It’s no secret that I enjoy all types of hunting. I like using long rifles, muzzle loaders and many other types of guns but perhaps the most pure thrill I get while hunting comes when I use a bow. It seems to make me feel like I am one with nature and on a more traditional style of hunt with less room for error. In order to bow hunt successfully you definitely have to step up your game a notch or two.
When it comes to bow hunting you don’t just want to use any old bow so it is important to know all of the different types of compound hunting bows there is out there in the marketplace and to also be familiar with the characteristics of these bows that makes one right for you.
That is basically what we will attempt to do in this review article. We will familiarize you with certain hunting bow characteristics that are important and also get you up to speed on several different bows that we think are ideal for certain hunting situations. When you are done reading here you will be better equipped than ever before to make a sound bow purchase for your hunting needs. Having the right compound bow is essential for you in order to fully enjoy your bow hunting experience and give you the best chance for success.
Best Compound Bows By Category
Best Compound Bow Overall
PSE Ready To Shoot Surge Bow Package with Right Hand 70# Draw, Break-Up Infinity, 29-Inch What does it take to get on our list of top rated bows for the best overall category? The answer to that is it has to be a hunting bow that is loaded with features. That is a great way to describe this magnificent compound hunting bow from the reputable company PSE.
It all starts with the adjustability and versatility built into this excellent hunting product. It is a bow that can be used by both novice and expert hunters alike. You can adjust the draw weight to as low as 40 pounds and as you practice and get better you can increase the draw weight to as much as 70 pounds. That is a much wider draw range than most compound bows feature.
It also has great accuracy and kill power because of its exceptional 320 fps speed when the bow is drawn back a full 30 inches. That means as soon as the arrow leaves your bow it is impacting your intended target. For those that don’t have the strength to draw this bow back a full 30 inches, it is still quite a lethal hunting weapon when drawn back as little as 20 inches too.
The “Surge” bow from PSE is also very versatile no matter whether you hunt from a stationary position, tree stand or on move. It is only 38 inches long and weighs a scant 8 pounds.
Best Compound Bow For Beginners
Getting used to using a compound bow takes some time for almost everybody. That is why it is highly recommended that novice bow users work their way up to the stronger types of hunting bows gradually. It is more important when first starting to practice with a bow to learn to be comfortable and accurate with your shots. This fine bow from Bear Archery fits the bill nicely here.
This is not only an excellent bow for novice hunters but it can also be easily handled by women and children. I have personally seen 8 and 9 year old kids learn to use this bow accurately and easily from 10 – 20 yards. Its adjustable draw strength is a great asset to have and can easily be adjusted upward as the user develops more and more skill with a bow. It is a two cam bow that makes shooting as effortless as possible. This bow is both accurate and powerful when adjusted towards the upper limit of its strength and can easily be adapted for both target practice or to use for hunting.
Simply put, this bow is built to keep young and novice hunters from getting discouraged as they work to increase their skill with a bow. It has all the adjustments that any novice, female or child hunter will ever need to make sure they keep their head in the game until they make that first kill and experience the euphoria that goes along with all their patience and hard work paying off.
Best Budget Compound Bow
If flexibility at a reasonable price is what you crave in a compound bow package then this is definitely the right choice bow for you. It works well for everyone from novice to experienced hunters. It has so many different settings that even children can wield it comfortably.
Why can it be used for such a large range of hunter types? It starts with the fact that it has a huge adjustable draw range. It can be set for as little as 5 pounds of draw resistance or as much as 70 pounds. Its max draw length can be set all the way up to almost 31”.
Even though this is not a speed bow, make no mistake about it, it is very comfortable to shoot with. It is great for both hunting and mastering the use of the bow on the practice range. Some of the best features about this bow are the fact it is very easy to adjust and has very little vibration when shooting. You will find few bows that are smoother to shoot with.
Everything you need to start shooting right out of the box is included right in the package. This includes the bow itself, 3 Pin tundra sight, a hostage XL arrow rest, bow mounted quiver, tube peep sight, superior quality string loop, wrist sling, and 5″ ultra-lite stabilizer.
Best Youth Compound Bow
This is a great bow to purchase if you have a child that wants to learn to shoot a bow or hunt. It is also a bow package that you want to recommend to family and friends for the very same reason. You simply will not find a better bow in the marketplace for a youth shooter to begin with. It has everything necessary to make a smooth introduction to bow hunting for youth shooters of all ages.
