Shopping for a new bow is exciting, but the wide selection can also make it confusing. Bow manufacturers offer many styles of bows, and each style offers different benefits. What should you consider when choosing the bow right for you?
Bows designed for speed have a short brace height, the distance from the string to the pocket of the grip. Most brace heights hover around 7 inches. Speed bows are usually right around 6 inches (some may be shorter) that help them reach IBO speeds of 340 to 360 fps. However, as the brace height decreases, so does the bow’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is the bow’s ability to shoot accurately with small errors in the shooters form. I would not recommend bows with short brace heights for beginners or people who practice infrequently. For experienced archers, such a bow offers greater kinetic energy and flatter arrow flight for longer-range shots. The best hunting bows those that offer speed while maintaining forgiving characteristics.
Like brace height, axel-to-axel length affects bow forgiveness. A longer axle-to-axle length puts weight further from the hand, which helps minimize torque. It also benefits shooters who have poor eyesight because of the less severe string angle at full draw. This puts the peep sight closer to the eye for a better field of view.
Longer compound bows are also best for finger shooters. The wider angle at the nocking point “pinches” the fingers less at full draw.
Short axle-to-axle-length bows are more compact, easier to carry through the woods, and allow more shooting angles. (Extreme downward angles can be tricky with longer bows.) Arrow speed is typically higher, but normally it is just a few fps on comparable models.
Companies have been striving to design bows with minimum weight and maximum durability. Hoyt has been using carbon fiber tubing in its risers since 2010. Examples include Hoyt’s Carbon Matrix Plus and the Carbon Element, which weighs only 3.6 pounds. Machined aluminum has proven to be a dependable riser material for many other companies.
On recent bows, Mathews has utilized its patented Geo Grid Lock riser, whose design removes more material from the riser while maintaining strength.
The above bows are extreme examples of light weight. In reality, any bow less than 4 pounds is still considered a very light weight.
Adjustability offers the chance to experiment with different draw lengths and release styles. Draw length adjustability is also a great feature for anyone in high school or college who might still be growing.
If you are buying a bow for a youngster, several models offer larger ranges of draw length and draw weight adjustability. The Fred Bear Outbreak has a draw length range from 16 inches up to 30 inches and draw weights from 15 to 70 pounds.
While shopping, try to imagine hunting situations and the ways that different bow styles can benefit you. Consider updated accessories to match equipment performance. A fast bow might require a faster drop-away rest than what you had on your old setup. If you get a lightweight bow, you may need a more practical stabilizer to maintain it.
Modern bows offer a wide range of options. Most hunters are going to benefit from bow models whose options fall somewhere between the extremes. When you find the bow with the right balance, you will ultimately increase your chances for harvesting the buck of a lifetime.