Bow protection in the backcountry
As western hunters, we take readying our gear for the rigors of mountain hunting as a serious task. Things can go awry quickly when accessing a remote country and being prepared for such situations can really pay dividends. Long ago, I learned that taking care of my bow while hiking into and through some of these areas was pivotal and that even the smallest thing could put my hunt out of immediate commission.
The backbone to your entire bow setup is the string and cables. Without these, the bow simply will not work. A million and one things can happen to your strings while hunting; however, most of the issues I’ve fixed for archers are generally caused by the same common problems: friction wear and derailments.
Often times, accessing remote country will require a lengthy hike and a decent chunk of time will be spent staring into the beam of a headlamp. While hiking into an area in the dark I really like to be hands-free and much prefer to strap my bow to my pack for the hike. Once a bow is strapped tightly down to a pack there will be very little give and a lot of friction. Pack straps can wear through cables in a hurry and errant low hanging branches can quickly derail a bow without much warning. A simple bow sling can provide ample protection against both of these cases and really save a hunt.
I very rarely, if ever, have a sling on my bow once legal shooting light has arrived, but for cross country travel, traveling through super thick underbrush or while hiking into an area, the protection is priceless.
Along with the protection of your string and cables, another area that can take some consideration is your sight. Most companies nowadays do a great job in protecting the large portion of your sight’s fiber optics, but there is almost always a vulnerable spot, which is generally around where the pins attach to the sight housing. These tight areas love to snag on small twigs and branches, which will, in turn, rip out pin fiber, bend pins and otherwise deeply hinder your aiming efforts.
A simple sight cover can be an excellent way to protect against pin breaks and fiber issues. Additionally, for anyone shooting a lens, this can be an excellent option to keep dust and other debris out of your sight picture.
Soft versus hard cases
Obviously, the general theme of this article is largely aimed at times when we are accessing or otherwise moving through the backcountry, but what about while we are driving to these locations? With the exception of a few of my hunting areas, most of my hunts will see me spending ample amounts of time staring through the windshield of my pickup that also happens to be heavily loaded down with gear. My bow very rarely has its own designated gear free zone to ride in so it is delegated to a quality case to protect it during these travels.
I’ve restrung a lot of bows over the years that have become derailed in the truck while riding to the hunting location simply because something shifted in the truck. A good quality case will generally largely prevent this and can save on costly repairs. Once, while returning from a spring bear trip, my buddy’s bow shifted onto my bow, which was laying open and exposed on the back seat of his pickup. The constant rattle and bouncing from the rough road eventually sent his sharp limb edge through the cable of my bow, effectively putting me out of commission for a few days.
The biggest decision when looking at bow cases will be deciding whether to go for a soft or hard case. Generally speaking, the prices on soft cases can be lower; however, they offer very little in terms of actually protecting the bow. Accidental string cuts can be greatly reduced, but a small amount of outside pressure on a bow stored in a soft case can still cause derailment. Still, with some research, hard cases can be had for around $50 and will offer tenfold the protection a soft case will.
This is a somewhat odd section to add to this article but is something I feel is important to discuss. While not available to all, hunting from livestock can be an interesting experience and opens up a lot of doors in terms of backcountry hunting. However, I have fixed or otherwise repaired a staggering amount of bows that have been blown up by stock, particularly horses. When dealing with several 700+ pound animals that are strung together the odds of your bow surviving a hangup on a branch is dismally low. Even more, horses love to lean on trees with your bow as the unfortunate catcher of the force.
Whether the bow is being carried in a scabbard, on the back of the hunter or in a case strapped to the horse, blowups with livestock are common. The biggest factor that can save a lot of time and heartache is being cognizant of where your bow is at all times and recognizing potential hazards prior to encountering them.
As with all of my previous articles, the main focus of this article is to provide mostly cheap and simple solutions to mitigating problems that are somewhat in our control. In hunting, there are a million and one things that nature can throw in our direction, but I absolutely hate when a hunt is ended due to short-sightedness on my end. A small amount of effort can go a long way when hoping to successfully punch a tag on an animal, especially when hunting the backcountry.