Skip to main content

Match The Rig To The Gig

Specialized Game Require Specialized Gear

To my mind there are three basic bowhunting rigs; the speed rig, the stand rig, and the heavy. The first is all about long-range accuracy, and getting your arrow to the target quickly while hunting thin-skinned game in wide-open places, be it prairie pronghorn, migrating caribou, mule deer, and Coues whitetail especially. The stand rig should be forgiving and smooth for cold vigils when muscles stiffen, and quiet most of all. You might call this a whitetail bow, but it's also suited to baited black bear, or spring turkey from a blind. The heavy rig's built for penetration, for tackling the biggest common game such as elk or moose, or African game that can bite back.


Speed comes via bow design and arrow mass. Speed bows use reflexed risers and brace heights under seven inches, aggressive cams, to wring more from less. Mathews offers the Black Max2 with a 5.5-inch brace height and Turbo MaxCam, boasting 340-plus IBO speeds; BowTech the Blackknight with a 53?8-inch brace and Speed Dual Cam for 350 IBO; High Country Archery (HCA) the Per-FX with 67?8-inch brace and PerfXCam for 350 fps; Hoyt the six-inch brace and Spiral Cam-equipped TurboTec for 330 fps. These models easily create actual hunting speeds of 300 fps-plus, and that's fast enough.

When speed's the goal, look for brace heights under 7.5 inches, and cams with aggressive draw-force curves. This means rougher draw cycles, shallow letoff valleys, and an often unforgiving nature. This is relative to your amount of practice and allows familiarity and acceptable accuracy.

Burning speed also comes via stiff, featherweight carbon arrows. Speed carbon hits scales at 5.5 to seven grains per inch (gpi). HCA's Carbon Revolution Speed Pro Max, and Max SS are the lightest I'm aware of, 5.5 and 6.2 gpi, respectively, the Max handling draw weights to 75 pounds, the Max SS 85. Carbon Tech's Cheetahs, at 6.4 gpi in 45/70 spine, are straight shooting and tough. Gold Tip's 7.4 gpi Ultralight 400s are produced for the 3-D dodge, but make viable speed-rig shafts; while Blackhawk Vapor offers the Speed at 6.75 gpi in 4000S, Jets at 6.3 and 6.6 gpi in 4000 and 5000 spine, respectively.

You can't always call the shots when bowhunting open-country mule deer. Sometimes you have to take a long shot. Fast gear makes such stabs easier. Steven Tisdale took this solid P&Y muley at 50-plus yards.

Low brace height also allows shortening shafts to boost spine, choosing a lighter deflection-rated shaft for lighter gpi. My Hoyt TurboTec allows Carbon Force 200 instead of a 300, cutting two inches off my normal 30-inch arrow. I save 30 grains of weight, while remaining well within manufacturer's guidelines.

Lighter broadheads flatten trajectory, and balance lighter arrows. Today, choosing light heads sacrifices nothing in reliability. While 100 grains are plenty light, 85 or 90 grains, even 75, helps break into Mach speed.


Mechanical designs eliminate most tuning and windplaning problems. New Archery Product's (NAP) 85-grain Spitfire and ShockWave, Grim Reaper's 85, WASP's 75-grain Jak-Hammer SST, and Rocket Aeroheads' 75-grain Recon, Mini Blaster or Wolverine, 85-grain Sidewinder 3-LT, or 90-grain Slammerhead are good examples. Smaller mechanicals can actually penetrate better due to narrower cutting diameters.

Due to the need to backpack into remote country the author couldn't use his preferred back quiver while bowhunting this B&C Coues whitetail. A solid, two-piece bow quiver proved second best, spreading the weight of the arrows over a wider plane to allow pinpoint, long-range accuracy.

Lightweight fixed, three-blade designs include NAP's 85-grain Thunderhead, Barrie Archery's Ti 85, G5 Outdoors' Montec 85, Crimson Talon's 90-grain, WASP's 75-, 85- and 90-grain Hammer SST, Rocket's 75-grain Ultimate Steel, Muzzy and Innerloc's 75-grain; plus four-blade designs like Muzzy's 90-grain and Innerloc's 85. HCA makes a three-blade, Speed Pro 55-grain for Speed Pro shafts.

