Piecing Together The Perfect Treestand Bow

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arrow choices
When it comes to arrow choices consider your max shot range first. Then choose a shaft with a reputation of having a consistent spine. Tolerances in straightness and overall weight are important, but if your arrows carry variances in spine (flex of the arrow) they won’t group very well. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

When one bowhunter first began his journey in this wonderful sport, he had nothing more than the bow his father gave me and a half-dozen or so aluminum arrows. Given his immaturity and an overwhelming excitement with, what his uncle described as the “mystical flight of the arrow”, he gave little thought to the basic accessories that adorned this intriguing new weapon; or, what sort of impact they might have on his abilities as a bowhunter. Consequently, he found success in the field very hard to attain. Sure, his hunting methods back then were laughable at best. But, the few times when he did manage to find himself at full draw with a “real-life” whitetail underneath his tree stand, things didn’t work out quite like he planned.

And, while this deer hunter was eager to improve my prowess as a woodsman and a bowhunter, he knew that it meant little if he couldn’t close the deal once a shot opportunity presented itself. So, he began to pay very close attention to his bow setup. Unfortunately, things didn’t get any better. He still had difficulty hitting what he aimed at. You see, even though he was using all of the latest and greatest bowhunting gear, he soon realized that when it comes to archery equipment---one size does not fit all. What is meant by this, is in order to get the most out of your setup, you have to build it around yourself, utilizing archery equipment that best fits your style of hunting. In this bowhunter's initial stages of this game, he did neither. The results speak for themselves.

Now, if you’re anything like this novice bowhunter, your style of deer hunting means shots on whitetails will be taken from an elevated position. Given the unique and sometimes problematic nature of tagging whitetails from a treestand, it is imperative that the right choices be made when it comes to not only your bow, but the accessories attached to it. Early on, this bowhunter made poor decisions; making an already tough task even tougher.

The goal with this piece is to help you avoid a similar situation. By passing along what other bowhunters have learned about treestand bow rigs, hopefully you can shorten your own learning curve; ultimately piecing together your perfect set-up before your next autumn adventure high above terra firma.

compound bows
If speed is your thing, then you’re in luck. Today’s batch of speed bows are changing the way we once looked at these set-ups. With draw-cycles and cams that seem to get smoother each year and brace heights that won’t slap your wrist, manageable hunting speed is a real possibility. Pictured left to right: Mathews McPherson Monster, Hoyt Alphamax, PSE X-Force Dream Season.

The Bow

Let’s start the process of piecing together the perfect treestand rig with the most important item of all----the bow. After all, without a good foundation, nothing else really matters. Today, the current craze is speed, and contrary to what many people will tell you, speed is not a bad thing. The real problem occurs when accuracy and shooting comfort are sacrificed in the quest for increased arrow velocity.

Take this for example. A few seasons back a bowhunter opted for a speed bow with a short brace height and a somewhat assertive draw cycle. He practiced the entire summer without issue and quickly fell in love with the setup. Then one cold, crisp autumn morning, after sitting quietly in his tree stand for some length of time, he decided to draw back his bow to loosen his muscles; something he routinely does. Boy was he shocked when he struggled somewhat to reach full draw! To his cold, lethargic muscles, the bow suddenly felt like it was set at 80lbs instead of his normal 70lb draw. In essence, he had sacrificed drawing comfort for a few extra fps; an unwise decision when you consider the importance of reaching full-draw undetected.

Since most treestand shots occur somewhere between 20 & 30 yards, most often less, speed isn’t as critical as it would be, say, in a western backdrop where shots can range well past 40 yds. Therefore, don’t get completely hung up on the IBO speed rating when choosing a bow for treestand hunting; especially at the cost of a comfortable draw cycle.

Additional characteristics that some bowhunters look for in a treestand bow are axle to axle length and physical weight. Each year, bows seem to get shorter and lighter. While some won’t argue that there are definite advantages to both characteristics, it largely depends on where and how you hunt. For the treestand hunter, short and light can sometimes become a liability rather than an asset.

When it comes to axle to axle length, compare a ruler and a yardstick. Holding each out in front of you, as if they were your bow, the longer yardstick would take more effort in order to produce lateral torque when compared to the shorter ruler. In other words, the ruler will be affected much easier by hand movement simply because it is shorter.

female hunter
When choosing a treestand bow for a female hunter you should opt for smooth and forgiving characteristics. Axle to axle length can be undersized as well due to the fact that most women have shorter draw-lengths than men. Also, a smooth cam system means they can conceivably shoot a heavier draw weight; making their set-up even more deadly. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

Now, obviously, an extremely long bow will be less prone to torque but may not be the best choice for the treestand hunter. Maneuvering through and around thickets while walking to your stand, pulling your bow up to your tree stand through a tangle of laurel and branches, and swinging around the tree you’re perched in for that perfect shot, all become problematic procedures when a lengthy bow meets tight quarters. Therefore, something much shorter would be a better choice.

Some bowhunters prefer an axle to axle length somewhere in the range of 32-33 inches. This measurement seems to fit some bowhunters draw length best, while providing the perfect balance between maneuverability and torque resistance. Any shorter and the bow starts to feel more like the “ruler” and less like the “yardstick”. When test shooting various models consider this example and go with the most stable bow you can find.

Once a decision has been made in overall length, attention should be given to the physical weight of the bow as well. Most popular models today weigh in around 4lbs; some much lighter. Some bowhunters like a fairly heavy rig. Here’s why. Again, think about the ruler and the yardstick. What if we replaced the ruler with a lead pipe cut the same length as the yardstick? Which would be harder to torque if the only difference between the two was weight? A heavier bow will obviously take more effort to move than a feathery light setup; essentially combating the sometimes awkward and unbalanced positions that accompany treestand bowshots.

If you are covering miles and miles of hunting ground over the course of a day is your thing, then a light setup would be a definite advantage. However, when treestand hunting, how far are you actually walking in order to get to your tree stand? Even in the rugged mountain terrain that some hunt, you still might opt for a heavy rig. The added accuracy and stability a heavy bow provides is well worth the “effort” of hauling a couple of extra pounds to some bowhunter's tree stand.

Bow Sights

Thumb through your favorite archery catalog and you will quickly realize that bow sights are no longer the crude, lifeless devices they once were. Today’s bow sights have everything a bowhunter could imagine...well, almost. With features such as stainless steel pins, fiber optics with adjustable brightness, 3rd axis leveling, dovetail extensions, Pinwheel Sight Systems, magnesium-alloy construction, and Holographic LED aiming dots, just to name a few, making the right choice can be harder than scoring tickets to the Bristol night race in August. However, in the grand scheme of things, do you really need all of that technology in a treestand sight? The answer is for the most part...no.

When it comes to a treestand bow sight all that really matters is ruggedness, simplicity and accuracy. Find a bow sight that possesses all three and you can’t go wrong. For close range shooting, that is all that you really need. Remember, sometimes clever actually means complex. And the more complex something is, the higher the risk that something can go wrong. When making your choice, do your best to pick a bow sight with the least amount of “risk factors”.

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