A Hunting Bow Overhaul 

To buy a new bow or overhaul the old bow?  That is the question.  I think nearly all of us want the “latest and greatest”, but when is it really time to buy a new bow?  I asked around online forums including Bowcast and saw others asking the same question.  Other than the archer who wisely recommended that you only buy a bow if your mortgage, car payments and childrens’ college funds are up-to-date, I really didn’t find a satisfactory answer.  Lexus would only eat the books and bite the professors so I could probably use her college fund to buy a new bow, but I still didn’t know what to do. 


What it came down to for me was that the price of a new bow nearly equaled the cost of my pronghorn hunt this fall or my trip to Texas in January.  Basically, I’d rather “dump the string” on critters with an old bow than dump the money to buy a new one this year.  This “new equipment versus string-dumping” is a subject I’ll explore more in a future blog.  However, it was time to change out the string and do some modifications to my shooting style.  Here is my current bow set up bought in the latter part of 2006. 


Reflex Highlander set to 26.5″ draw length and 67.5 pounds

Factory strings and cables

Sims super string leeches

Copper John pre-2007 .019″ 5-pin sight

Tubed 3/16″ peep

Nock sets

Eliminator buttons

STS string dampener

Quiet Tune stabilizer

Trophy Taker Shakey Hunter rest

NAP arrow holder

Neet web sling


A 2006 Reflex Highlander




Here is the work list:


New strings and cables

Addition of a D-loop

Change to a tubeless 1/4″ peep

New string silencers

New braided sling

Add non-slip material to grip

New stabilizer


Some of the parts used for the overhaul.




String Choices

I’ve used Winner’s Choice and Vapor Trail strings in the past and been happy with both.  WC’s are great strings, but I don’t shoot well enough to notice a difference between them and the lower cost alternatives.  My bowfishing bow that also serves as a back up if needed has Vapor Trail strings on it.  They’ve held up well to the wet, hot, sunny, slimy and bloody conditions of bowfishing.  A solid-shooting acquaintance I respect at local West Allis Bowmen turned me on to Wolf Den Strings and Johns Customs has a good reputation over at Bowcast. 


I contacted VT, Wolf Den and Johns Customs to check on the number of strands, materials used, pre-stretching technique and get a feel for the experience of each.  I was interested in the number of strands due to nock fit, creep (permanent lengthening) and speed.  Pre-stretch goes to maintaining peep rotation especially considering I am switching to a tubeless peep and d-loop.  Customer service was great from all.  I decided to stick with VT just because I have had good experiences with them. 


Changing Strings

I’d rather have a nail driven through my toe than tune a bow.  But, I’d rather change the strings and tune the bow myself than take it somewhere.  Why?  I haven’t found a “pro” shop I trust to do this work. 


In the past I have had strings so long put on my bow that they actually allowed the cam to rotate all the way around and cut into it.  I’ve had a hole drilled completely through my riser.  I dealt with one manufacturer who couldn’t return the bow to its original draw length after three attempts.  I’ve had shop technicians argue with me about the length of my arrows and I’ve had them consistently cut off 1/16″ crooked.  And I’ve experienced such bad customer service that even forgiving Mrs. dv said, “You’re not actually going to buy a bow there are you?”  When trying to explain the technical aspect of what I was trying to accomplish with a bow I’ve had shop technicians give me that dull, deer-in-the-headlights’ look. 


Doing the work yourself isn’t without risk or frustration.  I broke a limb on one of my bows once by failing to reassemble it properly.  Each archer has to decide if working on his or her bow to this level is desirable.


To see if all this work would make any difference I ran a few arrows through the chronograph.  Three arrows later the average was 254 feet per second.  When I bought the bow two years ago the average was 262.




Since I don’t do this kind of thing all the time I proceed slowly.  I usually have old catalogs with pictures of the bow on hand to make sure everything goes back together the same way.  I also take close digital pictures for the same reason.  When new I recorded the factory specifications, axle-to-axle and brace height measurements in the original owner’s manual. 





I measured and recorded the distance from the string’s top loop to the peep and nock point so I can get them back into a starting position on the new string.  Then I slowly swapped out both cables and the string one at a time. 


