Let’s face it: most hunters who own crossbows don’t know much about them. We know they are similar to a conventional bow but yet very different. Many hunters who have one probably purchased it within the last year; some within the last few months. We know how to cock them. We know we can keep a pretty tight group with the bolts, but if you are like me, you have a lot to learn about caring for a crossbow.
To gain a better understanding of how they work and how to keep them working smoothly, I interviewed Jim Kempf from Scorpyd Crossbows. Kempf invented Reverse Draw Technology and has been building crossbows for years. According to Kempf, with a little tender loving care, a crossbow can provide years of worry-free use. If you don’t take proper care of them, they will break like everything else.
For starters, like a regular bow, a crossbow has strings and cables. Over time, the strings and cables will start to wear out. By regularly waxing the strings and cables, you can prolong the life of the string. I believe the strings and cables on a crossbow should be waxed more often than a regular bow. “A crossbow string holds much more weight when it is being drawn than a conventional bow,” Kempf explained. “In many cases, over twice the draw weight of a regular bow. The string needs regular waxing to stay in top notch shape.” Like bow strings, crossbow strings can fray and dry out. Regular waxing keeps them going strong for years. Waxing a string only takes a few seconds so doing it every week or at least once a month can make a big difference. Having a string break in the field can end a day of hunting or even cost you a nice buck.
Some crossbow companies suggest lubing the rail from time to time to make sure it is well lubricated. Friction from the string can wear on the rail of some crossbows. Keeping the rail lubed reduces friction and keeps things operating smoothly.
Crossbows can have timing issues similar to issues a two-cam bow has. If the cams get out of sync with each other, erratic arrow flight and other problems often result. Many crossbow companies have timing marks on the cams and the cable should align perfectly on the same mark on both cams. “On my cams, I have a hole in each cam. The cables can be seen through those holes and you can tell by looking through the holes if everything is in time or not. If the timing is not perfect, the cables in one hole will take up a different amount of space in the hole than the other cam. In other words, the cables will not appear to be in the same place as you look through the hole,” Kempf noted. If you think your cams are out of time, Kempf suggests you take your crossbow to a dealer who understands how crossbows work to have them adjust the cables.
One solution to this problem is getting a recurve crossbow. A recurve crossbow doesn’t have cams so there are fewer moving parts that can fail. A string can easily be changed on a recurve crossbow but there are some drawbacks. Recurve limbs are much longer, therefore the crossbow is much bulkier to carry and maneuver in the woods. Although it is not true in all cases, many of them aren’t as fast as crossbows equipped with cams. “To achieve the same speeds as a crossbow with cams, the recurve limbs will need to have much more draw weight. The more draw weight you have, the harder it is to cock the bow because you are cocking that much more weight,” Kempf said.
PURCHASE THE RIGHT BOLTS
Remember that some crossbows require a bolt that has a flat nock while others require a bolt that has a half moon nock. “Most crossbows have some type of anti-dry fire system built into them which is often deactivated by the nock,” Kempf noted. “The Scorpyd Crossbow requires a half moon nock. A flat nock won’t work with our anti-dry fire device.” When purchasing extra bolts, buy bolts that come with the type of nocks your manual recommends.
OIL THE TRIGGER
Like guns, crossbows have a trigger and a safety mechanism. Kempf suggests putting a few drops of oil in your trigger mechanism and in your safety slide at least once a year. “A good lubricating oil will keep the trigger working well and prevent the safety from getting rusty or freezing up. The more the crossbow is used and the more it is in harsh weather conditions, the more often the trigger and safety should be lubricated,” Kempf advised.
TIGHTEN THINGS UP
Crossbows vibrate more than the average bow because they are shooting at such fast speeds. Due to the excessive vibration, crossbow users should regularly tighten all nuts and bolts found on the crossbow. “Over time, the vibration from shooting a crossbow can loosen things up. Scopes, quivers and other add-on items are especially prone to become loose and fall off. By making sure everything is tight on a regular basis, you won’t have to worry about something falling off the crossbow in the field,” Kempf noted. Loose nuts and bolts create more noise which as most of us know can increase the chance of a deer jumping the string.
VIBRATION DAMPENING DEVICES
One way to reduce the amount of vibration your crossbow produces is to purchase aftermarket vibration dampening devices that can be put onto the crossbow. Many crossbows, including Scorpyd Crossbows, come with dampeners installed at the factory that help reduce vibration. Many come with rubber string stops and rubber limb dampeners. If yours doesn’t have these items, they can be purchased and are relatively inexpensive.
NOT ALL BOW PRESSES ARE CREATED EQUAL
If you want to work on your crossbow or if you bring it to a pro shop, make sure the press being used on the crossbow squeezes the limbs from the tips. “It is important to note that bow presses that squeeze the limbs in the middle or near the bottom can easily crack crossbow limbs. Crossbow limbs are extremely stiff and pressing them from the middle puts more stress on the limb than it was designed to take. It is best if the limbs are squeezed at the tips. Squeezing them at the tips removes the pressure from the strings and cables without putting too much pressure on the limbs,” Kempf explained. Make sure your pro shop is aware of how to care for crossbows before they begin working on yours.
PROPER BOLT SPEEDS
In Michigan, there is a speed restriction on crossbows, which is 350 feet per second (fps). Many crossbows on the market can throw a bolt much faster than 350 fps. If you purchase a crossbow that is very fast, you can abide by the law by shooting a heavy bolt. “We encourage all crossbow hunters to follow the laws in their state. A heavy bolt will ensure that a crossbow doesn’t shoot too fast. A 420-grain bolt shoots out of our RDT125 crossbow at 350 fps, which provides plenty of speed and kinetic energy to bring down any big game animal in the United States.”
USE HIGH PROFILE VANES
Since crossbows shoot so fast, you may want to experiment with a few different types of vanes before settling on one type. Many of today’s high-profile short vanes work great on bolts. Two good examples are the Norway Fusion Vanes and Blazer Vanes. The new Fusion Vane steers extra fast bolts very well. Regular 4 or 5-inch Vanes work well but the shorter, higher-profile vanes seem to work better. They were designed for extreme speeds so it makes sense that they work well with bolts.
With a little work, you can quiet your crossbow and keep it operating like a fine-tuned machine. As much money as they cost, the last thing you want to happen is for it to be out of commission. It doesn’t do you any good when it is sitting in the closet.