Mountain hunting takes a toll on your equipment, especially your bow. By the end of bowhunting season, my bow is looking rough—rock scars on the cams, strings are fuzzed, paint is chipped, bolts are rusted, and the grip is worn—but I know it’s still spot on from the extra measures I take. - Kevin Wilkey
Here’s what I do to ensure my bow can’t let me down:
1. BOW STRINGS ARE THE NUMBER ONE THING TO GO WRONG.
95% of my bowstring system is covered in protective serving and here’s why: Back in 2011, I had the opportunity on a cancelation mountain goat hunt with Bolen & Lewis. After a gnarly 27-kilometer ATV ride and a full-day backpack trip, I made it to camp. I pulled my bow off the pack and noticed a strap had rubbed most of the way through one of my bow’s cables. I patched it the best I could with dental floss and pine gum—luckily there were enough strands holding it together in case I got a shot.
The goats evaded me, but I did bring home a valuable lesson. Since then, I have full-length served my bow’s cables, especially the yokes. The serving is the string that’s wrapped around the bowstring to protect it from abrasion. It’s going to cost more to have your bow technician or string builder perform the work, but it’s cheaper than a mountain goat hunt.
I’ve taken it a step further by adding a .007” diameter braided serving on the bottom section of the shooting string, the section that always seems to wear out first. Willing to give up a few FPS for the added durability, I clocked the velocity before-and-after adding the serving and noticed zero change in arrow speed.
Overall, the best practice for caring for your bowstrings is to avoid contact. Anything that brushes up against or touches your bow string will break down the fibers. If your string is fuzzy, it’s not from a lack of wax, it’s due to too much contact and abrasion.
2. KUIU BOW HOLDER AND SFS BOW KIT
For the hikes in-and-out, I highly recommend the KUIU bow holder. It protects your cam and holds the bow tight against your pack—which is way better than the alternative of busting through brush and tripping with a bow in hand.
Avoid positioning the straps over your strings, only allow the connection strap to contact your bow’s riser or solid mounted accessories.
The KUIU SFS Bow Kit (Strings/Fletching/Sight) also adds protection to your strings, cams, sight pins, fletchings, and nocks. In a likely situation, slip them off and stuff them in one of your pack’s side pouches.
If your hunt is requiring a long and rugged hike in, and your bow won’t be cased, you may consider removing some accessories like your sight and stabilizer. I prefer a sight with a dovetail or quick detach system, so I may pack it away safely—away from harm of rocks and brush.
3. WATERPROOF YOUR SIGHT SCALE/SIGHT TAPE
For years I’ve hunted with a slider or rover type sight. Though my sights come with preprinted scales that will get me close, I prefer using Archer’s Advantage software to custom print my sight scales. Archer’s Advantage is far more accurate than pre-printed scales. Yardage scales are typically printed on paper, which may get water soaked and leave you guessing where your sight marks used to be.
To ensure my sight marks are waterproof, I use a laser printer and weatherproof vinyl sheets. They stick on the sight without any hassle and won’t bleed or fade during the hunt.
Some archers waterproof their scales with clear lacquer, clear nail polish or clear tape, however, having tried every method, I think the laser printed vinyl sheets are the best way.
If you’re unsure if your current set-up is waterproof, find out before your hunt. Pour water on it, get it soaked, and see what happens.
4. TIE IN THAT PEEP
Sounds obvious, but If your peep sight gets snagged on brush or your pack and moves a 1/16”, that could turn into a complete miss at 50 yards. The way I tie in my peep sight is not only a work of art, it will not budge.
5. LOCTITE AND A TORQUE WRENCH
I use blue Loctite on all my mounting bolts and screws, along with the proper torque setting for the size of bolt being used. The Loctite and evenly matched torque settings keep bolts from vibrating loose and accessories in place.
6. INDEX ACCESSORY SETTINGS
Mark your cams, sight settings, peep sight and rest with a waterproof paint pen or Sharpie. By simply drawing an index line on your equipment’s position, you can give it a quick visual check and see if something moved. This has saved me more than once after an accidental spill.
7. BE PREPARED
I always pack a field tip in case I need to take a practice shot, extra nocks, some d-loop material, Allen wrenches, a lighter, small bottle of super-glue and some tape. Instead of taking a whole role of tape, I’ll lay a strip of electrical and duct tape on the inside of my KUIU Carbon Pack Frame—in an emergency, like patching a rock splintered bow limb, I can pull it off and put it to use.
Pack an extra release. It’ll be worth its weight if you happen to damage or lose your primary release.
8. BOW CASE
If your hunt is going to require an ATV, horses or bush plane and it’s unreasonable to bring a large airline worthy bow case along, you may consider a lightweight soft case to protect your bow. The Hoyt Excursion bow case is a good option and has plenty of extra room to include a jacket and hoodie or your rain gear.
How many arrows should I bring? It’s a question as old as time. When I’m going in for a week or more and pack weight permits, I’ll bring an arrow tube with a dozen.
At a minimum for extended stays, I’ll bring 2 extra practice arrows, which will be tipped with practice head and positioned between the quiver grippers and I’ll wrap a thick rubber band around the gripper to keep any arrows from popping out. I’ll take at least one practice shot into a rotten stump or soft ground each day. I leave the practice arrows in camp when it’s time to hunt.
If it’s going to be a gnarly hike in, I’ll take all but one arrow out of my quiver and store the rest in an arrow tube which I’ll strap to my pack. This ensures I have one arrow ready for an opportunity and the others are safe from getting damaged or lost.
10. KNOW YOUR BOW
The more you work on and tune your own equipment, the more proficient you’ll be—especially if something unfortunate happens—like a dryfire or derailed bow string. It happened to one of my friends—he didn’t notice that a small stick was lodged in his cable track—he drew back on a buck and his bow derailed. The strings were still good, but off the tracks. He didn’t know what to do and his hunt was over.
If I’m at a last resort, I get crafty to get back in the game. My friend’s failure inspired me to be prepared for the worst. In the case of a derailed string, I know if I back my limb bolts (weight adjustment) out to the last 4 threads, there’s enough slack in the system that I can hand press the limbs against the padded ground and get the cables back on.
I can’t say it will work on all makes of bows though, or that you should even attempt it. Luckily, I’ve never had to do it on my own equipment, but I’ve saved another hunter’s day more than once, all because I have some tricks up my sleeve.
Wilkey puts the finishing touches on his Carbon RX-4 in preparation for his upcoming hunts.