Advances in materials and designs are delivering cutting-edge stickbow performance.
In modern stickbow design, everything old is new again. Sort of. When I say "modern," I'm referring specifically to the newer traditional bows that feature metal risers (in some cases carbon), teamed with recurve, longbow, or hybrid limbs in combinations of glass, wood, carbon, and even ceramic. And as popular as these bows have become in recent years — a full eight manufacturers and growing now market one — the idea of combining the most modern performance-enhancing materials of the period with the oldest known bow styles isn't new at all. Pioneering efforts in this regard were launched by a long list of well-known bow companies back in the late 1960s and early '70s.
As in so many endeavors, timing is everything, and with the first commercial compound bows stealing their thunder with a then amazing 50% let-off, these early metal-riser recurves never quite got off the ground with hunters. But that's not the case today. While most of Bowhunting's icons cut their teeth on stickbows, the vast majority of today's bowhunters — including me — grew up on compounds. That's one of the reasons we've enjoyed higher success rates, but compound bows have also conditioned us to tweak, tune, and adjust everything on our bows. The truly good news is that with today's high-tech traditional bows, newcomers and experienced bowhunters looking to take on the added challenge, thrill, and just plain fun of shooting traditional tackle do not have to give up the performance and adjustability to which they've grown accustomed. Today's high-tech hunting platforms and "crossover bowhunters" are a perfect match.
Why choose one of these metal-riser traditional bows? The advantages are many:
1) Metal alloy risers are relatively easy to cast and machine precisely [carbon is a different story, though it provides the same benefits, plus a few more at a premium price]
2) They don't dynamically flex like some wood designs, potentially providing more energy return
3) They are exceptionally durable and carefree, and their mass weight contributes to steady aiming
4) The sight window can be "cut" well past centershot (unlike most wood risers), making them adaptable to elevated rest and plunger setups and, most importantly, varying arrow spines, which makes for simplified arrow tuning
5) It's relatively easy to make them draw-weight-adjustable by a limb-bolt fixture, so you can dial them in at a precise weight for your exact draw length
6) Their risers are easily drilled and tapped for standard accessories including plunger button/flipper rest, sights, stabilizers, quivers, and even fishing rigs if so desired. Additionally, most metal-riser bows also can be shot off the shelf.
Another interesting advantage of these high-tech wonders is the growing adoption of "open platforms," with risers incorporating a standardized limb attachment system — International Limb Fixtures, or put simply, ILF. Any ILF limb — from any manufacturer — can be installed easily without tools on any ILF-equipped riser. This system has been common on Olympic-style recurves since the mid-1980s when Hoyt introduced its patented Dovetail System, which was eventually co-opted internationally as the current ILF system. Today, even some bowyers — like Bob Morrison — offer wood risers with ILF fittings as opposed to their own proprietary limb/riser attachments. For consumers, this is an important development because it allows hunters to experiment, swap, and trade limbs from one brand to another without concern over limb/riser compatibility.
Here's a look at the current field of highly adaptable, high-tech traditional bows.
FULLY ADJUSTABLE PLATFORMS
From a pure technology standpoint, David Soza, of DAS Kinetic Archery, sparked the renaissance in high-end, fully adjustable metal-riser traditional bows. Soza, inspired by bows colloquially referred to as "Warf Bows" — recurves assembled from old compound bow risers fitted with ILF limb pockets and competition limbs — started making his fully adjustable DAS Kinetic Master platform in 2005 (allowing adjustment of draw weight, preload, and tiller). "Nobody at the time was making a high-end, adjustable hunting recurve that incorporated the latest competition-centric technologies in one platform," said Soza, an accomplished mechanical engineer. "So I decided to make one for myself, and the 17-inch Kinetic Master was the result. I built six, kept one, and sold five others to friends, which started a reluctant business venture called DAS Kinetic Bows." When requests began to outpace his ability to produce the Kinetic Master for customers, Soza teamed up with traditional giant 3Rivers Archery, which now owns and manufactures the descendent design called the Dalaa (Apache for "Number One"). A 21-inch riser is also available.
