Off-Season Gear Maintenance, Part Two
Off-Season Gear Maintenance, Part Two

Off-Season Gear Maintenance, Part Two

Kevin Wilkey | KUIU Marketing Development Director

Whatever your weapon of choice is: rifle, muzzleloader, or bow—it’s by your side throughout your most demanding hunts. And with that, they require the most attention and care. In this article, I’ll cover a few best-practices and expert tips on how to get the most out of the tools that allow us to get the most out of our hunts. Read on to get expert tips on cleaning, maintaining, and storing your hunting rifle, hunting bow, and optics.

Firearms And Ammunition

Firearms And Ammunition

FIREARMS: Immediately after every outing, with your firearm unloaded, clean out any moisture, dirt, and debris. I like to start with compressed air and blow out anything that may have hitchhiked. Inside-and-out, I’ll swab the receiver, bolt, and barrel with a lightly oiled patch, followed up by a dry patch. Any dirt and debris collected on the stock or chassis may be cleaned off with a lint-free cloth and suitable cleanser. This is often all it needs if you’re using the firearm on a regular basis.

Once the hunts are over, I’ll completely disassemble and deep-clean the firearm inside and out. Followed up with a coat of oil on all the metal parts to prevent corrosion, with the addition of a heavier weighted grease on the recoil lugs. Know that if you do perform a deep clean on your rifle’s barrel, it will likely change how it shoots and groups, especially if you clean and remove copper deposits left behind on the riflings.

If your firearm is shooting well, and you don’t want to impact its accuracy by deep cleaning it, consider only patch-cleaning it for carbon and powder fouling with a mild solvent. When it’s time to zero before a hunt, it will take fewer shots to get it dialed back in.

To learn more on how to properly clean your rifle go here.

Once your rifle is cleaned and oiled, store it in a gun safe that’s cool and dry. To ensure your safe is free of humidity, install a dehumidifier rod to keep rust from forming.

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AMMO: Most KUIU gear comes packed with desiccant silica gel packets to absorb oxygen and moisture. Don’t throw them away, they’re handy for storing in your ammo boxes to absorb moisture and prevent surface corrosion.

Like most hunting equipment, your ammunition is best stored in a gun safe that’s cool and dry.

MAGAZINES: In the PRS rifle matches I compete in, I notice some competitors have feeding or cycling issues because their mags are dirty—which is the last thing you ever want to happen in a match and especially on a hunt. It’s a part of the system that’s often overlooked. Whether your rifle takes magazines, or has an internal box magazine, they often need a thorough cleaning. If the mag may be disassembled, take it completely apart and scrub each piece with a nylon brush and Windex or Simple Green. Rinse with hot water and dry with a lint-free cloth.

I have found my mags feed the best with no lubrication, so make sure you don’t get excessive oil inside them that may collect dirt and dust. Once clean, I store mine in zip-lock bags to keep them dry and free of dirt.

Archery Gear: Cleaning

Archery Gear: Cleaning

During the hunt, my bow collects a lot of leaves, sticks, and seeds, especially in the cams and limb pockets. After each outing, I’ll use compressed air to blow out dirt and debris. Pay special attention to the cam tracks, if anything gets lodged, it could derail your bow as you draw back.

Once the season has ended, I like to take my bow completely apart, detail each individual piece, and put it back together. If you don’t have a bow-press, or the know-how to completely tear one apart, most archery shops will either provide this as a service or they can disassemble your bow so you can clean it yourself.

Whether it’s taken apart or still strung, I’ll take it to the kitchen sink. I’ll give the cams and pockets a mist of Simple Green or comparable cleaner, and with a toothbrush, I’ll scrub all surfaces, cams, string tracks, limbs, and riser. This will remove any dirt, debris or wax buildup. I’ll rinse it off with hot water and immediately dry it with a lint-free towel and compressed air to blow out any residual water. Rinsing with hot water speeds the drying process.

Once dry, give all the screws and bolt heads a drop of oil, and use lithium grease on the limb bolt threads to ensure smooth operation and to keep rust from forming. If you own a compound bow without sealed cam bearings, you may need to apply lubrication to the axles. Be sure to clean up any excess grease or oil so it doesn’t attract dirt. If you’re bow has sealed cam bearings, no lubrication is required, however, cam bearings should be replaced if they rattle and stop rolling smooth.

