As the wide-racked buck stood stiff-legged at 30 yards checking the wind, I ran through my preshot checklist in my mind: relaxed grip, shoulders straight, kisser button in the corner of my mouth, squeeze the trigger. Everything felt good as the release opened and sent the arrow toward the buck's boiler room. As I watched the arrows arc-like path, my eyes picked up something that I had not seen through the peep sight. Despite my sudden belief in telekinesis and my desperate attempt to alter the arrow's path slightly, the broadhead met with the limb as if it had been the intended target. I could do nothing other than watch as the arrow ricocheted and sent the buck bounding away unscathed. My only consolation was knowing that I would be able to spend more of the off season thinking about hunting as I added another arrow to the pile of those in need of repair.
Modern arrows are much more durable than the fragile cedar shafts of the past. However, even high tech carbon shafts and plastic vanes can only handle a finite amount of abuse before they fail. Assuming you made it through the hunting season with a few arrows left, the warmer months are a perfect time to rejuvenate those battle-scarred shafts and ensure they fly straight when autumn returns. Most archery pro shops will rework your arrows for you and do a fine job, but with a few simple tools you can complete your own repairs at home and even in a remote wilderness camp.
Jig, glue, arrow and fletching
The shaft is the backbone of the entire arrow. Without a solid, straight backbone, there is no way it is going to provide consistent results. Aluminum and carbon shafts react differently when bounced off an unintended target. While aluminum shafts will occasionally break, they are more likely to bend. There may be some that believe you can straighten them to be used again, but chances are they will never fly true and the weakened bent metal could provide a safety hazard. Rolling them on a flat surface will usually divulge the tell-tale wobbling of a crooked shaft.
Checking shaft for straightness
Instead of bending, carbon shafts will usually chip, split or shatter so they should be inspected thoroughly after any errant shots. Run your fingers along the arrow to detect any rough spots. Grab each end of the arrow and apply slight pressure to ensure no weaknesses present themselves. Those with any damage should be disposed of as even a small break in the carbon fibers could cause an arm-piercing splintering of the shaft if shot again.
Checking carbon shaft
The majority of arrow repairs will occur to the fletching. Whether you use plastic vanes or feathers, the damaged ones should be replaced as they will adversely affect the flight pattern. Special curved tools are available for removing the vanes from the shaft, but a dull knife with a gentle touch will work as well. The important thing is to ensure that all of the fletching and glue is removed without scraping or damaging the shaft. Once this is complete, the fletching can be replaced with the use of a fletching jig.
Removing the glue
There are many types of fletching jigs available, but I have found the Arizona EZ Fletch by Arizona Rim Country to provide near-perfect alignment of the fletching while surpassing most others in ease of operation. An added benefit is the compact size, which allows it to be easily taken in the backcountry for those emergency repairs. The instructions for each jig will vary slightly, but most follow a basic procedure. For the EZ Fletch, open the base and place the new vane or feather in the jig and apply a thin layer of glue to the fletching. Insert the arrow shaft into the center hole, making sure to line up the odd-colored vane with the odd-colored fletching arm. Close the jig, slide the top clamp down the arrow and onto the jig and wait the amount of time recommended by the glue manufacturer.
Aligning odd vane with odd fletching arm
Place fletching in jig
Putting glue on fletching
Closed fletching jig
There are a wide range of glues on the market, but buying the cheapest one to save money will only cost you more in extra vanes and constant repairs in the long run. Buy a high quality, quick-setting glue, and you will save yourself a lot of frustration. Goat Tuff glue from Tim's Archery has a well deserved reputation among pro shops as one of the best and with a 10-second bond time, repairs can be made quickly. Once the adhesive is dry, remove the top clamp, open the jig arms and lift the arrow from the jig. Check to ensure the fletching is secured firmly.
Removing fletched arrow from jig
At the same end of the arrow, sits another very important but often neglected component, the nock. Although simple and inexpensive, the nock provides a crucial connection between the arrow and the bow. A loose nock will allow the arrow to fall off of the string at the most inopportune time. A nock that fits too tightly on the string could adversely affect arrow flight. Inspect each nock to ensure that they are securely attached to the arrow shaft. Many are glued to the shaft, while other use compression or small hex bolts to hold them in. Whatever the case may be, they need to be firmly seated upon the shaft and immobile.
A nock that twists and turns will not allow consistent fletching alignment with the arrow rest. Loose nocks should be tightened and cracked or broken nocks should be replaced. Most fletching jigs have a nock receiver that will allow you to consistently align the nock with the fletching on each arrow. Whether you shoot cock feather up, out or down, it is important that all arrows are alike to ensure reliable arrow flight.
The "business" end of the arrow is just as important as the back end. The shaft, fletching and nock ensure that the arrow reaches its target, but the broadhead does the work once it gets there. A bent or dull broadhead could result in poor penetration, insufficient cutting and a wounded animal. We owe it to the game we pursue to ensure a quick, clean kill and a well-placed, sharp broadhead will provide that. There are as many different types of broadheads as there are hunters, but most share some similarities. They screw into the arrow shaft for attachment and have protruding blades that perform the cutting action on impact. Inspect each broadhead to ensure the threads screw into the shaft securely and straightly. Whether the broadhead is a single piece of metal or a base with removable blades, it should be straight and solid. Replace any broadheads that have a bent or damaged base. Most wayward shots will only result in damage to the blades. If it is a single piece broadhead, the damage must be surveyed to determine if it is salvageable. If it cannot be repaired with a simple sharpening, it is best to dispose of the broadhead and replace it. Replaceable blade broadheads usually live up to their name and a package of blades can return many to new condition.
Replaceable blade broadhead
If sharpening is needed on a single-piece broadhead or the base of a replaceable-blade broadhead, then a fine grain diamond stone, such as the Gerber Diamond Knife Sharpener, should be used. It is small, portable and does a fine job on broadheads. You do not want to remove a lot of metal, as this can make the broadhead weight unbalanced on one side and cause your shots to stray. Remove just enough metal to return the broadhead to razor-sharp by slowly and consistently gliding it across the diamond stone. Make sure to maintain the same angle on each pass and stop as soon as it has become sharp.
Just as the nock is important for arrow attachment to the string, the insert is important for broadhead attachment to the arrow. Without a secure, straight insert, the broadhead will be off-center or wobble and consistency will be unachievable. Ensure the insert seats firmly against the arrow shaft and that it cannot be twisted or removed. Any loose or unseated inserts should be reattached with high quality insert glue. Test the insert threads by screwing a broadhead into them and verifying that none of them are cross threaded.
Often times it is the missed shots that provide the greatest memories of a hunt. As frustrating as those memories can sometimes be, they are the ones that keep us going back to the woods and make hunting challenging and unpredictable. Repairing any misguided arrows in the off-season can help you to relive those moments and think about the buck that benefited from your misfortune. A quiver full of repaired, straight shooting arrows will help to put one in his 12-ring if he makes the mistake of coming by your stand again this fall.
Larry R. Beckett Jr. is a full time freelance writer, photographer and videographer. His greatest joy is spending time fishing, hunting and hiking with his wife and son. Larry discovered his enthusiasm for the outdoors at a young age and devotes much of his time trying to instill that same enthusiasm in future generations.