The Western Bow

Justin Medina is sponsored by  BowTech Archery, AZ Rim Country, Goat Tuff Products

The echo of a bugling elk on a crisp early morning, a mule deer cresting over that ridge and an antelope sprinting across the open plains.  What do these all have in common?  They are all found in the west and before you head out on your western hunting experience, you want to be prepared for that trophy shot.

Being a full time guide and outfitter I have guided numerous clients that were unsuccessful, due to wrong equipment and just total unpreparedness.  The most common mistake I see is in their bow setup, so what is the perfect western bow?

Let’s start off with the bow, remember most of the time you will be moving around, rather than sitting a blind or tree stand.  So a lighter bow is ideal for those long hikes.  I prefer a bow with a longer brace height, because it offers a little more forgiveness when it comes down to shooting.  Since a lot of your shots might be further a longer brace height is the key.  The length of the bow is not as crucial.  Most bows now and days are measured at around 32 inches anyway and this length is just fine.  Bows like the new Destroyer, Admiral and Iceman by Bowtech are excellent choices.

Bowtech Destroyer

If you do want more forgiveness for longer shots and windy situations a longer bow will do that for you; the Captain and Sentinel by Bowtech measure at around 35 inches and will do this for you but just remember a longer bow also adds weight.

As for a stabilizer try and keep it under 7 inches.  Any longer adds unneeded weight and tends to get in the way when maneuvering over obstacles and threw brush. I recommend you try different lengths and weights up to 7 inches to see what combination gives you the best performance.  I have had great performance with the Sims Vibration S-Coil type stabilizer, they offer a couple sizes with different weights and really do a great job eliminating any recoil.

Sims Vibration S-Coil

For a quiver, stay away from detachable ones, because more often than not, you won’t have time to remove it and they tend to stick out further away from bow making them vulnerable to being caught on branches and other stuff.  You want a two piece, for instance Octane makes a great two piece that attaches firmly and mounts tightly up against your bow, keeping your arrows ready at all times.  Another option is to carry a quiver on your backpack, and although this does take a lot of weight off your bow, you also have to reach back behind you or completely take off backpack just to load an arrow.  Sometimes you don’t have that much time to load so this method might end up causing you that shot opportunity.  Keep it simple and just get a good two piece quiver, and you will always have your arrows at your side ready to go.

Now there is no one sight that is just for western hunting, however, I can tell you the yardages you want to practice and set pins at.  If you have never been out west hunting and spent most of your time in tree stands and blinds, then you’re probably use to shots being within 25 yards.  The best advice I can give you is to try and double your current yardage.  If you shoot 20 yards consistently try being proficient out to 40 yards, this will double your success on your hunt and can sometimes mean the difference between coming home with a trophy or coming home empty handed.  While I know elk that have been shot at a mere 5 yards, I also know that a lot more shots have been made between 30 and 50 yards.  And if you plan to hunt open country mule deer or antelope, shots out to 70 yards are not uncommon.  I recommend to at least try and double your current yardage and if anything try to at least be able to shoot out to 50 yards.  Also stay away from those sights that have one pin and you slide a bracket to different yardages.  Sometimes you don’t have time to adjust sights and sometimes you set it for a range and the animal moves closer or further away.  Use a sight that has several pins set at different yardages.  Spott-Hogg in my opinion makes some of the best sights available in the market today.  The Deadly Seven Pin Sight was made for western type hunting, allowing micro adjustment for all pins and is the sight that I would consider before heading out on your western hunt.

Another accessory that kind of gets overlooked is your rest.  I prefer the Pro Series LD or HD by Quality Archery Designs.  I think these rests are the best drop-away rests on market and not only have the fastest drop-away mechanism but also fully contain the arrow so you don’t have to worry about the arrow falling off.  If you don’t currently use a drop-away you really need to upgrade.  They offer increased accuracy; better arrow flight and you definitely want all the accuracy you can get, especially when shooting the longer yardages that might happen on your western hunt.  All these features make this style of rest not only the best for use on western hunts, but for all hunts.

One thing I would like to address before selecting the right arrow combination is your draw weight.  I see a lot of people, having to raise their bow way over there head which is a big movement just to get the bow drawn back. Obviously this will spook any animal within eyesight.  Try this test, take your bow out and hold it straight in front of you with your bow arm horizontal with floor and draw your bow straight back.  If you can’t or you struggle with the draw, you may want to lower your poundage.  Everybody talks about how much they can pull and so on, but when hunting the west there is no room for ego.

Remember hunting on foot puts you at game level and the less movement you can make drawing your bow the less chance you will be spotted.  Also a lot of times especially on elk, you must draw your bow back long before the animal comes into range and position so you may end up holding your bow at full draw for some time before you get that perfect shot.

Speaking of that it also makes good practice to hold your bow drawn for a minute or so before shooting, just another tip to better prepare yourself for that hunt.

Now let’s go over your arrow combination and what you need to close the deal.  You want a total arrow weight having a minimum weight of 350 grains.  Depending on your bow weight setup a good weight per inch would be no less than 8 grains up to 10 grains if needed.  Companies like Easton, Carbon Express and Victory Archery offer a great selection of carbon arrows that are both super tough and have a thinner diameter, which improves penetration.  I am less inclined to use mechanical broadheads and stick to solid cut on impact broadheads.  I have seen too many animals lost and problems in the field with mechanical broadheads. Keep it simple as more moving parts means more things that can go wrong or break.  I know that mechanical broadheads are popular due to their mirror flight to field points, however, take time to paper tune your setup and you will be amazed at how well fixed blades can fly.  Trophy Taker T-Locks and Slick Trick Broadheads are my choice and are true to their advertisement to mirror field point flight.

As far as vanes go shoot what you like and feel comfortable with.  I prefer feathers myself due to the forgiveness and flight characteristics, but a lot of people are shooting those Blazer and Opti-Vane type vanes and although I think they do better with mechanical broadheads, I have seen great accuracy achieved with fixed broadheads as well.  Obviously if you don’t know which vanes to go with, stick with a stiffer 4 inch vane setup and you will be just fine.

Once you have your bow setup the key is to practice, practice and practice some more.  Shoot from all different types of shooting positions; knees, uphill, downhill, etc.  You don’t know what the west will throw at you so you want to be prepared for anything to ensure a successful hunt.  I hope I’ve been some help and you now feel confident enough to set out on that western hunt. Hunting the west is fun, exciting and can be tough but the trophies are out here so make the trip. You’ll love it.  Good Luck!!

Fore more information on products listed above follow links below:

Bowtech Archery,

Sims Vibration Laboratory:

Opti-Vane by Goat Tuff:

Victory Archery:

AZ E-Z Fletch:

Blazer Vanes by Bohning Archery:

Spott-Hogg Sights,

Easton Arrows,

Tophy Taker,


Slick Trick Broadheads: