It is ironic that archery and bowhunting -- two of the oldest endeavors
known to man -- have become much more complex than the most modern hunting
A rifle hunter needs simply a gun, ammo, and a little sighting-in time to
become proficient at taking game. For a bowhunter to be truly effective
requires a weapon much more engineered than any rifle, several high-tech
accessories, and weeks of practice employing difficult-to-master techniques.
As an avid bowhunter for 35 years and a professional bowhunter and
bowhunting educator for 20, I am still learning new things and developing new
skills every year. And I guess that is the truly fascinating thing about bowhunting,
and what has kept me so interested for so long.
Success in bowhunting starts with being intimate with your equipment, so a
logical place to start is with assembling the tools for a home bow shop. Your
shop can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Mine has over 200 square
feet dedicated to archery and is filled with equipment including a $4,000
shooting machine. A shop can be much more basic than that and be nearly as
Here are the basics for outfitting a home bow shop:
An Arrow Fletcher
I put this first because in my opinion it is the most important tool in a bow
shop. A bowhunter will never become intimate with his equipment if he is not
capable of repairing and building his own arrows and learning their dynamics
and subtleties. Building your own arrows is a huge learning experience and one
of the most pleasant chores I know. There is something very satisfying about
building arrows one fletch at a time while you are doing other chores around
your shop -- neat how a dozen arrows seem to almost build themselves!
The top name in fletching jigs is Bitzenburger, a heavy-duty, all-metal unit
that retails for $65. Before selecting a fletcher put some thought into the
types of arrows you want to build, especially the fletching. Buy a jig that
offers optional, adjustable settings for helical and/or offset, and make up your
mind up front whether you prefer left or right helical, though functionally, it
really doesn't matter.
A Bow Press
Here's another item that will teach you volumes about archery. You can get by
with a portable press if your budget is limited and you do not anticipate
working on a lot of bows. With a heavier workload, the floor or bench-mounted
model makes the job much easier and simpler.
Options in portable, bench, and floor model bow presses vary; I prefer the
portable by Bowmaster (about $40) and the Apple Pro Hercules bench press for
Bow Clamps And Holders
A bow is quite a clumsy object anytime other than when it is being shot. You
will need some type of tools to hold your bow when you work on it. My all-time
favorite is the MTM Case-Gard Bow Maintenance Center. It is simply a plastic
tray with nine compartments for tools and parts and rubber arms that hold the
bow horizontally while you work. One of the things I like the most about it is
portability; I normally keep it on my work bench in my shop, but I can easily
pick it up and take it and its contents outside to work on bows as I shoot
Another bow-holding tool I have is the Apple 360 Adjustable Bow Vise, a $50,
heavy-duty unit that holds the bow vertically, which is necessary for some
operations such as squaring sights, rough setup of arrow rests, and other
procedures. I also use a cruder version of this on my outside shooting table;
it consists simply of a piece of scrap lumber and a common quick clamp of the
type used in carpentry.
Arrow Cut-off Saw
It is possible to cut arrows with a hacksaw and I have done so in an emergency,
but for anyone building their own arrows, a special arrow saw is almost
mandatory. It makes the cuts clean, uniform, quick, and safe. My arrow cut-off
saw is sold by Martin Archery for around $150. It uses an abrasive cutting
wheel and has an adjustable guide to set the arrow length.
Airborne carbon fibers from arrow cutting have been linked to lung cancer.
Regular dust masks are not sufficient to prevent inhaling harmful carbon dust.
You will need a vacuum system for that job.
Bow scales are a valuable aid in checking and setting draw weight and let-off
percentages. Some of the scales have double measuring indicators that will
indicate both the draw weight and the let-off poundage. Avoid the cheaper,
hand-operated bow scales unless you have an opportunity to test them first for
accuracy because many of them are way off. I recommend the overhead-mounted
scales for about twice the price ($60). Grain scales ($60) are essential for
checking consistency of broadheads, and experimenting with arrow weights.
Chronographs measure arrow speed and are not only informative, but fun to use
for comparing different bows, different draw lengths and weights, and the
variation of speeds of different-weight arrow setups. They are surprisingly
inexpensive, too, at around $100.
Here are some of the smaller tools essential to a home bow shop.
* Serving tool to hold serving material handy and at the right tension for a
variety of string serving purposes.
* Propane torch for hot glue and other purposes.
* Allen wrench and screwdriver set, hex and socket wrenches.
* A bench grinder and drill.
* A very small level for squaring bow sights.
* A hemostat for slipping surgical tubing over peep site pins.
* Scissors, knife, glues, solvents, lighter, moleskin, silicone, lubricants.
Shop The Sportsman's Guide for a fine selection of Archery gear.
Mike Strandlund is the late editor of Bowhunting World Magazine and bowhuntingworld.com, and is a member of the National Bowhunters Hall of Fame. We continue to run his insights into bowhunting to help others, which Mike would have loved.