The essential backcountry bow repair kit
When it comes to backcountry hunting there are many factors that hunters need to go right in order to return to the trailhead with a heavy pack. Conversely, Mother Nature is a truly unrelenting and uncompassionate force and there are a million and one factors working against your success. There will always be occurrences that are completely out of our control, but, also, many that can be mitigated or extinguished with a small amount of preparation.
Several years ago while hunting a remote canyon for elk in Montana, I was sneaking along a well-used trail when an oversight to a rain-soaked clump of bear grass sent me to the ground in a hurry. I made the quick mental checks that everything on my body still felt decent, dusted myself off and continued on. An hour or so later I found a good location to watch a saddle covered in a good sign and grab a quick bite and a drink of water. While contemplating my afternoon plan I noticed that my sight appeared to be leaning at a peculiar angle. After further inspection, it became wildly apparent that my somewhat innocent fall had cranked the second axis adjustment on my single pin sight a good 10 degrees. At this point, I realized that this new revelation also carried the ugly truth that I now had to hike several miles out to my truck and drive two hours back to the house just to get a simple wrench to re-square everything.
A simple backcountry field kit for my bow or at the very least an allen wrench set at the truck could have easily prevented my now lengthy repair run and had me back in the elk woods that evening. From that day forward I kept a specialized first aid kit for my bow in my pack wherever I went.
Factors to consider when building your kit
Backcountry hunting can be heavy and the thought of adding all of the extra tools needed to properly repair my bow in the field was my first initial concern. The first thing I did was sit down and make of list of possible situations, how they would need to be rectified and what was the most realistic approach. Next, I took my list of possible show-stopping bow injuries and took a realistic approach to each one: Which one of these can I realistically repair in the field? Which will need to be rectified via my home shop? I’ve read before where some guys have actually packed an extra set of broken in strings and a portable press with them.
While this can certainly cut down on an unneeded several mile trek back to the truck, it’s just not practical in my eyes. I know, personally speaking, that If I needed to change strings in the backcountry I’d want to do a whole lot of tuning and tweaking before I was confident enough in the setup to hunt with it. However, under certain circumstances like a horseback hunt, for example, I’d be more inclined to bring more gear.
The main thing I wanted to accomplish with this kit was to be prepared to work on common occurrences in the backcountry like loose bolts, broken D-loops or loose serving.
Repair kit at the truck
As I’ve noted, I’m not a huge fan of bringing everything from my home shop with me on a backpack hunt; just the essentials. Still, when I’m several hours—or a full day drive—from home it can make a lot of sense to have a traveling shop of sorts back at the trailhead. Common items for this will include full wrench sets, targets, extra arrows and broadheads and, even sometimes, my bow press. While a string change at the trailhead wouldn't be terribly difficult I still subscribe more to the plan of having a second bow set up and ready to hunt in my truck in lieu of spending a few hours tuning and tweaking.
When beginning to put together your own kit, first, take a look at your bow and accessories and determine exactly what you’ll need. Sight “A” may take different wrenches than sight “B” and so forth. Along that same train of thought, it’s also not imperative to carry a wrench for every bolt on your bow. Primarily, I like to look at what parts of my bow can move or could be detrimental if loose—something like windage adjustment screws for rest and sights and mounting screws for accessories. Some hunters may opt to carry wrenches for adjusting limb bolts, but I can honestly say that in all of my years of selling and servicing bows, I’ve never seen a limb bolt move on its own.
The list below details what I will be carrying in my bow repair kit for 2019:
- 3’ BCY #24 D-Loop cord
- 5’ Brownell 1D serving
- Various individual wrenches to cover my important screws
- Two extra field tips
- Two extra arrow nocks
- Extra broadhead components (ferrules and blades)
This kit is fairly simple and straightforward and fully designed with the contingency of my second bow at the trailhead. Essentially, I’m merely packing for quick and dirty fixes while leaving big and severe cases to be handled by the backup bow. Beyond the tools in my bow kit, there are other items that I carry in my other kits that can double up for bow repair tools like a multi-tool, super glue, lighters and a knife. Depending on your own personal setup, you could forgo some of the D-Loop cord. I carry enough to replace my limb driven drop away rest cord plus a few D-loops. I like to also carry a few extra arrow components in case of accidental breakages or in the case that I need to take a few sight verification shots. For another look at this, you can check out Brady's old article here.
At the end of the day, it won’t matter how much gear and tools you pack with you if the knowledge on how to use the items is lacking. Like all of your other gear, it’s always a good idea to practice the use and execution of each item prior to leaving on the hunt. We recently recorded a video series where I did a complete build for my 2019 Mathews Traverse. While this video series focuses more on the process, it does highlight some of the finer points of doing some bow wrenching at home.
Another great habit to get into is prepping your bow before the season to mitigate the opportunities for situations that are somewhat in our control from happening. The biggest example of this I run into with customers’ bows is loose bolts and screws. A small amount of blue Loctite can work wonders and solve some serious headaches. (Pro Tip: String wax works great for a quick fix thread locker for bolts and field tips). I will be writing an article to follow this that will highlight pre-season bow prep in-depth.