The Dalaa is precision-milled from a block of 6061-T6 aircraft aluminum, with a built-in shelf "hump" for shooting off the shelf in combination with an adjustable side plate button, or it can be equipped with an elevated rest and plunger for use with feathers or vanes, a big plus for wet-weather adventures. The interchangeable Jager "Always Warm" Dual Poly Grips can be ordered in low, medium, or high wrist, and they're some of the most comfortable grips I've ever used. On the 17-inch riser, the limbs are attached via a proprietary DAS mounting system that uses a nifty thumbscrew arrangement in the limb mounting pad to fix the limb in place, no tools needed. The 21-inch riser uses the same arrangement — or it can be ordered with ILF limb pockets for compatibility with all ILF limbs. 3Rivers also offers limb bushing conversion kits to make any ILF limbs fully compatible with their unique DAS limb mounting and take-down system.
Weight adjustable, the Dalaa can be set at up at +/-5% of the ordered limb weight, so a 60-pound limb at 28 inches of draw can be set down to 57 or up to 63 pounds for fine-tuning arrow setups or to nail an exact draw weight at a specific draw length. Once achieved, draw weight is locked in with opposing set screws on either side of the riser.
The Dalaa limbs have dual hard rock maple cores sandwiched between two outer layers of carbon with a thin layer of fiberglass on top to protect the carbon, and they are smooth-drawing with a very snappy response and excellent speed. Larry D. Jones and I have used this bow extensively for Bowhunter TV, and we love its versatility, flat-shooting, and easy packing characteristics. Matt Karch, who oversees all Dalaa production at 3Rivers, told me th
at a new carbon limb with a lightweight foam core will be available as an upgrade later this summer. The supplied string is comprised of 14 strands of BCY 8125 with endless loops for maximizing speed and consistency. The 17-inch riser is available from 40-60 pounds and lengths of 58, 60, and 62 inches; the 21-inch riser is available in weights of 35-55 pounds at 62, 64, and 66 inches. The bows are available in Natural Gear camo or a flat-black CeraKote finish, and they sell for approximately $695 (17-inch riser) and $745 (21-inch riser). For more info, visit www.3riversarchery.com.
BEAR'S PAW BOWS
Bear's Paw Bows Avian series take-down recurve is a weight and tiller adjustable 19-inch platform with full ILF limb capability and a unique limb butt support structure in the fully enclosed limb pocket. The distinctive riser is precision-milled from 6061 bar-stock aluminum, with a distinctive bear paw cutout below the grip, and it is drilled and tapped for sight and quiver attachments. The sight window is cut 1/8-inch past center and is set for plunger button and rest, but it is also slightly radiused on both the shelf and window for shooting off the shelf. An exotic hardwood inlay complements the backside of the riser.
The Harrier model is available in two different camo patterns (although others are available on special order), and the anodized, flat-black Blackhawk model is perfect for 3-D or ground blinds. A comfortable, medium-wrist grip promotes accurate shooting, and the grips are replaceable with options available from JÃ¤ger, Hoyt, and Loesch for further customization.
The tough Avian ILF limbs are crafted using black locust for the limb core and a proprietary seven-ply carbon layup on the back with glass on the belly. Special deep-cut limb tips are built for ruggedness and dependability. A nine strand, 450-plus Flemish-twist string with padded Dacron end loops ensures top arrow speed.
Available lengths are 60, 62, and 64 inches. Limb draw weights go from 40-70 pounds in five-pound increments, and limbs can be fine-tuned up to three pounds in draw weight from the weight ordered. "We designed these bows for the serious hunter and shooter who demands precision, accuracy, adjustability, and high-performance right out of the box, without having to wait a year for a custom-built bow," said Bear's Paw designer Neil Jacobsen. Avian series bows go for about $1,100. Go to www.avianbows.com.
Arvid Danielson of Black Swan Archery offers what is best described as a family "system" of three-piece takedowns based on a Tensoloy cast aluminum riser (an alloy Boeing used extensively in landing gear). Offered with an integral low- or medium-wrist grip configuration, these risers feature a black, baked-on "silver vein" powder coat finish. The riser is cut to center for shooting directly off the shelf, but per request can be cut past center and drilled for ATA standard plunger button and sight/quiver mounting holes and stabilizer or fishing reels.
Now here's where it gets interesting. Depending on draw and limb length ordered, you can have the limbs mounted on either the back of the riser (the side that points to the target) which is standard, or the belly (rear) of the riser. The latter can be especially beneficial if you happen to have a long draw length (over 28 inches) but want short limbs for stand or blind hunting. By selecting the belly mount option, you can enjoy compact, maneuverable limb options without the acute string angle normally associated with shorter limbs mounted on the back of the riser. Bow lengths offered are 56, 58, and 62 inches.
