Humans have been bowhunting for hundreds of years. Fortunately, modern archery equipment has advanced well beyond the crude recurves and pointy sticks used by our distant ancestors.
Modern hunters favor the compound bow because it is both accurate and highly effective for bringing down game. However, with little measurable difference between modern models, choosing the best compound bow for hunting can be a daunting task.
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Although a relative newcomer to the industry, Obsession Archery has quickly carved a place for itself among the best of the best in the archery world. Not afraid to break away from conformity and forge their own path, Obsession continuously pushes the envelope of compound bow technology.
The Obsession HB33 is our top pick for bowhunting. It is easy to shoot, has a smooth draw, and a solid back wall, making it perfect for high-pressure hunting situations. It also features a custom grip that promotes consistent hand alignment for better downrange accuracy. The Obsession HB33 also produces sizzling fast arrow speeds. What’s not to love?
How to Choose the Best Compound Bow for Your Hunting Needs
Choosing a compound bow for hunting is a highly personal decision. When you hunt with a bow, your body is an integral part of the weapon. Because a compound bow acts like an extension of your body, it is crucial for your bow to properly fit your individual body structure. Here are several key things to consider when shopping for a new compound bow.
Determining Your Dominant Eye
Children usually show a preference for one hand over the other at an early age. Although you may not be aware of it, everyone also has a dominant eye. For most people, their dominant eye matches the same side as their dominant hand. However, there are plenty of exceptions to that rule.
You can perform this simple test to determine which eye is dominant:
- Form a triangle with your thumbs and forefingers.
- Extend your arms, and with both eyes open, center the triangle so you can see a distant object through the opening.
- If the object stays centered in the triangle when you close your left eye, you are right eye dominant.
- If the object seems to shift and is no longer framed by your fingers, your left eye is your dominant eye.
Here is a video that will walk you through the process.
It is possible to shoot a bow “wrong-handed” (shooting right-handed if you’re left eye dominant or vice versa). However, you will save yourself a ton of frustration if you choose a bow based on your dominant eye, rather than your dominant hand. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, you will shoot more consistently with a left-handed bow if you are left eye dominant, even if you write with your right hand.
Measuring Draw Length
Bowhunters come in all shapes and sizes. Some bowhunters have long arms, while others have a shorter draw. A bow’s draw length is measured from the apex of the string to the deepest part of the grip. It is important to match this measurement to your own draw length, both for comfort and shooting consistency. Many compound bows come with an adjustable draw length. However, you want to make sure that your personal draw falls within the bow’s draw range.
The best way to determine your draw length is to draw a special measuring bow. Most archery pro shops will have one available. However, you can find your approximate draw length at home. Here is how:
- Stand with both arms extended out to the side.
- With the help of a friend, measure the distance from the fingertip of one hand to the fingertips on the other.
- Take this number and divide it by 2.5.
- This is your approximate draw length.
If you measure yourself at home, remember that number is just a starting point. You may need to adjust the draw length on your bow to ensure proper shooting form. If you choose to shoot with a release, you will probably need to add up to an inch to your draw length to extra length of the release.
Draw weight is the amount of force it takes to pull a bow back to full draw. Determining the “right” draw weight is an individual venture. Too much draw weight can have a serious effect on accuracy.
For bowhunters, too much draw weight can also hinder the ability to draw smoothly. Since animals pick up movement in the woods, being able to draw your bow easily, with one smooth motion, is essential for hunting success.
However, pulling enough draw weight is just as important. A compound bow with a higher draw weight will generate faster arrow speeds and flatter trajectories. Since bowhunters often have to estimate the distance to their target, a flatter trajectory provides a larger margin of error. Faster arrow speeds also translate to deeper penetration which increases organ and tissue damage, resulting in a quicker, more humane harvest.
Most modern compound bows have adjustable draw weights. If you have trouble pulling enough weight to ethically hunt big game, you can start small and gradually work to increase your strength. Try increasing your draw weight in 1-2 pound increments. This helps prevent injury and allows you to slowly increase your muscle strength without sacrificing shooting form.
Because compound bows use cables and cams, you won’t have to pull all the draw weight through the entire draw. “Let-off” is a drastic reduction in draw weight that usually occurs between 1⁄2 to 2⁄3 of the way through the draw cycle. Compound bows designed for hunting typically have let-offs between 75 and 85 percent.
A high let-off is hugely beneficial to bowhunters who need heavier draw weights to drive arrows through game animals. Let-off allows the hunter to hold just 15 to 25 percent of the peak draw weight until the animal positions itself for an effective shot.
Brace height is the distance between the string and the deepest part of the grip when the bow is at rest. A compound bow with a longer brace height will be more forgiving, minimizing minor mistakes in form and increasing accuracy.
A compound bow with a short brace height will magnify mistakes. However, the short brace height will generate more arrow speed, because the string is in contact with the arrow for longer.
If you are a beginner, you should choose a bow with a longer brace height. More seasoned bowhunters may prefer the faster speeds generated by a bow with a shorter brace height.
