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Bow First Aid: What You Need to Fix Malfunctions in the Field

Here are 10 essential items to put in your compound bow repair kit.

Bow First Aid: What You Need to Fix Malfunctions in the Field

Extra string-loop material takes up little space in your pack and can save a hunt if this vital component needs to be replaced. (Photo by Bob Robb)

Editor’s note: The annual Archery Trade Association (ATA) trade show—which begins virtually next week due to the COVID-19 pandemic—introduces the newest and coolest compound bows every year. Getting a new bow is awesome, but not all bowhunters can upgrade for every season, and it's a fact that eventually your attention (or inattention) to your bow will impact how it performs. Here's a do-it-yourself article on how to prevent the smallest of problems from ruining your hunt.

I've often said that Murphy, of Murphy's Law fame, was a bowhunter, because a million and one things can go wrong with a compound bow at exactly the wrong time.

If you've shot a compound much you know what I mean. You've got it perfectly tuned with your hunting arrows, the sight pins are dialed in like a laser bomb sight, it draws smoothly and quietly—and then a small part breaks and suddenly the bow's accuracy is compromised.

That's not a big problem if you're on the practice range back home, but if you're in the field, even the littlest problem can ruin a hunt.

Well-equipped bowhunters can make quick repairs to minor troubles on the spot. This requires having the right tools and parts handy. Many archers use a small fishing tackle box to store and keep their repair stuff organized. There are even pre-assembled bow-repair kits available from Cabela's, Easton and others, and these make a great starting point. However, be sure to customize these kits with accessories unique to your particular bow set-up.

Finally, keep in mind as you assemble your kit that tools and parts don’t help you if you don't know how to use them properly. Watch online videos or hang out at your local archery pro shop and watch how they do it. That way, when something gets out of whack, you can fix it properly and efficiently and not waste precious hunting time.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to regularly waxing your bow strings. (Photo by Bob Robb)

Here are the 10 essentials I carry in my bow repair kit.

1. Super Glue

Super glue can fix just about anything in a big hurry. If a vane partialy detaches from an arrow, super glue can fix it. If a seam on your day pack starts to separate, super glue can hold it together. In a pinch you can even use it to staunch serious bleeding.

2. Stick Tape

This is the tape hockey players wrap around their stick blades. It's a little tacky on the surface, strong as heck and you can tear it with your fingers. Unlike duct tape, it doesn't freeze, so it works really well in bitter weather. I use it for repairs, but also to wrap around hard objects to help deaden sound. My kit also contains a roll of black electrician's tape.

3. Dental Floss/Serving Material


Back before BCY string serving came about, I used unwaxed dental floss to serve my peep sights into my bowstrings. It still works great and is cheaper than actual string serving. Both are good for a number of small repairs.

4. Spare Peep Sight/String Separator

When a peep sight pops out of a bowstring, it usually does so under pressure, flying off into the Bermuda Triangle never to be seen again. That's why a spare peep and the little plastic tool designed to separate a string's fibers and install a peep are always in my repair kit.

5. Magic Marker

I mark lots of things on my bow and sight with magic markers, including the position of my peep in the bowstring so I know instantly if it's slipped up or down. I also mark the position of my sight in its bracket once I'm sighted in. Colors like white and silver stand out against a dark bowstring.

6. Drop-Away Rest Pull Cord

Many of today's drop-away arrow rests rely on a pull cord to cock the launcher arm into place. These cords can fray or be sliced through, and if that happens the rest is useless. Bring along a spare cord and know how to change it out.

7. Bowstring Wax

String wax helps keep your bowstring from wearing and fraying prematurely. I'm a string waxing fanatic, working it into my string and cable system at least once a week. Bonus Tip: If you're having trouble pulling your arrows out of a 3D or other hard target, wax the front 6 inches of the shafts before shooting to aid with removal.

8. String Loop/Nock Sets

A string loop can fray, especially if you have a rough spot on your release jaws. You can buy pre-cut loop string with directions for tying it for $5 or less. If you still shoot brass nock sets, bring several spares, along with a set of nocking pliers.

9. Moleskin

Stick-on moleskin helps pad (and thus quiet) everything from the arrow shelf to the bottom of your sight bracket. I've even been known to pad my entire laser rangefinder with moleskin so it won't "clank" when I carelessly bang it on something.

A set of Allen wrenches keeps everything snug and operating as it should. If the frame includes a broadhead wrench, even better. (Photo by Bob Robb)

10. Allen Wrench Set

One of my pet peeves with bow and accessory makers is that they seem to think they need to use Allen screws and bolts with at least a half-dozen head sizes. That means you need a set of Allen wrenches that covers all your bases. Perhaps no tool in your repair kit is more crucial. However, it is critical to make sure your Allen wrench set does indeed have everything you need. Not all sets have the same size wrenches on the big and little ends of the spectrum. You can always cover the tool’s gaps with individual wrenches. When I need to do that, I make sure I have two spares.

The aforementioned is all stuff for the bow itself, but my repair kit has more. I always have spare arrow points (field tips, judo points, bludgeons, etc.), arrow nocks, some stick-on target spots, lubricating oil and a small lighter. Some folks even bring along a small portable bow press like the Bow Medic, available for less than $35 in a lot of places, in case serious repairs need to be made. My own little kit has so much stuff in it that at the end of every season I take an hour or so to go through it, eliminating old stuff I'll never use and replacing essentials that have been depleted.

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