Unless it’s the bugle of an incoming elk or the clack of my arrow’s impact on a rib cage, I hate noise when I’m bowhunting. I strive for silence in my clothing, boots, treestands, and packs. You name it, it must be quiet, or it doesn’t hunt with me.
Various bow silencing products. Clockwise from bottom left, Sims dampener on its Limb-Saver Prism Sight, Sims Mino LimbSavers and Super String Leeches, Cir-Cut adhesive fleece, Vibracheck Stabilizer, Fize Stabilizer, Sims S-Coil Stabilizer, Stealth Archery Stabilizer, Carbon Express Stabilizer, Meanv Archery Custom String Suppressor, and Mathews Harmonic Dampener.
Foremost in the quest for silence is a quiet bow. First, let me settle a common argument. Can you make your bow silent? No. Will a big game animal always hear your bow going off? Yes, unless distance, wind, or water covers the sound.
The speed of sound, at sea level and 70 degrees, is 1,128 feet per second. That’s four or fives times faster than your arrow, meaning the twang of your bow will reach a game animal well before the arrow. Most animals react to that sound rather than the impact of the arrow. An animal has no concept of what an arrow is or what just happened. All it knows is that it might be in danger — so run!
Carolina Archery Products ShockStop Stabilizer
The infinitely varying situations and attitudes of individual animals, however, complicate this debate. Is the scene quiet and calm? Is the animal calm or tense? Is the shot long or short? Does the arrow fly at 180 feet per second or 320? Is the animal aware of your presence? Is it an ultra-quick impala or a less-reactive bull moose? Will a loud bow spook game worse than a quiet one? Does it make a difference?
You never want to “break the spell,” as I call it, by making any noise before or after you launch an arrow. So, the singular answer to the above questions, at least for detail-oriented bowhunters, is to get your bow as quiet as possible — just in case it does make a difference.
Doinker 5″ Multi-Rod Plus Stabilizer.
No doubt, the most significant noise generators on any bow are the bowstring and buss cables. Bow manufacturers have gone to great lengths to reduce and dampen string/cable vibration. Mathews employs its String Suppressors, Hoyt the StealthShot String Suppression System, Ross Archery the Flatline Silent Shot System, and Browning the SRS (String Recoil Suppre-ssor) devices on its Illusion bow.
Aftermarket string suppression systems are also available. They screw into the backside of the threaded stabilizer hole or into the front with an adapter, and the business end butts up against the bowstring. These are effective in dampening string vibration. Four good options are Norway Industries’ String Tamer, Meanv Archery’s Custom String Supp-ressor, STS Archery’s Shock Terminator Suppressor, and Falcon Products’ Rattler.
Probably the biggest name in noise suppression is Sims Vibration Labor-atory, whose products of NAVCOM (Noise and Vibration Control Material) are found on many bows today. Many bow manufacturers include Sims String Leeches with their bows. These small, yet effective, devices go a long way toward taming the oscillation of any bowstring.
BowJax, Inc., another front-runner in noise reduction, makes string dampeners that slip between the strands of the string and cables, or slip over the bowstring after putting your bow in a press.
Truglo Pro-Tune Stabilizer.
A variety of products will dampen string vibration, including yarn, rubber “cat whiskers,” and muskox fur. All of them will quiet a bowstring to some degree, but I would recommend a style that does not hold moisture or burrs.
Three other factors affect bowstring noise: If your bow is set at or near its maximum draw weight, it will shoot more quietly than if set at a lower poundage. Also, most bows will shoot more quietly with heavy arrows than lighter arrows because the heavy arrows absorb more of the bow’s energy. Finally, a well-tuned bow will be slightly quieter than a poorly tuned bow because a higher percentage of energy goes into the arrow than through the bow.
The Bow Frame
The next steps, in no particular order, are to soak up the vibration of a bow’s frame and limbs. Since Mathews installed Harmonic Dampers on its bow risers, other companies have followed suit to deaden what is essentially an aluminum “tuning fork” holding bow limbs in place. Most bow makers who haven’t developed their own riser-dampening products, like Hoyt’s RizerShox or Martin’s Vibration Escape Modules, now install products from other companies.
