"Everybody's excited about the coming archery season," said Jeff Pippard at Niagara Outdoors in North Tonawanda.
For serious big-game bow hunters such as Pippard, observing game habitat and working on archery equipment is a year-long involvement. He can talk bows and hunting strategies any day an archer drops by his shop.
"Last year was the first year archers started seeing good buck and doe numbers, following declining numbers at the start of the decade," he said.
All hunters who have been on early scouting runs come back and tell Pippard the buck-to-doe ratio seems up again this season.
He credits early, warm spring rains for good food sources in 2007.
"That spring burnout (hot, dry weather) in June may have slowed rack growth, but archers are seeing many deer this year," he noted.
Trophy whitetail deer may sport racks with scoring points an inch or two shorter this season. But before the tape measures those rack dimensions, the archer has to stretch that bow string and shoot those arrows with consistent accuracy that ensures clean kill shots when deer, turkey, bear or other legal game moves into an opening in range.
For many archers, the bow that shot so well last season may not have been out of the sleeve or case in months. Pippard thinks now would be the ideal time to do preseason bow checking.
"Look at all the servings, the outside wrap around the bow string, and especially check around the cams and knock point (the center serving) where the arrow fits on the string. Also look at the rest prong, the place where the arrow sits on the bow, for wear. If any things look different than when they were new, they should be replaced," he said.
Pippard waxes strings about every 200 rounds. "Just look over the string; if the fibers seem fuzzy, apply wax," he said.
He compares bow-string waxing to polishing a shoe.
"Apply wax and rub it into the string until it's slightly glossy and then wipe away any excess buildup that didn't get polished into the string fibers. But don't get any wax on the cable rod and slider, the support rod and sliding device that aligns crossing cables (string) on a compound bow," he noted.
A light swabbing with an alcohol pad removes any excess oils and waxes that might be left on cables and moving parts.
He describes Brian Thomas, his assistant, as a "pure bow fanatic." A retired machinist and handy with bow setups, Thomas handles arrow assembly for deadly accuracy for both hunting and shooting-competition arrows.
Thomas started hunting with guns and became immersed in the technology and science of rifle shooting. But as hunting seasons passed, he got into bow shooting with the same passion. "Get yourself into a nice bow and it becomes infectious," Pippard said.
It has. Thomas took a nice antelope on a bow hunt with Pippard in Wyoming last year.
While Thomas sets up arrows, Pippard does all the bow tuning and fine-tuning. He's been involved in bow setups for 23 years and been a bow shooter since the start of his hunting years.
"There are so many bow specs out there that I do all the tuning myself; that way I know what's happening with each customer's setup," Pippard said.
Pippard also has become an expert bow assessor over the years, gaining insights on the "Matthews versus Hoyt" debates and the merits of all other major bow brands.
For years, Matthews has led the bow-making industry with lightweight, accurate bows that were priced well above all competitors.
"Today, many bow companies still produce Matthews-like bows, and some have developed their own good models. But, on average, competitors have upgraded their quality and bow prices so that most good bows now are fairly close in price and features," he said.
Matthews, at 3.85 pounds, shoots better with lighter arrows. "The five-pound Hoyt bow does better with heavier arrows for bigger game," he said. Ross, PSE and Bow Tech all make good quality bow models.
"Ross bows, which began production four years ago, has a really nice lineup of Matthews-type bows and is the least expensive," he added.
PSE came out with its X-Force model in 2007, which shoots the fastest arrow from a production model bow at 348 feet per second (FPS). Bow Tech uses duel cams with speeds capable of 340 FPS.
"Every modern compound bow should shoot at least 310 FPS, but higher speeds may compromise accuracy and shooters may have to adapt to more critical bow and string handling when shooting these faster bows," he cautioned.
For tips on all aspects of setting up a bow for archery season, check with Pippard at 695-5873 or visit: www.niagaraoutdoors.com.