Another important measurement is the axle-to-axle length. This is the distance between the cams (those wheel-like pieces at the top and bottom of your bow). A compound bow with a longer axle-to-axle length will generally be more forgiving, especially when taking those tough long-distance shots.
When it comes to target shooting, the longer the bow, the better. However, bowhunters must be prepared to shoot under very different conditions than the average target shooter. A compound bow with a long axle-to-axle length will be difficult to shoot in thick cover or within the tight confines of a ground blind. However, if your favorite hunting spot is an open tree stand, a longer bow may help you shoot more accurately.
Which Bow is Right for You? Our Top Picks:
Obsession Bows is a relative newcomer to the archery industry, but that hasn’t slowed them down. They jumped right into the game, producing high-performance compound bows that rival the big boys of the industry. Perhaps because they are just joining the party, Obsession isn’t afraid to break away from the pack and push the innovation envelope. As a result, the Obsession HB33 is one of the hottest bows you’ll ever put your hands on.
The Obsession HB33 features a hybrid cam design that allows you to make custom alterations at home without a bow press. These unique cams also deliver a silky-smooth draw and produce blistering arrow speeds.
Other great features include top-notch custom strings, a torque-less custom grip, and extra-performance limb pockets that reduce cam lean through the entire length of the draw.
This bow is fast, quiet, accurate, and dead in the hand (meaning it doesn’t vibrate excessively). It’s also surprisingly affordable, and with a rock-solid back wall, it makes a great entry-level compound bow for hunters new to the sport.
Some shooters report some vibration in the cam module after the first 100 arrows. However, the problem can usually be resolved by simply tightening the screws.
The Obsession HB33 measures just over 33 inches from axle to axle. It has a 6.5-inch brace height and weighs 3.8 pounds. The draw weight adjusts to fall between 60 and 70 pounds, and the bow offers an 80 percent let-off.
- Surprisingly affordable.
- Hybrid cam system with inter-rotating modules allow you to easily adjust draw length from 26 to 30 inches without a bow press.
- Smooth draw with a solid back wall.
- Torqueless custom grip ensures proper, consistent hand alignment.
- Generates arrow speeds up to 348 feet per second.
- The cams may vibrate loose after the first 100 arrows.
Bear Archery Perception
Bear is one of the most-recognized names in archery. Founded by the iconic American bowhunter, Fred Bear, Bear Archery is a pioneer in compound bow innovation. The company’s limited edition Perception Compound Bow has some surprising features.
Modeled after the efficient shoot-through structure of a competition bow, the Perception is the first compound bow of this kind designed for hunting. It features a unique, shoot-through riser that sets the arrow directly in the center of the bow. This extraordinary design reduces cam lean and cable torque to smooth out shooting inconsistencies. The result is a major increase in accuracy. Plus, the bow is completely ambidextrous, working perfectly for right- or left-handed shooters.
The Perception is compact, draws as smooth as butter, and the 4.3 pounds feels solid and well-balanced in the hand. The Max Preload Quad limbs allow for an even weight distribution across the shot, and there is only minimal vibration on the release. It also shoots arrows at screaming fast speeds up to 350 feet per second.
This bow is a bit on the longer side, measuring 33 inches from axle to axle. It has a 6-inch brace height and a 75 percent let-off. The Bear Perception allows you to adjust draw length between n 25.5-30 inches. You can choose a draw weight of 45-60 or 55-70 pounds.
- Unique shoot-through design helps eliminate shooting inconsistencies.
- Completely ambidextrous.
- Smooth draw and minimal vibration.
- Generates arrow speeds up to 350 feet per second.
- At 4.3 pounds, this bow may be a bit heavy for remote, backcountry hunting.
PSE Carbon Air 34
Founded in 1971, Precision Shooting Equipment (PSE) is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of archery gear. PSE designed their Carbon Air 34 to be the lightest carbon bow on the market. Weighing in at only 3.2 pounds without accessories, this is hands-down the lightest bow on our list. PSE uses a hand-laid carbon riser with an S-RAC technology core to achieve this feather-like weight. This thing is so slight, you might actually forget it’s in your hands!
Although the weight of the Carbon Air 34 makes hiking to your stand almost effortless, there is a bit of hand shock on the release. This excess vibration in the hand is the trade-off for such a lightweight bow. However, the Carbon Air 34 is well-balanced, has a smooth draw, and holds target like there’s no tomorrow. The shootability of this quality compound bow certainly makes up for the throb you feel in your hand on the release.
The Carbon Air’s HyperDrive (HD) Cam system allows you to adjust the draw length in half-inch increments from 25 to 30.5 inches. The brace height measures 6 ⅛ inches, and this bow has an axle-to-axle length of 32 inches. This lightweight shooter clocks arrow speeds at approximately 340 feet per second and has an 80 percent let-off.
- Weighs on 3.2 pounds.
- Balances well in the hand.
- Smooth draw.
- Excessive vibration on the release.
Established in 1992, Mathews Incorporated has been a major player in the archery industry for more than 25 years. Mathews developed radical Single Cam technology that revolutionized the modern compound bow. The company’s new flagship model, the Vertix, is easily one of the most innovative models Mathews has ever released.