The speed rig normally wears sights holding at least five pins, or a single-pin moveable. Since pushing your bow ahead while snake-belly crawling toward open-country game is par, bulletproof designs are requisite. My favorite fixed-pin sights are Copper John's Deadnuts Hunter, Fuse's new Intrepid, Trophy Ridge's (TR) Micro Matrix, Montana Black Gold's Dusk Devil, Vital Bow Gear's (VBG) Hunter, and Spot Hogg's Real Deal. For movers you can't beat TR's V-Drive Titan, VBG's Star Track, or Savage Systems' QC Ranger.

To add forgiveness to radical rigs, choose drop-away rests, active stabilizers, and wrist slings. I choose TR's Drop Zone, Black Gold's Trap Door, or NAP's Quicktune 4000 when assembling quick bows. Active stabilizers include rubber-coupled designs like Doinker or Fuse, or silicone filled from NAP or Hi-Tek Sports; seven- to 10-inch models most effective for actually enhancing accuracy. A wrist sling eliminates grip torque, improving long-range accuracy. Too, I choose two-piece bow quivers or back quivers on long-range rigs, gaining increased balance and control for pinpoint accuracy. Rancho Safari's newest Catquiver models keep my arrows within reach, as well as my all-important rangefinder handy in a padded hip pouch.

Shooting from an elevated stand presents its own set of problems for the archer. A forgiving rig fills the bill when in cramped quarters and cold after a long wait.


When installed on stand I can't control how shots come off, but I can control the shootability of my equipment. Short bows are touted "stand bows," but are inherently more difficult to shoot, especially under pressure. I look to longer axle-to-axle lengths, higher brace heights, and deadly silence in my stand rigs.

If you'll not be taking shots past 30 yards, 34 to 36 inches is relatively forgiving. A brace height more than 7.5 inches further enhances shootability. I lean toward bows even longer, 37 to 40 inches, the latter imperative when shooting fingers. Middle-ground bows include PSE's Vengeance (34.5 inches) or Primos SLT (36.5), A

lpine's Denali and Yukon (34), Renegade's TR-4 (355?8), Archery Research's AR-37, Jenning's CK 3.4-R (34), Fred Bear's Realtree TRX (35.9), Buckmasters' G2XL (35), Browning's Oasis (37), Darton's Avalanche Extreme (343?8), Reflex's Super Slam (35) and Timberwolf (36.5), Parker's Phoenix 36, BowTech's Independence VFT (375?8) or Old Glory (37.5), Mathews' LX (35) or Icon (37), and Hoyt's XTec (35.5) or UltraTec (37.5). Added forgiveness is provided by models measuring more than 38 inches; Renegade's Non Typical XL (40.5), PSE's Shark (40.5), Reflex's Caribou (45.75), Parker's Hunter Mag (39.75), BowTech's Constitution (40.25), Mathews' Conquest 3 (41), Darton's Executive Vegas (41.5), Jennings CK 4.0 (40), and Hoyt's ProTec with XT 3000 or 4000 Limbs.

Most of today's bows arrive deadly silent out of the box, Hoyt and Reflex factory-installing Sims' Super String Leeches and Alpha Shox limb silencers, Mathews String Suppressors and Harmonic Damping System, BowTech string, cable-guard, and limb silencers, Parker factory-installed LimbSavers and Sims LS Vibration Reduction Modules, as examples.

Further silencing comes via Sims Vibration Laboratory, Global Resources ShockFins, Bow Jax Silencer Systems, NAP ThunderBlox, Mercury Archery Products No-Vibes, and Saunders Archery Buzz-Off.

Finding the right arrow/broadhead combination is automatic. Average carbon hunting arrows in 7.5 to 10 gpi, average broadheads of 100 to 125 grains, describe 90-percent of available gear. Such weight-class terminal gear strikes a healthy balance between speed and silence, penetration and durability.

Weight tubes are an easy way to increase kinetic energy and penetration potential. They come in two-gpi red, and three-gpi yellow, from Eastman Outfitters, PSE, and Browning Archery.