The Diamond Atomic bow is a bow that is so adjustable that even a three year old can easily shoot with it. That is exactly the reason why we have it rated as the number one bow in the youth marketplace along with many others. Its combination of price and adjustability is unparalleled among youth archery bows. With this bow you don’t have to set it up by recommendations because you can easily adjust it to your child’s preferences as they take their first few shots. It is the type of flexibility that is necessary.
It is a nice all around package. The sight that is included with it is a very good one for beginner archers so you won’t need to add an aftermarket sight to it. It also comes with a three arrow quiver, three arrows and a decent arrow rest. Your child will be shooting bullseyes in no time once the bow is adjusted correctly.
It also comes with a limited lifetime warranty from the manufacturer which is definitely an added bonus.
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Hunting Bow Selection Guide and Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions you really need to think about when choosing a bow to do your hunting with:
A. HOW MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE DOES DRAW WEIGHT MAKE FOR HUNTERS?
Draw weight makes a big difference. There are too many factors that go into your draw weight decision to list in a small article so I will try to sum it up for you. The heavier the draw weight the more speed and kinetic energy you will get when you let loose an arrow. This increases both accuracy and the damage your arrow does on impact. Those are certainly not bad things but there is a flip side too.
If you can’t draw your bow back easily then this can certainly counter any benefit in accuracy you gain by increasing your draw weight. It is also a fact that a well-aimed shot will bring down most animals whether you have 40 pounds of draw weight or 70 pounds of draw weight. Even arrow weight must be considered when making this choice because you will usually need more draw weight to shoot heavier arrows accurately.
A good rule of thumb when establishing the draw weight you want in a bow you are going to purchase is to find a bow that gives you the highest draw weight possible when comfortably pulling it back to shoot. Keep in mind there is no set standard for draw weight and it is best to use what you feel comfortable with when shooting.
B. HOW IMPORTANT IS THE BOW’S SIZE WHEN HUNTING?
Draw weight is probably more important than bow size but there are important things to consider here too. For starters make sure to avoid the common misconception that many bow sales people have that your arm span should be the same as your bow height; there is no evidence at all to support that human Kinetics has anything to do with proper bow sizing.
To properly size a bow in a simple fashion you should knock an arrow and draw back on the string until in full drawn position shooting form. Have someone measure from the arrow knock grove to the bow grip pivot point. Add 1 ¾ inches to this measurement and this should be very close to your draw length.
Next use this chart to select the proper bow size for you:
- 14″ to 16″ draw length = 48″ bow size
- 17″ to 20″ draw length = 54″ bow size
- 20″ to 22″ draw length = 58″ bow size
- 22″ to 24″ draw length = 62″ bow size
- 24″ to 26″ draw length = 64″ to 66″ bow size
- 26″ to 28″ draw length = 66″ to 68″ bow size
- 28″ to 30″ draw length = 68″ to 70″ bow size
- 31″ and longer draw length = 70″ to 72″ bow size
Keep in mind if you are doing such things as active bow hunting you will probably want to use a shorter bow so you can maneuver through brush, trees and other greenery.
C. WHAT MAKES A BOW QUIET? HOW IMPORTANT IS NOISE REDUCTION FOR HUNTING?
If you are like me there just might come a time when you will need a second shot at a dear and the quieter your bow is the better chance you will have at doing this. Last year (a little embarrassed to admit) I put an arrow right through the very top of a deer’s back with a shot from a tree stand. The arrow shot was quiet enough and went through the deer so fast the deer barely flinched and just moved about 20 yards away from the spot where I first struck it. I was fortunate to get a second shot and I didn’t miss the second time. With some bows that are noisy when fired this would not have been possible.
Newer bow technology is more silent than ever but there still are some things that you can add that will help quiet your bow even further. You want your bow not only to be quiet when shooting but also to be especially quiet as you draw back on it to aim and shoot your arrow too. Here are some great ways to make your compound bow as silent as possible:
Fleece Silencing Tape
No matter how well your bow and your arrows are manufactured there is always slight contact between your bow and your arrow when you draw it back and then shoot. This will consequently produce some noise too. This noise can be significantly reduced simply by adding inexpensive fleece archery tape to the areas where an arrow is most likely to contacts your bow when shooting.
Compound bows have so much torque that is released when firing that it causes excessive string vibration.. Often times if the vibration is enough it will produce some noise during a shot too. Animal hide and synthetic string silencers will go a long way toward eliminating string vibration and any subsequent noise when firing your bow. Not to mention they make your bow look cool too.
