With archery season just around the corner, it’s time to uncase your bow and clear some wall space for this year’s trophy buck.
But before you take your bow to the range to practice, you need to make sure that it is as ready as you are. This means an inspection of your bow for worn or damaged parts and possibly a trip to your local bow tech for a tune-up.
A bow is subjected to tremendous pressures when fired; that’s what it takes to send an arrow downrange at more than 300 fps. Unfortunately, this means that when failures occur, they tend to be catastrophic, and injuries aren’t simply possible, they’re likely. But as with most things in life, knowledge is the key to safety in archery. Knowing how a compound bow works, what components are likely to wear or fatigue, and what signs to look for when they do, will keep you in the woods and out of the emergency room.
Here are a few tips to help you as you prepare for the season.
Ill-fitting equipment can hurt you
If you were a rock climber, you wouldn’t use a harness that doesn’t fit. Imagine looking up at a 200-foot rock wall you’re about to ascend with the feel of a loosy-goosy harness hanging off your torso; it would set your spider senses a blazing.
Unfortunately, many archers don’t take the fit of their equipment seriously. Using a compound bow that doesn’t fit your body will result in accuracy problems, and because an ill-fitted bow opposes the way your body naturally moves, it can lead to a laundry list of potential injuries.
If you are new to archery, your first step should be a visit to a professional bow tech to get a draw-length measurement. Do this at the shop where you plan to buy your bow and/or arrows, but if that’s not possible, you can always tip the bow tech and purchase something else. After you buy your bow, have a bow tech adjust the draw weight, too. Remember, tune the bow to your draw, not your draw to your bow. Correct form requires a perfect fit.
Have a “bad relationship” with your bow
Have you ever fallen for a shady character? Romantically, I mean. If not, well, good for you. Keep reading and you’ll get the gist. Either way, it’s okay to love your bow and suspect that at every moment it is trying to harm you. It’s a mindset that could save you a lot of money and prevent serious injury. It may sound strange, but it’s good to be in a “bad relationship” with your bow.
Inspect your bowstring
Your bowstring is not simply a string; it’s a component in a complex machine, and it is prone to wear. Like the tires on your vehicle, your bowstring is a consumable item: It requires maintenance and occasional replacement. The difference is that if you have a blowout while driving down the interstate, the figurative stick of dynamite is beneath your car. If your bowstring fails, the stick of dynamite is by your face.
When a bowstring breaks, it can whip with incredible force, potentially lacerating an eye or causing other injury; furthermore, the energy stored in the bow releases in an uncontrolled way — all at once or in an uneven fashion — which can cause other failures. A limb or riser smacking you in the face or head can do a lot more to you than put out an eye.
So each time you handle your bow, look for fraying and abrasion along the entire length of the bowstring. Pay special attention to where the bowstring meets the cams. If the string is misaligned or there is discoloration (frosting or graying of fibers), do not draw the bow. Take it to a bow tech for a comprehensive inspection.
Check the D-loop and the area around it for fraying or discoloration. A bowstring will undergo wear in this area from use. Additionally, inspect the cables for wear.
Inspect your riser
The riser is a key component of your bow. Check for cracking and deformation on all the riser’s surfaces. Pay special attention to the areas at the top and bottom of the riser where it attaches to the limbs. Do the same to each limb, especially where they meet the riser and where the cams are attached.
Remember, a bow’s weak points are the string and any areas where components move or connect. The points where the riser interacts with the limbs of a compound bow are under extreme pressure; they are areas where failure can occur, as are the distal parts of the limbs.
Additionally, check for wobble in these areas. As a rule, all components of a bow should feel tight. The modern bow is the result of thousands of years of development. There should be no “slop” in any bow.
So, each time you handle your bow, check it for movement outside of its design specifications. If any lateral movement is present where the limbs connect to the riser, or if anything feels loose or wobbly (especially the cams), do not draw the bow. Take it to a professional bow tech for repair.
Follow all manufacturer instructions for the safe use of your bow. Not all bows are the same. If you do not have your model’s manual, get it, and read it before operating your bow.
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