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Better Bows

New laminated bows utilize better materials and more efficient designs to improve performance.

By Gibbs Milliken

Most modern wooden bows are of two types, both built from many laminated layers of thin materials heat-bonded with high-quality epoxy glues. The first style is often called by the generic name “longbow.” These use flat limbs deflexing backward from the handle riser and gradually curving forward or reflexing to form a graceful arc. Simple in form, they feature beautiful exotic woods made to the close tolerances that meet the criteria expected from a fine instrument. The most advanced reflex/deflex designs can send arrows as fast as some recurves of similar draw weights.

A second design is the recurve bow with radical forward curving limb-ends to shorten the overall length and, in some cases, add extra speed to the arrow. Both are popular styles with good shooting characteristics such as smooth, even pulls, and no finger pinch or sudden stacking of poundage in the last few inches of the draw. The better models have low hand-shock, or jump, after the arrow is released. This smoothness is due to years of research and forward placement of the handle riser. The reflex bow is somewhat more sensitive to bow alignment, making it slightly more difficult to maintain consistent accuracy.

The Bear Super Kodiak Supreme Recurve is an updated 60-inch classic Kodiak. The bow has sturdy full-working limbs and reinforced knocks to accept fast-flight strings. Each unit is hand built using rosewood and zebra wood riser that blends into improved glass laminates showing the grain of the materials through the clear matte finish. In our tests, it performed well with comfortable pistol grip and consistently good shooting characteristics. ($799.99, Super Kodiak Supreme Recurve, Fred Bear Archery, 800-694-9494, www.beararcheryproducts.com)

Another excellent recurve is the Sarrels Bobbcatt II, custom-made by Bob Sarrels of Manchaca. With over a decade of experience, this master designer/craftsman is a one-man operation building about 100 bows per year. The Bobbcatt II design has a long handle riser that tapers gradually into the limbs, and working recurve is carefully fine-tuned to produce an even draw with virtually no stacking or hand-shock. It is light to carry, easy to shoot and sends arrows at very high speeds with deep penetrations. All bow models can be ordered with a two-piece internal takedown feature at an additional cost. ($550, Bobbcatt II Recurve, for a take-down connection, add $200, Sarrels Archery, 512-940-3098, www.sarrelsarchery.com)

The Martin Vision is a 66-inch high-quality reflex/deflex longbow from a company with over 50 years experience. The Vision is made of distinctive African ovangkol and bubinga woods with light maple accents in the form-fitting grip. The limbs are red elm laminations overlaid by clear fiberglass. ($579.99, Martin Archery, (509) 529-2554, www.martinarchery.com)

After many variations and experiments with the latest materials and shapes, the new Sarrels Superstition Longbow takes its place as one of the finest custom reflex/deflex bows we have tested to date. It is an outstanding 62-inch combination of styling, materials and handling characteristics. Available in a wide range of select woods like Tonkin bamboo, bocote and zebra, each bow is distinct in grain pattern, color and shooting feel. All Sarrels bows have cutout centered arrow shelves padded for silent shooting and arrow whip reduction. This open window aids in rapid target acquisition and their non-reflective finishes over bold wood patterns act as natural camouflage. ($475, Sarrels Archery)

The basics of instinctive bow shooting can be explained in one session. It involves learning to concentrate intensely on the target center while drawing the arrow and bowstring with three fingers to a consistent anchor-point at the corner of the mouth while pre-visualizing the shot in a “Zen-like” manner as it flies and strikes the mark prior to release. With practice, this becomes fluid and automatic to the point of becoming an instinctive approach eliminating the need for mechanical sighting devices.

Traditional archers find hunting the hard way with a primitive weapon a real challenge. It requires skill, patience and knowledge of wildlife to have your quarry within 20 yards or less for a clean shot and still follow all the rules of a fair chase.

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