Dry, damaged bowstrings can blow up in your face, causing significant injury, wrecking your rig, or—worst of all—spoiling your shot at the buck of a lifetime.
Bowstrings that are past their prime can also reduce consistent accuracy and have a negative impact on overall performance. Over time, the intense vibration and force of firing wears on strings, leaving them frayed, stretched out, and damaged. Even at rest, strings are under a lot of tension that limits their lifespan.
Several factors will dictate how well your bowstrings hold up and how often you should replace them, including how much you shoot, how much weight you pull, the conditions where you shoot and store your bow, and how well you maintain the strings.
Generally, a quality set of bowstrings can last several thousand shots when properly cared for. But even if you hang up your rig for a few months after the season (or do a mid-season checkup) and don’t shoot as often as you ought to, you shouldn’t wait longer than two to three years to replace strings.
If you’re shooting 3D tournaments every weekend and getting hundreds of practice reps in each week, you’ll probably want to switch them out more often. And anytime you buy a used bow, upgrading to a new set right away is a smart idea.
To determine if your bowstrings are due for replacement before the two-year mark, visually inspect them for any areas that look dry, frayed, faded, separated, or otherwise damaged. Then run your fingers across the strings, feeling for any spots that are brittle or fuzzy. Pay special attention to the portions along the yoke and near the cams.
Bowstrings won’t always look like they’re about to break when they’re on their last leg—sometimes you have to evaluate performance to know when it’s time to swap them out.
When your bow seems to be losing speed, the poundage you’re pulling decreases without making any tweaks, the timing is off, the string creeps, or repeatable accuracy tanks, that’s a good indication your bowstrings are stretched or worn. When your peep sight suddenly begins rotating excessively, you could be dealing with a broken strand. Whenever you see a major shift in performance without making any changes to your form or setup, there’s a good chance you’re in need of new strings.
If you’re unsure, it’s best to err on the side of caution and replace your bowstring or head to a pro shop for an expert opinion. The $75 you spend on a brand-new set of bowstrings is certainly cheaper than investing in another bow altogether—and you should see a noticeable improvement in performance. Choose a quality set of bowstrings over a bargain find that could have you back in the pro shop within a few months.
Whenever you decide to replace your bowstrings, do so at least a month before you plan to hunt so you have plenty of time to ensure everything is working properly.
Although you should regularly replace your bowstrings, bowhunters can take a few steps to extend a string’s life and keep rigs shooting at peak performance.
Regular waxing is cheap and easy and keeps strings lubricated. The exact frequency will depend on how much shooting you do and the surrounding conditions, but once every three to four weeks when shooting regularly is a solid schedule. If you notice the strings looking dry or fuzzy at any time, you can give it another light coat of wax. Be sure to clean off any dust, dirt, or debris with a soft cloth before applying wax to prevent the residue from rubbing into the string, and always take a tube with you on hunts.
Take care not to continually brush bowstrings up against your clothing, branches, brush, and gear while walking through the woods. Repetitive contact can damage individual fibers and weaken bowstrings.
Before every shooting session and after every hunt, dust off bowstrings and inspect them for signs of wear or damage. Make sure no burrs or thorns that could cause excessive wear are caught on components, and carefully clean off any buildup.
Major shifts in temperature or humidity levels can also be hard on bowstrings. So rather than leaving your bow in a shed or garage that goes from a sticky 105 degrees in the summer to a dry 20 below in the winter, store it in a climate-controlled area year-round.
All in all, your bowstring is just like any other aspect of bowhunting—it requires attention and dedication. It’s also similar in the fact that the more you plan ahead and stay on top of its condition, the fewer headaches—literally or figuratively—you’ll have in the future.