The Vertix features a new Switchweight modular cam system that allows you to easily adjust peak draw length and weight by simply swapping a module. With this innovative system, you can easily customize your draw without negatively affecting the bow’s efficiency.
At over 4.6 pounds, the Vertix will be considered a heavyweight by most bowhunters. While this isn’t a bow you want to hike through miles of mountainous backcountry, the weight actually helps hamper hand shock, vibration, and noise. This is probably the quietest bow in our line-up, and you won’t need any aftermarket dampening accessories.
The feature we are most excited about is the new Engage Grip. This ergonomic handgrip is engineered to ensure consistent hand placement to reduce torque and increase downrange accuracy.
The Mathews Vertix measures 30 inches from axle to axle and has a 6-inch brace height. It has an 85 percent let-off, comes in draw weights of 60, 65, 70, and 75 pounds, and sends arrows zipping downrange at speeds up to 343 feet per second. The draw length adjusts from 26 to 30.5 inches.
- Switchweight modular cam system lets you adjust draw length and weight without diminishing performance.
- Produces almost zero vibration or hand shock.
- Shoots quiet. No need for aftermarket dampening accessories.
- Engage Grip guarantees consistent hand placement for more accurate shooting.
- A bit heavy for hunting remote locations.
Hoyt REDWRX Carbon RX-3
No list of the best compound bows would be complete without at least one model from Hoyt. Although most famous for their recurves (every gold medalist in individual archery at the 2012 Summer Olympics shot a Hoyt recurve), Hoyt also manufactures some of the best compound bows on the market.
Hoyt’s REDWRX Carbon RX-3 is a more compact version of their RX-1. This bow is ultra-quiet, both when you’re shooting and when you’re moving through the woods. It’s compact, lightweight design also makes it perfect for maneuvering in a ground blind or tree stand.
Hoyt is well-known for producing compound bows that are easy and forgiving. The REDWRX Carbon RC-3 is no exception, making this rig perfect for high-pressure, adrenaline-pumping hunting situations.
This bow is a real spitfire and sends arrows flashing at up to 342 feet per second. The REDWRX Carbon RX-3 weighs just 3.9 pounds, measures 30.5 inches from axle to axle, and has a brace height of 6 inches. You can choose from models with adjustable draw weights of 30-40, 40-50, 50-60, 60-70, or 70-80 pounds. You can also choose a version with either a 25-28 or 27-30 inch adjustable draw length. There is a version perfect for archers of every size, shape, and strength.
- Available for even the smallest archers
- Compact design is easy to use in close-quarters hunting situations
- Easy to shoot and very forgiving
- Produces minimal noise and vibration
- Expensive price tag
One of the most affordable rigs on our list, the Infinite Edge Pro from Diamond Archery (a division of Bowtech) is also one of the most versatile. This compact compound bow will fit just about any bowhunter. It has an adjustable draw length (ranging from 13 to 31) inches and a draw weight that ranges from 5 to 70 pounds. It’s hard to find that level of adjustability on a compound bow, and it makes the Infinite Pro Edge perfect for young shooters. This is definitely a bow that will grow with an adolescent archer.
Because it also comes as a complete shooting package (including a three-pin sight, arrow rest, wrist sling, peep sight, stabilizer, and D-loop), the Diamond Archery Infinite Edge Pro is a no-brainer for new shooters, offering everything you need to start shooting right out of the box.
The Infinite Edge Pro offers excellent accuracy and arrow speed for a bow with a dual cam design. It also draws smooth and produces minimal noise and vibration. Perfect for target shooting or hunting, this compound bow weighs only 3.2 pounds. It measures 30.5 inches from axle to axle and has a brace height of 7 inches, making it very forgiving for even the newest archers. With an 80 percent let-off, the Infinite Edge Pro can produce arrow speeds up to 310 feet per second, depending on how your draw weight and length are set.
- Comes as a complete, ready-to-shoot package
- Offers a range of adjustability
- Grows with young shooters
- Forgiving 7-inch brace height
- Affordable price tag
- Serious shooters will want to upgrade accessories
- May need to tighten screws before shooting
Summing It Up
We’ve picked the Obsession HB33 as the best compound bow for hunting. Perfect for hunting every game animal that roams the North American continent, this lightweight rig offers smooth shooting, is whisper quiet and delivers sizzling arrow speeds. Although the PSE Carbon 34 Is lighter, it produces quite a bit of noise and tremor on the release. Meanwhile, the Obsession HB33 sits almost dead in the hand.
One of the best things about the Obsession HB33 is its affordable price tag. Despite the economy price, this thing shoots like a much more expensive bow. In fact, it holds its own when matched against expensive industry big boys like the Mathews Vertix and the Hoyt REDWRX Carbon RX-3.
The Obsession HB33 offers easy adjustability, allowing you to match draw weight and length to meet your individual shooting needs. The 6.5-inch brace height is pretty forgiving, which leads to accurate shooting. And with an 80 percent let-off, you’ll be able to hold full draw until that reluctant buck presents a perfect broadside shot. We can’t imagine a more perfect compound bow for hunting than the Obsession HB33.