By Josh Boyd
As compound bows become increasingly advanced with every passing year, few archers can help but to admire that which is new and refined upon every trip to their local archery pro-shop. For some, this is no more than window shopping. For others, the urge to walk away with the latest in compound bow technology is simply too great to ignore.
Every year, bowhunters from all corners of the nation make the decision to upgrade from their current compound bows. For a few, this becomes an almost yearly ritual. As archery season arrives, many knock the dust off of last year’s “latest and greatest” bow, and trade it in for the archery industry’s latest hot commodity.
While there is certainly nothing wrong with this, many who are still shooting the same bow that they have had for a number of years begin questioning when the time will be right to do the same. However, this begs the question, “Is it really necessary to upgrade bows?”
What Is to Be Gained?
Before deciding that a compound bow upgrade is necessary, it is only natural to wonder what advantages such a purchase would offer. While no one is arguing against the fact that enormous strides have been made in compound bow technology over the past 10 years, the more pertinent question becomes whether or not your bow is any less efficient than those currently offered.
The answer to this question often depends on an archer’s definition of the word efficient. Some might define a bow’s efficiency by its IBO speed, or by the amount of audible noise which it produces when fired. If this is the case, then yes, the industry’s latest compound bows could easily be classified as more efficient than those which are now 5-10 years old.
However, if you define a bow’s efficiency as its ability to cleanly and ethically take game, then it is hard to say that a bow released in the last six-months will complete this task anymore adequately than a model produced six-years ago. The truth is, barring physical damage that would impede proper operation, a ten year old bow is no less capable of taking a deer now, than it was a decade ago when new.
Then Vs. Now
In order to gain an understanding of the differences between an aging bow, and one which is new to the market, a side by side comparison will often paint a more complete picture. For example, compare Hoyt Archery’s flagship bow models between the years of 2009, and 2019.
In 2009, Hoyt released the Alphamax 32, which was billed as being ultra-fast, yet forgiving to shoot. The Alphamax 32 featured a 7” brace height, measured 32” axle-to-axle, and weighed in at 3.9 pounds. When the smoke cleared, the Alphamax posted an IBO speed of 321 FPS.
Ten years later, in 2019, Hoyt unveiled the Carbon RX-3. This bow featured a 6 3/4 “ brace height, measured 30 ½” axle-to-axle, and weighed in at 3.9 pounds. As recorded when tested with the use of a chronograph, the Carbon RX-3 posted an IBO speed of 342 FPS.
When comparing these two bows, with a decade between their dates of production, the Carbon RX-3 bested the Alphamax 32’s IBO speed by 21 FPS.
Outwardly, this seems quite impressive. However, this difference in speed would likely be hard to notice if both bows were to be fired side by side, and it would be difficult to say that the Carbon RX-3’s gains would make any significant difference in a hunting scenario, except for a slightly flattened arrow trajectory at the furthest extent of one’s effective range.
It is also worth keeping in mind that these performance gains were the product of ten years’ worth of innovation. Any such performance variances would likely be far less noteworthy if only 3-5 years had passed between each bow’s release.
Beauty…Or Performance, Is in the Eye of the Beholder
With all things considered, the decision of whether or not to upgrade compound bows has more to do with an individual’s personal preferences, than it does outright necessity. While it might be time to make the jump if you are still shooting a Bear Whitetail from 1980, those who currently own a bow that was produced within the last fifteen years should in no way feel obligated to hang-up their compound based solely upon its age.
It is worth remembering that Indians hunted game of every perceivable kind with handmade bows, and flint tipped arrows. By all accounts, they did not go hungry. It would be a gross miscalculation for the ages to figure that a compound bow with a few sunrises under its belt would offer any less satisfactory results.