With so many new
bows incorporating state-of-the-art vibration dampening systems into their risers, limbs
and strings, has the use of a stabilizer for bow hunting become a thing of the past?
I spend a lot of
time traveling to bow-hunting camps from California to the Carolinas, and when I see
someone with a hunting bow without a stabilizer, Im a bit surprised. These accessory
items have become so commonplace that if a guy or gal doesnt use one, you almost
think they are clueless. How can they shoot accurately without one? I ask
myself. Doesnt the bow noise spook game? Doesnt the vibration sting
Yet I know several
serious, highly accomplished bow hunters who dont use one. My friend Chuck Jones, a
member of the Knight & Hale Game Calls Ultimate Hunting Team and the crews head
videographer, is one of the finest bow hunters I have ever hunted with. He is also a fine
bow shot and hasnt used a stabilizer for many seasons. I dont like the
weight and bulk, and it seems like that thing is always bumping into limbs or brush,
Jones said. Not using one doesnt seem to affect my shooting.
field staff manager for Mathews Archery, is both one of the nations finest
professional tournament archers and a superb bow hunter. Ive always believed
that anything you do to reduce noise and/or vibration is accumulative, Phillips
said. Although the new Mathews LX compound bow, as well as its preceding models,
offers tremendous reduction in both areas, a quality stabilizer will only enhance it even
more. The effect of the stabilizer is actually less than it used to be, before bows had
such state-of-the-art vibration dampening systems built in, but it is still slightly
evident. Just as important, a good stabilizer can help balance a bow, depending on the
accessories that have been mounted on it. With sights, quivers or other mechanisms added
on, a bow can become a little top-heavy. Using the right stabilizer can help with that
balance and improve any bows shootability. The bow will seem to hold in position
better and the follow-through will be smoother.
From nothing more
than an elongated piece of metal screwed into a bows riser, stabilizers have evolved
into a high-tech product designed to maximize efficiency.
really interesting to see how stabilizers have evolved, said Bob Mizek, director of
new product development and operations for New Archery Products. When I got involved
in archery in the 1980s, I bought my first stabilizer for one reason accuracy! I
recall learning that a stabilizer could help me shoot tighter groups by reducing
left-right torque and by balancing the bow for better vertical accuracy. As cam design
changed, string material changed from Dacron to Fast-Flite and lighter arrows became more
popular, and arrow velocity increased. A number of stabilizer designers including myself
figured out that an active design might not only help the archer shoot more
accurately, but shoot more quietly and with less recoil.
Archery was very successful at reducing recoil with their original adjustable rubber
model, the Torque Tamer, Mizek said. Another popular stabilizer, the
Neutralizer, used mercury inside a sealed chamber. Others chose hydraulic designs that
used an internal spring-loaded piston. When I founded Hi-Tek Sports in 1991 (I left in
1993 to join N.A.P.), I chose to use highly refined silica or steel powder to convert
vibration into heat to reduce noise and vibration. Hi-Tek continues to make powder-filled
stabilizers, while we at New Archery Products manufacture ShockBlocker stabilizers that
incorporate both a rubber coupling and powder fill to handle high-frequency vibration and
advances in bow design have gone a long way to make bows that shoot quieter than older
bows even when loaded with noise-reduction hardware, Mizek said. What this
means to todays bow hunter is that while a stabilizer can certainly help reduce
vibration, its primary job should be to make the bow shoot more accurately.
proliferation of shorter axle-to-axle bows, the requirements for stabilizer length and
weight have changed as well. New Archery Products conducts ongoing surveys on its web site
to help determine trends in equipment use. One of the current questions posted concerns
stabilizers. By early summer 2003, 2,903 people had responded to a poll question that
asked how long their bow hunting stabilizers are. The results were: less than 4 inches, 6
percent; 4 inches, 15 percent; 5 inches, 14 percent; 6 inches, 26 percent; 7 inches, 13
percent; 8 inches, 11 percent; 9 inches, 3 percent; 10 inches, 6 percent; 11 inches, 2
percent; greater than 11 inches, 3 percent.
There are a
couple of simple ideas bow hunters can use to select a great stabilizer to help them shoot
more accurately, Mizek said. First, choose a stabilizer length that works best
with the geometry of the bows riser and
the axle-to-axle length of the bow itself. The idea here is to balance the bow in the
archers hand so the bow doesnt want to quickly tip forward or backward.
Generally speaking, deflex geometry bows tend to torque less while highly reflexed risers
tend to be a little more torquey. For most bow-hunting applications, I suggest
a 5- or 6-inch stabilizer for bows with deflexed or neutral geometry risers. Weve
found that 6- to 7-inch models seems to work better on bows having less than 7/8 inch of
reflex, and that 7 to 8 inch long models do well with bows having more than 7/8 inch of
reflex. Bows having more than 1 1/2 inches of reflex might benefit most from a stabilizer
greater than 10 inches in length.
has shown that modern active stabilizers with shock-absorbing fillers and/or
systems soak up vibration much better than old-style solid metal stabilizers, which really
offer little vibration-reducing qualities. Also, and this is a matter of physics, the laws
of inertia show that the heavier and longer a stabilizer is, the harder it is to
accelerate, and thus the better it is in helping stabilize a bow at the shot. (If you have
ever wondered why those stabilizers used by Olympic archers are so long, now you know.)
Again, however, for bow hunters the key is matching the stabilizer to the specific
characteristics of an individual bow design.
In addition to
filling stabilizers with high-tech fillers that absorb vibration, one of the latest trends
regarding stabilizers is mounting them onto some sort of rubber attachment point, so they
can freely move about in any direction at the shot. This allows the stabilizer to
counteract the recoil of the bow by moving in the opposite direction.
Which stabilizer to
use? Its a personal choice. I prefer stabilizers in the 4- to 6-inch range; some of
my friends, like Chuck Jones, dont use anything at all. I think hes nuts, but
then, I have seen him shoot and the animals he has killed. Its hard to argue with
If youre a
serious bow hunter and/or 3-D shooter, you know what feels good and works well on your own
bow under different conditions. Generally speaking, what you shoot more than likely
reflects local equipment choice trends, which are geared toward the type of bow hunting
you most often do. The same goes for length and weight. Most tree-standers who target
whitetails seem to prefer midlength stabilizers, while spot-and-stalkers out West more
often go with a bit shorter unit that is easier to maneuver through the brush without
getting hung up.