It is no secret that the reason I purchased my first bow was because I wanted to extend my hunting season. I bought an old used bow that, by today’s standards, was slow and loud but I knew it could get the job done. After a few weeks of practice, bow season was upon me and I was hunting. About a month into the season the opportunity to bag my first buck presented itself but I missed. I hate to admit it but it happened. I vowed to myself that I was never to going to be this ill prepared again.
The next spring I purchased a new to me hunting bow that was “last year’s model” but I saved about half of the money of new. Even though it was a year old, this bow had all of the features of modern compounds. I started shooting in the spring as I had told myself that I would make sure that if I missed again that it wouldn’t be because of an equipment failure or a lack of preparation.
I started shooting every day that was fit for man or beast to be outdoors and through practice and dedication I was becoming a much improved archer. Some of friends convinced to go to a local 3d tournament. Needless to say, I fell in love with 3d archery. It is still my favorite form of target archery. I started attending every event I could find. My first year resulted in taking the winter off from shooting because of a lack of knowledge on my part. I didn’t know that the next town over had archery club where I could compete in winter league. So, the next year I joined the club and started shooting “indoor” competitions. This resulted in my archery muscles still being in shape for the first spring 3d tournaments of the season and made these competitions much more enjoyable.
Now, if you are following along, I started bowhunting which moved into 3d which moved into winter league and indoor competitions. This had started to become a pretty serious thing at this point and I had decided that I wanted to take advantage of some of the things that “target” equipment can aid in. These things include a bow with a longer axle to axle dimension and longer brace height. These things can make the bow more forgiving. Also I wanted to try the long stabilizers and v-bars that can help you hold your aim point steadier. This graduated into me wanting to have an adjustable target sight with a single aim point instead of the typical 3 or 5 pin sight that most of us use for hunting. The last thing I will mention but I haven’t moved to is a target style arrow rest and I will explain why a little later.
Now the problem is that most of this stuff is extremely expensive. The top of the line target bows that are made by everyone’s favorite bow companies run into the $1000 to $1400 range. Talk about sticker shock. You could drop 600 hundred bucks on sight and scope setup alone and don’t get me started on what those long stabilizers can cost! Don’t get me wrong, there are bargains to be had but I warn you to proceed with caution. We are no longer talking about “what do you really need to kill a deer with?” We are talking about precision equipment that can help us increase our accuracy to the next level, so there is a bit of “you get what you pay for” mentality here.
The first problem you may encounter on this journey to extreme accuracy is convincing your significant other that you need to spend a bunch of money to further drive this “addiction” if you will. My personal excuse was, “Sure, this will be my target bow, but it will also be my backup hunting bow.” This statement is true and the reason that I chose the color that I did. It’s not a camo bow but it isn’t bright red or blue either. At some events, camo isn’t allowed but a bright red bow would be easily spotted by just about any quarry you could be after with archery tackle. So I choose black skullworks camo and ended up with the best of both worlds. What I am trying to say here is that if you tell your wife that this bow purchase will keep you from moping around the house for two weeks because you bent a cam on your hunting bow and that is how long it takes to get new cams from the manufacturer then you better actually be prepared to take this bow hunting at some point!
So, I am going to do mini reviews and walk you through a bit of the decisions I made on putting together a dedicated target bow.
The bow I choose was a PSE Phenom which was first released to the public last winter and was billed as an entry level target bow. The folks at PSE wanted more people to be able to get into target archery at an affordable price and they hit this one out of the park. At a retail price of $650 this bow is nearly half the price of most high end target bows.
