Adapting Your Compound for Bowhunting, Competitions and More

A professional archer shares three tips to make using the same bow for different applications less intimidating.

Adapting Your Compound for Bowhunting, Competitions and More

Try different archery disciplines with your current hunting bow before investing in a second or third, more specialized bow for bowfishing or competition archery.

If you love bowhunting, you might also love bowfishing and competitive or recreational target archery. And vice versa. But you won’t know without trying each activity. Don’t worry about not having all the right equipment. Some people say each activity requires a different bow, but that’s not true, at least not at first. You can probably adapt your current compound bow enough to try each activity, and then later on, if you find a new variation on archery that you really enjoy, you can invest in additional equipment.

Professional archer Kris Schaff said he uses compound bows for everything. He regularly bowhunts (elk are his favorite game species), has bowfished in Montana for paddlefish, dabbles in 3-D from time to time, and has a long list of accomplishments as an archer on the United States men’s compound archery team. In fact, he won the gold medal in the men’s team event at the 2017 World Archery Championships held in Mexico City, Mexico.

Now that his life revolves around archery, Schaff has multiple compound bows and uses them for different applications, but that wasn’t always the case. Early in his career, he used the same bow to bowhunt, bowfish and compete. Using the same bow for multiple activities has its pros and cons. Schaff shared his tips for how to make it work.

1: Give Yourself Time to Make Adjustments

Sure, using the same bow for different archery disciplines can save you money, but it won’t save you time. Adapting your bow for each activity takes time and knowledge. Depending on your setup, swapping parts and accessories will likely take over an hour, in addition to tweaks made after several trial-and-error shots. So, account for the time requirements and plan accordingly before tournaments, hunting season or a casual bowfishing outing with friends.

2: Only Change What’s Necessary

It probably goes without saying but because each activity is different, so are the bow accessories and products. Schaff said you don’t have to get caught up in all the specializations. Instead, he said to “just roll with it.” 

Some things won’t change much between a target setup and hunting setup. A fall-away arrow rest will work for both, and you probably don’t need to change your draw weight or draw length. But you might consider changing things such as the sight, stabilizer and arrow.

“You can get away with a single-pin sight for both, but I would change sights out,” Schaff said. “I use a scope for target archery and fixed pins for hunting. I’d also get a longer stabilizer for target archery, and change the arrows because you use broadheads for hunting and need field points for target.”

If you want to bowfish, you won’t need a sight, but you need a bowfishing reel, specialized arrows and fishing points. You’ll probably have to switch to a special rest to accommodate heavy bowfishing arrows, too. You might consider reducing your bow’s draw weight to reduce fatigue during a long day of shooting.

Bowfishing requires bowfishing reel, specialized arrows and fishing points, but it’s a fun alternative to storing your bow during the bowhunting offseason.
Bowfishing requires bowfishing reel, specialized arrows and fishing points, but it’s a fun alternative to storing your bow during the bowhunting offseason.

Whatever changes you make, ensure your equipment meets the rules and criteria for the activity you’re doing. To check the equipment rules, visit your state wildlife agency website for bowhunting and bowfishing, and check the tournament website or contact the tournament director for competitions.

3: Practice to Learn Your Bow and What It Likes

“Put time behind the bow and figure out what your equipment likes,” Schaff said. Bows will react differently to different accessories. For example, a long stabilizer makes it easier to hold the bow steady compared with a short one. A slower, heavier arrow will have more of a lobbing trajectory than a lighter, faster arrow, but heavier arrows tend to penetrate deeper (bowfishing arrows are extremely heavy and fly slow, but can penetrate fish that might be several feet under water). Arrow spine is the measurement of the arrow’s flex or bend. When you shoot an arrow, it flexes while leaving the bow and then straightens out in flight. Arrows fly poorly if they flex too much or not enough. All of these things affect the way you shoot. To be the most accurate archer you can be, you must test different options to find what works best, and practice regularly to become consistent and confident.

4: Buy a Second, Specialized Bow When You’re Ready

If you like more than one archery discipline and get tired of making bow adjustments, then it’s time to invest in a second bow. Reflect on your experience and test new or used bows before making a buying decision. If you’re looking for a hunting compound bow, find something compact, quiet and comfortable to shoot. A target bow doesn’t have to be as small or quiet, but it should also be comfortable and easy to shoot. Compound target bows tend to have a softer recoil, longer axle-to-axle length and a smoother draw cycle because they’re designed for accuracy in mind, whereas compound hunting bows are built for stealth. Many people can pick between a recurve or compound bowfishing bow. Compound bowfishing bows have less let-off than a hunting bow because they’re designed for quick, instinctive shooting.  

Visit the Bowhunters United website ( to find and read the following articles for more information:

  • Traditional Bow, Compound or Crossbow: What’s Best for You?
  • How to Buy a Target Compound Bow
  • A Buyer’s Guide to Compound Bows (for Bowhunting)

Photos courtesy of Archery Trade Association


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