When it comes to hunting, many enthusiasts choose rifles and even handguns for their lethal range and convenience. However, there are those who prefer to hunt with a best hunting bow and arrow instead of these modern weapons.
So what attracts people to bowhunting?
Some say that hunting becomes an entirely different experience with a bow – using a primitive weapon allows you to engage in primal urges, facing an animal up close when you are about to vanquish it.
Indeed, archery may be quite challenging, but it has fascinated man since prehistory. Right now, this sport is gaining a following in the U.S., and it’s no surprise. Archery is extremely fulfilling, and it can be mastered by anyone regardless of physical build.
As long as you are willing to put in the time, you can become a master at hunting with a bow.
Traditional vs. Compound Bow: What’s the Difference?
Bowhunting is an addictive sport for some, but without the right equipment, it can be too difficult to be appreciated.
Hunting enthusiasts have a choice as to what type of bow to use. There are two main options for manual draw: traditional and compound bows. This should serve as your first major decision when choosing a hunting bow.
The traditional bow can be a longbow or a recurve bow. A longbow has the standard bow shape – like a capital D – and is usually as long as an archer’s height. Meanwhile, a recurve bow has limbs that curve away at the ends. This distinct shape provides more speed and power to each shot compared to a standard longbow.
Compound bows are the modern versions of the equipment, mechanically designed to deliver more precision. The most distinct characteristic of the compound bow is that it has wheels, or cams, at the end of its limbs. These cams allow the string to store more energy when drawn, releasing compound force, hence the name.
This allows “let-off,” which is described as the effect of the decrease in forces when the archer doesn’t hold all the taut force in the bow, but still gets an accelerated speed when the string is released.
Compound bows are more accurate, powerful, and compact, which is why many hunters prefer these to traditional bows. Still, there are skilled archers who swear by recurve bows when hunting.
What You Should Consider in Buying a Best Hunting Bow?
Bowhunting is a great challenge even for expert archers, but it’s extremely rewarding as well. Whether you choose a recurve, longbow, or a compound bow, the right fit and release will give you ease of control, comfort, and killer accuracy.
To get started on your adventure, here are key things to consider when picking the right bow for hunting:
Speed refers to a bow’s capacity to release an arrow in a flat trajectory. Speed enables a faster learning curve for an archer, which is why it’s an important feature for bowhunting.
In terms of bows, it’s a fact that compound bows are much faster and more accurate than recurves or longbows. Manufacturers have consistently produced compound bows that shoot arrows at great speeds, and newest ones promise to be faster and lighter.
Because of the compound bow’s longer strings, the archer can pull back further and drive up the speed for each shot.
A traditional bow, on the other hand, has a much slower arrow speed, because the bow itself tends to be heavier, and there’s no let-off that enables good speed with less manual tension.
Traditional bows generate an average speed of under 100 FPS (feet per second), while compound bows launch arrows at about 350 FPS.
Even though compound bows are undisputedly faster, this speed comes with a big tradeoff: durability. Faster shots can damage the bow easily, which means the bow parts (string, limbs) will have a shorter lifespan. Some models need replacement after just a year!
Hence, when looking for a hunting bow, think about its shooting speed. Quicker shots equal more precision, but it will also mean more damage to your bow.
As mentioned earlier, the main advantage with a compound bow is the let-off, where you can hold the bow at full draw for long periods without sacrificing the power of your shot.
Apart from its limbs, a compound bow has cables and wheels (cams) that store energy while manually drawn. This energy boosts the power of an arrow when launched.
Let-off is particularly relevant for hunting, because you can wait for your prey for longer while in a stationary position. Holding the bow at full draw won’t be too straining, and you will generate a lot of power when you release the arrow.
Let-off makes the compound bow a go-to piece of equipment for many hunters.
Many archery novices immediately assume that a compound bow is more accurate than a recurve. Two things give compound bows the seemingly obvious edge when it comes to consistent shots: let-off and sights.
We already know what let-off is, but what are sights?
Added to any compound bow, sights are attached to the riser, right above the grip. The circular opening is where small, colored pins are fixed on the center, to serve as guides in line with the arrow and bowstring.
Sights can be likened to what you’d see on a rifle. Combine this with the let-off feature, and you will find it easier to place your arrows optimally. The bow will virtually do most of the work for you.
These features are not present in a recurve bow, even in a decked-out model. It rests on the archer to maneuver the bow, get the aim right, and time the release. It requires more skill from the archer to be able to land the same quality of shots as the compound bow.
Accuracy doesn’t necessarily depend on the bow as much as it does on the user. What separates the two are the ease with which an archer can wield the equipment and the inherent learning curve required to master it.
