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Camouflaging your bow: Waste of time?

Black bow at full draw

Over the years, I have changed my bowhunting setup multiple times. From new bows, to new sights and rests, then switching from a camouflage riser one year to a black riser the next. I enjoy testing products and bow tuning each season, but of all the bow equipment modifications I have made over the years, I have never attempted to remove glare from my bow by camouflaging it. 

The more I have thought about it, the more I have wondered if some of my blown stalks over the years were due to the glare caused by the sun reflecting off the metal parts of my bow and its accessories when I am closing in on an animal. Maybe if I removed the glare with a muted flat camouflage color I would have been able to get closer in my stalk — had just a few more seconds to reach full draw or settle my pin before a buck bounded out of my life forever. All of the extra things we do to improve our chances of success will add up in the end, helping us be more successful.

Is removing glare necessary?

Glare on bow cam

With all the high quality finishes available for your bow nowadays, why apply muted camo to your bow and accessories? The biggest reason is shine or glare. All of the accessories on your bow have a glare to them, even if you choose to have them custom-dipped in camo. Your bow cams, cable guard, limb pockets and all the accessories (sight, rest and quiver) will produce a shine when the sun reflects off of it. Big game animals can see that shine and will likely become spooked when in close range because the shine is unnatural. After spending all of the time and energy to get into position, it is important to minimize any bowhunting frustrations especially since you have worked so hard to get in position for a shot.

While it is an old adage that if an animal can see the bow, it is already too late, there are ways to work around that to increase your hunting odds. Taking the time to camouflage your bow will give you some advantage instead of hoping that you are always in a position that does not show glare.

Camouflage patterns for the most part appeal to the human eye, but they also attempt to conceal the hunter. Human vision uses a full range of colors while ungulate vision uses shades of yellow, blue and gray only. This allows a solid color bow that is not in those color shades to work perfectly for bowhunting. Muted colors are very common with the military. If you take a look at current sniper rifles, binoculars and tripods used by our military you will see a common theme that utilizes muted colors to reduce glare. While the military is using it to stay concealed from humans, the same logic can be applied to ungulates in terms of concealment and glare reduction. 

More reasons for removing glare

While plenty of animals are taken by hunters using a stock camouflaged film dip or black bows, there are times when a stalk is blown even though the wind is perfect and the animal spooks anyway. Why? Was it a sudden change in wind direction? Did the animal catch your careful movement? Or did it see an unnatural shine coming from your bow?

Think of it this way. You have a mule deer buck lined up in your sight and are drawing back next to some small pinyon juniper trees. Which do you think would stand out and possibly cause this buck to bolt? A black or factory camouflaged bow or a bow that had a muted camouflage color to it? If the human eye can see it, an animal can see it a lot better. For this reason, hunters should lean on the side of caution.

Black, camouflage or stealth bows

Black bows (matte black included) or custom dipped bows will still have glare as soon as the sun hits them. Dark colored bows are a great choice when hunting out of a ground blind or dark timber. I had a great experience using a black bow last year hunting mule deer. Still, in the back of my mind, I felt slightly odd hunting with one since I felt like my bow was so visible.

Tools needed

Rustoleum flat paint Extra bow string
Krylon flat clear coat spray paint Allen wrenches
Painters tape SOS pad
Soap Sand paper

 

Steps for camouflaging your bow to remove glare

Sanding and cleaning the bow

Bear Archery bow ready for tape and paint

Start by applying a 400 grit sandpaper to the cams and metal surfaces of your bow and any other accessory you are painting. This will ensure the paint has something to stick too. Next clean your bow and all the accessories you intent to paint with an SOS pad and soap and water. You want to remove all the dust and oils from the areas you will be painting to ensure that paint will adhere to the surface correctly. Air dry your bow or thoroughly dry with an air hose. Either way it is best to let your bow dry for a few hours.

Applying painters tape

Taping the bow for paint

Apply painters tape to all of the areas you wish to avoid painting. While I kept the stock strings on my bow during the painting process because I will be switching them out for custom strings, I still covered the strings with painters tape in order to keep the strings as backups. I also did not want paint to build up in the string tracks of cams because I was worried about inconsistencies in paint build up and how it would affect accuracy. Using the stock string helped prevent excess paint from going in the string tracks. 

Tape off sight and accessories

Tape off sight and other bow accessories

It is also a great idea to apply tape to any area of your sight that you do not want painted. Areas include any fiber optic tubes, pins, or moveable sight rails.

Applying paint

Hanging bow for paint

After everything has been taped, it is time to apply a thin coat of spray paint. Either paint one side of your bow at a time, or hang it from a hook in a garage to paint both sides at once.

Painting bow accessories

Keep the spray can at least 12 inches away from the surfaces you are painting to avoid applying too much paint and having it run. 

Painting bow to remove glare

Wait at least an hour and apply a second coat of paint. After applying the second coat, carefully inspect for areas that need touch up.

Allowing paint to dry

Bow after paint has dried

Let your bow and accessories dry with the tape on for at least a day.

Bow accessories after paint

Here is a close-up photo of all the bow accessories after they have been painted. I paid special attention to all areas of the bow in order to keep glare to a minimum.

