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Are Stabilizers Really Important for Bowhunting?

Are Stabilizers Really Important for Bowhunting?
When roaming the West, many bowhunters prefer a front-and-back stabilizer mounted to an offset/sidearm bracket to boost balance, reduce pin float and ensure proper follow-through.

There’s a serious misconception about bow stabilizers. Thread a 6-inch stab into your rig, and you’re getting noise and vibration management but nothing in terms of bow stability and balance. That doesn’t make it wrong. I’ve shot a pile of whitetails with size-challenged stabilizers. They soak up noise and felt-in-the-hand vibration like a sponge and serve a purpose. A longer stabilizer, like a 14-incher, can improve balance and steady your hold but may restrict in-the-stand maneuverability.

When on the hunt for a stabilizer, you need to ask yourself this question: What is my overall goal and purpose with this device? If you spend your season 18 feet up and limit your shot distance to 40 yards, a smaller stabilizer will suit you. If you hunt the West where shots up to 60 yards are common and a stiff breeze always seems to be blowing, a front- and back-bar system on an adjustable sidearm will help with stability and balance.

Noise & Vibration

When it comes to close-range shots (inside 40 yards) and those that spend a lot of time in ground blinds and treestands, a stabilizer in the 6- to 8-inch range is ideal. Quality offerings from manufacturers like TRUGLO, Bee Stinger, Fuse and Mathews are hard to beat. Most are economical and sport a build that will kill noise and vibration via the dampening technologies found in each device. Many will also allow for weight customization with the addition of screw-on discs and the like. My advice: Test and tinker. If you play, you will find a weight that feels right to you. I prefer a heavier bow, thus I typically add multiple front stabilizer weights (typically 1-ounce weights).

Bowhunter adding weights to stabilizer
Being able to add and subtract weight from a stabilizer is paramount to achieving proper feel while at full draw.

Stability

The main purpose of a stabilizer is to stabilize the bow when the archer is at anchor and after the shot breaks. A longer stabilizer is needed for this.


Why do you think tight-rope walkers carry a long pole? Balance – they don’t want to fall. The more mass you have and the further it is from you, the harder it is to move. That’s why the tightrope walker uses a long pole, and that’s why target archers use long stabilizers with the weight way out at the end.


When it comes to bow stabilization, longer is better, and often, so is heavier. A longer device protruding from the bow makes it more difficult for the shooter to torque the bow hand at the shot and reduces left and right pin float. In addition, the added weight of the stabilizer on the bow’s lower half steadies the bow in the hand and aids greatly in follow-through.

If you’re looking for a rig that will boost your downrange accuracy, those in the 10-inch and over category with weight customization are worth a look. Just how much will it boost your accuracy? You will have to try and see, but when I made the switch and started shooting a 12-inch Fuse many years back, my 60-yard groups shrunk from pie-plate to softball-sized. I instantly noticed I could hold steadier, which eased some of the shooting anxiety I was experiencing at the time. Because I could hold steadier, my confidence was boosted and I wanted to spend more time sending carbon downrange.

More

As with all bow accessories, manufactures have been relentless in their development. Those wanting more customization as it applies to weight, length and the offsetting of bow-mounted accessories like the sight and quiver should consider a counter-slide side-mounted stabilizer. This type of stabilizer, via a mounting bracket, allows the user to slide the it back and forth to distribute weight and length to the front and back half of the bow. In addition, the bracket mounts the stabilizer off to the side of the bow, which offsets sight and quiver weight. Bee Stinger’s MicroHex Counter Slide is a favorite.

Bow with counter-slide stabilizer hanging on target
A stabilizer like Bee Stinger’s MicroHex Counter Slide allows the archer to move the stabilizer back and forth through the bracket until ideal front-and-back length is found. The bracket can also be angled, and 1-ounce weights can be added to both the front and back of the stabilizer.

Another option, especially for those seeking maximum customization, is an offset/sidearm bracket that holds a front stabilizer and a back stabilizer and is adjustable both horizontally and vertically. Manufacturers make offset/sidearm brackets that allow you to add your choice of front and back stabilizer. The weight of each stabilizer can then be adjusted to achieve the perfect system.




My Setup

I hunt lots of different species in various terrain. The system that serves me the best is an offset bracket that holds a 10-inch Bee Stinger MicroHex in front and an 8-inch MiroHex in back. The weight of each stabilizer has been customized to my liking as has the angle of the back stabilizer.

Jace Bauserman with pronghorn and western stabilizer setup
When shots tend to be a little longer and the wind always seems to be blowing, the author prefers an offset/sidearm bracket with a front-and-back stabilizer.

If you go the side-bar or offset route, you need to play. Some will find they want more weight in the back end rather than the front, while other archers will prefer just the opposite. When it comes to positioning the angle of the back stabilizer when using an offset mount, some like it closer to the lower part of the riser and lower cam, while others prefer it to be angled away. If you don’t test and tinker, you’re robbing yourself of accuracy you’ve only dreamed about.

Take a minute and really think. Are you happy with your current stabilizer setup? Is it serving the purpose you need it to? If you can answer “yes” to both questions, you’re good to go. If not, you need to further your research, make a purchase or two and find the right stabilizer or stabilizer system that will meet your needs.


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