Set Draw Length and Draw Weight

Proper draw length is critical for shooting well.  I worry about that first.  Make a “measuring arrow” from an old one that is too long for your draw length.  Look in the “lost bucket” of your local archery club for possible candidates.  I take my desired draw length, 26 1/2″, subtract 1 3/4″ and arrive at 24 3/4″.  I then measure my arrow from the valley of the nock to the 24 3/4″ point and mark that.  Why?  Because that is the Archery Trade Association standard.  The distance from the string at full draw to the center of the Berger button hole for a 30″ draw bow is actually 28 1/4″.  The Berger button is the hole in the riser where the bolt for your rest goes in which just happens be directly above the most forward part of your grip (inside the riser).


dv’s Time Out Corner:  Verify your measuring arrow’s measurements before starting.  I spent three days working up a sweat trying to set my draw length only to find I was using the wrong mark on my measuring arrow – “Measure twice, set draw length once.”     


I then fasten a paperclip to my riser as in the picture below and draw the bow.  By comparing the mark on the arrow to the paperclip I determine if the draw length is too long or too short.  You can also have a friend or your wife help you with this.  I avoid bothering Mrs. dv.  She’s usually watching American Idiot or America’s Next Top Moron and I wouldn’t appreciate it if she bothered me while I was tuning my bow (or staring at it lovingly…  or reminiscing about past hunts with it…).



Once I set draw length I move on to draw weight adjusting the limb bolts as necessary.  It is good to start out with your bolts bottomed out and unscrew them in equal amounts to maintain equal tiller (distance from limb pocket to string) on top and bottom.  I mark my bolts (as in picture below) to maintain equal settings.


It’s tough to see, but there is line etched into the limb bolt visible horizontally at the three o’clock point.




Basic Tuning

I believe you need to “shoot the strings in” before final tuning, but I don’t want the system so far out of tune that it is a beast to shoot.  Whether I’m shooting for score or just whacking some spots my practice time is valuable and I want the most out of it.  So, I do some basic tuning.


Whatever type bow you have check around and see if someone has developed a tuning guide for it.  Likely sources are Bowcast, Archery Talk or the manufacturer’s website.  I have three different guides for the Reflex Slam and 1/2 cams on my Highlander.  Take your time and go through the process slowly.  Like I said, it can be frustrating.  Adjustments to a cable can affect draw length and weight and I sometimes feel I’m running in circles.  Keep at it until it is where you want it.  Since each one is so specific I won’t go into details on this process.


Loop, Peep, String Silencers

Next I installed my d-loop.  Use your square to determine its location.  In order to maintain my anchor I wanted the loop as small (short) as possible.  It took me about 8 tries before getting it close.  I’m still not sure if it is where I want it, but it is a start.  Visit the Bowcast Blog on d-loop tying and T-Bone Turner’s videos on d-loop tying for more information. 


Next I installed the peep.  I went with a 1/4″ peep as I want to center my pre-2007 Copper John pin guard inside it when aiming as another reference point.  I chose the tube-less G5 Meta Peep for this.  Discontinuing the tube reduces weight, should add speed and reduce noise. 


String silencers were next.  I went with the original Sims string leeches for this.  The Primos String Bats were economically priced and I like Primos’ products in general, but there was so little material there I didn’t see how they could have any effect.   


dv’s Time Out Corner:  I wanted to check the peep’s alignment before putting the STS and stabilizer (which hold the sling) on since they have to be removed to press the bow.  On my first shot the bow jumped out of my hand and landed right on the concrete floor on the bottom cam.  All seems well, but it did ding up the bottom cam some.  Shoot with your sling on your bow!



I installed the sling one step too late.  I really like how it is more rigid than the old web-material version.  That should be handy for getting into it in the field.    


Grip Material

The local hardware store had some adhesive-backed, non-slip material near the glues and friction tape.  Basically, it was black sandpaper with adhesive on the back.  I applied it to the riser where the base of my thumb makes contact. 



The shiny aluminum is showing through on my stabilizer, but I can no longer find the Quiet Tune line.  Cobra bought them from a local company and seems to have killed them.  I bought the Sims S-Coil 2.5″ Extension and mounted it with a Sims S-Coil Stabilizer I already had, but it wouldn’t fit with the excess portion of the STS bar sticking out the front.  Not wanting to cut off the STS bar as it may eventually end up on my target bow I went back and bought the Sims Xpress Stabilizer which fit just fine.


Post overhaul.




Chrono Time

Ok, everything is back on the bow. Time to do some shooting and see how it went.  Three shots registered 262 fps every time.  For my draw length I’m pretty happy with that. 




That is pretty much it.  I’ll have to do final paper tuning after I’ve shot it in awhile and then compare field point point-of-impact to the two types of broadheads I use.  Further tuning and sighting may be required after that, but that is for a future blog.


happy hunting, dv


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Coming up on Mostly Archery

  • Bowfishing – Preparing the Boat
  • A Visit to the Forge Bow Factory Store
  • Anatomy of a Bowfishing Bow