A well-maintained bow will provide years of enjoyable shooting. Although the thought of taking a bow apart for maintenance and cleaning may seem daunting, plenty of practice and guidance from someone knowledgeable can make bow maintenance bearable and even therapeutic.
It goes without saying that you should clean your bow after shooting in adverse conditions, such as in rain or dust. Lingering moisture or dirt can wear away at your equipment and even cause irreparable damage. Something as simple as making sure that your sight is dry after shooting in the rain will greatly increase its lifespan (simple sight cleaning will be discussed below). Taking your bow out of your bag or bow case to let it dry after shooting in the rain is the easiest step you can take for maintaining it.
The string is one of the easiest pieces of bow equipment to replace. It may be a little more complicated on a compound bow because of the need for a bow press and timing the cams, but it’s a much simpler process on a recurve bow. In either case you’ll have to let the string stretch and settle; some strings can be bought pre-stretched, but the string is really considered “shot in” after a couple hundred arrows. The frequency at which an archer should replace their string really depends on how much they shoot. If they shoot just once a week, then a string replacement might only be required every eight to 12 months. However, an archer who practices regularly six days a week and competes frequently could be replacing their string every month. You can lengthen the life of a string by regularly waxing it, especially if acquiring a new string isn’t so easy.
The next important piece of equipment to maintain is the sight, which has parts that could oxidize and potentially become damaged. Quick, regular cleaning, especially if you’re shooting in adverse conditions, will help to keep your sight in good working order. The first part on a sight that tends to oxidize is the steel ball bearing that clicks against the underside of the vertical and horizontal micro adjustment knobs. This isn’t much of a problem on Shibuya sights since they use a Teflon ball, but most other sights will need maintenance.
Cans of compressed air, like those that are used to clean computer parts, are perfect for clearing the moisture and dirt out from under the knobs. Blowing out the moisture will minimize and prevent the oxidation process. If the knob and steel ball need a more thorough cleaning, they will have to be disassembled and wiped down, possibly with a cleaning solution and lubricant. You may need to visit your local pro shop for specific instructions on your sight. While cleaning, make sure not to lose the steel ball or spring from under the knob. An easier portion of your sight to clean is the long, threaded rod that controls the vertical micro adjustment of your sight; this can be wiped down or blown dry with compressed air.
Deep scratches on your limbs can affect their integrity because of moisture that can possibly get into the limb and cause internal damage, especially with wood or bamboo core limbs. If you find a deep scratch on your limb, a simple touch-up with clear nail polish will do the trick of sealing the scratch and preventing moisture from penetrating the inside of your limb.
Finger tabs and releases can also require attention after shooting in adverse conditions. For mechanical release aids, visiting your local pro shop and authorized dealer will be your biggest help in maintaining your specific model; there are too many release aid styles to be able to generalize a single cleaning process. For finger tab shooters, making sure to keep the leather in good working order is key. After shooting in the rain, make sure to air out your tab by taking it out of your quiver or bow case. Some archers even put their finger tabs into a plastic zip-lock bag with a silica gel pack to act as a desiccant. Because it’s a natural material, the leather on your tab will have to be changed occasionally, and again, the rate at which you change your tab will vary depending on how much shooting you do.
Don’t leave your bow in extreme weather conditions, like in hot direct sunlight for extended periods of time, or in a hot car. Storing your bow in direct sunlight or high heat can affect the epoxies that are in your limbs, which can lead to failures in the limbs’ structural integrity.
Taking care of your bow will give you plenty of years of shooting, and you won’t have to upgrade your equipment out of necessity. Being familiar with the inner workings of your equipment will give you more confidence on the shooting field, and addressing equipment problems will be easier and less stressful.