Hunting bows keep changing, and for the better. Here's a look at some of this year's top offerings for the deer woods.
By Bill Winke
Gone are the days when a bow manufacturer could get by hawking what were almost the same bows for several straight years without losing market share. Product development is now on fast-forward all year long.
That might dictate a desperate existence for bow company executives, but for us consumers it means a lot of excitement and innovation. Here's what I mean:
Matt McPherson says the new Outback is his sweetest-shooting bow ever. That's lofty praise from a man known for his bow-building savvy. But I've shot the Outback, and he's right.
Parallel limbs, a smooth cam with a comfortable valley and a low-vibration design make the Outback a great-feeling bow. It produces very little recoil -- nearly zero hand shock -- and is very quiet. Features include an in-line grip, smooth-drawing Straight-line HP single-cam, ball bearings in the cam and idler, Mathews's Roller Guard, String Suppressors, the Harmonic Damping System in the riser, Zebra ZS Twist bowstring, and the V-Lock limb cups introduced in 2003. The Outback is 31 1/2 inches long and produces an IBO speed rating of 308 fps with a 7 5/8-inch brace height. The bow weighs 4.3 pounds.
The Ovation looks to replace the Conquest 3 as the company's No. 1 hair-splitter. At 40 inches, it is an inch shorter. The cam and brace height are the main differences between the Ovation and the Conquest 3. The Ovation is powered by the StraightLine HP Cam, while the original MaxCam drives the Conquest 3. The new cam is a bit smoother and promises perfectly level nock travel.
The Ovation's brace height is 8 inches, compared to 7 inches for the Conquest 3, so you can expect this new model to be even a bit more forgiving. The Ovation produces an IBO speed of 300 fps and comes in 80, 65 or 60 percent letoff.
The Classic has the same lines as the UltraLight, the first lightweight bow Mathews built a decade ago. The Classic features a machined riser (rather than the Ultra-Light's magnesium riser) with Harmonic Damping and the Max-Cam. This bow is 36 inches long, weighs 3.6 pounds, has a brace height of 7 inches, and has an IBO rating of 310 fps.
The Mustang produces accurate arrow flight for archers with draw lengths from 19 to 26 inches. This makes it the perfect bow for upgrading women and kids, as well as for smaller-framed men. The bow produces an IBO speed of 280 fps at 50 pounds and 26 inches of draw. which is very fast. It accomplishes this with a 5 3/4-inch brace height and the new Mustang Performance Cam. The bow is 31 inches long and weighs 3.2 pounds.
I've found Alpine bows to be among the quietest. I think this is due to the fact Alpine bows don't have have an actual limb pocket from which noise can resonate.
The SVX is an excellent first-upgrade bow with plenty of draw-length adjustability to grow with a young archer. The draw-length module in the Fast Trac single-cam rotates, giving you 5 inches of adjustment.
The SVX features the Interloc limb-attachment system Alpine introduced last year. After making draw-length adjustments, you lock the split limbs into place with a pair of Allen head screws. The bow is 34 inches long, has a 7 1/2-inch brace height, weighs 3.4 pounds and is rated at 300 fps (IBO).
The RVX comes with the same features as the SVX but has a 6 1/2-inch brace height and the Twin Force Cam, giving it a bit more speed (305 fps). The One Cam version offers higher letoff (80 percent, versus 65 percent for the two-cam system), but is slower. Both versions use ball bearings for reduced friction. The RVX weighs just 3.8 pounds.
Browning Mirage 1.5
The F5 Tornado's solid fiberglass composite limbs are nearly parallel, dramatically reducing recoil. While this might be Browning's value bow, it's surprisingly feature-rich (machined riser, Ignitor 6 single-cam with six inches of draw adjustment and a compact 33-inch length).
This bow has a high 8 1/4-inch brace height for amazing forgiveness. As a result, arrow speed is moderately low (290 fps IBO rating).
The Mirage ZX utilizes the new Tre-Idler system, which involves three parallel idler wheels to balance limb-tip forces. The center idler turns with the string, as does a conventional single-cam idler, while the two outer idler wheels turn in the opposite direction with exactly the same force. This also allows for the use of a split harness on the bottom limb to balance torque on it.
The Mirage ZX is the only bow in the Browning line to carry this technology. With a 7 1/4-inch brace height, this 33-inch bow produces an IBO rating of 285 fps.
Another Browning value bow available in a package is the Rage One. It's a perfect entry-level bow for an adult and a great first upgrade for a youth archer. The Rage One features the Ignitor 6 ED single-cam. It offers six inches of draw-length adjustability using modules, giving the Rage One great adaptability. IBO rating is 282 fps, with a very forgiving 8 1/2-inch brace height. The bow is 36 1/2 inches long.
s Mirage 1.5 has the new Cyber 1.5 Hybrid Cam System. It permits easy control of vertical nock travel when using cams with modular draw-length adjustments. The Cyber 1.5 has Browning's inner cam system and can be adjusted in 1/2-inch increments from 27 to 30 inches of draw length. The bow is 32 1/2 inches long and has a 7 1/4-inch brace height. IBO speed rating is 310 fps.
Three Archery Research bows -- the 31, 34 and 37 -- now offer the option of a hybrid cam system. They're available with either the original Ram Cam single-cam or the new Ram & 1/2 hybrid cam. The hybrid cam produces level nock travel over a wide range of draw lengths.
The AR Ram & 1/2 bows have identical specs to AR bows with the Ram Cam single-cam. The AR 31 Ram & 1/2 has a brace height of 8 1/2 inches and an IBO speed of 300 fps; the 34 has a brace height of 8 inches and 309 fps; and the 37 has a brace height of 7 inches and 312 fps.
The Mach 12 continues the PSE Mach tradition of uncompromising design. Pete Shepley designed the bow to be as good as he can make one -- and he's been at this for 30 years.
The Mach 12's IBO rating of 318 fps makes it PSE's fastest bow. The Centerfire single-cam is aggressive and has a draw-stop module that lets you adjust letoff from 65 to 80 percent. The bow is 38 inches long and has a 6 3/8-inch brace height.
Quiet, comfortable in hand and fast: All are hallmarks of the new Scorpion. It has short parallel limbs for a recoil-free shot, and the Harmonic Disruptors dampen noise. The new smooth NRG Cam -- a modular single-cam -- powers the Scorpion to an IBO speed of 305 fps. This 33-inch bow has an 8-inch brace height.
PSE is known for producing affordable quality bows, and the new Typhoon is destined to be an industry value leader. It has all of the top features (parallel limb design, machined riser, single-cam, forgiving brace height, adequate speed, short length) bowhunters seek, but at a moderate price. The bow is 33 inches long, has a 7 3/4-inch brace height and features an IBO rating of 298 fps. The Lightning 3 single-cam has 80 percent letoff (adjustable to 65 percent).
The Venom is a mid-priced bow slightly faster than the Scorpion. Its machined riser is film-dipped in Mossy Oak Obsession, and it has PSE's new NRG single-cam. This smooth bow has a valley long enough for comfort, is highly adjustable for draw length and letoff and feels great in the hand. It's 35 inches long, weighs 3.8 pounds, with a 7 3/4-inch brace height (very forgiving), and an IBO speed rating of 305 fps. That's a great combination of features.