Black Swan limbs are uniquely constructed from some of the most exotic materials in the industry and enjoy the enviable position of delivering the highest dynamic efficiencies (kinetic energy/stored energy) ever tested on hunting recurves. From belly to back, the limbs have a layer of proprietary spun ceramic (the only company to use this specific material in a hunting limb), then a layer of carbon-based syntactic foam for the core, a limb wedge of linen phenolic, another layer of foam core, then a layer of high-density woven carbon fiber. An additional layer of carbon overlay protects the limb pocket where it attaches to the riser. The limb tips are wedges of ceramic and can accept any high-performance endless-loop string. No glass of any kind is used, and the carbon resin that bonds the limb materials together is also a proprietary blend found exclusively in these limbs.
Adding to the versatility of this bow system, you can choose between either longbow, hybrid longbow, recurve, or Black Swan's incredible new Wave recurve limbs — available with a standard two bolt, non-weight-adjustable limb lockdown mount (you order the bow at your exact draw length and weight), or with Black Swan's new Adjustable Tillering System (ATS), which allows adjustment of tiller, preload, and up to roughly three pounds of draw weight. Further, Black Swan limbs also can be ordered with a DAS/Dalaa or ILF limb-mount system. Another characteristic unique to this platform is that in speed testing the hybrid longbow limb configuration not only outperforms the standard longbow limb but the standard recurve limb as well! I can't wait to try the new Wave limbs and chart their performance. At $950, this bow offers some truly unique construction and performance: Go to www.blackswanarchery.com.
Sky Archery, now owned by noted bowyer Jim Belcher, offers two weight-adjustable risers, the lightweight and economical Sky TDX 15 and the comprehensively featured TDX 17, each of which can accommodate any ILF-manufactured limbs as well as Sky's robust lineup of reflex-deflex hybrid longbow or recurve ILF limbs.
Both the TDX 15 and 17 are machined from a block of 6061-T6 aluminum with a slight radius on the shelf plate and a sight window cut well past center. Interestingly, both risers also have two vertically aligned Berger button holes — the lower for shooting directly off the shelf (as far as I know the only production hunting bow offering this feature). If you like to shoot off the shelf, you can do it with the tuning capability of the plunger button strike plate, the upper for use with an elevated rest so you can even use Blazer vanes! Grips on the 15 are medium-wrist Jager custom, and on the 17 you can have wood, universal composite, or Jager. The 17 additionally offers full linear limb adjustment on the ILF fitting and two industry exclusive features: integrated Mathews Harmonic Dampners and a built-in nock magnet for use with Easton Tracer Nocks, which are a real boon to learning
arrow trajectory and shot placement.
SKY recurve and hybrid longbow ILF limbs are available in five different material laminations for each limb style, in three different lengths: XGM glass/maple core, $349; XGBC glass/single carbon/maple core, $474; XCCM double carbon/maple core, $549; XCCB double carbon/bamboo core, $574; XCCF double carbon/foam core, $599. The TDX 15 riser, available in 56, 58, and 60 inches, is $399; the 17 makes a 58, 60, or 62-inch bow at $499, so you can pick and choose the setup that fits your length, performance profile, and budget. Go to www.skyarchery.com.
Rob Kaufhold, president of Lancaster Archery Supply and TradTech Archery, has 40+ years of experience in traditional archery as an Olympic competitor, bowhunter, and coach. Being a bowhunter from the Pennsylvania woodlots, Kaufhold wanted to bring the adaptability and accuracy of Olympic-style competition bows to the hunting archer, and to build a riser platform that would not only accept TradTech Archery's proprietary limbs but limbs from any bowyer or manufacturer using the ILF system. "My motivation in bringing ILF technology to bowhunting is to promote traditional archery through interchangeability. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the skill, devotion, and artistry of all bowyers, and any bowyer can make ILF limbs or risers to fit other ILF-compatible bows," said Kaufhold.
