In bowhunting, you never know when gear disaster may strike.
A pre-dawn hike from a backcountry tent camp puts me at my deer stand at
first light. About to climb, I glance at my bow and am stunned: All my fiberoptic
sight pins, save the bottom (60-yard) pin, are mangled and unusable! I am
baffled but then realize what must have happened: there'd been nowhere to store
gear, but a corner of the floor, and someone who got up to answer nature's call
must have stepped on my bow in the darkness. Prime time is at hand on the last
day of the hunt and I can't aim at normal bowhunting distances!
On a North Country "dream hunt," this time, again the last day of
the trip, I find myself drawing on a trophy caribou. My bowstring is halfway
back when, with a plunk, my release lets go and my arrow squirts from the bow
and falls to the ground a few yards away. I scramble after the caribou and
miraculously get another opportunity. Plunk, it happens again! I realize the
sear and trigger of the release are not matching up right; my release won't
work, I have no spare, I've never shot the bow with fingers, and the caribou
has had about enough of this!
What would you do in these seemingly hopeless situations?
I'll explain what I did, and start by telling you that in each of these
cases, I bagged my animal in the next few minutes. The successes resulted from
two very different approaches that I'm going to urge you to practice. More on
that later. First, let's get to the source of these SNAFUs!
Few things in this world seem as susceptible to Murphy's Law as bowhunting.
With the combination of many components, complicated gizmos, the importance of
details, and the need for near perfection, if something in bowhunting can go wrong,
it will. If you've bowhunted very long, you've had an opportunity spoiled by
one of the many types of equipment failure.
What's the best way to avoid it? Anticipation and prevention. If you take a
look at your full array of gear, consider the weak links, the problems that
might occur, and how they might be prevented in the first place and quickly
fixed in the second, you will prevail.
The best way to do this exercise is by isolating components and problems.
The Peep Tube
Some of you already know why I picked this as No. 1. Peep tubes are the
fastest-deteriorating component on your bow and most prone to failure. You can
avoid it by using a tubeless sighting system, or checking your tube frequently,
replacing it, and keeping a spare. Tip: Make sure the replacement is exactly
the same as the original or it can change point of impact!
Bow String And Cables
These are high-risk components -- one kiss from a broadhead blade, and your bow
will fly to pieces. Once, I unknowingly got a branch stuck in an eccentric wheel and as I drew, it guided my bowstring off track. Keep extra parts, get a
portable bow press, and know how to use it (which means practicing at home.)
Keep records of bow setup data so you can return draw length, brace height,
tiller, nock point location, cam timing, etc., back to their original position.
Sights And Arrow Rests
These mechanical devices involve many components and often moving parts, which
makes them susceptible to failure. I've written before about how I've been
messed up by arrow rests. Sights have also done me in. Once I drew on the
biggest buck I'd ever seen, and at that moment my bottom sight pin came loose
and landed on top of my arrow shaft, making it impossible to shoot! Obviously,
first thing on my list is to periodically check that all screws are tight. Use
stout equipment and sight pin covers.
Begin by using a reliable product and maintain it well (my first two mistakes
with the caribou), and always keep a spare in a pocket or backpack (my third).
Even something as simple as a broadhead can fail. Some models can lose blades
if the heads become loose. Others can suffer different problems. Use failsafe
heads and keep them sharp and inspected.
I always bring a kit of small parts and tools with me. This includes any Allen
wrenches that apply to my rig, extra bowstring, serving material, a nock point,
some extra screws, peep tubing, tape. I also keep a Judo point or blunt tip
handy so I can check my bow's zero periodically whether I have a real target or
The Right Attitude
This deals with minding maintenance, being careful, and generally using due
diligence in handling your equipment. It will pay off in saved opportunities.
What this all leads up to is being prepared -- having the knowledge, spare
parts, and tools available to fix your problem.
And that is exactly how I fixed my first predicament mentioned at the
beginning of this article. I pulled out an Allen wrench, removed the damaged
pins, and moved the one good pin to about the 30-yard position. I knew that
with the one pin I could hold high, low, or right on and shoot accurately
enough from point-blank to about 40 yards. Then I pulled out a Judo point and
sighted in on a leaf cluster 30 yards away. About a half hour later, I nailed a
fine whitetail buck at 25 paces.
And what about that second hopeless situation? After two opportunities to
shoot ruined by my unreliable release, I gritted my teeth, grabbed another
arrow, and took off again after the caribou. He stopped. I started to draw,
expecting another failure, but this time it held. I shot and bagged the trophy.
Like I said, two different approaches to saving the day. It's best to
anticipate, prevent, and be able to repair. Sometimes that doesn't work, but
plain old "never-give-up" will. Persistence can be the most valuable
tool in your arsenal.
For a fine selection of Archery gear, click here.
Mike Strandlund is editor of Bowhunting World Magazine and
bowhuntingworld.com, and is a member of the National Bowhunters Hall of Fame.