so. Of course, a string can last much longer, and if you keep it waxed regularly, it'll certainly prolong the life and performance of your string.
Not only does wax protect the material from the elements, but it also adds a lubricant to the strands that are rubbing against one another during shots.
But appearance isn't everything: There's another factor which can be good reason to change a string.
String stretch is inevitable in no matter what brand you might choose. And with stretch, comes variance from the bow's original specifications where the bow will perform at its optimum.
One indication of stretch to test is to measure the axle to axle length and compare it to the manufacturer's specs. If it's lost a little, this indicates string stretch. As such, the limbs are not as "pre stressed" at their starting position, which diminishes performance and speed.
I recently tested a bow before and after a string change and found an increase of 7 feet per second with the new string.
Another undesirable result of string stretch is timing issues. This happens when the length of the string or cable(s) is out of tune with each other. Although this is more detrimental with double-cam bows, single-cam bows also can be affected by this. Single-cam bows must be timed so that the cam is in the correct starting position.
Your two most important accessories are your sights and your arrow rest. And for these, I like to take a look at them from two angles: noise and function. Some people may find that their bows are making more noise than they would like. In some cases, the problem isn't the bow but the accessories.
I like to hold my bow firmly by the grip and hit the riser somewhat harshly with my fist (the soft part.) You can hear if you have some undesirable noise coming from parts that may be loose or even just noisy by design.
Drop-away rests are very popular now with the functional benefit of a good, clean release of the arrow. In any case, some sort of "capture" rests can save the day when you're heart is pounding hard, and it saves your arrow from falling off the rest in the heat of battle.
Your sights and peep sight also are two important items to take a look at.
On the sights, inspect your fiber. If it's broken it will not transmit light nearly as well and will not maintain its brightness. Is it bright enough? Many sights today have at least five or six inches of fiber for each pin, helping them to gather more light.
Some people like a smaller peep for pinpoint accuracy, but in a hunting situation, 3/16- or ¼-inch versions provide a good compromise to allow adequate visibility. A smaller aperture allows far less light through and can turn a low-light shot at your trophy into a view of a dark shadow.
Remember: If you need some help from your bow shop, it's best to jump on it as soon as possible. Sometimes strings or parts have to be ordered, and waiting until the last minute could cause for a bummer of an opening day.
Best of luck. Stay tuned!