Pick a bow and accessories that work for your style of hunting.
By Jim Velazquez
I remember when I was able to set up a bow with not much more than a string, a nock set, a light rug on the arrow shelf or a small rubber arrow rest. After that, it was just a matter of selecting the correct arrow spine. Those days are gone, as bows and accessories have seen tremendous changes in the past 20 years.
Change isn’t always bad, but it usually is daunting.
The good part is today’s bows and accessories give new archers the opportunity to shoot more proficiently in a much shorter time.
By getting more out of the equipment, manufacturers have been able to make bows faster, quieter and lighter, which has had the added benefit of allowing more women and youngsters to take up the sport. Beginner or old-school shooter, selecting the right bow for your type of hunting is the first step in buying a compound bow.
Once you’ve selected your bow, you’ll need accessories to make it a complete hunting machine. If you know the type of hunting you do most, the terrain and the species, you’re on the road to selecting all you’ll need to outfit your bow.
The rest is the most important bow accessory you’ll buy, so choose wisely and don’t let price alone make your decision.
Consider a rest that will hold your arrow and prevent it from moving or falling off as you draw your bow.
I have seen it happen with many different types of rests over the years. I know many new and seasoned bowhunters who use encapsulating type arrow rests for that reason. With this type of rest, you can place the arrow in the rest and nock it on the string without the worry of the arrow coming off.
Think about being in your treestand for the last three hours, the temperature is 30 degrees, you’re cold, your muscles are sore, and the buck of a lifetime is headed toward your stand. You’re excited! You yank on your bow string to get back to full draw and the arrow pops off the rest. It happens all too often.
A full capture arrow rest like the Trophy Ridge Whisker Biscuit will hold the arrow 360 degrees around the shaft and will not affect arrow flight. It is a user friendly rest and a favorite with many bowhunters.
Bowhunters with a little more experience might consider something more advanced like a dropaway rest. Most require more attention when installing, but I wouldn’t recommend them to new shooters. Most dropaways use a cord that attaches to the bow’s down cable. If installed incorrectly, a dropaway cord can put too much pull on the cable. Also, when the bow’s cables stretch, it can change the timing of the rest and affect arrow flight.
I have had great luck with dropaway arrow rests and am not knocking them at all. I subscribe to the KISS theory for beginners, however, and recommend they stick with something simple.
There are a number of different sight styles available today. Consider those that offer four or five pins with a good light gathering fiber-optic material that will hold their color and brightness until dusk.
The longer the fiber optic, the more light they can capture. When sighting in, be sure to practice during early mornings and late evenings to see how you and your pins perform in low light — the same kind of light in which most bowhunters take their shots.
Too many pins can be confusing when you’re staring at a monster buck with adrenaline pumping through your veins. Unless you’re an experienced bowhunter, I would not recommend anything with more than five-pins. If you place your stands in a heavily wooded area, three pins should be plenty. If you’re hunting more open areas or out West, you might want that five-pin sight.
Select a quality sight that comes with an aluminum pin guard. The aluminum will provide better protection for your sight pins and their fiber optics than a plastic guard. It’s just a little insurance to help keep your pins from being damaged by brush or limbs and from being moved up or down from their settings. The last thing you need is to be in your stand and notice that you have cracked or broken a fiber optic on one or all of your sight pins.
To shoot good groups consistently, you’ll also need a peep sight. I recommend a large peep.
Picture the sight’s rounded pin guard inside the ring of your peep at full draw, then place your sight pin on the target. It’s a much faster method of sighting and will prove to be consistently more accurate at different yardages.
A larger peep will also allow better light gathering for you to better see your pins and the buck beyond them in low light conditions.
Stabilizers provide a number of advantages. First, they help you hold your bow steadier at full draw. It might not be noticeable at close range but will certainly be apparent at longer distances. Five to 8 ounces of stabilizer weight will help you hold your bow much steadier than a bow without a stabilizer.
With your stabilizer attached, the bow should fall forward in your hand at the moment of the shot, maximizing arrow flight and encouraging good follow-through. It should help reduce or eliminate any left or right torquing of the bow. You’ll especially see the benefits of a stabilizer whenever you use a bow-mounted quiver.
Let’s face it, when you’re in the heat of the hunt, shooting form isn’t going to be first in your mind, so let your equipment help you.
Many of today’s stabilizers also reduce vibration and deaden the bow at the shot. In some cases, they help quiet the bow, too.
Visit your local pro shop and try a few stabilizers. Concentrate on which one helps you hold your pins steadier, how your bow reacts in your hand when shooting, and see if you feel a difference at full draw and at the shot.
Of all the quivers available today, a bow mounted quiver is my first choice. A hip or back quiver can be cumbersome and noisy in the field. If arrows are protruding from your hip or back they can catch brush or limbs as you go to your blind or if you’re making a stalk. A bow quiver securely attached to your bow will hold arrows in tight, so as you maneuver through brush without catching on every twig.
If you hunt from a treestand, you might want a quiver that can be easily detached and hung in your tree. Either way, a bow-mounted quiver is a good, safe method for transporting your arrows.
Before you buy a quiver, think about the broadheads you intend to use. Because of design features, some quivers do a better job of holding fixed blades or mechanical broadheads.
A three- to five-arrow quiver should be adequate for a day in your blind or stand. More than five arrows is just added weight. The chances of getting more than one or two shots from your stand in one day are slim. If you regularly empty your quiver, I want to hunt from your stand.
You will be far more an accurate and proficient, in a shorter amount of time, using a mechanical release aid. A release acts like the trigger of your favorite gun. Learning to properly shoot your release will give you more accuracy, consistency, and confidence. Strive to shoot the tightest groups you can with every practice session.
I have tried a number of releases over the years and found them all to be an improvement over shooting with fingers. I prefer a release that has a single point of contact on the string loop, but releases are very much a personal choice piece of equipment. Try several and pick the one that feels best to you. When testing releases, adjust each one to fit the same in your hand to ensure you’re comparing the feel of the release and not the fit. As to fit, again it’s more a matter of choice. Some shooters prefer a longer release, while others adjust them to be shorter. If you have to reach for the trigger when at full draw, however, you know it’s adjusted too long for your hand.
Don’t be fooled when selecting the right arrow for your bow. Be sure that you select the correctly spined shaft for your bow weight and your draw length. Many arrow companies publish charts showing the proper arrow spine for a specific draw length, draw weight and the type of cam on your bow. If you choose arrows with incorrect spine, you will likely experience inconsistent shooting, especially when shooting broadheads. Underspined arrows can crack or splinter, creating a safety hazard as well.
I recommend all-carbon arrows, especially for new shooters. All-carbon arrows shoot faster than those made of materials like fiberglass and aluminum. Carbon arrows are very durable, stabilize quickly in flight and get great penetration on game. Shoot the best arrow you can afford. Most manufacturers offer several grades of carbon arrows with straightness and weight consistency being two primary factors.
Time to Hunt?
Once you’ve have your bow and accessories, you’re still not quite ready to hunt, but it won’t take long. Practice from many different positions and simulate as many hunting scenarios as possible. The most important thing is to get to know your bow and equipment. Shoot enough that it becomes second nature to you. You’ll face a whole host of new challenges when it comes to actually taking a whitetail with your bow, so make sure shooting your bow is like breathing — you do it naturally, without thought.
One of the best things about archery is you can make it a year-round activity, and it’s something you can do with the whole family. Whether you’re looking to add more challenge to your hunt, or if you’re just looking for a way to spend more time in the woods, archery is a great way to do both.