4. Axle-to-Axle Length
Axle-to-axle length refers to the ends of a compound bow’s limbs. At the end of each limb is a steel axle that attaches the cam to the bow. Keep in mind that this is different from the bow’s overall length.
So why is it important?
Axle-to-axle length can affect stability in shooting. Think about it. A significant change in the length will enable you to hold more steadily while aiming. Longer bows are generally more stable than shorter bows. A 45-inch length will definitely be more stable than a super short 28-inch axle-to-axle length.
For most bowhunters, the ideal specification stands at 30–33 inches. Even just an inch of deviation will usually be considered a specialty bow that requires more expertise. The market preference is so strong that manufacturers usually add the axle-to-axle length in the model name (e.g., Bow Madness 32) to attract buyers.
Of course, longer doesn’t always mean more accurate, as there are a lot of other factors that can make a bow more or less accurate. Especially with minute differences in axle-to-axle length, there will be little effect on your shooting accuracy.
In terms of weight, compound bows are considerably lighter than traditional recurve or longbows.
But the story doesn’t end there. A light bow can be both a good thing and a bad thing.
Let’s start with the good: lighter bows are more portable and provide more mobility for the archer. Being nimble with a bow makes a tremendous difference when hunting, as you can move about stealthily without alerting your prey.
But having a very light bow affects your stability. This is because weight helps in steadying your shot. Bows that are a bit heavier can keep your stance and draw consistent.
Of course, fans of lightweight compound bows will gladly tell you that stability can be achieved with enough shooting training. You don’t really need weight to learn how to shoot steady.
6. Brace Height
A bow’s brace height measures how far the string is to the pivot point of the bow grip. Generally, if a bow has a taller brace height, it yields less speed, and if it has a shorter brace height, then it builds more speed and power.
But from what we know about speed, there are tradeoffs when going for faster shots. With regard to brace height, shorter ones that generate more speed will also be harder to shoot. You have to be a skilled shooter to be successful with a short brace height.
This is because shorter brace heights are less forgiving with maneuvering and draw control. In contrast, a taller brace height will relatively be easier to aim and shoot.
For hunting, a shorter brace height will certainly be ideal for crowded hunting blinds and such, provided you have the skill to handle the lack of forgiveness. Otherwise, opt for a longer brace height of about 8 inches to gain more control of the equipment.
Basically, beginners or average shooters will do well to choose a bow that’s more forgiving of errors. Longer, heavier bows on the slower side can be easier to manage and practice with. Good shooters, meanwhile, can choose a lighter and shorter bow.
As an accessory for archers, a stabilizer isn’t what you’d consider a non-negotiable for archery. Still, there are benefits to using a stabilizer when shooting.
A stabilizer is attached to the riser back via a hole found below the grip. What it does is it absorbs vibrations in the bow when you shoot, reducing the impact you’d otherwise feel due to the arrow release. It also adds weight below the grip, which can help the bow remain steady and straight, critical for consistency and precision.
Lastly, the weight placed in front of the bow means that stabilizers can resist the torque generated from the bowstring, again boosting stability.
As with other bow features, it depends on the archer how long (or short) the stabilizer will be. The key tip to remember is that longer stabilizers combat torque more effectively.
So if you are shooting targets farther, say, 40 yards, you could benefit more from the steadiness of a longer stabilizer.
For ground-blind bowhunters who aim at just about 20 yards, a shorter one will be enough.
Compared to other leisure activities, archery can be quite expensive. Budgeting for arrows alone could already rack you up hundreds of dollars.
As for bows, compound bows are typically pricier than traditional bows like recurves because their construction is more complex. Right now, a beginner’s compound bow would cost around $500, while a recurve bow would just be around $300.
The technical makeup of the compound bow, along with its moving parts and assembly, gives it a higher price range than the simpler recurve bow.
The great news is that today’s mid-priced bows showcase quality performance. In fact, paying for really expensive models won’t give you too much of a difference. Sure, you’ll get a bit more speed and a smoother draw, but not so much accuracy. This will ultimately be down to your skill level and training.
This is not to say that price is immaterial when it comes to quality; there’s a reason why expensive bows are the way they are. What’s clear, though, is that mid-priced models will prove to be just as worthwhile as very pricey ones.
Bowhunting is an exciting sport that requires the most efficient tool.
Looking at the key features of both compound and traditional bows, it’s safe to say that compound bows will be more reliable in giving you a good hunting experience. While you still need a whole lot of training to do well in archery, a compound bow’s speed, let-off, and wieldy nature will help guide each shot.
As for a traditional bow like the recurve, it’s less mechanical, yes, but it can also teach you so much about the art of archery. If you are after the journey more than captured game, using a recurve may be more fulfilling.
As always, the most important thing is to choose the kind of bow that completely suits your hunting needs.