The Titan is a meticulously sculpted 16.5-inch riser with smooth radius edges on its entire 6061 T6 alloy frame, including beneath the grip, which can be removed and shot as is for a low-torque option. Even the arrow shelf has been sculpted so that when you carry the bow in the field by the riser your thumb fits neatly into a dished-out recess. Drilled for all ATA standard accessory mounts including sight/quiver, stabilizer/fishing reel and elevated rest/ plunger button, the Titan can also be shot off the shelf with a stick-on, rug-type rest. Draw weight can be adjusted 10% up from the minimum base weight of the limbs ordered, and the weight adjustment bolt is locked in place with a smart, in-line Allen-head screw. The smooth, narrow walnut grip is shaped with thumb rest and can be ordered in high, medium, low and slim/ultra-low wrist; grips from Hoyt, Win&Win, Samick, Jager, and Loesch also can be used. An optional 4-piece, 5-ounce weight kit fits under the logo button on the lower riser to allow weighting of the bow and provide ideal balance for varying setups, such as offsetting the weight of a bow quiver.
An adjustable brass Lateral Limb Alignment System (LLAS) designed by Sante Spigarlelli of Italy (proven in archery tournaments the world over), provides for precise string path and pinpoint alignment of any ILF limb to the Titan riser. Not all ILF limb pockets feature an LLAS system, considered by competitive archers to be a "must have" to ensure perfect riser/limb alignment, especially when using varying limb brands.
TradTech ILF limbs, crafted to spec by Samick of Korea on their competition-winning forms, are available in recurve or hybrid reflex-deflex longbow configurations, in a multitude of material combinations for your specific needs. In recurve: Carbon Extreme BF, six carbon laminations with Bakelite/foam dual synthetic core, $599; CarbonWood, hardrock maple cores then carbon under maple veneers and glass, $279; Carbon Camo, carbon under glass and hardrock maple cores, $249; BlackMax Carbon, multi-laminate hardrock maple cores under dual bias carbon and black glass, $219; Black Max, hardrock maple cores under black glass, $129. In longbow: Masters Carbon, six carbon laminations with multi-laminate hardrock maple cores, $499; Glass/Wood, clear glass over multi-laminate hardrock maple wood core, $179. All limbs feature Red or Yellow Jacket phenolic reinforced limb tips that are compatible with all performance string materials. Designed and made in the USA, the Titan Riser is available in Realtree APG camo or a carbon weave, flat-black finish at $399. Go to www.tradtecharchery.com.
ALASKA BOWHUNTING SUPPLY
Alaska Bowhunting Supply is making a big entrance with two new carbon riser hunting bows scheduled to be available in late summer: the GrizzlyStik Adcock Longbow and a yet-to-be-named recurve based on the impressive Inno CXT competition riser from Win & Win Archery (a significant player in the competitive target archery world), the latter having full ILF capability. These two new bows are being built via a unique collaboration of minds in the traditional archery world.
The GrizzlyStick Adcock final riser design tweaks are being done by noted bowyer Jim Belcher (Sky Archery and Belcher Bows) and the limbs by O.L. Adcock, winner of numerous flight-shooting competitions and designer of the highly efficient Adcock Cross Section limb (now being built and used by A&H Archery). And if that isn't interesting enough, throw in Win & Win owner Rae Park, who is lending his Olympic-class expertise in the construction of the carbon limbs. This solid-carbon longbow riser will use a proprietary limb mounting system and dual vertical plunger button holes for shooting off the shelf with a plunger as the side plate, or from an elevated rest if you want to use vanes. The GrizzlyStick Adcock will be available in weights from 50-75+ pounds in 62, 64, and 66-inch lengths.
The ABS recurve will be draw heavily from Win & Win's expertise in carbon riser and limb construction, with full ILF compatibility, a Lateral Limb Alignment System, and all standard ATA standard accessory mounting holes. No pricing has been announced. Go to www.alaskabowhunting.com.
A&H Archery is best known for its super-efficient hybrid longbow limb, the Adcock Cross Section, originally developed by flight competition expert O.L. Adcock, and refined for reliability and rugged hunting by A&H owners Larry Hanify and John Havard. Think of the narrow ACS limb geometry as a retractable metal tape measure: It's arched for strength and stiffness, without having to add the weight of extra laminations or the width of a thicker, heavier limb profile. Less limb weight, especially near the limb ends, means faster limb recoil and faster arrow speed. "We aren't speed freaks; we're performance zealots. Performance is measured in stored energy and dynamic efficiency, and we strive to maximize both," said Hanify. (Visit www.acsbows.com/bowperformance for an interesting definition on these two performance variables pertaining to all bows.)