Easton offers a plethora of aluminum, plus carbons like C2 Mossy Oak Obsession or Realtree Hardwoods Green HD, C2 Carbon Epic or Carbon Excel. Beman gives us ICS Camo Hunter, Trebark and Classic, ICS Hunter or Venture, and budget-priced ICS Hawk. Gold Tip's XT black or camo weigh alike, Traditional and Ted Nugent Signature a bit more. Carbon Impact XLT, cheaper Trophy Hunters, or stabilized Stealth XLT; Carbon Tech CT Whitetails; PSE Carbon Force or Radial Weave; Carbon Express Maxima, CX, CX Hunter or Eliminator; VBG Vital Hunter Gladiator or Warrior; Blackhawk Vapor or V-Maxx; Satellite Archery's Frequency-Matched shafts; and Parker Super Carbon round out this weight class. You name the broadhead manufacturer, mechanical or fixed-blade, 100 to 125 grains, and its covered.

Stand hunting invites total-containment rests. It can be a long, boring wait in a tree. When that monster whitetail or black bear appears, nerves are a serious factor. Many prime opportunities are blown due to arrows falling from rests while drawing on game. Carolina Archery Product's (CAP) Whisker Biscuit comes to mind, as well as Golden Key-Futura (Whisper Disk, Funnel Rest), Bodoodle (Zapper 300 & 400), and APA Ultimate. Arrow holders like NAP's FastFlip and Dakota Archery Products' Confidence Arrow Holder are other options. For total arrow containment before the shot, total fall-away clearance after release, look to the Ripcord Arrow Rest, Quality Archery Designs' Ultra-Rest, and VBG's Ultimate Fall Away.

Derricking rigs into trees asks for short, simple accessories -- non-snagging stabilizers and sights. Lowlight shooting is common, making bright fiber optics and large diameter peeps standard. Pendulum sights are popular when shooting from elevated sites, a single pin keeping you covered from zero to 30 yards. Bright yet simple sights include VBG's Tombstone or Oracle, Impact's Hammerhead or Collector, Cobra's Sidewinder Radiant, Black Gold's new Skylight, CAP's new Foxfire TP, and TR's Flatliner. Pendulum sights to depend on include VBG's Camel Back, Savage's Pendulum Super Max, new Impact Bravo and TR Mantis. Generally, slings slow getting into the bow after a sudden and unexpected appearance of game, while removable bow quivers offer convenience while traveling to stands, and while aboard.


Boosting kinetic energy doesn't necessarily translate into boosting bow weight, though that's one solution, granted you can handle extra weight while maintaining accuracy. If you choose to increase draw weight before an elk hunt or African foray, do so slowly, allowing muscles to build to the extra strain over time. Shooting too much weight's a quick avenue to target panic and pulled muscles or tendons that wreck your shooting for years to come. Today you don't need to pull the poundage you once did to achieve higher energy levels. Many of the bows offered for increased speed work as well to increase kinetic energy when slinging heavier arrows. Shots at the biggest game normally involve shorter ranges, making a radical bow's touchy nature less problematic.

When taking bowhunting to extremes, such as when hunting Africa's dangerous game, boosting bow weight, and assembling arrows made for extra-deep penetration is mandatory. This calls for the heaviest arrows and cut-on-contact heads.

Kinetic energy can be hopped up effortlessly by opting for heavier arrows. Carbon's the penetration champ, no matter mass weight, but heavy carbon, often matching aluminum weight, is a sure thing for driving deep into massive game. Lower diameter is another way. This makes Easton's new Axis ST shafts an obvious choice. Weighing 10.5 gpi in the stiffest deflection, smaller outside diameter also aids penetration. Easton's A/C Kinetic and Beman Matrix are other penetration enhancers, weighing better than 11 gpi in heavier spines, carbon/aluminum fusion making them ultra tough. In 5000 deflection, Vapor V-Maxx go nearly 11 gpi, while Carbon Express Terminator Hunter Select (+?- .0025 straightness), Hunter or Heritage (+?- .005) weigh 11 gpi for 4560/250 and 12 gpi in 6075/350 -- some of the heaviest made. Carbon Tech Rhino (+?- .005) and Rhino XP (.0015) are 10 gpi in 45/70, 11.5 gpi in 55/80, woven to be tough and dependable under stress. Gold Tip's heavy hitter includes the 7595 Traditional at 11 gpi. Red two gpi or yellow three gpi weight tubes can be had from PSE, Eastman Outdoors, and Browning to add weight to any carbon shaft accepting Easton Super Nocks or Bohning Signature.

