Best Types of Bows for Hunting

Bowhunting is an age-old practice that requires skill, patience, and the right equipment. A good hunting bow can mean the difference between a successful hunt and a missed opportunity. But what’s the best type of bow for hunting?

I won’t get into brands; this will probably open a 5-gallon pail of worms. Instead, I am going to focus entirely on the style of bow.  There are three main styles of hunting-appropriate bows on the market, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages: compound bows, traditional bows, and crossbows. Anything else is really just a variation on a theme. We’ll discuss the benefits of each type, popular brands and models, and the drawbacks of using each for hunting.

Choosing the Right Bow for Hunting

Before we delve into the specific types of hunting bows, let’s discuss the importance of choosing the right hunting bow.  Hunting bows come in a range of sizes, shapes, and weights; some being better suited for particular styles of hunting. For example, a traditional bow that is great for hunting out in the open, may not be the best in a treestand or a hunting blind because of its length.

Choosing the right hunting bow is crucial because it can impact your accuracy, comfort, and ultimately your success as a hunter. A bow with too heavy of a draw weight, for example, causes quick fatigue, reducing accuracy and shot quality. On the other hand, a light bow may lack the power needed to efficiently take down larger game.


It’s also important to consider the hunting regulations in your area when choosing a bow. Most states require a bow to have a draw weight of at least 40 pounds to be legal. States vary in their regulations when it comes to the type of bow, broadhead, and arrow that can be used for hunting. For example, some states allow the use of crossbows during archery season, while others do not. It’s important to check the regulations in your area to ensure that the bow you choose is legal for hunting.

two compound bows hanging

Compound Bows

Compound bows have become extremely popular with bowhunters over the last 20 years. Incorporating a sighting system, pulleys, and cables the compound gives the shooter a great mechanical advantage. That means you’ll be shooting accurately a lot quicker while optimizing power and arrow speed–what’s not to like about that?

Higher Accuracy

Because of the attribute known as ‘let-off’–which allows the archer to hold much less weight than initially pulled, the bow is easier to hold steady at full draw. It is also easier to aim and shoot accurately. This can be especially important when hunting larger game, as accuracy is crucial for a successful shot.

Best Brands of a Compound Bow

When it comes to popular brands and models of compound bows, there are many to choose from. Some of the top brands include Elite Archery, Mathews, Hoyt, and Bowtech. Some of the most popular models of compound bows include the Mathews VXR, Hoyt Carbon RX-4, and Bowtech Revolt.

Drawbacks of a Compound Bow

However, there are some drawbacks to using a compound bow for hunting. One of the main disadvantages is the complexity of the bow’s design. With more moving parts comes more potential for something to go wrong. The pulley system and cables can make the bow more difficult to maintain and repair compared to other types of bows; they’ll need to be tuned for optimal performance. Additionally, the noise produced by the compound bow can cause deer to flinch (known as ‘jumping the string’), which can lead to missing a shot.

Overall, compound bows are an excellent choice for hunters who are looking for accuracy, power, and versatility. However, they may not be the best choice for hunters looking for a more traditional or simple bow design. If you are considering a compound bow for hunting, be sure to do your homework. Don’t just order one from Amazon or the brand website. Get out there and shoot several to compare. That way, you’ll be better informed to choose a bow that is right for your hunting style and experience level.

a man is bow hunting with a longbow

Traditional Bows

Traditional bows–which include recurves and longbows–are one of the “OG“ ranged weapons for war and hunting. Based on fragments from likely arrow heads, experts estimate the bow and arrow dates back 71,000 years. Some traditional bows are made from a single piece of wood, with a simple design and no mechanical components. Takedown-style trad bows offer the ability to remove the upper and lower limbs to make it more portable.

Traditional Bow Advantages

One of the main advantages of using a traditional bow for hunting is the connection to history. Traditional bows have been used for hunting for thousands of years, and many hunters appreciate the simplicity and craftsmanship of these bows.

Additionally, using a traditional bow can provide a unique challenge for hunters, as they require more skill and practice to use effectively. Recurves are great for quick “snapshots” on small game like rabbits. There’s really no way to pull off this kind of shot on a compound bow.

Another advantage of using a traditional bow is the quietness. Recurves and longbows don’t have any moving parts or pulleys, which makes them generally quieter than compound bows. Although, recurves do tend to be louder than longbows.

Best Traditional Bow Brands

When it comes to popular brands and models of traditional bows, some of the top brands include Bear Archery, Martin Archery, and Black Widow Bows. Some of the most popular models of traditional bows include the Bear Archery Grizzly and Super Kodiak, Martin Archery Savannah, Samick Sage, and Black Widow Bows PCH.

Traditional Bow Drawbacks

However, there are some drawbacks to using a traditional bow for hunting. One of the main drawbacks is the lack of power compared to compound bows. Traditional bows require more strength to draw the bowstring back to full draw.

Whereas the compound has “let-off,” you’re drawing back and holding the entire draw weight of a traditional bow. This can lead to more strain, making it more difficult to shoot accurately. Additionally, traditional bows require more skill and practice to use effectively, which may not be ideal for hunters who are new to archery.

Traditional bows are an excellent choice for hunters who appreciate the history, craftsmanship, and tradition of archery. They are quiet, simple, and can provide a unique challenge for hunters who are looking to test their skills. However, they may not be the best choice for hunters who are looking for maximum power and accuracy.

A man with a raised crossbow


Crossbows are another increasingly popular choice for hunters as the learning curve tends to be less than with a vertical bow. Similar to rifles in their design and function, they feature a trigger mechanism and stock that allows for easier aiming and firing. But don’t let their look fool you–they are not firearms. Nor are crossbows supremely powerful over compound bows. In fact, today’s compound bows often rival the speeds of modern crossbows.

However, crossbows can deliver a powerful and lethal shot with minimal effort, making them ideal for hunters who may not have the strength or skill to use a vertical bow.

Drawbacks of Crossbows

Whether you’re using a recurve or compound crossbow, they tend to be heavier and bulkier than their vertical cousins. This can make them more difficult to carry, hunt from a treestand, and maneuver in the field. More maintenance and care are required, as the strings and cables must be regularly checked and adjusted.

In addition, crossbows may not be legal for hunting in all areas. It is important to check local regulations before using one. Crossbows are still a bit of a gray area in the world of archery hunting. Many states have specific rules and requirements for the use of crossbows, such as a minimum draw weight or a specific hunting season. What’s more, some states only allow you to hunt the archery season with a crossbow if you are a disabled hunter.

Advantages of Crossbows

Crossbows are a powerful and effective weapon for hunting. They do shave-off a good amount of time on the learning curve, but they may not be the best choice for all hunters. Consider your individual needs and preferences, as well as local regulations, when deciding whether to use a crossbow for hunting.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best bow for hunting is a personal decision that should be based on your individual preferences and hunting style. Some hunters prefer the power and accuracy of a compound bow, while others prefer the simplicity and versatility of a recurve or longbow. Crossbows are another great option if you’re looking to reduce the time it takes to learn to shoot well. Depending on your state, you may be more restricted in where and what season (archery or modern) you can use it. If you plan on using a blind for bowhunting, that might also affect your choice.

No matter which type of bow you choose, it’s important to practice regularly and become proficient with your chosen weapon. This will ensure that you are able to make ethical and humane kills and enjoy a successful hunting experience. By finding the right bow for you and practicing responsible hunting techniques, you can enjoy a successful hunting season filling the freezer while also upholding the values of ethical hunting.

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