Sims Vibration Lab Hunter Modular Stabilizer.
To some extent, adding weight helps to quiet a bow because a heavy object transmits less vibration. That was the original purpose of a stabilizer. Today, stabilizers have become high-tech devices filled with various substances, or engineered in some way that will increase their ability to reduce vibration and noise without adding excessive weight.
The options are many in the stabilizer market. Sims’ S-Coil Stabilizer is actually quite light, but the integrated NAVCOM material absorbs shock. Another top stabilizer is the Doinker, which features proprietary ITP (Interrupted Transfer Poly-mer) technology.
Other quality stabilizers come from Fuse Accessories, Alpine Archery, Bow-Tech, Carolina Archery Products, Vibra-check, TruGlo, NAP, Carbon Express, Stealth Archery, and Martin.
Truglo Deadenator Stabilizer.
If you don’t believe stabilizers are beneficial, screw one on your bow and shoot a couple of hundred arrows. Then take it off. You’ll notice the difference. I prefer a stabilizer in the six-inch range because it’s big enough to make a difference yet isn’t cumbersome.
Parallel limbs and new cam designs have reduced limb travel, which helps reduce vibration and resulting noise from the limbs. Aftermarket limb-dampening devices, such as Sims’ Limbsaver Ultra and BowJax’s Monsterjax (or Slimjax for narrow limb bows), work very well. Some bow manufacturers have their own designs. Hoyt equips its split-limb bows with AlphaShox. Ross Archery and Al-pine Archery have their own limb dampeners, and CSS Archery offers Tunerz, tunable dampeners for limbs and other bow parts.
You can add other products to your bow to soak up vibration. Small, stick-on Mini Limbsavers can deaden the vibration of quiver hoods, sights, and other parts. The process requires a bit of experimentation to maximize noise reduction. Each bow responds differently, and what works on one bow may not work on another.
Here I’m installing adhesive fleece on the riser shelf. (note fleece on the bottom of the sight guard; also use of Sims S-Coil Stabilizer.
You can’t totally eliminate the sound of a released bowstring, but you can kill potential noises that occur before the shot. The best tool for this crucial task is adhesive fleece, or moleskin. I love the stuff.
To begin with, place adhesive fleece on any part of your bow that could create a noise. I put a couple of strips on the bottom of the upper limb so that when I hang the bow on a hanger, it doesn’t clink. If I plan to do some belly-crawling, I put fleece on the metal parts on the side of my bow that may contact rocks as I move it ahead of me on a crawl. Also, depending on the quiver design, I put fleece on the inside rim of the quiver hood to eliminate noise as I insert or extract arrows.
Fill your bow quiver with arrows and check to see if the shafts contact the arrow rest, sight, or bow limbs. If they’re even close, cover those parts of the bow to eliminate vibration noises and sounds that might occur as you remove arrows from the quiver or shoot the bow.
Always line the sight window and bow shelf with fleece, making sure to cover the lip of the shelf. With an arrow on the string, move the arrow around the arrow rest and bow shelf. If the arrow contacts any metal parts, even the bottom of the sight guard, cover those metal parts with fleece. If you use a drop-away rest, pad the bow shelf with fleece to silence the collision of the launcher arm with the shelf. A piece of thin rubber under the fleece helps even more.
Drawing an arrow across the arrow rest is the most critical moment in bowhunting, and even the tiniest noise can break the spell. Cover the launcher with fleece for a deadly silent draw.
Some good sources of adhesive fleece and other bow silencing products are Cir-Cut Archery, The Bohning Company, and Hunter’s Specialties.
Other creaks and groans that might occur when you draw could result from dirt and grime on the axles or in limb pockets, string yoke attachment points, and even cracked limbs. If your bow makes any sort of noise when you draw, eliminate it, even if that means taking it to an archery pro shop for repair.
Does taking all reasonable steps to silence your bow make a difference? In my judgment, yes, it does in certain hunting situations. Since you cannot predict when you and your bow will be thrust into those situations, shushing your bow certainly makes good bow-hunting sense.