The numbers prove it. Realtree fans north, south, east and west live and breathe deer hunting. These guys do, too. Hansen’s from Michigan, Brantley’s from Kentucky, and chances are their version of hunting whitetails is a lot like yours.
Is A Speed Bow For You?
When I was young I wanted a Porsche 911 Turbo, because, you know, it'd go 193 mph. Then one day I got to drive one. Its seats were uncomfortable, it bottomed out on speed bumps and potholes and holding its heavy-duty clutch to the floor through an average traffic light proved a real workout. Then, when the light turned green (a police cruiser poised in the opposite lane), it was nearly impossible to pull ahead without peeling rubber (or killing the motor). In short, the car was difficult to drive.
The modern bowhunter thinks he wants the fastest bow made, because, you know, it propels arrows to 355 fps. So they buy a much-hyped speed bow and attempt to shoot it. The aggressive cam system requires pulling through 23 inches of peak weight on a 30-inch draw (making it feel 10 pounds heavier than the marked draw weight) and drops into its 1/4-inch let-off valley like a stone dropped from a cliff. Its 6-inch brace height means it's very unforgiving, scattering arrows without rock-solid follow-through. The bow, especially when paired with the lightest speed arrows, creates a sharp crack on release. In short, the bow is difficult to shoot well.
In the late '80s, when compounds finally surpassed quality recurves in the speed race, there was a real need for speed. A "fast" bow might have an advertised IBO speed of 225 fps. I emphasize IBO because you should understand advertised speeds have no basis in reality – unless you shoot 70 pounds at 30 inches, a 350-grain finished arrow and bowstrings sans nocking reference, peep or silencers. You lose 5 to 7 fps for every 25 grains of arrow weight added (recorded fact); another 15 to 20 fps (guesstimate) adding necessary string accessories. Shooting a hunting-weight arrow, peep (especially one with alignment tubing), string loop/nocking point and silencers errodes IBO speed by 30 to 40 fps (another educated guess).
In the '80s when heavy, "stretchy" string and cable materials, smooth-drawing two-cam systems, 500-grain aluminum arrows wearing 5-inch fletchings and 125-grain points were par, archers resorted to desperate measures like overdraws and paper-thin aluminum shafts to flatten trajectory (blowing up a lot of risers and limbs in the process). Laser rangefinders were still science-fiction fantasy. Speed was the obvious answer to the most common cause of frequent misses – misjudging range.
Speed still dominates our phyches, even as forgiving, smooth-drawing and quiet bows easily surpass the 280 fps mark with hunting-weight arrows. Predictably, some want still more, as if the bow they bagged piles of game with the past five seasons is rendered nonlethal by another model boasting IBO speeds 25 to 30 fps faster.
There is raw speed, the fastest, headline-grabbing compounds; and there's manageable speed, a bow advertised as 330 instead of 355 fps, that's much easier to shoot accurately. The fastest bows are made for experts and 3-D pros (and, of course, learned outdoor writers) with flawless shooting form and steely nerves. For Joe Average, maybe something a couple steps down – a Chevy Camero Coupe instead of a Porsche 911 Turbo – is a bit more realistic as a reliable hunting companion.