When going to extremes, say, African Cape buffalo, Gold Tip offers the Camo/Big Game 100+, weighing 10.5 gpi, spined to handle the highest draw weights. The Carbon Tech CT Safari owns a 70/95 spine rating, weighing an incredible 15.5 gpi. PSE's Carbon Force Radial Weave Black Mamba 400 weighs 9.2 gpi, but includes a 12 gpi energy tube, plus stainless steel collars and inserts for unsurpassed strength. Many experienced African dangerous game hands insert Beman pultruded Hunter shafting to increase mass weight, using it full length, or adding sections (backed by weight tubes to hold it forward) to increase mass, front-end strength and F.O.C. I assembled 880-grain finished weight Cape buff arrows for a 90-pound b

ow using half pultruded, half weight tube; a friend a 1,100-grain elephant arrow using full-length pultruded for a 100-pound bow.

When penetration is paramount, look to cut-on-contact broadheads. Standard-weight models include Eastman Outfitters' two-blade FirstCut 90 and 125; American Broadhead Sonic; G5's 100- and 125-grain two-blade B-52 or 100- and 125-grain three-blade Montec; Steel Force's 100- and 125-grain four-blade SS Premium, Hellfire, Sabertooth, or Titanium Sabertooth; Crimson Talon's four-blade Croc or Viper Venom; Magnus 100- and 125-grain four-blade Stingers, Barrie's three-blade Supreme XP or Ironhead 100, and two-blade Tradition 100; Simmons System 100-grain, four-blade RazorShark or 100- or 125-grain LandShark, NAP's 100- or 125-grain four-blade Razorbak; Razorcaps three-blade 100- or 125 grain; and new three-blade Wac'em Triton.

Dangerous game calls for a heavier payload; Razorcaps' welded three-blade 150-, 175-, or 200-grain; Simmons' 160-grain LandShark; Magnus' 150-grain Stinger; Steel Force's 210-grain two-blade Premium or 150-grain, four-blade Hellfire; G5's 140-grain Montec or two-blade 150- or 170-grain one-piece-molded Shkote; and Eastman Outfitters' 145-grain FirstCut or 175-grain Titanium FirstCut Big 5. Traditional standbys such as Magnus glue-ons in 125, 135, 140, 150 and 160 grains, and Zwickey 110-grain Eskimo, 125-grain Black Diamond, and 130-grain Delta, combined with top-quality 45-grain, five-degree-taper adaptors from Precision Designed Products, make good choices when tackling armored game.

Get the most from your archery rig this season, by matching the equipment to the game you're pursuing -- by matching the rig to the gig.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

30 Years of TenPoint Crossbows!

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

APX — The Newest Pattern From Realtree

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

Buck Commander Releases New Buk Ops Technology

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

Easton's Sonic 6.0 a Versatile Arrow Shaft

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

Easton Introduces the Match Grade Pro Series Arrow

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

Primos Double Bull Delivers New Raised Hunting Ground Blind

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

Primos Delivers Steady Shooting With Edge Tripod System

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

The QAD Ultrarest Gets Better

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

A QAD Ultrarest For Everyone

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

Primos Legacy Grows With Icon Call Series

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

Going Light With Dryshod Boots

T.R.U. Ball/Axcel has taken some of its most popular release aids and bow sights and created the new-for-2024 Tactical B...

Tactical Bowhunting from T.R.U. Ball and Axcel

Bowhunter Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Bowhunter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Bowhunter stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now

Never Miss a Thing.

Get the Newsletter

Get the top Bowhunter stories delivered right to your inbox.

By signing up, I acknowledge that my email address is valid, and have read and accept the Terms of Use