Have you ever been packing for a vacation, and taken along some pain killers or cold medicine, just in case? You don't want to have your trip hindered by a sudden cold or a pounding headache, right?
Packing your bow and backpack for a hunting trip should be thought of no differently. A compound bow is a simple yet sophisticated tool.
The smallest thing going wrong with your bow can end a hunt in an instant, and you need to prepare yourself the remedy some of the most common bow issues that you will come across in the field.
Whether you are heading out for a day trip to the local whitetail stand, or packing for a foreign hunting adventure, there are certain items that you should always have in your backpack to make sure your bow is in shooting shape. Here are 5 essential bowhunting accessories that will help you keep your bow in top condition, and protect against any accidents.
- Hex Keys
Your bow is held together almost entirely with hex bolts, and for good reason.
A hex bolt is prone to stripping, and almost any size can be accommodated by a simple hex key set. If anything comes loose, you want to be able to get it taken care of immediately without having to go back to the truck, or even back home.
I was on a trip in the Northwest Territories of Canada a few years back hunting Dall's sheep and mountain caribou, and on day three or four I encountered a rattle coming from my bow that I noticed when I was hiking with it.
I could not figure out what was going on, and was getting nervous and frustrated. I did not want to hike another step until I had this sorted out. If I couldn't trust that my bow was going to make a perfect shot, then that was the end of the line.
I started shaking my bow to try to replicate this rattle. I would only hear it if I shook my bow left/right, it was silent when I did an up/down shake. I quickly realized that my draw length module on my cam had come loose.
This was extremely relieving to me, as I knew I had a set of hex keys in my pack, and we would be back on the hike in just a moment. Had I not have had my hex keys, we would have been completely screwed. We were half a day's hike from our tents, and a helicopter ride away from the main camp. That one small packing decision could have completely changed the course of my hunt.
This experience also led me to a field trick I use every time I hunt with my bow. I shake it! I will be walking and shaking my bow, up/down, left/right, to see if I can hear any rattle coming from it. Most times I don't, but the odd time I will come across a loose bolt that could have potentially ruined my hunt if I had not noticed it - and thankfully I pack my hex keys so that I can fix it when it happens.
- Dental Floss (or bowstring material)
'Burnishing' is a term and process that I learnt when I was learning how to build bowstrings, and it quickly had a practical application for me in the field as well.
Burnishing is the process of wrapping a single strand of bowstring material around bowstring so it forms a complete cinch. You then pull on the two ends, and run the bowstring material back and forth down the bowstring.
In string building, the purpose of this is the remove as much wax as you can from the string before finishing it to help remove some of the possibility of peep rotation, but there is a real-world application to this string builder's skill.
I was hunting in northern Alberta for elk when I figured out this one. It was pouring rain for nine days straight, and the brush was so thick that me and everything I owned was covered in pollen, sap, dirt, you name it.
When I would get back inside for the night and let my gear dry out, my bowstrings were in terrible condition after only a few days of this weather and abuse. They desperately needed to be cleaned.
I figured I would try burnishing my string and cables, but I didn't have any bowstring material so I used some waxy dental floss. I couldn't pull the cinch as tight as I would have with string material without the floss breaking, but it worked quite well!
This quickly became something I do all the time in my shop, and in the field to clean bowstrings and cables. I always keep multiple foot long lengths of string material in a plastic bag in my pack, and if you don't have string material then throw in a pack of dental floss.
You will be shocked at how well this can get the gunk and dirty wax out of your bowstrings after a wet, dusty, or muddy hunt. Check out our Instagram reel where I give a quick demonstration of how to clean your strings by burnishing!
- String Wax
This one ties right in with burnishing. Remember, the original purpose of burnishing a string is to remove wax. So, when you are burnishing with the intention of cleaning, you will be removing a lot of wax from your strings as well.
As soon as you finish cleaning your strings, you want to reapply wax to avoid them drying out. Having your strings soak in rain all day and dry out is very hard on them, and will have them fraying in no time.
I had a guy once bring his bow to me with a broken string. He was elk hunting in the rain just like I was, and it was clear to me that he had never waxed or cleaned his strings in their life. The string was horribly frayed, dry, and filthy. His string snapped on a branch that it brushed, something that should never happen to a strong, well cared for string. This little mishap ruined his hunt completely.
If you see any fraying at all on your bowstrings even at home, you need to get that taken care of with wax immediately.
A bowstring is made of 18-24 individual strands of bowstring material, each contributing to the tension that your string can withstand. When your string is fraying, that is a strand that is trying to break, or in a lot of cases is actually broken.
A broken strand takes away some of the strength that your bowstring has to withstand tension. Let's say you have a 20 strand-count string, and 2 strands have frayed away.
This is 10% of your strings strength completely gone. Regular cleaning and waxing can make a good string last for years, and bowstring wax is definitely a backpack bow care essential.
- D-loop Material and Needle Nose Pliers
This one is a bit more of a rare issue that most guys don't worry about, and I didn't either. However, a foot of D-loop material and some small pliers take up almost no weight and room in your back, and come with plenty of benefits.
When I was 14 years old my dad took me to Wyoming to hunt pronghorn. I didn't know much about my bow other than how to shoot it at the time, and that cost us a lot of valuable hunting time on this trip.
It was the evening that we had arrived at camp and we were all outside making sure our sites were on. I had taken a few shots, and on my next draw my D-loop snapped. My arrow went flying and I was very shocked. I had no idea what to do, and if my hunt was over because of this.
We talked to the outfitter, and the nearest archery shop was about an hour and a half drive and didn't open until morning. Hopes of sitting on the water hole for sunrise were now gone.
We made it to the archery shop the next morning, and it took the tech only two or three minutes to put a new D-loop on and have me shooting again. My dad and I couldn't believe how simple it seemed.
So, we went back and finished the hunt and when I got home he took me to the archery shop and told me I was going to learn to tie a D-loop. I spent some time with the tech, bought some material and some needle nose plyers, and after a bit of practice I could tie a D-loop like my shoes.
Never again have I had to tie a D-loop in the field, but I am always ready. I have also found that carrying needle nose pliers has come in handy in a variety of situations.
I've pulled porcupine quills out of a dogs face with them, and cactus needles out of my own arse with them. Adding some D-loop material to my bag of string material takes up no extra weight or room, and the plyers are handy for more than just tying D-loops.
These two items have become guaranteed items that you will find in my pack anytime I am in the field. Had I have learnt this skill before my Wyoming trip, I would have gotten a morning hunt in and saved my dad three hours of driving! You can check out our video on 'how to tie a D-loop' to learn for yourself!
When you gather all of these small pieces of gear together, it takes up almost no space! I 'borrowed' a black travel toiletries bag from my girlfriend to put my backpack bow kit in, and it has been with me for a couple of years now (she is never getting that bag back!)
It works so well for keeping all of these small pieces of gear together and compact and I can’t imagine packing my hunting pack without it. I also look back on all of these hunting trips where things went wrong, and think about how much time I saved (or could have saved) myself by having this kit. I am excited to see what field problems I find myself and my backpack bow kit solving next!
If you have any questions or would like to discuss the topic further, please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are always more than happy to talk arrows and broadheads with fellow bowhunters!