January 17, 2017
By Joe Bell
I'm a stickler for archery detail, and one area I've spent a great deal of time in is analyzing the effects of a poorly balanced hunting bow. Like nearly all bowhunters, I began my hunting career with a quiver fastened to my bow.
Fortunately, I was led to a good model from the get-go. When I say good, I mean a quiver that was meant to stay fixed to the bow while shooting, and not a quick-removal model. Quick-detach quivers are outstanding for treestand and ground-blind hunting, as they are designed to be detached once the hunter is in his perch or ground hide, although many new models are absolutely solid and engineered to stay fastened to the bow while shooting without rattling, or causing excessive noise. But back in the '80s, quick-detach quivers were pretty darn flimsy.
The quiver I started with was a Sagittarius two-piece quiver that "clamped" to the bow via limb-bolt brackets. It was the most solid quiver system of its kind, and it hugged the bow very well. I hunted with that system for nearly two decades, with outstanding results.
Then one day, while attending a 3-D shoot in the local mountains, I switched to my backup bow that didn't have a quiver on it. Immediately, I noticed the great bow balance and how it shot prior to the event. It made me want to shoot more, which told me something. This got me experimenting with and without the bow quiver to determine the effects of quiver weight — specifically the slight imbalance it causes, and how that can influence shooting performance. In a nutshell, here are some of the points I recognized during this time of exhaustive experimentation.
Familiarity, good shooting form, and confidence are the real virtues of shooting performance. But, small equipment adjustments can accentuate accuracy and consistency, boosting confidence that much more. Removing the quiver from your bow does seem to help with this, mainly because it keeps the bow extremely balanced, without any side weight. Conversely, keeping the quiver on can make the bow relentlessly inconsistent to shoot, as each arrow you remove from the quiver does change the weight of the setup a small amount, which can cause a shift in point of impact.
How much of a shift in impact? Well, this is extremely difficult to quantify. However, I tried to accomplish this more than 10 years ago both by shooting on the range with my setup, and by using a "controlled process." This meant using a shooting machine and an indoor-laboratory environment. After various tests, I concluded that quiver weight does indeed impact accuracy, but to a very small extent depending on the setup, and how many arrows are removed from the quiver before shooting a group of arrows.
My tests were conducted at 40 and 45 yards, and with one arrow removed from the quiver, arrow impacts were slightly to the left and down for a right-handed bow and fixed-blade broadheads. With mechanical broadheads, the change of impact was almost miniscule — a half-inch at the most.
The other interesting note is that as more arrows were drawn from the quiver before shooting again, there was much less of a variance. This test was done with a drop-away rest, spine and weight-matched arrows, a parallel-limb bow, and a Spot-Hogg Hooter Shooter machine.
Besides improved consistency, a bow without a quiver tends to shoot quieter. Although I consider a well-designed quiver with a snug shaft-gripper pretty darn quiet (given all the arrows are stuffed in the hood solidly, with the broadhead tips tight), arrows do tend to rattle loose during practice sessions and long hikes in the mountains, causing that dreaded "buzz effect" when shooting.
Much of this has to do with the overall design of the quiver, though. A good two-piece quiver, or a long-stem, one-piece model (i.e. TightSpot) that clamps to the bow solidly, can be made to be very quiet. Remember, a bow that shoots with a softer, quieter "thump" will lessen the chance of string-jumping and an unexpected bad hit.
Improved Bow Handling
One thing that's hard to argue with is this: A bow without a quiver is a dream to hold and handle, because it sits in the hand perfectly plumb. This is why treestand hunters like to remove their quivers when they arrive on stand, so the bow is more streamlined, easier to maneuver, and quicker to point and shoot. The same can be said in a still-hunting situation, where you must hold your bow at your side, oftentimes with an arrow nocked, while tiptoeing through the woods. A bow with a quiver can be more unwieldy. Is it a deal breaker? Surely not. But it certainly is a factor that lends itself to a more efficient handling and shooting weapon.
Positive Of New Quiver Designs
For the last decade and a half, I've used a hip quiver almost exclusively. However, this system took a long time to perfect, and I had to modify and customize my hip quiver until I got all the kinks worked out. Even then, the hip quiver would cause me some grief in certain situations, mainly when crawling in heavy brush or sage, but I eventually figured out how to make this system work better in those situations, too.
Even so, the bow quiver reigns in the convenience department, and with today's super-advanced bows that vibrate little, a bow quiver can be made to work very well — given you choose a riser-hugging design to minimize the side-tilt or imbalance issue.
In recent years, bow quivers have been refined to near perfection. This is why I decided to try some of the new designs the last couple hunting seasons, just to see what I'm missing. I'm not done with my hip quiver by any means, but some of the new quivers work very well in my opinion. And, when using mechanical broadheads, the consistency factor isn't much of an issue.
Tinkering To Perfection
In some cases, a little bit of quiver modification can go a long ways toward better bow handling and accuracy. I've found this to be true with some of the two-piece quivers currently on the market. Personally, I like a two-piece design overall, because it makes the quiver as rock-solid as possible, with zero movement when placing arrows in and out of the grippers.
But, some models don't hug the bow riser so well. When this is the case, it pays to engineer and shorten the fastening brackets or rods to create a more streamlined unit that meshes better with your bow's centralized weight. I've cut and filed down the stems on Hoyt and Mathews quivers with great results, being careful not to overly trim and cause the hood or arrow ends to collide with the bow's limbs or cables. (Note: Altering any bow accessory voids the manufacturer's warranty, and can cause safety concerns.)
The conclusion here is this: A balanced bow simply shoots better, with or without a quiver attached to the bow. It pays to assess your current bow setup to determine if your quiver is causing accuracy issues. If so, consider the alternatives, either to buy a better bow-hugging quiver, or to shoot without one on your bow. Only you can decide what's right for you based on accuracy testing, your style of hunting, and personal preference.