The Hoyt Alpha Max 32 was spitting carbon perfectly, and my confidence was at an all-time high. Elk were screaming, and the pungent stench of urine around the wallow was intoxicating.
Not much of a treestand-style elk hunter, I had to make an exception. Trail camera images showed two quality bulls — either would’ve been my biggest at the time — hitting the wallow every day. I had the most recent information (MRI), and it was time to strike.
I’m not sure how it happened. I think the long days and exhausting hikes up the mountain caught up with me, and I nodded off in the stand. Thank God for a lifeline and safety harness. When my bow fell, I didn’t even remember trying to reach for it, so I must have been zonked out. The compound took a 20-foot tumble, and the string landed on a jagged rock.
Scrambling down, I was relieved to see the rock didn’t sever the string entirely, but it sliced several strands, which made the bow nothing more than a paperweight. It took me a whole day to drive to a pro shop, get a new string, and then another day to shoot the string in. When I returned to the wallow, the bulls had moved on.
Sadly, bad things can happen on hunts, especially when roaming the rugged backcountry. Still, I’ve heard tales of whitetail hunters accidentally slicing a string when putting a broadhead back in the quiver, and once, my buddy cut his string in half with a pair of snippers while creating a turkey hide. It doesn’t matter where you hunt; Murphy’s Law will find you at some point.
The good news is there are ways to combat the “what can go wrong will go wrong” mantra. After that hunt, I started setting up two strings each year. First, I would set up my factory string by tying in the peep, adding a D-loop, and shooting the string in to get all the stretch out and allow it to fully settle into the cam tracks.
After getting the factory string shot in, I would order a custom string from America’s Best Bowstrings. I have found that custom strings are a bit better than factory strings, and they tend to last longer, shoot in quicker, and you don’t have to battle with frustrating peep rotation as much. Plus, it’s fun to customize and build your string online, and you can select your material, strand color, etc.
When my custom strings and cables arrive, I take all the measurements off my factory string:
- I measure the serving length on the string where the D-loop is attached. Four inches is pretty standard, but you need to measure it.
- I measure from the bottom of the serving to the top of my D-loop and record the length.
- I measure the length of my D-loop and record.
- I measure from the center of my string between the nocking points inside my D-loop to the top of my peep sight.
It’s also a good idea, and it helps you be ultra-precise to have a second peep-height measurement. I like to measure from the bottom of the serving (the same serving I measure from when measuring my D-loop) to the top of the peep sight. I record all this data and keep it with me on every hunt.
Next, I swap my factory strings out for my custom strings, but I don’t remove the peep sight or tinker with the D-loop on the factory strings. The idea is to have a pair of strings set up the same. If something happens with your custom string at any point during the season, you can quickly switch back to your set-up-from-the-factory strings and be right back on target. Other than possibly having to drive to a pro shop to have the strings put on, you’re back on the hunt in no time, and there is zero time lost trying to set up and shoot in a new set of strings.
Since that elk hunt debacle, this tip has saved my bacon more than once. I’m hard on strings, and I love the peace of mind from knowing I have a second set ready to go.
It is critical, however, that both sets of strings get shot in. This means you’ll need to spend time and shoot lots of arrows through each to get any stretch out and allow the peep to settle into the string entirely. And, please don’t forget to record all of your string data. This step will save you lots of time and headaches.
There is no specific number of arrows or days it takes to shoot a string in correctly, and I send arrows from my factory strings every day for a month before swapping them out. Don’t get in a hurry with the process; be sure to take your measurements right before swapping your string out. Doing this ensures you have the most accurate measurements, and those measurements will save you a ton of setup time.
However, don’t rely only on your measurements, set the new string up, and then take that string off your bow without shooting it. I’ve seen bowhunters do this, and it’s a terrible idea. They do it because they’ve built confidence with their factory strings, but the idea is for the factory strings to become the backup. Your custom string is your starter, and if you need it, you have a factory make ready to come off the bench.
If you set a string up based on measurements and don’t shoot that string, you can’t confirm the measurements, and it will not be shot in, creating accuracy problems when you make the swap.
Having a second string set ready to go is a great idea and will save you valuable hunt time. And at the very least, you always have a second string in the waiting if your custom string wears out over time, which will happen. Then you can quickly add the factory strings, order a new set of custom strings and start the cycle over.
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This is one of the best and most useful technical articles I have read in a long time, archery or otherwise. A lot of thought went into this and it is extremely valuable. Also, it don’t hurt to have a spare bow with you. I bring a backup gun with me on every hunt. Bows are different though. There is a “feel” toi it that you get used to, like using a properly fitted shotgun. Anyway, great article here.