Can assembling your very own home bow shop make you a better bowhunter? A huge component of successful bowhunting is being intimate with your equipment, and nothing helps you get there faster than amassing the tools for a home bow shop, and learning how to use them. But this practice is not for everyone.
If you have the time, money, and inclination, becoming a completely self-sufficient bow technician is indeed a great goal. But a more-pressing goal for every bowhunter—and one that offers the potential to literally save a hunt—is to ensure you are always carrying at least a basic “emergency repair kit” that will help you thwart some common in-the-field mishaps.
Here are a few of the things I carry with me most every time I travel.
1. Amazing shrink fletch
On cold winter nights I dearly love to use my old trusty fletching jigs to carefully build some custom arrows, especially some eye-catching crested and feather-fletched arrows meant for my traditional bows. But these days, when it comes to arrows meant for my compounds, and especially for ultra-fast arrow repair, I’ve become a serious fan of the latest “shrink-fletch” products offered by Extreme Archery, New Archery Products, and Bohning. All feature a plastic “cartridge” to which is glued three plastic fletchings of various designs; to repair a fletching-damaged arrow simply scrape off any remnants of the previous fletching with a knife, then slide on a new shrink fletch cartridge and dip the works into boiling water. In 10 seconds your arrow is ready to rock again. Initially I was concerned about the durability of these shrink-wrap cartridges but have tested them extensively in some fairly extreme hot (and more importantly, bitter cold) temps. They are not only impressively durable, I now depend on them almost exclusively for my compound arrows; my emergency kit always holds a three-pack.
2. Portable bow press
My home bow shop holds a full-size bow press but when traveling—and especially on those trips when I don’t bring an extra bow—I bring along a portable press (mine is a Bowmaster). This compact unit doesn’t take up much space and allows me to install peep sights or string silencers, or even change a bowstring (be sure to bring one) if necessary.
3. Allen wrench sets
I always carry at least two of these lightweight, portable sets; one stays in my daypack and I’ll have another in my gear duffel just in case. I use them regularly to ensure my sights, quivers, rests, and more are locked down tight.
4. Extra string loop material/lighters
I’ve been on several hunts where buddies have had their loops fail; thankfully it’s never happened to me but if it does I’ll be ready. Also, my emergency kit always includes a few lighters that are required for proper installation.
5. Extra sight and rest screws
Most of these are small and easily lost when attempting to make an adjustment. Thwart Murphy by carrying a few extras.
6. Bowstring wax
I’ve never had a string severed while hunting but some of my friends have had this unfortunate failure. I have been frightened by the sight of my frayed and fuzzy bowstring halfway through a few backcountry elk hunts that required a good bit of bushwhacking. Nothing helps your string last, and otherwise fend off disaster, like regular applications of protective wax; a tube is in my pack at all times.
The Benefits of an Extra Bow
This might seem excessive for bowhunting newbies, but many who have been bowhunting awhile seem to have a spare around somewhere. The nice thing about toting a ready-to-shoot spare bow (that you’ve shot recently and is tuned for your current arrow/broadhead combo) is that it renders almost all the aforementioned emergency gear unnecessary. For those who can swing it the practice comes highly recommended. I’ve carried an extra bow for years, and it hasn’t been a hassle because I’ve always been a fan of airline approved “double bow” cases when I travel. My typical approach is to remove any “extra” layers of foam these cases typically come with, and simply use my hunting clothes as padding around my two bows. Lately I’ve been saving even more space by toting along a compact takedown recurve as my “backup” bow on some of my out-of-state bowhunts, although this approach does require separate arrows and broadheads and, of course, traditional archery proficiency.
Some Important Additions
In addition to the aforementioned, I’ll make sure my kit includes some Kevlar thread and a needle or two to reattach buttons (carry a few spares) and mend cuts in outerwear, and I’ll also include some adhesives (Super Glue gel, two-part epoxy) that might come in handy for a variety of gear fixes. Similarly, I find it difficult to leave home without at least one roll of do-everything duct tape, and I always carry extra batteries for headlamps and laser rangefinders, which have a nasty habit of powering down when you need them most. More smart items are extra broadhead blades as well as a compact carbide sharpening tool that can touch up heads as well as your knives. Also in my pack is a well-appointed yet compact first aid kit and one of those silver-lined heat-saving emergency bags, to provide a few options when a gear failure might impact the bowhunter himself. Knock on wood.