Take a minute to pull back on your bow to see how your shoulder feels. “Ouch!” is a common response I hear around the bow shops this time of year. Hunters are getting ready for opening day of bowseason for whitetails on Oct. 1 (Oct. 15 in Southeast). It isn’t a moment too soon either.

“The biggest mistake a bowhunter can make is to assume both their shoulders, back and their bow equipment are ready after months of inactivity,” says Bill Leamond of Bill’s Archery Shop in Pearl. “It’s like letting your truck sit up for a year and expecting the thing to start right up without hesitation. Anything mechanical requires regular maintenance, especially bowhunting gear and especially the human body.”

Most bows and related gear are designed to be pretty darn sturdy and resilient to everyday use in the normal processes of hunting. Once properly tuned, with the sights set with the correct arrows and broadheads, the set up will last a good while unless something outright breaks or it is overly abused. Still, quality bowhunting equipment and the user need an annual tune up to reach peak performance.

Advice from experts

Going a few steps further in this discussion, I thought it pertinent to get some feedback from some real factory experts on the essential steps to follow for a preseason bowhunting and hunter check up. BowTech warranty manager Todd Snader and the factory pro-shop manager Todd Levings were kind enough to help out. Here are their recommendations:

1. The most important thing to remember for any new bow purchases, tune-up or evaluation is to give yourself enough time. Go to your dealer early to get your bow tuned up properly back to factory specs. Don’t wait until the last minute.

2. Evaluate your strings for any fuzzing or fraying. Also check for serving separation. Once begun, these will both become much more predominant as time goes on. If you don’t replace your strings in time, this will damage your equipment.

3. Remember that there is a settling period for most new string and cable sets. Give extra time after your purchase and do not be afraid to get them put on your bow in advance before you plan to hunt. This will prevent any creep in your strings or cables while you are out in the field.

4. Be sure to check all of your bolts, mod screws and e-clips, and be sure all accessory attachments are tightened as they should be. This may prevent a catastrophe during your hunt. I can remember watching a bowhunter come back to camp one morning with all the parts and pieces of his bow cradled in his arms after the bow string let go. He commented he knew that string was about to break. What is it they say about an ounce of prevention?

5. Keep in mind that fixed-blade broadheads do not always shoot the same as field tips do. You should practice with the same broadheads you will be hunting with to be sure your shot is not only dead on, but consistently shooting to the same aiming point.

6. If you need to buy arrows, buy them early on before the season starts. You never know for certain if you will be able to purchase the exact same arrows you have been shooting for the last five years. All arrows do not shoot the same. You should practice with the exact arrows, brand and length with the same exact broadheads that you actually plan to hunt with. Do not change up a thing unless you are looking for different results.

7. All hunters should start shooting their bows very early to get themselves in shape. Start slow, then work up to as many practice shots as you can find the time for on a regularly scheduled basis. Once a week will not get the job done. You will never get the perfect shot if you are not as tuned up as your bow.

8. As the hunting season gets closer, be sure to practice with all your hunting gear on in order to get the same feel as you would on the actual hunt. This means not to wear a light T-shirt when you practice. Wear the same long-sleeve shirt and/or the jacket or coat you might be wearing. Shooting a bow with a winter coat on is a completely different game than when wearing just a cotton shirt.

9. Practice from elevated positions to get the various distances and shooting angles worked out. Remember it is a shorter distance from the base of a tree or ladder stand to the target than the angle shot. Learn this so you don’t overshoot the biggest buck of your life.