ACS limbs have laminated birch cores and two layers of carbon on the back and belly of the limb. The seamless micarta and glass limb tips are glued in a special mold and can handle all performance strings. Black glass on the limb butts protects the outer carbon laminations
where they attach to the riser.
A&H metal risers are available in 12, 14, and 16-inch lengths, cut 3/16-inch past center for shooting directly off the shelf, but per customer request they can be drilled for all ATA standard accessory mounts including a plunger. The standard grip is medium wrist with palm swell, but it can be customized to lower the grip and reduce palm swell if desired. Limbs are mounted with a proprietary dual pin and limb bolt, in lengths of 58 to 68 inches for the 14 and 16-inch risers and 56 to 62 inches for the 12-inch riser. Prices for complete aluminum models range from $1,200-1,300.
The big news from A&H in 2010 is a new 14-inch carbon riser with a foam core that weighs just 11 ounces — that's 1.5 pounds for the whole bow! The cross weave design of the riser and the inherent properties of carbon deaden sound and vibration, and the grip is naturally warm to the touch. Matched with special all-carbon ACS limbs including the wedges and limb tip laminations, this bow promises to be an especially efficient performer that I can't wait to test. For complete options, go to www.acsbows.com.
Hoyt, with the 2004 introduction of their futuristic-looking GameMaster recurve (actually the return of a very popular Hoyt name of the '60s), probably has been more responsible for the metal-riser resurgence than any other company. The GameMaster's racy design, off-the-shelf shootability, simple take-down design, and friendly price appealed to many — and Hoyt's massive retail distribution made the bow accessible for lots of crossover compound hunters to try out. Hoyt currently offers two metal-riser recurves: the refined GameMaster II and the compact Dorado. Both come with Flemish performance strings and packable Cordura travel cases.
The 62-inch GameMaster II, at about $499, is a quieter shooter than its predecessor, and its 21-inch Tec riser design dissipates vibration and is rock solid in the hand. The Tec riser, with its eloquent arched riser support, is also very easy to carry in the field. A narrow medium/high-wrist grip promotes consistent, comfortable hand placement, and the riser is drilled and tapped for ATA standard rest/plunger, sight/quiver, and stabilizer accessories, as well as for Hoyt or Fuse two-piece quivers, which are the easiest, quietest way to rig up this bow. Limbs are crafted with maple cores and are available in weights from 35-65 pounds, in five-pound increments, mounted using Hoyt's proprietary single-pin and bolt system. Bows are available in Realtree APG HD camo or with a black riser and maple-colored limbs. While videotaping for Bowhunter TV
, we've taken a variety of animals with this bow, and we love its rugged, bombproof reliability and generously cut sight window, which makes it easy to tune with a wide variety of arrow spines, whether shooting off the shelf or with an elevated rest and plunger.
Hoyt's Dorado, which goes for about $479, is a more traditional-looking riser that measures 19 inches for an overall bow length of 60 inches. Weighing a feathery 2 ½ points, it is tapped for all standard ATA standard accessory options. The Dorado uses the same limb attachment system as the GameMaster II, is available in the same weights, and is exceptionally quiet and easy to shoot. A note with either Hoyt, all weights are specified at 28 inches ATA and are non-adjustable, meaning a 50-pound bow drawn to 29 inches will provide a weight of approximately 52-53 pounds; drawn to 27 inches the weight will be 47-48 pounds.
For the economy inclined, PSE's rugged Coyote offers great flexibility and value. Built on a machined aluminum riser, the Coyote riser is cut 5/8 of an inch past center and is drilled for all standard ATA standard accessory options: plunger, sights, stabilizer/fishing reel, and a mount for a two-piece PSE quiver.
Coyote limbs are made with walnut limb wedges and multi-laminate maple cores under glass, and they are film-dipped in Mossy Oak Treestand camo. The bows are available in weights from 40 to 55 pounds at 28 inches (in five-point increments), and it's important to note that draw weight will increase or decrease two to three pounds for each inch of draw length higher or lower than 28 inches, so order accordingly. Limbs attach to the riser with a proprietary single pin and limb bolt design.
The Coyote has an overall length of 60 inches, is very easy to tune, and comes with a B50 Dacron endless-loop string. This makes for an ideal fishing bow or "first time" hunting recurve at about $259. Go to www.pse-archery.com.