Things have changed a lot with the humble bow and arrow since they started appearing in the late Upper Paleolithic/early Mesolithic. The archers at Agincourt wouldn’t know where to start when it comes to today’s hi-tech models. Compound bows in particular really do bring archery into the 21st Century. Even these sophisticated bows have come a long way since the late sixties, when they were first developed by Holless Wilber Allen in Billings, Missouri.
What makes a compound bow unique?
A compound bow uses a levering system comprised of pulleys and cables. The mechanisms give the bowman an increase in mechanical power. This means that it takes a lot less effort to deliver energy to an arrow. The pulley mechanism is eccentric, rather than round. It consists of an inner eccentric wheel pivotally mounted on the distal end of a limb and a rotatable outer pulley wheel.
The main body of a compound bow is much stiffer than a traditional longbow or recurve bow. This allows the weapon to be more energy efficient. Less energy is dissipated in excess deformation of the limbs.
The main body is known as the riser. It serves as the mount for all the other components such as the limbs, stabilizers, sights, and quivers. This component is usually aluminum, magnesium alloy, or carbon fiber. The limbs are also made from a strong composite material, as all the energy is stored here before letting loose.
Draw weights for compound bows are typically between 10 and 100 lbs, sufficient to propel an arrow to speeds of up to 370 feet per second. These bows are highly performant, with the draw providing exceptional accuracy for target shooting and superior power for hunting.
Maintaining a compound bow
Owing to the somewhat complicated nature of the pulley system, it’s worthwhile to pay attention to maintenance. These bows are not cheap, so it’s important to protect your investment. Regular maintenance is critical to ensuring your bow shoots accurately and consistently.
Performing proper maintenance is especially important at the start and end of the hunting season. Your bow needs extra care and attention when it’s time to dust it off from storage.
The most important thing is to ensure the bowstrings are in good shape. This is for performance and safety reasons. If the strings appear worn or ragged, replace them. Properly-maintained strings only need to be replaced every three years or so. Unless you are experienced in stringing a bow, it’s advisable to get a professional to do it for you.
Tip: Remember to never dry fire your bow. If this happens, stop and check for damage.
Waxing the bowstring is essential, and there are many bowstring waxes on the market. Your local sporting goods store should be able to help you find a wax to suit your compound bow and provide a few other tips and tricks for maintaining these mighty machines.
A wax coating several times throughout the season should be enough to keep the string in tip top condition, no matter what the weather throws at you. Avoid the D loop, however, as you’ll want to have a good grip on that area to ensure a smooth release.
Tip: Never use wax string that has hardened, or rub hardened wax into the string to try and warm it up. Doing so will stretch the string or cable.
Though they don´t go through as much wear and tear as the bowstring, you should still keep the cable strings well-waxed. The harness system should get the same attention. Basically, anything that moves on your compound bow can benefit from frequent waxing.
Tip: Never draw your bow past its stated draw length setting. Doing so will stress the cable on the back side of the cam, resulting in breakage.
Get a tune up
Getting your bow a tune up at the start of every season is a great way to ensure your bow is well taken care of. Simply bring your bow to your local archery shop and get them to go over everything, the cams in particular.
Preparing your bow for storage
At the end of the season, before you go to put away your compound bow, it’s a good idea to remove the stabilizer and the sight. Give everything a good clean and oil. Oil not just the moving parts, but all the nuts and bolts to prevent any rusting during its time in storage.
The oil helps avoid any seizing up of the action and major headaches next year. Just a little dab here and there will keep it looking as good as new for as long as possible.
If you do decide to do a full strip down, make sure to clean off any dirt and grit, which can build up over time and cause a loss of performance of the system.
It is very important to note that any type of rust breaking oil, such as WD-40, must not be used. Such oils will attack the strings and compromise their strength. Gun oil or a teflon-based oil are good alternatives, but your local sporting goods store can also offer some recommendations on which oil to use.
There are a few pieces of kit that every archer should have in order to maintain their bow. A set of “Archer’s Allen Wrenches” are a must, as the sights and stabilizers are attached with a specific kind of bolt. Keep everything snug, but not over-tightened.
Inspect your bow regularly for wear and damage. Any unusual noises or vibrations are indications that there could be a serious problem. Stop using your bow until you can assess the cause of the issue.
And, of course, remember to practice with your bow before the season starts! This will give you plenty of time to make sure there aren’t problems, or to get them fixed if there are.
Your compound bow is a complex mechanical device. As such, it needs regular maintenance. Taking good care of your bow will help you achieve greater accuracy and consistency with your shooting.
Going bow hunting this season? If so, you might want to check out my review of the best skinning knives!