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Picking the right bow


Selecting a new bow can be adifficult choice with some of the confusingarchery jargon. Understanding these time tested dimensions can help you make the right decision!


June 01, 2012
Looking at the latest bows makes me want to pick up and shoot each one of them. It is like Christmas all over again. All the new features including, changes to older designs, faster bows, and smooth draw cycles are worth a closer inspection. Today we have some of the best designs.

Picking_The_Right_Bow
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Consider your hunting style before thinking about the type of bow you want to purchase. Author photos
New bows are great to marvel over with the newest camo and great designs. This is all cool but when it comes down to purchasing a bow there are some time tested factors to consider. With every decision there is a trade-off which ultimately helps each person to pick a different bow. Do not think that just because your buddy likes a bow that you will also. Take the time to shoot each one and consider what works for you. I will cover the most important aspects to consider.

Dynamic Dimension

Before stepping into the shop understand what type of hunting you are going to be doing. Are you considering a ground blind or treestand hunting? Ground blinds require a shorter axle to axle while stand hunters are better suited with a medium to long bow. Longer bows are more steady and forgiving to shoot. Short bows allow a hunter to squeeze through smaller spaces where ever they hunt. Medium to longer axle lengths for hunters range from 34 to 38 inches or longer. Also a longer draw length often requires a hunter to use a longer bow. Draw lengths over 29 inches begin to narrow the available options for hunters.

Although I love the 3D course, my setup is for hunting. While hunting I need the most forgiving equipment possible. With a raised heart rate and difficult angles, it is easy to not have the perfect form. Knowing this makes me look for a bow that will be the most forgiving. An industry standard is 7 plus inch brace height for forgiveness. A smaller brace height will provide more speed but be a harder bow to control if the hunter's form is not perfect. This often translates to great practice sessions until there is a flaw in the hunter's form. The shorter brace means any flaw in form will significantly show up.

There is a trade-off for both brace and axle to axle. Hunters should lean towards a forgiving and easy to shoot bow. This will give them the best shootable bow after several long cold hours on stand.

Speed Kills

Too many times sitting around the campfire I hear hunters discussing bow speed. I cannot blame them. So much of the archery literature today focuses on the speed delivered. I understand a fast bow can be attractive but don't worry about speed. Today many bows are in the IBO range of 320-345 feet per second (fps). Those speeds are very fast and the 20-30 yard range that is offered most often will require little estimating at those speeds. More important than speed is a forgiving bow. Ten years ago my bow was shooting 250 fps. Without question I killed just as many deer with that bow because it was forgiving. I call speed bows "Speed Demons" because of the problems they can cause a hunter.

Along with speed is draw weight. Picking the right draw weight is not a weight lifting contest. Bowhunting the rut happens in November during cooler weather. Cold unstretched muscles make it harder to pull back therefore a lighter weight is ideal. In the past I have dropped my draw weight down to 54 lbs and had great success. Today I barely push over 60 lbs simply because it easy to draw in all conditions. Don't worry about the extra speed gains from higher pounds, select something comfortable.

Shocking Solutions

I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to line up thirty different bows and shoot them side by side. What this reinforces is each bow draws and shoots differently. What is shocking is the difference in kick. After pulling the trigger I look for a balanced bow that does not vibrate. Vibration or jumping causes a hunter to hold the bow. The less kick the better. This year I noticed a couple bows that were dead in the hand after releasing an arrow. No jump and no vibration. That is a great bow design.

I do not want a bow to rock in any direction. A hunter must feel like a bow is an extension of his arm; a bow dead in the hand provides this feeling. While discussing the feeling in your hand consider a bow grip, the smaller the better. A smaller grip provides less opportunity to torque a bow.

Smooth as Silk

There are many different cam (wheels on the bow) designs; hybrid cam, solo cam, binary cams and others. Each cam provides a different draw cycle and experience. This experience means a bow will load up and fall into the valley different. Loading up is how fast a bow comes to peak draw weight. The valley is the space the bow is in its let-off when the bow is at full draw. Different cams make the bow come out of the valley differently.

An aggressive cam will pick up speed quickly while drawing and have a very short valley. A medium cam is slower to load up (come to full weight) and often has a longer valley. How does this translate to your experience and what is best for you? Think about what you want out of a bow. A smooth drawing bow will have a medium cam, load up slower and have a longer valley. A speed bow has an aggressive cam. These will load up quickly, be at peak draw weight for most of the drawing cycle, and won't let off until the very back of the draw cycle.

With an aggressive cam any creeping forward will allow the bow to jerk forward as it loads up. A medium cam gives a hunter some room in the back valley. If you are looking for a smooth drawing bow then a medium should be your choice.

Picking the right bow can be a difficult decision. Consider your hunting style before stepping into the professional shop. I cannot stress the importance of picking up as many bows as possible. There are many great bow companies with a number of bows. Understanding what makes a great bow will help in your decision. Really take in the experience by factoring in the draw cycle, valley length, brace height, axle to axle, grip, draw weight, and cam. Each item changes how the bow feels in your hand and shoots. Finding the right bow for you is a step towards selecting a bow that feels like an extension of your arm.

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