Central Montana Outfitter, Chad Schearer, spotted a 170-inch mule deer and sent his bow-hunter client on the stalk. The rolling landscape, wind, and the buck’s location was set up so well that Chad knew he’d only be a burden, and so he sat back to watch the show.
Forty yards from the deer, the hunter—an avid 3D tournament archer—eased over the last hill and drew.
Suddenly, the hunter made an awkward motion, and the buck bounded off…unscathed. Chad didn’t have to ask what happened when the hunter arrived back at the truck with his bow’s strings and cables hanging from it like a garage sale banjo.
“I’ve been shooting a ton practicing for this hunt,” he told Chad. “I should’ve replaced the string.” Lucky for him they were only a couple hours from a bow shop, so only a half-day of hunting was wasted.
If you’re hunting whitetails back East, no big deal. Just call it a day and make repairs or buy a new bow. But on a DIY hunt in the backcountry, a busted bow can mean total disaster. While it’s best to fortify your bow beforehand, sometimes things happen. Field fixes are possible. Here are a few common mishaps followed by how to fix them on the fly.
Severed Bow String
No matter your precaution, Murphy’s Law can’t be snuffed entirely. One of the most common bow mishaps is accidentally cutting your own bowstring with a broadhead. You don’t practice loading your bow while sitting in the cold in the dark of dawn, and as you feel your way around, fumbling to nock an arrow, your arrow hits an unseen treelimb post quiver, bouncing it into the string. Blam! A bomb explodes in your hands. It’s hunt over—unless you have a spare string exactly like the one on your bow.
You can’t fix every problem, but sometimes having a simple Allen wrench in your backpack can mean the difference between killing a buck that day or driving home. Here’s a minimum recommended list of tools for hunts in various proximities to a bowshop.
Close to Civilization Kit: Spare peep sight tubing, string wax, Allen wrenches, spare release aid, spare screws.
Weekend Trip: All of the above plus serving, nock point, nock pliers, bow square, target.
DIY Backcountry Trip: All of the above plus spare string, portable press, centershot finding device, spare peep sight, spare sight, and plenty of arrows and broadheads.
You’ll need to pack the stuff I’ve listed and learn how to restring your bow or else be prepared to cancel your hunt.
“If you’re hunting whitetails back East, no big deal. Just call it a day and make repairs or buy a new bow. But on a DIY hunt in the backcountry, a busted bow can mean total disaster.”
Some newbie archers think bow tuning and set up is voodoo that’s impossible for the average non-professional to handle. This is nonsense. Like anything else, it simply takes knowledge, a few tools, and experience. So learn how now. Buy an old bow and tinker with it.
Go to a bowshop and beg or pay them to show you how to assemble one. Read your bow’s instruction manual, a bow tuning book, or study YouTube videos then try it on your bow. But learn in the comfort of your garage first so you have confidence in the field.
Bowstring Jumps off Cable
If your bow simply becomes unstrung (it can happen if you draw and a tree limb gets caught between the string and a cam or if it’s dry-fired), you need a way to press your bow. First check for limb damage by visually examining for cracks.
“Check around the limb tips, primarily on the sides of the limb between the axle and the end of the limbs,” said PSE’s Blake Shelby. “Check the base of the limbs, around the limb bolts, and in the belly of the limb. Cracks are usually visible.”
Some people say take it a step further by running a cotton ball over them. Micro strands of fiberglass will catch the cotton if it’s splintered and damaged. If it is damaged, you’re finished. But if it’s not, inspect your string. If it looks good, press your bow to reinstall the string.
This is when a portable press is worth its weight in gold. Synunm Archery’s Portable Bow Press may be the best mousetrap available. It uses ¼-inch nylon rope, pulleys, and coated metal limb brackets to safely and easily press any bow. It weighs 1.3 pounds and costs $180, which might seem like a lot for a pocket pulley—until you need it.
A second choice is the Bowmaster Portable Bow Press. This is the original go-anywhere press. In fact, some people use it as their primary press at home. It uses a series of cables, a pulley, and a screw-down system to take tension off the limbs and strings. For split limb bows, the company offers a limb bracket conversion kit for pressing new-model bows without risk of damage. It costs around $40.
But you can also summon the MacGyver in you to take the tension off of the strings and limbs so you can work on it. For example, it’s possible to use a ratcheting strap (or two) that most men keep in their truck. Bow companies frown on what I’m about to say, but if you are desperate—and careful—it can be done.
With your bow resting with its limb pockets on the ground (and the string up), attach the hooks of the ratchet strap to each cam. (It’s better to attach to the limbs, if you can.) Ratchet just enough until tension is removed from the string to allow it to be reinstalled in the cam’s channel. Then carefully release the strap. (If you have two straps, use them both so you can alternate releasing the tension.)
Employ the same technique to reinstall a peep sight that has fallen out.
The best way to keep a bow shooting is to never let it break. Other than unavoidable accidents or catastrophies, most bow problems are due to loose screws or broken accessories. Many of these can be prevented by pre-hunt preparation.