Although it is an X-force series bow, PSE left off a few features to keep the cost of building it down. It comes with limb pockets that are a generation older than what is offered on their high end stuff and strings that were made “in house” rather than the custom America’s Best Bowstrings that are included on most of their x-force series bows. Even with a few bells and whistles missing, this bow is a dream to shoot and will greatly improve your accuracy all by itself. It has a 36” axle to axle and a 7” brace height that is no doubt more forgiving than most hunting bows on the market today. It boasts PSE’s ME cams that are an absolute dream to draw while still generating enough speed to keep arrows flying flat on long distance 3d shots. I would also recommend going with a lower peek draw weight than you typically would for a hunting bow. I choose the 60 pound limbs so that it would still have some speed and power but it would be a little easier to shoot than a 70 pound bow.
The sight I choose to go with was a Sword Trident Competition. It comes with the sight, a 6” sight bar extension and the scope housing with a single pin all for the low price of 244.99. This sounds like more than most of us would spend on 5 hunting sights but compared to Sure-lok or Axcel target sights, it is a bargain. I can’t say for sure that this sight is better or worse than these top names but in my opinion it is built like a tank and after a whole summer of hauling it around to 3d tournaments, it hasn’t failed me once.
It also comes with pre-marked yardage tapes and a hard case to tote it around without damaging the sight.
The Stabilizer System:
This one gets a little tricky and can grow into extremely expensive in the blink of an eye. I choose to go with Bernie’s Control Freak stabilizers. I am getting high end carbon rods for much less than the competition. Different lengths prices vary from around $100 to $150 which is also about half of what you pay to get big name stuff like doinker, shrewd, or b-stinger.
I choose to use a 25” bar on the front and a single 12” bar on the back. We can debate about whether a single v-bar or a dual v-bar is better but my colleague Jack Gibson could debate this with you much better than I can. I choose the 25 and a single 12 mostly because the shorter of the long stabilizers tend to cost less.
Now comes the issue of adding weight to the ends of these rods and this can be expensive as well. A pack of 3 single 1 ounce weights will run you about $20. The problem I had is that I had never adjusted weight on my bow in this manner before and therefore I didn’t know how many weights to purchase. In this instance I choose to go with B-Stinger weights because I can readily get more at my local pro shop but I can’t find other brands.
This is one instance where I would suggest you don’t go cheap. Shoot as many releases as you can and purchase the best quality you can find. My suggestion is that it should at least have an adjustable trigger or be of the back-tension style.
After several attempts at finding a quality release, I choose the Hot Shot Manufacturing Tempest 3 finger. This is the nicest thumb trigger release I have ever used. It is super smooth on the trigger pull and extremely comfortable in the hand. The only thing I would change about this release is that I wish I could set the trigger at a little heavier pull and that when this release fires, it makes kind of a loud noise. (I use this for hunting too)
The problem for most people looking at this release is sticker shock. At nearly $200 bucks it can be a hard pill to swallow but to me, this is the only thing that connects my hand to the bow string and therefore controls when and where my arrow goes. When it comes to accuracy, this is no place to skimp.
I am shooting the Ripcord Code Red drop away rest on all of my bows and for good reason. It is my opinion that this is one of the top of the line hunting rests on the market and it is reasonably priced at around $100.
The reason that I use this on my target bow and not a lizard tongue style target rest is because, as stated earlier, this is my backup hunting bow and I prefer a full containment drop away rest for hunting. In my opinion, the drop away rest is the hardest thing to move from bow to bow so I have one on both of my bows. If I were to take this bow hunting, I would only have to switch sights and stabilizers to make the transition to hunting setup.
The goal of this post is to show you that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a quality target setup. I fully understand that if you total up all of things that I have listed here that it still sounds like a lot of money. I also know that there is even cheaper equipment available even for the target archer but I don’t like to purchase junk. I work hard to afford my archery habit and I don’t like having to replace things that don’t last or don’t work. What I want you to understand is that I have been using this stuff for about a year and I can vouch for all of it. I am shooting the best scores I ever have and I fully believe these things are of the highest quality. If you are thinking about upgrading some gear or moving from hunting equipment to target equipment, then I fully recommend all of these products.
As always, thanks for reading. Get out and shoot, take a kid, be safe and good hunting!
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