Article by Doug Besherse – Jan 29, 2006
How long has it been since you replaced your bowstring and/or cables?
If you have to think about it then you need to replace them now.
This is true regardless of what type bow you are shooting be it modern or traditional.
Most bow manufacturers suggest that you do it once a year. That may seem too often to some archers but it is actually the best insurance you can buy against a ruined hunt or ruined bow caused from a string failure. I have many examples, some of which I will discuss later.
The time period between the fall/winter hunting seasons and the spring hunting/3D shoots seasons is to me the optimum time to replace your strings and cables. It allows you the time to shoot in the set up and get it fine tuned and consistent before heading out hunting.
My strings and cables look fine, why should I replace them?
Modern string material for the most part is very different from older material used years ago. The older style material would show definite signs of breaking down, not so with most modern bow string material. You can have a bowstring now that looks very good but in reality is on the verge of a catastrophic failure.
I once had a person bring me their son’s bow and they asked what I thought about the string and cables. I asked them how long it had been since they replaced them. They told me they had bought the bow used, had it for a few years and had never changed them in that time.
Before even looking at the bow I told them they needed to definitely replace them. They asked me to look at it, which I did. The string material was discolored and fraying which I showed to them and explained to them that this was signs that the string was well into the breaking down stage.
They told me to just replace the serving and they would try to limp it through bow season. When I pulled off the serving, underneath there were less than half the strands of string still in tact. The other half were completely broken. Out of twenty strands there might have been 4 or 5 that were completely together.
This is why some people have bows explode even though the string appears okay to them. The best thing that can happen when this occurs is that it is going to hurt really bad. It just gets worse from there. You will generally break things and loose things which are a part of your bow set up.
Another scenario I have seen many times is that when a person goes to get their bow out and start practicing for the fall hunting season they get a big surprise. When they open the bow case the string or cables are broken and the bow is in pieces. This is because the bowstring is under constant pressure and the string material is constantly breaking down. Sooner or later something has to give whether you are shooting the bow or not.
This is not a problem that effects only modern bows. I had a recurve string break on me while I was shooting. The string looked fine but was over a year old, it snapped under the serving. Luckily I had another string already set up and broken in, I installed it and went about my business. While it wasn’t nearly as painful as a modern bows wrath when the string breaks, it still sent a shock wave through my arms and shoulders that I felt for quiet a while.
Replacing the cables is just as important, if not more important than replacing the bow string. When you draw the bow and it hits the let off point the weight which you no longer feel is transferred to the cables. Cables are made of the same material as the bow string and so they break down just like the bow string. When a bow is at full draw, the cable has the maximum amount of weight put on it. If the cable fails, believe me, it’s not pretty.
Strings and cables have a life span that goes something like this.
New – Break In Stage
This is the period from installation of the new strings and cables to when they stop stretching. Depending on what exact string you get it may take only a small amount of shooting or it may take several days of shooting.
Measuring the brace height is one way to keep track of this. Adjust the brace height by twisting the string and cables then shoot it again. When the brace height remains constant for a few days this period is over.
A good technique for this is to put just enough accessories on the string to be able to shoot an arrow out of the bow. Stand a short distance from the target and shoot without worrying about exactly where the arrows are hitting. The object is to shoot the bow until the strings are where you want them, then completely rig it out and set it up.
This period shows the importance of not waiting until two weeks before hunting season starts to install new strings and cables. You can set your string up and shoot it but until the stretching stops you will be readjusting things everyday which is frustrating to put it lightly.
This is the time immediately after the string stops stretching (to the extent you can’t detect it) until the string starts to break down. During this period you can get your string set up to be extremely consistent. The loop or nocking point and peep should not have to be readjusted, brace height should remain consistent. It is basically a draw and shoot operation with nothing else to consider except where you want your arrow to hit. This is exactly the way you want your set up to function when hunting.
This period, barring some strange occurrence, should last throughout the hunting season and beyond.
Break Down Stage
This is the point at which things start moving around and the brace height starts dropping. This is due to the fact that the string material is actually breaking down and separating. This is also the point at which you need to install new strings and cables again.
If you don’t have a local shop, or you just want to do it yourself, it is not extremely difficult to install strings and cables.
This portable Ratchet Press which can be used for most any bow repair job.
Other than the strings and cables you’ll need a bow press for modern bows. There are several bow presses for the consumer, both portable and not so portable presses are available. Follow the instructions, if applicable and take your time. Taking up close digital photos of your bow before you start is also a good idea. You can use the photos as reference material when you are installing the new bowstrings and cables.
There is a wide array of bow strings and cables currently available. There are basic endless loop strings, higher quality strings like Zebra Bow Strings and still higher quality strings like the Zebra Barracuda or Winner’s Choice Strings.
Regardless of which you choose you’ll be a step ahead for next hunting season and will have one less thing to worry about when you draw on an animal.
You can find more online from Doug Besherse at BowhuntingStuff.com, also be sure to check the listings for cables and strings at our companion website, Bow List.