Minimizing risks that can lead to big blunders
For us, it's custom to creatively break the news of tagged bucks. For example, after one successful hunt, I nearly made it through dinner before someone finally asked how it went. I began a deadpan delivery about seeing a big one, how it worked a rub at 50 yards, then went around a bush, etc. When I didn't finish the story and went back to my mashed potatoes, everyone assumed I didn't get a shot.
Finally, someone asked, Well, what happened?
I shot him, I replied. He's in the back of the truck.
That always makes for some good fun. And it was on another hunt that I could already visualize one of those happy endings. A mature 8-point buck worked a scrape 15 yards away — a broadside chip shot. When I pulled the trigger, everything fell apart. The buck bounded off and stopped 75 yards away. I missed him.
I went back to camp, grabbed a target and shot. Arrows consistently hit 6 inches low at 15 yards. When I looked closer, I noticed the rest tipping downward at an angle. In the last day or two of hard hunting, I must have bumped the rest against something.
It happens, but I shouldn't have used a rest that could move that easily. I shouldn't have found out it was messed up only after costing me a great buck. Still, sometimes things go wrong. Here are ways to prevent some of those from happening.
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Many archery hunters today are shooting lighter arrows. These can produce vibration that the bow must absorb, leading to loosened screws over time. Once everything is tuned and sighted, use medium strength Loc-Tite to hold everything in place against vibration.
A friend of mine missed a nice 10-pointer because his nocks were filled with mud. He never noticed it when he nocked the first arrow. It held but wasn't fully engaged. When he drew the bow, the arrow came off, bounced on the stand and fell to the ground. To prevent this, adjust attached quivers so the ends of the arrows don't extend beyond the bottom cam. That way, there is less chance the nocks will fill with dirt.
Many rests lock solidly into the riser with more than just a single screw to hold them in place. If your rest doesn't, consider drilling and tapping a hole in the mounting frame and installing a set screw. Or, look for a different rest. It's an easy project that any hardware clerk can help you prepare for.
I know of several bucks and bulls that lived longer because an arrow fell off the rest before or during the shot, and the archer didn't realize it. This should be a thing of the past with quality rests that securely cradle the arrow. If you don't have one of these types, maybe bite the bullet and get one.
A twig in the wrong place and partially protected fiber-optic pins are toast. Keep this from happening by adding protection, or purchase sights with completely protected fibers.
I'm not a fan of using rubber tubing to rotate peep sights into position. It can break or slip. With patience, you can train a peep sight to position squarely. First, break in a good string by shooting. Then, add twists and half twists to the bowstring — you'll need a bow press — until the peep sight comes back squarely with each draw of the string.
If you still carry an older bow model, the cable slide can squeak and squeal when drawing the bow on a wet day. It's especially bad with plastic slides on carbon rods, especially after the carbon begins to wear. In all cases, when I switched to a Teflon slide, the problem went away.
If your nocking point isn't tight, or if your string's center serving separates or slips, you may find yourself shooting poorly. If you do nothing else, reserve your bowstring — or have someone else do it — if it shows any sign of separating.
A typical string can stretch if it gets too hot. This is a common problem in warm-weather hunts. When a string stretches, the nocking point moves, increasing the draw length, and both affect accuracy. I started using custom strings back in 2000, and these are a big step up from those that come on many bows. Today, most bow manufacturers use better strings, but custom options are still a good idea.
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Still, while certain safeguards decrease the odds of a malfunction, regularly inspect everything anyway. Look over all parts of the bow every time you settle in the stand. While it's never fun to discover a problem, it's always better to do so before you miss the big one, rather than afterward. You'll be able to determine a solution, whether that's a safe short-term fix, or an immediate trip back to the bow shop.