By Brenda Valentine
The shooting and hunting industry has experienced a steady influx of women and youngsters, which has created more demand for small bows. After all, proper fit, which ensures comfort and success, is critical.
In the past few years, archery manufacturers have worked to meet demand for bows with shorter draw lengths and lighter draw weights. These bows fall between children's toys and the linebacker-sized bows that were standard for decades. The result was smaller, state-of-the-art bows.
I recently field-tested bows from several manufacturers and realized that the market for small bows is substantial. The choices are endless for children's starter bows, scaled-down women's bows and even bows with draw-lengths shorter than 28 inches.
When seeking the perfect bow with a short draw length, assess your needs. I need a bow with a 25-inch draw length and at least 50 pounds of draw weight. I also want a bow that weighs 3 to 5 pounds, with an axle-to-axle length of 31 to 34 inches. I am more interested in dependability, forgiveness and efficiency than raw speed or high let-off. However, chronographing is a standard part of my evaluations to ensure my bow produces adequate kinetic energy. Cost, recoil, balance, quietness, grip design, brace height, factory warranty and overall quality are also factors.
For my tests, I set up each bow with a peep sight, Limb Savers, a Whisker Biscuit arrow rest, a two-piece mounted arrow quiver, a three-pin fiber-optic sight and a Gator Jaw release aid. I used 375-grain, 26-inch Carbon Express arrow shafts with Ultra Nocks. My arrows were fletched with three 4-inch feathers and tipped with a 100-grain broadhead. Each bow was paper-tuned, set at 50 pounds and chronographed with a Radarchron.
The Contestants, Please
Parker Compound Bows might be a new kid on the block, but the company has done its homework. The Challenger was Parker's first small bow with a mass weight of 21/2 pounds, a draw length of 22 to 27 inches and a draw weight of 20 to 50 pounds. It retails for about $300, and was such a hit that Parker designed a top-of-the-line model called the Ultra-Lite 31.
The Ultra-Lite 31 is tough enough for all conditions, yet it shoots well. It produces respectable arrow speed, which testifies to its design efficiency. This one-cam, solid-limb bow has a draw range of 23 to 30 inches and includes a lifetime warranty.
Renegade Archery, another newcomer, offers three bows with draw lengths shorter than 25 inches. The LS-II, Renegade's youth/ladies bow, includes the precision craftsmanship standard in larger bows. I tested the Tominator-II, which has a 7-inch brace height, making it comfortable and forgiving. The bow, which costs $439, features Realtree Hardwoods camouflage, an intricately machined riser and a rich-looking walnut grip.
Hoyt USA, one of the oldest, most respected names in archery, is known for two things: high-quality products and innovation, which is evident in the bridge-truss design of Hoyt's Total Engineering Concept riser.
I shot the Hoyt HavocTec with three-quarter split limbs and double Versa-Cams. The bow weighs about 3 pounds, comes in draw lengths down to 24 inches, has a 71/2-inch brace height and measures 31 inches axle-to-axle. This bow is quiet and produces little recoil.
North American Archery Group in Gainesville, Fla., produces Jennings products, which have become a household name. I prefer Jennings' Buckmaster G2, a top-of-the-line bow with many bells and whistles. The modular, weighted one-cam allows 8 inches of draw length adjustments, and the split carbon limbs are set in beefed-up limb pockets with a Sims riser and limb dampeners. It features a forgiving 71/2-inch brace height and 31-inch axle length. The bow retails for about $500.
Clearwater Storm might sound like a new company, but owners Burly Hall and David Powers, have spent their lives looking down a bow-string.
I tested the Storm Super Lite, which is available with a 23-inch draw in the two-cam model and a 24-inch draw length in the one-cam style. The 34-inch axle length double-cam was speedy and pleasing to shoot, but the bow's hatchet cams are best suited for an experienced shooter. The $469 price is appropriate.
Mathews has become an archery icon. The longer-riser/short-parallel-limb design has become almost as copied as Mathews' one-cam technology. I tested the Mathews Q2, which has draw-length specific cams in many sizes. Mathews bows are available in archery pro-shops.
Browning Archery needs no introduction. The company has been building short-draw bows for decades and leads the youth-bow pack with the Micro Midas. This bow is extremely adjustable and suited for growing youngsters. It weighs 21/2 pounds and costs about $200. I've used this bow in many hunting situations, and it has always proven itself.
These are just some of the short-draw bows on the market. Never before have smaller archers had so many bows to choose from. The problem is no longer, "Where can I get a bow to fit me?" but rather, "Which one do I shoot first?"