Bow Bootcamp is a 10-part series designed to get you, your gear and your skills in top shape before the first fall season. That means gear checks, accessory adjustments, precision bow tuning, and shooting drills to get you fully dialed in at the right time. Part 1, below, is about your bow—because first and foremost, it depends on the job.
Whether you’ve bought a new rig for next season or are sticking with the tried and true, you should put a top-to-bottom checklist on your bow to make sure it’s in good working order and is correctly configured for you. Don’t worry about accessories, for now; we will get to them. The first concern is the bow. So take it out of the box or off the hook and do the following.
1. Inspect the riser, limbs and cams.
Start with the upper limbs. Look carefully for any scratches, dents or cracks, especially if you’ve used your bow a lot over the years. Make sure there are no split limbs or protruding fibers. Do the old cotton ball trick; run over the limb to make sure it doesn’t get in the way of any irregularities. If so, take it to the store to have it looked at. Then check the top cam, giving the areas where the wires and cables connect a good once over. Make sure the service is sound and has no loose areas or chafing. Chances are your lifter is strong, but give it at least a quick once over. Finally, check the lower limbs and cameras.
2. Inspect the wires and cables.
Don’t neglect this step because now is the time to order and replace strings and cables if necessary. Light friction is expected in a used bowstring, but heavy friction or broken strings are potentially unsafe. Also, check your services. These are areas in wires and cables where the service string is wrapped around the strings. They need not be irreversible and uniform, but a disintegrated or separated service must be replaced.
3. Double check the draw length.
Measure your draw length. You may think you know, but measure anyway. It’s easy to do, but you’ll need a partner. Put your back against a flat wall, spread your arms horizontally – like a bird spreading its wings. Then get a friend to make light pencil marks on the wall on the tips of both middle fingers. Place a tape measure between the dots and then take that number and divide by 2.5. This is your draw length. Now, chances are good that you will get a number with several decimal places. For example, I take 29.3 and set the bows draw length to 29 inches. Always rounded down. It is better to be a little short than a little long.
4. Adjust your bow length setting if necessary.
With the drawing length calculated, go back to your cameras and look at your module system. Your bow will have either a fixed cam module or an adjustable cam module (with the latter becoming more common). Let’s assume your correct length of draw is also 29 inches. If your bow has a fixed 29-inch module, you’re good to go. If it’s anything other than 29 inches, however, you’ll need to visit your pro shop and order a new module. If, on the other hand, your bow has an adjustable mod (most are adjustable in 1/2-inch increments) and needs adjustment, simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions, loosen a few screws, and rotate your mod top and bottom. cam to desired draw length.
5. Double check the draw weight.
The next thing to look at is the weight draw. As with draw length, you may think you know what your draw weight should be, but it’s a good idea to review this before each season. One of the biggest mistakes I see bowhunters make every year is pulling too much weight, which can sap the fun out of your shooting sessions, sabotage you on the range, and even lead to shoulder injuries and the back.
To check what your draw weight should be, sit on the back, hold the bow in front of you and draw straight back. If you can’t do this, or you have to tilt the bow skyward and draw with all your strength, you’re pulling too much weight. You don’t need to pull 70 pounds to kill even a big bull. I’ve shot many deer with bows set to 60 pounds, and a few years ago, my wife blasted a hammerhead whitetail at 44 yards with a 47-pound bow.
6. Adjust the draw weight of the bow if necessary.
You adjust the draw weight of a compound bow by turning the limb bolts, which are located in the upper and lower limb pockets. (You can usually see where the bolt lands inside the bow lifter.) On most bow designs, turning the bolt counterclockwise will turn the limb out, reducing draw weight, while a clockwise turn clockwise will tighten it, adding to the pull weight.
But, and this is important, before you mess around with the belly weight adjustment on your bow, carefully check your owner’s manual (or look up your bow model online) to find out how far you can draw them back to limb bolts securely. Most bows have a maximum number of turns, and if you go over that, your limbs can crack, your pockets can break, and I’ve even seen limb bolts come off completely. Budget bows and entry-level models will usually have a wider range of draw weight adjustment.
Finally, if you need to make an adjustment to the draw weight, follow the manufacturer’s instructions strictly to make the same number of turns both up and down. This is also important and worth repeating: What you do to one limb lightning, you must do to another. I also recommend purchasing a digital bow scale. I use the 4KJT digital arc scale which is accurate and less than $30. A bow scale will help you be specific and know the exact weight setting of the bow.
When you’re done with this checklist, you can be sure that your bow is in good condition and fits you properly, which can go a long way toward improving your shooting. Next, we’ll look at arrows and accessories.