Archery in the winter – What you need to know

If you are like me and love to shoot outdoors, you might want to shoot even when it’s very cold. Most archers stay indoors when temperatures drop below the freezing point because some additional hassle is involved when shooting outdoors with these temperatures. The best weather to enjoy archery is a dry cloudy day with a temperature of about 68 °F (20 °C). With this weather you can shoot without sunglasses and don’t need a jacket.

In this article I will give some concrete tips on how to shoot your bow in the winter. I will first discuss whether low temperatures and rain is bad for your bow. Next up I will discuss how you should care for your bow, with these extreme temperatures. I will also discuss a topic that is often overlooked by archers: your winter archery attire. At the end of this article I will give some recommendations on useful gear for shooting your bow in the winter.

Is cold/wet weather bad for your bow?

Earlier in this article I discussed the ideal weather conditions, these conditions are not only ideal for your own comfort but also for your bow. The materials of your bow work optimally in these weather conditions. When it is really cold, your bow limbs tend to stiffen, which makes it more prone to breaking. In general wood, plastics and carbon fiber are reasonably resistant to harsh weather conditions. Only long exposure will cause significant damage, therefore you should always store your bow indoors, preferably in a room temperature location.

Although technically cold/wet weather conditions are not optimal for your bow, I wouldn’t be discouraged to shoot in these weather conditions. In my experience shooting your bow both in the rain and snow doesn’t damage your bow. The only thing I noticed is that your string tends to wear out more when using it in these weather conditions.

How to care for your bow

When you are shooting in harsh weather conditions, the maintenance of your bow is very important. Especially your bow string is very vulnerable for different weather conditions. Therefore I will briefly give some tips on how to care for your bow before, during and after shooting.

Before you go

Although it’s always important to keep your bow string sufficiently waxed, it’s extra important when you are shooting in the winter. In the winter the air humidity tends to be very low, which makes fat surfaces dry up. That’s why it’s recommended regularly use lip balm if you are skiing. When your lips are getting very dry, you might even get minor cracks which will feel very painful.

This same happens when your bowstring is not sufficiently waxed. If you shoot with a bowstring that isn’t sufficiently waxed, the fibers will start to crack, which you can spot when your string starts to fluff up. Therefore, I would recommend to wax you string before every session if the temperatures are below freezing point. Make sure though to first remove any excess wax before applying a new layer. If you want to know how to wax your string, I would recommend watching the following video:

Between shots

When you are shooting in irregular weather conditions you should be extra carefully. Rain for example can make certain parts of your bow slippery. Since bows are not designed under these conditions, you should try to keep it as dry as possible. In the rain this can be very difficult, but if it is snowing it’s a good idea to remove the buildup snow between shots. Extra care should be taken to keep the string as dry as possible, since it is more prone to slipping. This issue is especially present with the cams of a compound bow.

You should also be aware that some parts of your bow are more likely to break between shots. The harsh weather conditions are especially damaging for materials made from fibers (like your bowstring), cyanoacrylate (glue) and rubber (like peeps sight tubing in a compound bow). Therefore you should check these parts regularly to check for damage. Additionally it’s a good idea to store your bow in warm and dry environments, like your car, when you are taking breaks. This will limit the strain on these materials as much as possible.

 

The peep sight tubing on my compound bow broke due to cold weather

After your training

When you are back home, you should dry your bow as much as possible. If you store your bow wet it will harm your string and you might even get mold on your bow. Therefore you should only store the bow in your bag/case when you are certain that your bow is dry. You can use a towel to get most water out and let it dry in a warm and dry environment. Don’t place your bow near a heater though, it shouldn’t get hot, since this can cause damage.

When your bow is dry, you should apply a new layer of wax before shooting again. This might seem extreme, since in normal conditions you often wax your sting once every 2 months. Since your string is, however, made from synthetic materials, it will go bad very quickly when insufficiently waxed. When your string is gone bad, you can’t repair it and you should fully replace it with a new one.

Your attire

You should of course dress yourself appropriately to protect yourself from the elements, but there are some additional tips I would like to give, which might be less obvious.

How warm to dress

A common mistakes athletes make is to dress themselves to warm. Even in cold weather conditions, it’s often not a good idea to dress very warm. Although archery is not a cardio sport, you will still tension your muscles and thereby create heat. If you feel nice and warm when standing still, you are probably wearing too much clothes. You should compare it with hiking. When you are just starting you haven’t created a lot of body heat and it will therefore feel a bit cold. When you are well underway you might even get quite hot, because you are creating way more body heat. This is the same when practicing archery; therefore you should clothe yourself like you are going on a hiking trip.

Jacket

Depending on your shooting style, you might want to take extra care in choosing your jacket. If you have a very loose jacket you might experience that the string catches on it. This will greatly decrease your accuracy. In the long run, this can also damage both your string and your jacket. I had this a few times, therefore I bought a specially jacket which is more tight on the trunk and arms.

You should also be careful with jackets that have strings or other lose items near the string. It can catch one these items and cause damage to both your bow and jacket. I had this one time, where the string tore the hood on my jacket, since the string from my hood caught in the bowstring.

Gloves

When it is very cold you of course need to use gloves. It will not only feel uncomfortable but if your fingers are getting too cold they will start to get stiff. When you are shooting with a release this is probably not an issue since you can simply wear gloves. If you are shooting with a tab or finger glove you might, however, wonder how to do this. Since winter gloves tend to be very thick you won’t probably fit in a tab or finger glove.

When using a finger tab

If you are using a finger tab, I would recommend buying thin running or cycling gloves. These gloves are thin enough that you can easily fit your tab over them. They also provide just enough isolation while shooting. I would also recommend taking regular winter gloves with you to keep your hands warm while taking a break. You can even wear these while retrieving your arrows.

I prefer the cycling gloves on the right since they have more grip. But the running gloves on the left are a bit warmer.

When using a finger glove

If you are using a finger glove my tip discussed above will probably not work. Since finger glove should be tight around your fingers, it’s often impossible to wear an additional glove under it. Even if the glove is very thin, it will probably not fit. You can, however, buy a cheap pair of leather gloves and use these as a finger glove. They will probably wear out quickly since they are not build to resist the abrasion from the string. Luckily there are special winter gloves made for archery which will last a lifetime.

Sunglasses

When it has snowed even a little sunshine will be very bright, because the light gets reflected on the snow. Therefore it is recommended to use sunglasses if it isn’t cloudy. You should, however, be sure that the sunglasses will not interfere with the string. Since the string is close to your face, it is recommended to use sleek glasses. Running sunglasses are an excellent choice since they tend to be very sleek, with the glasses close to your eyes.

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