Compound or recurve? What's the best bow for bowfishing?
With turkey seasons in the rearview, I've began dusting off bowfishing rigs. We own four setups dedicated specifically to bowfishing: a 40-pound shorty which wifey uses while wading (she's short and the bottom limb of longer bows sometimes contacts water while up to her armpits in mud); a longer 45-pound bow she shoots from our boat; and two 50-pound outfits, one each in right- and left-hand. I'm completely ambidextrous, but prefer bowfishing right-handed because I've shot that way since age 8 (although I bowhunt big game with recurves left handed . . . and right-handed with compounds). About 40 to 50 pounds really is all I find necessary for Idaho carp, though I shot scads of them as a kid with a 30-pound longbow.
Every one of our bowfishing rigs is a recurve. The last time I used a compound seriously for carp -- 2001 -- was the summer prior to my Florida alligator hunt with Lewis Clanton, shooting an 85-pound finger bow with tritium pin and slotted (for break-away buoy) AMS Retriever Reel. I wanted to make sure I arrived completely prepared for that much-anticipated hunt. By summer's end I was calling and hitting carp in the eye(s) 50 percent of the time. That September I made a very long shot on a 12-foot, 6 and 1/2-inch, 600-pound gator -- a trophy of a lifetime.
I have to admit, a modern compound-based bowfishing rig can be hellishly deadly.
That said, garden-variety bowfishing is typically a close-range deal (your arrow is attached to a limited supply of line, after all) with visibility often limited by water turbidity and featuring targets that, more often than not, are moving or outright fleeing (making shoot-from-the-hip shots common). On any given day on the water you'll draw and let down 256 times (exactly) without actually shooting. You detect a glint or swirl of mud or fanning fin, but by the time your brain receives the order and you tug to anchor, that apparition has dissolved or skedaddled. Dealing with the lumpy-bumpy let-off of a modern compound bow becomes exhausting. And it's not very conducive to moving shots. But that's just me.
Many archers remain steadfastly dedicated to compounds for bowfishing. Many of them even use sights and release aids -- which I just can't imagine. There would be a definite advantage in clear, deep water, sneaking up on stationary targets sunning on the surface and requiring longer-than-average shots, but in reality these are relatively rare instances, and an accomplished instinctive shooter will still pull these shots off most of the time.
Back in the late 1970s, when I started bowfishing, we used compounds all the time. Those, however, were the days of smooth-drawing, squishy-walled round wheels and 30 to 50 percent let-off. There are now several modern compounds designed specifically for bowfishing owning smooth-drawing, no-draw-stop cam systems, like models from Alpine, AMS and InnerLoc, as examples. Now if they would just make them long enough for comfortable finger shooting. . .
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