Proper Bow Maintenance with Dylan Ray

Dylan Ray posing with Whitetail buck

Bear Archery Hunting 101 Podcast host Dylan Ray is no stranger to bowhunting. Dylan has been hunting deer since he was of legal age, which was twelve years old. He remembers he began hunting with a muzzleloader while in the Ozark hills of Arkansas with his father.

As Ray got older, he earned his way through college by working at a local archery shop. There, Ray learned the basics of archery, the importance of bow maintenance, why hunters should depend on archery pro shops, and the routine maintenance that could make or break a future hunt.scentlo

Ray shares that on a past hunt, before the state of Idaho had legalized mechanical broadheads, he had spent the off-season practicing with them, assuming they were legal. However, a week before the hunt, he was informed that hunters could use only fixed-style broadheads. “I spent a week trying to hurry and get in the practice I needed with my fixed broadheads,” says Ray. Unfortunately, he did not get a shot at a bull that year, yet he is thankful because he did not have the proper time to practice.


Proper Amount of Time To Practice Before Hunting Season

While spending time in college, working at a local pro shop, Ray explains that he was always amazed at the number of hunters who came into the shop a week before the season, wanting a new bow setup or new arrows. “We often would not have time to set up their equipment, and they would not have a bow when the season began.” Not only did hunters not have a weapon to hunt with, but more importantly, they did not have time to practice and get comfortable with their equipment before hunting. Ray suggests that one of the first steps to maintaining a bow is allowing adequate time to ensure everything is working properly, having time to practice, tuning the bow, and becoming familiar with it, which builds confidence when hunting.

Archery practice

Routine Maintenance

“Many hunters find themselves in a sticky situation because they waited until a week before the season to dig their bow out of the closet, put a new string on, or begin practicing,” says Ray. Adding, “If you are constantly shooting your bow throughout the off-season, you know the exact moment when there is an issue with a string, or cam issue, or something isn’t right, by having already been shooting, the hunter has time to take care of the issue, and still be ready for hunting season in the proper manner.”  Ray explains that he preaches practicing throughout the off-season to increase shooting ability and confidence as a hunter and always to maintain equipment, such as keeping healthy strings on the bow.

Generally, there are two types of bowhunters. The first type can be found getting their bow out of storage a month before the season to begin practicing. The latter tends to shoot year-round and always keep their skills polished. Ray constantly shoots his compound and traditional bow throughout the year. For those who shoot often, Ray says that they should be practicing proper bow maintenance by checking their bow weekly. The first step to proper maintenance comes after the bow is set up and shooting properly. Once the bow is shooting properly, Ray suggests taking a silver marker and marking all the important parts and accessories on the bow in case of future mishaps. “I mark everything on my bow, such as where the cables and limbs cross the cams. If shooting a drop-a-way rest, I mark where the string attaches to the rest; if anything moves or comes out of line, I can see my silver marker and tell that it has moved and needs to be fixed.”

When asked what key factors hunters should watch for when maintaining their bow and equipment, Ray suggests fraying of the strings, keeping them hydrated, and shooting properly. Another cosmetic issue could be rust. Ray always looks for rust on the limb bolts and other bow parts. He has used unscented gun oil to help keep moving parts and screws from rusting and working properly. Ray also suggests listening for rattling parts or timing issues each time the bow is shot.

While on a recent hog hunt, Ray encountered a prime example of why you should listen for uncommon sounds or feelings when shooting. “A buddy of mine, while beginning our hog hunt, mentioned that he was hearing a ticking noise in his bow,” recollects Ray. Wondering why he had not mentioned it before the hunt, Ray says that during the hunt, they discovered the noise had been coming from a rest that was extremely loose on his buddy's bow. Fortunately, they were able to get the rest tightened and shooting properly before continuing any farther on the hog hunt. Rays expressed that their hunt could have been ruined if the issue had not been discovered before proceeding. He went on to suggest never to ignore any sounds or issues with equipment because it could cause harm to the shooter if the equipment fails or could wound an animal or miss the target entirely.

Ray says the same precaution and maintenance should be considered with other equipment, such as sights. “Are my sights still level, and are they in the right positions?” are questions Ray asked himself when shooting.

Dylan with buck

Trust The Pros

On many occasions, Ray says proper bow maintenance can be performed at home, on your own, or with a friend. However, periodically visiting a local archery pro shop ensures the equipment is in working order and hunt-ready.

While working at a pro shop and being a customer who takes his equipment to one, Ray has realized that having another set of eyes and hands can add the extra needed insurance. Often, a pro can find a minor flaw that was overlooked because the hunter is familiar with their bow and fails to see anything wrong. Ray suggests taking equipment to a pro shop once or twice yearly for a routine check-up.


Outdoor Writer & Traeger Grills Outdoor Pro

Heath Wood resides with his wife Faron and their son Carson in Mountain View, Missouri. His writings have been published in many major hunting magazines such as Predator Xtreme, Bowhunting World, Deer and Deer Hunting, Gun Digest, Turkey Country, and Game and Fish. As well as several websites and blogs for over 15 years. His favorite topics include, but are not limited to deer, turkey, and predator hunting. 

Wood is a member of the Mossy Oak pro staff where he can often be found sharing tips and stories through his writings on He has also appeared on Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World TV, Hunters Specialties The Stuff of Legends, Hunters Specialties popular DVD series Cuttin' and Struttin', and NWTF's Turkey Call TV. Heath loves helping introduce newcomers to the sport of hunting and working with the youth in any way possible.