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Preparing Your Bow for the Offseason

This is the third of a series of articles detailing essential outdoor skills to learn before the warm winds of spring arrive.

Preparing Your Bow for the Offseason
Lt. Richard Adkins of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources' law enforcement division with a gorgeous buck he took in central Kentucky with a bow. Properly maintaining your bow now ensures strong performance when you need it during hunting season.

Archery hunters in Kentucky enjoy a generous deer season that opens in late summer and spans more than four months.

When it closed earlier this week, hunters had pushed the overall harvest past 130,000 for the third consecutive season and to Kentucky’s second-highest harvest total on record.

Archers played a big role in the success, arrowing more than 18,000 whitetails, and may be left wondering what to do next.

The hardcore bowhunter might turn attention to other hunting opportunities or devote more time to improving shooting form and skills through practice.

For those who intend to put their bow up, performing some routine maintenance now can help ensure it’s ready to go when the urge hits to reach for it again.

“If you shot it and were comfortable with it all fall and put it away, you should feel comfortable enough when you get ready to pull it back out that it’s still pretty close,” said Dave Frederick, public lands biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and a high school archery coach. “You’re still going to have to shoot it and make sure your arrows are on target.”

A bow’s lifeline is its string and cables, so it’s important to inspect them for wear and replace any that are damaged.

A broken string is the worst-case scenario, and it happens all the time, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Lt. Richard Adkins said.

“It usually breaks at the contact points in the cam where the string rolls,” said Adkins, who started bowhunting when he was 15 years old. “When you shoot that bow and that cam whips, there are high-wear areas on the cables. If those are left unchecked or you just keep shooting, there’s a possibility your string could break. You don’t want to take that chance.”

To protect your string and cables, apply string wax and work it in by hand or with a small piece of leather. The friction warms the wax and helps the string absorb it.

“Keeping those strings well waxed and protected is a big thing,” Frederick said. “Even when the bow is not in use, it conditions those strings and makes them last longer.”

Whether you hunted a few days or several, you’ve been out in the elements.


Rain and snow fell, and temperatures fluctuated wildly during Kentucky’s archery deer season. Take a damp cloth and wipe off any accumulated dirt and grime. This is also a good time to clean any broadheads. If a bow sight uses batteries, remove them to eliminate the risk of corrosion. Also, check and tighten any loose screws and make sure all attachment points for bow accessories are secure.

Another good practice is to inspect the bow’s limbs, looking for any cracks or splinters.

“I can’t tell you how many people have brought me bows and I’ve found cracked limbs,” Adkins said. “You need to check your limbs and inspect them.”

Once you’re satisfied the bow is in good shape, store it somewhere that isn’t prone to extreme heat or exposed to direct sunlight. Ultraviolet light can damage certain materials on the bow over time.

“My bow is usually in its bow case during the offseason, if I have an offseason,” Frederick said. “If I know I’m going to be shooting my bow two or three nights this week, I’ve got hooks in my basement where it’s not in direct sunlight.”

Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations and specs, but know your limitations. If you don’t feel comfortable performing the work, or don’t have the proper tools, ask a fellow bowhunter or visit your local pro shop.

A diligent archer becomes intimately familiar with a bow over time and inspects it before and after every use. The end of bow season is a good time to do the same. Doing so can prolong the life of a bow and instill confidence that it will be ready to perform when it counts most.

Editor’s Note: Author Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for “Kentucky Afield” magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Kelly and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.

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