Archery Gear: Bowstrings

Archery Gear: Bowstrings

I’ll make an assessment on if the strings will last another hunt or if they need to be replaced. If my strings look fuzzy, it’s an indicator of discontinued or broken fibers, I will tolerate some fuzz, but if they look like pipe-cleaner, they don’t need wax, they need to be replaced. Adding wax will not reconnect the broken fibers, it will only hide them.

Strings may be cleaned by gently wiping them in one direction with a soft cloth, moistened with mild cleaner. Baby wipes also work well for cleaning your bowstrings.

Next, I’ll inspect the protective serving wrapped areas around the cams, roller guard, and center of the shooting string. If the serving is separated or worn in any of these areas, I’ll either replace the serving or build new strings.

If your nock point or D-loop are worn, replace them immediately.

I prefer to not wax my strings, as most modern synthetic string materials, like Dyneema, don’t require it—whether you apply wax to your strings is debatable and entirely up to you. If you choose to do so, apply it very sparingly, as wax collects dirt which can wear out a string faster than not waxing. Apply it gently in one direction, rather than vigorously rubbing it in, back-and-forth which will break down the fibers and create fuzz.

The best practice for caring for your bow strings is to never let them rub against or touch anything, like: your backpack straps, on brush, or your pant leg as you hike. Abrasion will wear out a bowstring soon before shooting alone ever will. The KUIU SFS Bow kit is a fantastic addition to your kit in helping preserve the life of your strings.

Archery Gear: Accessories, Arrows And Storage

Archery Gear: Accessories, Arrows And Storage

ACCESSORIES: I’ll look over each piece of equipment and repair or replace all the “wear parts”. For example: The silencing felt on the rest and shelf, fiber optics on your sight, rubber quiver arrow gripper, and quiver hood foam all see plenty of action and may need to be replaced on a regular basis.

RELEASE: I like to keep my release cleaned and well-oiled. I’ll often use an ultrasonic parts cleaner to give it a deep cleaning, followed up with a light coat of oil on all the sears and pins.

BOW STORAGE: If you’re shooting on a regular basis, it’s not necessary to turn the poundage down for the off season. That may be good idea if you’re storing it for years, but for a few months, I wouldn’t recommend it. Keep it stored somewhere cool, dry, and preferably in a case.

As for a recurve or traditional archery equipment, indeed, unstringing them after each use is a wise idea. If you’re unsure, check your bow manufacturers owner’s manual.

ARROWS: Make sure arrows are stored with minimal pressure on the vanes. They can permanently change shape if stored incorrectly. Replace your nocks often. They see a lot of action and you’re giving up accuracy if they’re worn or bent. I prefer to store my broadhead tipped arrows in an arrow tube.

BROADHEADS: To keep my broadheads razor sharp, I’ll store them in their original packaging. Avoid storing them in a way that could dull the blades, like loose inside a tray of a tackle box.

Go here to learn more on how to bomb proof your bow for your next hunting season.

Optics

Optics

I see more damage done to optics by poor cleaning habits, than from normal use. What typically happens is the dust-coated lenses are wiped with a shirt sleeve, which acts like sand paper, permanently damaging the lenses.

For cleaning binoculars, rangefinder, rifle scope lenses, you should first blow out any large dust or dirt particles with an air puffer, or gently sweep them away with an optical brush. If necessary, the lenses can be cleaned in lukewarm soapy water and wiped dry with an optics-specific microfiber lens cloth. To clean the outside of your optics, use a moistened lint-free cloth to remove any dirt and debris.

If your optics can’t handle a little water, I would suggest upgrading. It’s also a good idea to remove the batteries from illuminated reticle rifle scopes and rangefinders for storage purposes.

Protective prevention is the key to keeping your lenses pristine. Stow your binoculars in a KUIU Pro Bino Harness and your rangefinder in a Rangefinder Holder. As for rifle scopes and spotting scopes, make sure you’re using scope covers.