My wife once suggested that, for all the care and attention I give to my archery equipment, itâ€™s a wonder I donâ€™t sleep with my bow.
Point taken, honey. But unless youâ€™re a serious bowhunter, itâ€™s difficult to understand just how â€śpersonalâ€ť the relationship between the hunter and his or her bow can be. So when itâ€™s time to pick out the next addition to your archery arsenal, it pays dividends to spend some time on the range with the likely candidates.
To be certain, in the pages of North American Whitetail alone, youâ€™re exposed to any number of advertisements exhorting a given manufacturerâ€™s latest bow as â€śrevolutionary,â€ť â€ślegendary,â€ť â€śextreme,â€ť â€śdeadlyâ€ť and, yes, even â€śepic.â€ť But unless the bow in question feels comfortable in the palm of your hand, draws without the aid of a power winch and shoots without rattling your wisdom teeth loose, these fancy adjectives are fairly worthless. When your hand is on your wallet, what really matters is how you feel about the bow, and itâ€™s virtually impossible to figure that out without first shooting several of them.
After all, you wouldnâ€™t buy a new pickup without taking it for a spin, and you probably wouldnâ€™t pay for a new pair of boots without sticking your foot in one first. Why would you buy a bow without picking it up, drawing it and slinging a few arrows?
For that reason alone, North American Whitetail Editor in Chief Gordon Whittington and I did just that with eight of the latest bows to hit the hunting market. The results are far from scientific evidence of which bow performs the best. In fact, what we hoped to accomplish was just the opposite. Rather than subject our bows to scientific conditions, measuring arrow speeds and decibel levels, we simply picked up these eight bows, examined them and shot them, just like we would have done if weâ€™d walked into a bow shop looking for next seasonâ€™s killing machine.
To level the playing field, we took each of the bows to my local bow shopâ€”The Huntinâ€™ Shack in Cartersville, Ga.â€”and asked owner P.J. Johnson to set up each of the bows to the same specifications.
Each of the bows was set with a 26.5-inch draw length and a 57-pound draw weight, and each was fitted with a nock loop and an Apache Carbon arrow rest from New Archery Products. We did not outfit the bows with sights, stabilizers or wrist slings, and we used a Scott Archery release to draw and shoot each bow.
Whittington and I shot each of the eight bows in random order in a series of â€śevaluations.â€ť First, we focused on the overall â€ścomfortâ€ť level of the bow, paying particular attention to the grip, the balance and the weight of the bow. Second, we focused on the draw cycle of the bow. And third, we scrutinized each bowâ€™s performance upon and after the shot, looking for perceptible levels of hand-shock, vibration, noise and general stability. We used Carbon Express Maxima Hunter KV 350 arrows with 100-grain field tips and Blazer vanes.
The results are, essentially, our first impressions of eight solid compound new bows. Thatâ€™s it.
While our work with North American Whitetail and North American Whitetail TV affords us the opportunity to handle a wide array of archery equipment and spend quite a bit of time in the woods with bows in hand, Gordon and I have distinct tastes in bows, and itâ€™s likely that our preferences will be different from yours. For that reason, weâ€™re hopeful that this review will provide you with some solid information on eight new hunting rigs, but we encourage you to visit a few local bow shops, shoot each of these bows, and find out for yourself which one feels right for you.
GW: Bear has been moving toward â€śedgierâ€ť bows, and this oneâ€™s jagged angles all but scream performance. As with most other speedsters, itâ€™s not the smoothest to draw, and Iâ€™m not a big fan of the short brace height. But the Motive 6 feels solid, sits in the hand nicely and spits out arrows in a hurry. While itâ€™s a bit longer and heavier than some other new bows, many shooters wonâ€™t mind those differences.
GW: Sometimes performance in a hunting bow comes at the expense of smoothness, but not with this bow. While the 2013 Experience isnâ€™t jumpy at all, arrows still fly off it in a hurry. The thin grip is nice, and despite the bowâ€™s relatively high mass weight, it balances well in hand.
GW: When you grab the Spyder 30 itâ€™s light but still feels super solid, as if each part really were designed to be part of the whole. (Thatâ€™s not something you can say about every other bow out there.) I found the Spyder solid when I shot it, too; hand shock and noise were quite subdued. The bow is lighter than some others we shot, but it still settles well in the hand. Overall, itâ€™s a strong performer that lives up to the Hoyt name.
GW: Mathews hasnâ€™t been a huge player in the split-limb arena, but itâ€™s trending that way. The Chill felt great in my hand, being less top-heavy and weight-forward than some others in the category. And despite its speed, it has a quite manageable draw cycle. From the balance and grip to the overall attention to detail, I found this bow a fine compromise of speed and shootability.
GW: If you were blindfolded when you picked up and drew this bow, Iâ€™m not sure you could tell it was priced far below others in the group. And when you released the arrowâ€”hopefully after having the blindfold removedâ€”I think that impression would stay with you. The Ballisticâ€™s name might suggest a harsh speed bow, but any harshness is well under control, letting the performance shine through without distraction. Overall, itâ€™s just a nice hunting bow.
GW: You never know what youâ€™ll get when you pick up a totally new bow. But any reluctance I felt about the Sniper LT quickly vanished when I picked it up, drew it and turned the arrow loose. Itâ€™s a nice bow. The grip is a bit chunky by todayâ€™s standards (which are far different from even five years ago), but itâ€™s still comfortable in hand. The balance is decent, and the bow doesnâ€™t try to escape upon release of the string. All in all, the Sniper LT will hang with many having longer pedigrees.
GW: The Defy shows off a number of features that make Prime a player in todayâ€™s hunting bow arena. By todayâ€™s standards this is no featherweight bow, but many shooters like a little extra heft. Most other bows we shot have split limbs and single cams, but Prime goes the other way. If youâ€™re looking for a bow that shoots well but doesnâ€™t look quite like anything else out there, the Defy should be on your list to check out.
GW: PSE has always been known for being able to coax speed out of an arrow. Welcome to the bow that takes this approach to even higher numbers on the chronograph. The DNA doesnâ€™t ignore creature comforts, as the grip and overall balance are nice. That said, itâ€™s still a speed bow, and with that come some trade-offs. If youâ€™ve always been a PSE fan, I think youâ€™ll find this model to be a continuation of the companyâ€™s long legacy.