Investment of time and effort is necessary for a successful hunt. A hunter spends hours scouting and locating game before the moment of truth. Significant time is spent setting up a good location and waiting for the perfect moment. Good hunting opportunities are hard to get. So it’s important to ensure the performance of your weapon. Regular maintenance of your crossbow increases accuracy, the lifetime of your equipment. In addition, it reduces weapon failure and personal injury. Below is a few maintenance, storage, and safety tips to keep your crossbow in top working order. Weapon failure at the moment of truth is something every hunter wants to avoid. A crossbow has both a gun and bow part, and so it has twice the maintenance. Maintenance and safety ensure many more years of effective hunting.
Wax Strings and Cables
It is important to wax your crossbow string to reduce the wear on it. Crossbow wax will save your string from potential damage. Ensure a layer of protection against normal friction to keep the string from becoming dry and brittle. Be sure to use a wax specially designed for crossbow strings. Apply an ample amount of crossbow wax to the string. Then use your thumb and index finger to rub it. The heat generates from the rubbing will smooth the wax.
Replacing the Strings and Cables
A crossbow string is under so much stress when it is drawn that it eventually wears out over time no matter how regularly you wax it. Strings and cables aren’t expensive and can be changed. If you are a dedicated hunter, replace your crossbow string and cable at least every three years. Change them sooner when you notice any excessive fraying or unraveling.
Lubricate Your Rail
Minimize friction, ensure smooth traction, and improve accuracy by applying an oil-based rail lubricant to your flight rail. Apply one drop of crossbow lubricant on each side of the rail. Be sure that you spread it up the entire length of the rail. Make sure you re-apply lubricant after every 50 to 60 shots. Whenever you notice your rail is getting dull or dry, apply more lubricant sooner. The lubricant will create a bright and smooth surface along the rail. However, make sure it is not so thick that it cakes up. Avoid petroleum jelly, gun oil, or WD-40 to lubricate your crossbow rail. They give off a strong smell that could keep deer away and gum up your machine. They may also reduce the strength of your string and cables.
Lubricate the Trigger Box and Bolts
Apply a few drops of lubricants to the trigger box and the visible mounting bolts including the ones connecting the riser to the stock. The lubricant will save the bolts from corrosion and damp weather.
Inspect Your Equipment Before Shooting
Whether your purpose is hunting or practice hitting targets, always inspect your crossbow and the bolts. The excessive vibration generated when you fire can loosen up bolts. Wiggle the riser and limbs to see if they move independently of the stock. Look for any cracks or twisting in the limbs. Keep a screwdriver or hex key in your crossbow case and check the bolts regularly and tighten them up if necessary. Look for any bending in the arrow shaft. Also, check if the fletchings are firmly attached to the bolt shaft.
Cocking Your Crossbow
If your crossbow has an integrated rope cocking device, consult your owner’s manual for detailed cocking instructions. If your crossbow doesn’t have any cocking device, purchase a separate rope cocking device. It is inexpensive and worth the investment. When using a rope cocking device, first make sure your crossbow is pointed at the ground. Next, place your foot firmly in the stirrup and check if the safety switch is in the “fire” position. Now place the rope around the groove at the back of your crossbow in a way so that one pulley is on either side of the stock. Move the pulleys downward when positioned, and hook them on the crossbow string. Then pull back smoothly on both handles until the string locks in place. Finally, make sure the safety is on before you slide the bolt into place.
You can use a hand cranking device for cocking your crossbow. It’s a bit more pricey compared to rope devices but is easier to use. This cocking aid requires less than 10 pounds of cranking strength to reach full cock. This makes them a great option for females or elderly hunters who lack adequate strength to cock their crossbow. Point your crossbow toward the ground and place your foot firmly in the stirrup. Keep the safety switch in the “fire” position. Use the owner’s manual as a guide. Attach the hooks to the string, and begin cranking. When the string is in place, stop cranking and switch the safety to the “on” position.
Loading Your Crossbow
After cocking, it’s time to load a bolt. Before you load your crossbow, make sure it is pointed toward the ground and that your finger is well away from the trigger. Before loading, make sure your bolt is in good condition. Now slide it along the flight rail until the nock is positioned properly.
To shoot a crossbow safely, position the crossbow against your shoulder like a rifle. Don’t take your finger closer to the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Line up your sight pins and peer through your scope. When you are ready to shoot, switch your safety off. Pull back the trigger with steady pressure. Don’t jerk the trigger, because it may move you off target. Instead, pull the trigger strongly and smoothly.
Decocking Your Crossbow
You will need to decock your crossbow if it’s necessary to unload it without firing a bolt. The best way to do it is to use a decocking arrow. It is a strong bolt with a blunt end in place of a field point or broadhead. Load it the same way you load a regular bolt, point the crossbow on the ground and pull the trigger. You can also use a rope cocking aid for the same purpose. Whatever way you decock your crossbow, make sure you follow the instructions come with the device.
Storing and Transporting Your Crossbow
Use a crossbow case to protect your crossbow from damage when you are transporting it to and from your hunting spot or practice field. Accessories may come loose, scopes can lose zero, and mechanisms can be damaged when crossbows get bumped and jostled. It’s better to use a hard case to protect your crossbow from damage. A case will also save it from dust, moisture, and extend the life of your strings, cables, and mechanisms. If you plan to travel with your crossbow, airlines require a hard case for the crossbow being transported.
Cams and Limbs
Inspect your crossbow’s cams and limbs regularly. If you notice excess vibration, different or louder sounds, and unpredictable accuracy, then your crossbow needs a thorough inspection.
Inspect your arrows before shooting. Do spin tests to make sure the arrows are straight. Straightness helps with accuracy. Flex the shafts of carbon arrows into a half moon shape by holding both ends. It ensures the spine is not damaged and can withhold the energy transferred from the string when released.
For spanning a crossbow, place your foot firmly at the stirrup to keep the crossbow from slipping and hitting your face. A cocking device helps with this. Once spanned, ensure the safety is on. Before seating an arrow, check the nock thoroughly. Make sure you never use a broken or cracked nock to fire a crossbow. While keeping the stirrup on the ground, place an arrow on the arrow track and slide it, nock first, towards the string. Some allow using a cocking device to un-span the crossbow, while others insist on fire a shot to unload it. Do not lay your crossbow on the ground when cocked, rather, stand it up against a tree, your leg or a fence post to prevent accidental firing.
Store your crossbow at room temperature when not in use. Keep it strung but un-cocked and away from chemicals. Inspect the cable route and guide, arrow track, limbs, and arrows from season to season. Keep a toolkit with your crossbow, containing an extra string, nuts and bolts, wrenches and screwdrivers, string wax, additional arrow parts, and rail lube.
All manufacturers’ websites list specifications, specific safety, and maintenance guidelines for their crossbows. Visit your manufacturer’s website for specific instructions. Having knowledge of crossbow maintenance and safety is surely helpful for a safe hunting.