These not only will make your bow easier to keep steady but they will also quiet it down a little too when shooting. Be wary of overdoing it here. The longer the stabilizer the more steady you can hold your bow before shooting but they will also make it more difficult to move through brush and wooded areas when hunting.
A bad cable guard can really create some noise especially if you are hunting in damp or wet conditions. They can really add to cable chatter when shooting. If you do not have good cable guards that came with your bow then consider replacing them with higher quality and quieter aftermarket ones.
There are some that question whether limb dampers actually help reduce3 noise when shooting your bow. However, there is no doubt that they will reduce vibration and it makes sense your bow will be quieter because vibration is usually a major contributor to string noise when shooting your bow.
These are fast becoming one of the most popular compound bow anti-noise and anti-vibration devices. Most new bows will even come already equipped with them. They work by taking some of the energy out of the string when shooting and transferring it into the structure of your bow.
D. HOW MUCH DRAW WEIGHT SHOULD BEGINNERS START WITH?
This is a difficult question to answer and I will explain why. It is much easier, especially for lighter bodied men, women and children to begin with a bow that has a lighter draw weight; say anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds of draw weight. This helps build experience and accuracy as a person gets used to firing their bow. The problem being is that anything less than 40 pounds of draw weight will result in some missed and inaccurate shots when hunting for sure.
So you can practice with a bow with a lighter draw weight but make sure to upgrade when you are confident enough to take your new found bow shooting skills on the hunt. Some of the bows we reviewed are highly adjustable and that makes them a great purchase.
E. IS FASTER FPS ALWAYS BETTER?
We have all heard the expression speed kills and it is no different when taking down game with a compound bow. The faster the speed at which your arrow impacts an animal the more damage it does to that animal when struck. It also tends to greatly enhance your accuracy too. The question is can their ever be too much FPS power in a bow? The main factor here is you have to be careful not to confuse arrow speed with momentum. It is the momentum of an arrow at impact which does the killing. In most cases a faster FPS will generate more momentum. So although it’s not fair to say that a faster FPS is always better; most of the time it is highly preferable.
F. WHAT IS BRACE HEIGHT AND HOW MUCH OF IT SHOULD I HAVE?
The brace height on your bow is simply the distance from the deepest part of your bow’s grip to the string. The majority of the time this is preset by the manufacturer but it can then be adjusted a little by twisting or untwisting your bow string. Is it important? The answer to that question is more so than most people think. Brace height is critical for two very important reasons. One is if you have proper brace height it tends to build some forgiveness into your shots. The other is that it directly relates to arrow speed; you don’t want more brace height than is necessary because the shorter the brace height the faster your arrow speed will be. Here is a generally accepted chart to reference for determining proper brace height:
G. HOW IMPORTANT IS THE LET-OFF OF MY COMPOUND?
A compound bow’s let-off is generally described as being the point when drawing back an arrow where you can shoot effectively yet not be at the highest draw rate. It basically is a point where you can take more time to comfortably aim your bow. It is very helpful when hunting because you don’t have to rush your shot if you have your let-off properly adjusted. In most cases proper let-off will greatly increase aiming time and accuracy.
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What types of cam systems are there and which one is right for me?
There are generally 4 different types of cam systems that a bow will have. What makes it difficult to select the proper cam for you is there are many variances even between manufacturers of the same types of cams. That is why it is best to read up on the characteristics the manufacturer states their bow has before deciding which one to purchase.
Here are some general guidelines that most bows with each type of cam system tend to follow.
These bows tend to be extremely quiet and they are usually much easier to maintain than other types of cams that bows come with. They also tend to be smooth when firing and offer good accuracy and a nice stop position when at full draw. The knock against them is that many people find them hard to tune and there is some debate as to whether they nock in a level manner.
The dual cams on these types of bows are not round and symmetrical like most bows have. These bows are not for not only being extremely quiet but they generate awesome arrow speeds. They require much less maintenance than traditional cams but there drawback is they can be hard to tune and time for optimum performance.
These are modified 3 groove dual cam systems. They tend to be very easy to tune properly and they are really fast bows too. These bows are best known for having perfectly straight and level knock travel whenever shooting them. Cam lean was the biggest problem with these types of bows but their sales have skyrocketed as manufactures are learning ways to correct this significantly.
These are traditional dual cam systems which feature a symmetrical round wheel or cam at each end of the bow. These types of bows will give you exceptional knock travel, accuracy and speed but they also require more maintenance than any other bow and can be noisy when shooting.