By Darron McDougal
The young doe was feeding broadside and unaware of my presence 39 yards away from the tip of my sharp broadhead. At the time, my 60-pound Hoyt HavocTec drew buttery smooth, and I was practically tasting grilled steak as I settled my 40-yard pin low on her chest. I executed a great shot.
As if rocketed from a canon, the doe was already running away when my arrow drove harmlessly into dirt directly beyond where her lungs were when I shot. She’d been so calm and seemed so intent on feeding that I found her explosive reaction quite bewildering.
Some would say a faster bow could’ve compensated for her reaction, but it’s simply not true. She didn’t merely duck my arrow. She was flat out gone when it arrived. Even a 70-pound bow would’ve yielded a complete miss, or perhaps the arrow would’ve struck her marginally.
Some bowhunters prioritize speed over silence. Yes, speed delivers the arrow quicker, but the additional 10-20 fps above a flagship bow will rarely make the difference. That’s why, regardless of speed, I take multiple steps to make my bows as quiet as possible.
Add String Silencers
Bowstring/cable silencers come in various forms — bats, leeches, whiskers, butterflies, etc. Most are made from rubber, which absorbs vibrations during the shot and after the arrow leaves the bowstring. Without them, your bowstring differs little from guitar string, except that it’s under even greater tension and prone to create an obnoxious, out-of-tune twang that can alert deer and other big game to your coming arrow.
I’ve used many types of string silencers over the last 17 years, but the one I go back to again and again is the LimbSaver String Leech. It installs in the string and requires a bow press in order to relieve the bowstring’s tension and part the strands for installation. It’s a fast and inexpensive trip to the bow shop that will certainly make your bow quieter.
Check for Loose Screws/Bolts
Every bow vibrates to some extent, even when decked out with all sorts of dampening products. Thus, accessory screws and bolts can loosen over time and with use. Not only can this cause accessories to malfunction, but it can create rattling and buzzing, too.
I periodically check all screws and bolts to ensure each is properly tightened. I want to know if anything has loosened and tighten it before I go hunting. This is a step anyone with appropriate tools (usually just a set of hex wrenches) can perform at home for free, and it can reduce noise and prevent screw/bolt-related accessory malfunctions.
Shoot Heavier Arrows
Obviously, heavier arrows will slow down your bow’s velocity. How could this be a positive thing? Wouldn’t it be better to milk out as much speed as possible by shooting the lightest approved arrows for your bow setup? I don’t believe so.
Heavier arrows not only maintain downrange energy, but they reduce bow vibrations by carrying more of the energy the bow transfers to it during the shot. This reduces the bow’s felt and audible vibrations.
Add Limb Dampeners
When you draw your bow, the limb tips flex toward one another. At the shot, they catapult back to their original positions, but due to the amount of energy they transfer, they also do a lot of flexing and vibrating before coming to rest. This is visible with high-fps (frames per second) slow-motion cameras, but not to the naked eye.
Anything rubber added to the limbs thwarts the audible and felt vibrations. Everything from BowJax to LimbSavers will help. Most bows come with these or equivalents when new, but if your bow isn’t outfitted with limb dampeners, I highly suggest you purchase a pair. They will reduce noise and vibrations.
Install a Stabilizer
Stabilizers vary from mere weighted rods to all-rubber construction. The all-metal variations are solely for balance, where any that have gel or rubber will absorb shock, therefore reducing decibels and hand shock. Balance, I’ll argue, is more important than noise, but if your bow has noise you think can be tamed, I’d advocate for making a compromise. Find a stabilizer with a lengthy metal or carbon main rod that also has some rubber features.
Add Rest-Silencing Materials
Arrow-on-rest contact creates friction and noise, so applying silencing material to the rest’s launcher (not applicable to whisker-style rests) is a crucial measure to remaining undetected when drawing back on game. I can’t count how many hunting episodes I’ve watched where the hunter’s arrow created loud noises as it slid across the metal launcher.
The best way to identify this is to draw your bow in the woods on a dead-calm day. If you can hear the arrow sliding across the rest, deer will hear it, too. Don’t risk alerting deer to your presence due to something that is totally preventable.
Arrow-rest silencing materials vary. My brother uses pieces of leather superglued to his two-prong launcher. Some use shrink tube or adhesive-backed felt. Whatever you choose, it must stick to the launcher and stay there, regardless of weather, moisture, etc. Second, it must silence arrow contact so you cannot hear it on even the quietest days. If you find that one material doesn’t eliminate the noise, try another.
Some game animals are just plain high-strung. So much so that they will duck a perfectly-executed shot from a quiet bow like the doe I mentioned in my opening anecdote. However, the quieter you make your bow, the more likely your arrow will arrive before the critter reacts. In most instances, this means that your well-executed shot will hit home, not wound the animal or fly over its back.