September 06, 2022
Truth be told, you cannot completely silence your bow.
Unless the wind is blowing violently, or thunder is crashing around you, any deer within bow range will hear you shoot — even if you are shooting a recurve bow with fingers.
However, the volume of sound your bow produces, the distance you are from the deer, and the quality of that sound (think metallic clang versus 'whoomph’) all make a significant difference in determining whether the deer will react instantly and violently.
If you don’t believe this, try an experiment. Sneak up behind an unsuspecting person and while standing directly behind them, clap your hands loudly just in back of their head and watch their reaction. Most likely, they will have an instant physical reaction. Now, do the same thing, but stand 20 yards behind the person. In all likelihood, they will casually turn around to see who clapped.
The same phenomenon happens with deer. If a noise is close and loud, they will react much more violently than if the noise is quiet and far away.
As I’ve noted, the quality of the sound also matters. There are no natural metallic sounds in nature, so these types of noises are much more likely to put a deer into overdrive than a thumping sound of equal volume. Hence, you must eliminate any metallic clanks, dings, rattles or buzzes.
Keeping these thoughts in mind, let’s go over how to minimize the volume of noise your bow produces.
The fastest and easiest way to quiet a bow significantly is to shoot a heavier arrow. In fact, there is no single other thing you can do to your bow that will silence it as quickly or as well as increasing your arrow weight.
A heavier arrow makes a bow more efficient. This means a higher percentage of a bow’s stored energy is transferred to a heavy arrow as compared to a light arrow. Energy that is not transferred to the arrow is dissipated as vibration, and vibration causes noise. So, the heavier the arrow, the less vibration. And the less vibration, the less noise.
Heavy arrows will benefit your setup in many other ways. For example, a heavy arrow tends to be stiffer, which helps it penetrate better and group tighter with broadheads. Heavy, stiff arrows also make the bow more forgiving and tend to buck the wind better. In addition, they are less likely to bend or break.
The second-best thing you can do to reduce the volume of noise produced during the shot is to remove your quiver. I tried for years to minimize the noise produced by a quiver full of broadhead-tipped arrows and was never very successful. There’s just way too much stuff hanging out there and none of it is bolted down. So, I gave up and began removing my quiver from the bow before the shot whenever possible.
I now use a detachable quiver that can be removed quickly from the bow and attached it to my belt. If you decide to remove your quiver for the shot, it's important to know how this will change the impact point of your arrows. With my bow, removing the quiver changes the impact point about an inch or two for every 20 yards. So, for example, when I’m shooting at 60 yards, I have to aim off 3-6 inches.
Silencers & Dampeners
I use aftermarket silencing devices (string leeches) on the bowstring and cables, and I double up on the inter-limb vibration-dampening devices (split-limb bows). If I don’t plan on hiking great distances during the hunt, I use a vibration-dampening stabilizer as well.
Some string stops are incredibly loud. Shoot your bow with and without the string stop installed and evaluate the difference in the sounds. It will not damage your bow to shoot it without the string stop; if you determine it’s making too much noise, replace it with an aftermarket model specifically designed for stealth.
It is also important to make sure your string stop is in proper position. Most bow manufacturers suggest the bowstring just touch the rubber pad or be one credit card’s width away when the bow is resting at brace height.
It is crucial you keep all your bow accessories and bolts tight. Any loose bolt will create a unique metallic buzzing sound. I use non-permanent Loctite on all bolts that aren’t used for routine adjustments, and I routinely tighten all bolts, especially right before a hunt.
I use a release aid that is quiet when triggered. Some release-aid mechanisms are very noisy; for example, the hook may slam back against a steel backing, creating a loud metallic sound. These devices are seldom considered when most hunters are attempting to quiet their equipment, because the relatively small amount of noise is drowned-out by the sound of the bow. That said, they do contribute significantly to the overall noise produced at the shot.
The amount of noise produced by different models of release aids varies tremendously. Some are noisy when fired, and others still are noisy when cocked. I like to compare several before I choose the right one to use; I usually opt for something such as the Carter Whisper, which is a handheld release aid specifically designed with stealth in mind.
If your release aid’s mechanism smacks metal on metal when fired, you can try to place a soft substance such as moleskin where the two metal parts collide. However, this is impossible on some models.
If you can hear a bothersome noise in your setup and can’t quite pinpoint it, pull the string back an inch or two and let it go. By plucking the string over and over with your ear close to the bow, you’ll be able to identify the source.
Last, bows with carbon risers are better at dampening vibration than traditional aluminum bows and, therefore, are quieter during the shot. They also tend to be less noisy if they bump up against a rock or a treestand.
We’ll continue this topic in my next column, so check back next month! Click here to read "Part 1" of this series on string jumping, or here to read "Part 2."