compound bow hunting

How to Choose a Hunting Bow

When you consider that U.S. hunters spend some 35 to 40 billion dollars a year on licenses, gear, travel expenses, ect. (according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation) and generate some 12 billion annually in federal, state, and local tax revenue, it is safe to say that hunting is a very popular sport! However, judging by the number of hunting rifles sold each year, it would appear that the very large majority of these hunters use firearms to hunt their favorite game species which is certainly understandable since learning to shoot a firearm accurately definitely requires far less practice on the part of the shooter.

But, if you are an avid hunter who has never experienced the close encounters required to harvest game with a bow and arrow, then you are missing out on one of the greatest thrills a hunter can experience! In fact, there is simply no other form of hunting that requires the same level of knowledge and skill from the hunter and thus provides the same rewards for having successfully harvested a game animal with a primitive weapon. Although, considering the level of technology that is required to produce a modern recurve or compound bow, it hardly seems fair to call them “primitive” weapons!

What to Look For

When contemplating the purchase of a hunting bow, you first need to be aware that there are two different types consisting of compound bows and recurve bows and each has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, compound bows provide the hunter greater arrow velocity for a flatter arrow trajectory and, due to their eccentric cams, they also provide a significant decrease in the amount of draw weight a hunter has to hold at full draw but, they are also relatively heavy. Whereas, recurve bows require the hunter to hold the peak draw weight while at full draw but, they are also significantly lighter to carry and significantly quieter and smoother to shoot. However, they are significantly slower than compound bows.

  • Draw Length – The first thing you need to consider when purchasing a hunting bow is its draw length which is measured from the back of the riser to the valley of the string when at full draw because different archers have different length arms. Thus, while this not an important consideration when purchasing a recurve bow, it is of paramount importance when purchasing a compound bow.
  • Draw Weight – The second thing you need to consider when purchasing a hunting bow is its peak draw weight because the more draw weight a bow has the faster it will launch an arrow and, the greater the arrow’s velocity, the flatter its trajectory will be. However, the greater the draw weight, the more effort that is required to draw the bow.
  • ATA/IBO Speed – This is another important consideration when purchasing a hunting bow because the faster the arrow is launched from the bow, the flatter the arrow’s trajectory will be and thus, the better it will compensate for minor miscalculations in the distance to the target. Consequently, most archers want the fastest bow they can get.
  • Axle-to-Axle Length – This is an important consideration when choosing a compound bow because shorter bows are less forgiving to shoot but are far more maneuverable when hunting from a tree stand or ground blind. Plus, they are also lighter to carry than longer bows due to their shorter risers.
  • Traditional vs. Take-down – Recurve bows are available with either fixed limbs or removeable limbs and, while there is really no difference in their performance, take-down bows are significantly easier to transport. However, despite the fact that take-down bows are by far the most popular type, some archers do not like the appearance of the limb bolts and thus, they prefer fixed limb designs.
  • AMO Length – This is a very important consideration when purchasing a recurve bow because the shorter the bow is, the more difficult it is to draw the bow beyond the standard 28” draw length (called “stacking”). Therefore, while shorter archers can easily draw shorter bows, taller archers need to choose a longer AMO length. However, the longer the bow is, the less maneuverable it will be when hunting from a tree stand or walking through dense foliage.

Top Five Hunting Bows

1. Bowtech BTX

Features Bowtech’s machined aluminum CPX riser combined with their Carbon Core limbs and dual Binary Drive cam system for an IBO speed of 350 FPS. Plus, it also features their Micro Synch dial which enables the archer to fine tune the cam’s timing without the need to place the bow in a bow press.

2. Mathews Halon

Features Mathews machined aluminum Dual Bridge riser combined with wider, more torsionally rigid, quad limbs to help eliminate cam lean and Mathew’s NO CAM Crosscentric cam system for an IBO speed of 353 FPS.

3. PSE Carbon Air

Features PSE’s Monocoque True Carbon Technology riser with their exclusive Arch Bridge riser design combined with their X-Tech quad limbs and HD Hybrid Cam System for an ATA/IBO speed of 332 to 340 FPS.

4. Martin Jaguar Elite

Features a skeletal machined aluminum riser with removeable recurve limbs made from a hard maple core with fiberglass laminations front and back and an AMO length of 60”.

5. Bear Super Kodiak

Features traditional fixed-limb design with a black, phenolic plastic riser combined with Bolivian Rosewood accents and recurve limbs made from a hard maple core with black fiberglass laminates front and back and an AMO length of 60”.

So, when choosing a hunting bow, it is very important that you consider all of the aspects listed above since each aspect will drastically affect whether or not the bow fits you. Fortunately, modern compound bows are all highly adjustable but recurve bows must be purchased to fit a specific archer since they are not adjustable. Furthermore, compound bows are significantly faster than recurve bows but, they are also much heavier and not nearly as smooth or quiet to shoot. Therefore, most archers have a distinct preference for one type over the other.

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