Taking the time to research and carefully select the components that you will be using on your bow will make your bow shoot better and be better suited to whatever type of hunting it is that you do. In part two of this two-part buyer’s guide, I am going to break down every component that you will need to put together your new bow, as well as things to consider in the bow itself so that you can make better decisions at the pro shop and be more satisfied with the result.
How to choose an arrow rest
Generally, there are two main types of arrow rests used for hunting: fixed position rests and drop-away rests.
Fixed position rests such as whisker biscuits, and hostage rests are exactly as they sound. They are rests that do not move once you bolt them onto your bow and set them up. They are straightforward and very effective.
The drawback of a fixed position rest is that as your vanes pass through the rest, they make contact with some part of the rest and slow your arrow down to an extent. They can also impact accuracy, but I have known some incredible bowhunters who use these rests exclusively due to their simplicity and have never had tangible issues with accuracy.
Whisker biscuits, in particular, are highly effective and durable and have been proven for decades to be a great budget choice for a hunting bow.
Drop-away rests are arrow rests that hold an arrow in place until the bow is fired, at which point the arm holding the arrow will drop out of the way extremely quickly so that the arrow can leave the bow without having to contact anything.
These rests are generally the preferred arrow rest in modern bowhunting but are more expensive. In the drop away arrow rest category, there are two types: cable-driven drop-away rests and limb-driven drop-away rests.
Cable-driven rests work by fixing a small length of cord to the down cable on your bow. As you draw your bow, the downward movement of the cable draws the arrow rest up along with your arrow. When you fire your bow, the upward movement of that cable triggers the arm of the arrow rest to move out of the way instantly.
Limb-driven rests work in the same way, but it is the movement of the limb (either top or bottom) that will move your arrow rest in and out of position when shooting. Limb-driven rests are considered superior to cable driven rests, for the fact that the limb comes back to its resting position slower than the cables do.
What this means is that the arm on a limb driven rest will stay in place roughly 30% longer than the arm on a cable driven rest.
This translates to your arrow having more speed by the time the arrow rest arm drops out of the way, and therefore more stability once it leaves the bow.
In my experience, there is no question that limb driven rests are the best option if your budget allows it. It is also worth noting that if there is an issue in the field where your rest needs to be reset, it is significantly easier to reset a limb-driven rest than a cable driven rest.
How to choose a bow sight
Choosing a bow sight may be the second most overwhelming decision next to picking out your bow. There are just so many options. I am going to make the decision process as simple as possible for you.
First, you need to decide between a fixed pin or a moveable pin sight. Fixed pin sights will have anywhere from 3-7 pins that you will sight in individually, and they will never move again.
Moveable pin sights require that you adjust the sight before every shot you take. If you range a buck at 44 yards, you will have to take the time to adjust your sight to exactly 44 yards. This is the exact reason many people choose to shoot moveable sights and the reason many people choose not to.
A moveable sight allows you the accuracy of essentially having a pin at every range but requires valuable time that you often don’t have to make that adjustment. For this reason, I shoot a fixed 7-pin sight.
The next variable to consider is the length of your sight. The longer a bow sight is, the farther away it will be from your riser. The farther away it is from your riser, the larger the gap between your pins will be, and the more likely it is that your sight gets bumped into a tree or a rock while hunting.
If you want to shoot a fixed 7-pin sight, you need to have a sight that sits very close to the riser. A long sight will not have the room to sight in 7 pins. In my opinion, I see no benefit to shooting long sights that stick way out in front of your bow, and there is another reason for this, and it has to do with stabilizers.
If chosen correctly, your bow sight and stabilizer will work together to protect your bow.
If you choose a short-frame bow sight and a stabilizer that is long enough to protect your bow sight when you set it on the ground, you are doing yourself a world of favors.
Let me explain.
I always choose a stabilizer that is long enough that when I set my bow on the ground and up against my leg or a tree, the top limb pocket and the stabilizer will be able to contact the ground without my sight touching the ground. This is extremely useful in the field. Anytime I stop to glass or check my maps, I will rest my bow on the ground and against my leg like this, and my sight remains far away from the ground so that I know it will never get bumped or moved.
Here you can see that I can rest my bow on its limb pocket, stabilizer, and against my leg so that I can glass. It is such a simple technique that I find myself doing dozens of times a day on a hunt. Notice that if I had a long bow sight, my sight would be hitting the ground. My short bow sight is very protected in this setup, nestled close to the riser.
The other things that you will want to consider in a stabilizer are weight and material.
The most comfortable thing for me is to have a carbon rod, with all the weight out front. A stabilizer with a carbon rod allows the weights to be as far away from the bow as possible, which is the key feature in how a stabilizer works.
If you look at archery in the Olympics, they all use 48” stabilizers because they work the best, but in hunting, that is not practical. I find the 8”-10” range to be very practical for moving through the bush, and that length is ideal for protecting my bow sight, as I described earlier.
As for weight, you need to play around with it and find what is comfortable. Most stabilizers will come with a degree of weight adjustment. Shoot a day with it at its full weight, and then take half of the weight off tomorrow when you shoot. You will quickly find what works best for you. I tend to shoot as much weight as my stabilizer comes with.
How to choose a release
In general, there are two types of releases.
Handheld releases are released using your thumb (in most cases), and wrist strap releases attach to your wrist like a miniature belt and are activated using your index finger.
Using a handheld release (also called a thumb release) can be very good for hunters who spend most of their time in tree stands or blinds. The design of the release allows you to hang the release from your D-loop, and when the moment comes that you need to shoot, everything is already in place, and you don’t have to sit there with an annoying wrist strap on.
Wrist strap releases can be annoying, but you get used to them. The beauty of a wrist strap release is that once you put it on in the morning, you cannot lose it; to me, that is worth a lot. If you lose your release in the field, you may as well head home.
Both releases can be shot with remarkable accuracy so that the decision will come down to your hunting type and personal preferences. If you choose a wrist strap release, I caution you not to get one with Velcro on it. The Velcro is very loud and does not allow you to put it in the same position each time as you can with a belt-style wrist strap release.
Getting a new bow and all the required components is overwhelming.
Something as simple as a stabilizer may not seem like it requires much thought, but every decision you make in the archery shop can impact how a hunt ends up. Every detail is worth crucial analysis, whether in your training, your form, your hunting setup, or your bow’s components!
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