The goal in building your perfect hunting bow starts with selecting a brand or manufacturer, and then which model in that manufacturer’s long list of available options. Most people do this by first doing a bit of research on what the manufactures have to offer that year and following a budget.
The next decision is which axel-to-axel length most appeals to you. Are you a tall person? You may want a bow with a longer axel-to-axel length. A lot of higher-end bows now offer two axel-to-axel length choices. A shorter person may want a shorter bow. Remember, longer bows are usually more accurate than shorter models, and that is due, for the most part, to the angle of the string on a shorter bow being more abrupt than a longer bow. The longer bow puts the string angle such that the peep is closer to your eye, and thus creates more accuracy.
Next, but to me the least important, is the speed. Some people want a faster-shooting bow so that may have a bearing on your decision. Remember, the faster the bow, the lower the brace height, and thus the less the accuracy. Shooting a bow with a low brace height, in the five to five-and-a-half-inch brace height range, means you better be a good shooter to start with or your fast bow just means faster bad shots. The good thing with fast bows is the judging of distance becomes a little easier, since they shoot flatter, and thus are a bit more forgiving if you judged distance wrong.
Next, colour may be an aspect for you to consider. It is for me. Because I do most of my bow hunting in the late season when there’s snow on the ground, I usually shoot a white camo bow if I can. You may buy a bow to match your camo clothing or the terrain you hunt.
Do you want a metal bow, usually aluminum or a cast riser, or carbon bow? Cast is the least expensive, aluminum the next, and usually carbon the most expensive. Bowtech makes a lower-end carbon than say PSE or Hoyt. The advantages in carbon over metal is the carbon bows do not get cold on your hands in those freezing temperatures; again, something important to me because I mostly hunt in the late season.
What is the draw cycle like and what does the wall feel like? Does the bow feel good in your hand? What does the shootability feel like? I don’t like bows like the turbos, which are very jumpy. Yes, they are fast, but just when you go to relax and get into your shot, the cam wants to jump and fire on you. What poundage do you want to shoot? Remember, the bows with large weight adjustments sound good, but they are not a great choice when selecting your perfect bow. A bow has one spot where they were built to shoot at optimum performance. The longer the range, the farther one can move away from that position. Remember, it’s better to shoot a 60-pound bow at its maximum than buy a 70-pound bow and shoot it at 63 pounds. A bow shoots best at its maximum poundage, it was designed to shoot at its maximum draw. This is why your high-end bows have only a 10-pound adjustment, where your lower-end bows have a wide weight adjustment from 10 to 70 pounds, for example. Nice for sellability, but not good for optimum performance.
Here is a list of your main top pro bow brands in alphabetical order: APA, Bowtech, Elite, Hoyt, Mathews, Prime, PSE.
Now you have your bow, the next step is to pick a rest. It’s time to move from your old faithful whisker biscuit and buy a quality fall-away rest. I like the capture fall-aways, like Ripcord or Ultra-Rest, to name a few. Hamskeas have been very popular this last year. Then you want to look at, do you want a limb driven one or the regular down cable attachment ones. Personally, I like a regular down cable attachment one because the cord is way shorter, less chance of stretching and less chance of getting hung up on stuff in the tight bush. Your limb driven ones have a longer string, over 12 inches exposed, to get caught up in stuff. Not my first choice, but the limb driven are supposed to be more consistent and more popular lately. Remember, if you buy one the setup is critical, to guide the arrow as long as possible but to fall at the exact right time. That’s why they are only as good as the guy setting it up.
Next is to select a sight, and your choices are many. I can give you a couple of the most popular we see in my shop, like the Trophy Ridge with React Technology or Fast Eddie by Spot-Hogg, Black Gold, HHA or IQ, to name a few. Or if you want to go all out, I use the rangefinder sight in the Oracle, because it lights up a pin at the exact distance, thus no estimating distances.
Next is to pick a quiver. I usually suggest buying a quiver that the manufacturer made for your bow, then the brands are the same and there’s usually a spot located on the bow riser to receive the quiver. If you are not into that or want some good choices, obviously a Tight Spot quiver is a good choice, but the most important thing to look for is a quiver that has at least three contact points for holding your arrows. Some inexpensive choices are the G5 Head Loc and Maxxis by Fuse, to name a few.
Next, and probably the most underemphasized, is to pick a proper stabilizer and side bar. Until you have shot a bow that has been properly balanced, you do not understand how one that is properly balanced is so much nicer to shoot and feel. The side bar, if done right, is weighted to offset the weight that a sight, rest, quiver and arrows all do to a bow because they are all mounted on the one side of the bow. The side bar is weighted on the opposite side of the bow to balance the bow so that when you put it in your hand, it will balance to the point that your bubble sits exactly in the right level spot. Otherwise, what a shooter does is torque their wrist to get the bubble on the bow sight to be level, and this causes inconsistent shots, whereas the sidebar, when done right, levels out your bow automatically without any unnatural wrist torque. Then the bow, on the shot, falls level rather than diving to the heavy side. This all comes from the fact that target archers would never shoot a bow that does not have side balance bars. The front bar should have enough weight on the front to make the bow drop about 20 degrees forward at rest. This is because when you draw a bow, the front of the bow lifts the front up to level out horizontally and parallel to the ground you are standing on. My next issue will be on building a perfect target bow.
I want to thank the many people who e-mailed me their comments from my last article, I loved reading every one of them.