Remove tape and attach accessories

Bow after paint

The following day remove the tape and apply a thin coat of flat clear coat. You now have a newly stealthed out bow ready for bowhunting season. Next add all of your accessories and put on your bowstring you will hunt with. From start to end this process should only take you a few hours from start to finish if you don't include dry time.

Is camouflaging all parts of your bow necessary? That is up to you. I do know that it is important to me to gain every advantage I can when pursuing an old mule deer buck. I do not want to leave anything to chance. Removing the glare from your bow is an easy step to increase your hunting odds. If you want to go even further and add small patterns to your bow then you should check out this article on camouflaging your rifle. The same steps can be applied for creating a pattern on your bow.

12 Comments

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Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 3 years ago on 06-12-2015 11:37:54 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Glad you like the article and bow, Kevin. The Bear Arena is a smooth and hard hitting bow. I am getting 315 fps. at a 70 pound draw weight with a 440.2 grain arrow. Really easy to tune as well. Please let me know if you have any questions while setting it up.

Kevin_Boswell
Kevin B. - posted 3 years ago on 06-12-2015 11:07:57 am
Oceanside, CA
goHUNT INSIDER

Brady, I think that i am now a Bear Arena convert. After seeing it in this article and then getting the opportunity to shoot one this week has made a fan. Ordering one for Fathers Day

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 4 years ago on 04-08-2015 09:50:24 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Thanks, Tom. Glad you enjoyed it. I have actually painted the entire quiver since posting this article. After I took the photos for the article I noticed the glare from my camera's flash on the carbon section of the stabilizer. Turns out the camera flash is a great test. Also, I am still trying to see if I can find some tan athletic tape. Last year I added black athletic tape to both my front bar and back bar to remove glare and the athletic tape is still on the stabilizer. I just need to get some tan tape or will just paint over it before the season starts. Thanks for your questions!

tom.witbeck
Tom W. - posted 4 years ago on 04-08-2015 07:38:47 am
Otsego MN
goHUNT INSIDER

Nice article Brady, I think I will do this to some of the sections on my bow that I know are obviously to shiny.
My question though is why did you not paint the entire quiver and both your stabilizers?

Chris D. - posted 4 years ago on 04-03-2015 09:16:42 am
goHUNT INSIDER

"I hope in years to come more bow companies use a flat finish on cams and limb pockets. Leave the shiny parts for the target bows and make a bow built to bowhunt. It would be great if they avoid the speed race and work on shootability and concealment."

AMEN to that!

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 4 years ago on 04-03-2015 09:07:58 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Thanks, James. I'm sure it will affect resale value, but I feel that is worth the drop in price to get a few more bucks in a season. A lot of my bowhunting friends pay close attention to matching all the camouflage on their bow. Too bad a bow isn't like a hunting truck, where custom color, tires, rims and a lift kit will cause the price to increase. I hope in years to come more bow companies use a flat finish on cams and limb pockets. Leave the shiny parts for the target bows and make a bow built to bowhunt. It would be great if they avoid the speed race and work on shootability and concealment.

jamesctaylor17
James T. - posted 4 years ago on 04-03-2015 07:14:11 am
Salt Lake City, Utah

Good read Brady. One thing I wonder about is how painting your bow affects resale value. Are you still able to sell your bows when you upgrade if they're painted?

hybridauth_Facebook_199301489
Ronald H. - posted 4 years ago on 04-02-2015 12:01:17 pm

Thanks for clarifying. That makes more sense!

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 4 years ago on 04-02-2015 11:30:53 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hi Ronald. Sorry, I should have explained my reasoning a little clearer in the "Applying painters tape" at the top of the article. I covered it briefly, but I will go into more detail now. I was worried about the paint ruining my string and paint getting in the string track in the cams, so I kept the factory string on my bow while I painted the bow. Then after all the paint was dry, I removed the old string and put on my custom string. I still covered the string with painters tape because I want to use this string as a backup. I was really surprised in how well the stock string did with the slight amount of paint that got on it. I simply rubbed my hand across the string and the paint was removed. Hope that clears it up. Thanks for your comment.

hybridauth_Facebook_199301489
Ronald H. - posted 4 years ago on 04-02-2015 11:22:03 am

You may have mentioned this and I just didn't catch it, but, you're not worried about the painting ruining your bow strings since your painting them while they are still on your cams?

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 4 years ago on 04-02-2015 11:04:15 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Thanks, Chris. This glare issue really hit home for me while I was sitting on top of a ridge on my Nevada mule deer hunt this past year. When the sun finally shined, I finally noticed how bright my bow cams were in the sun. FMJ arrows are so bright. I don't use FMJ's anymore, but when I did I noticed the same thing you are mentioning. I've thought about taking a light coat of spray paint to the logo on my carbon arrows. Logos are always too bright. What I need to do is experiment with the sheen of the carbon surface and find a way to dull that without hurting the arrow or making it impossible to pull out of a target.

Chris D. - posted 4 years ago on 04-02-2015 09:08:27 am
goHUNT INSIDER

Great article Brady! I have been pondering this issue for years. Not long ago I watched a buddy stalk/crawl a group of bucks from the other side of a canyon. Every time he picked up his bow I could see it shine with my naked eye. He did not get to 100 yards before he got busted and I am sure they saw his bow first. But I will say, I think his arrows (FMJ's) were shinning as much as his bow. Do you paint your arrows?