Target Bows vs Hunting Bows – Which One Should You Use?

Though seemingly alike, target bows and hunting bows present some differences. Each bow type incorporates distinct accessories and features that make them fit for their intended use. The foremost consideration in archery is your primary goal – either target shooting or hunting. For beginners, it’s important to align your bow selection with your intended use.

Each bow type is adaptable and can serve in either situation. None is technically superior in terms of accuracy, but each suits different contexts better. As your skills advance, the superior precision of target bows may become evident. In the lines below, we’ll explain why one might choose one bow over the other.

The Benefits and Uses of a Target Compound Bow

Target compound bows, as their name implies, are crafted for target shooting, be it competitive or casual. If hunting isn’t on your agenda, target bows offer an excellent setup for beginners, being engineered to maximize accuracy. Even with less than perfect form, certain elements of target bows aid in enhancing accuracy.

Features and Uses of a Hunting Compound Bow

Accuracy is crucial for hunters too, but hunting compound bows strike a balance between accuracy, ease of use, and stealth. Utility is the priority in hunting bow designs. While a hunting bow can technically match the accuracy of a target bow, achieving this might require a highly skilled archer.

Unfolding the Physical Differences Between Target Bows and Hunting Bows

The differences between these two types of compound bows are summarized below. It’s important to note that the distinctions are rather nuanced. You might set out to purchase a target bow, but inadvertently end up with a hunting bow without even noticing it.

Dimensions

The bow’s size marks the most visible distinction. Typically, hunting compound bows are compact, with an axle-to-axle length of about 28 to 34 inches. On the other hand, target bows usually have an axle-to-axle length ranging from 38 to 40 inches.

Important Notes to Take into Account

  • Longer bows are more “forgiving”; that is, they can compensate for errors in an archer’s form, making them ideal for target archers who prioritize precision. Shorter bows, while slightly less forgiving, are easier to handle, particularly in outdoor environments laden with brush and obstacles—making them a better choice for hunters.
  • While it might seem like hunters would also require high precision, the area hunters need to hit is generally larger than that of a target shooter. Other hunting bow features—such as speed and let-off, to be discussed shortly, compensate for the minor reduction in accuracy.

Brace Height

Brace height, the distance from the bowstring to the grip’s belly, correlates with the bow’s length. Target compound bows usually have longer brace heights (around 7 or 8 inches), making them slower but more forgiving. In contrast, hunting compounds often have shorter brace heights (roughly 5 to 6 inches), boosting their speed but making them slightly less forgiving.

Arrow Speed

Speed isn’t the top concern for target archers who are mainly concerned with accuracy. On the other hand, hunters need speedy arrows to hit fast-moving prey before it bolts at the sound of the release. Hence, target bows typically have lower draw weights and slower arrows, while hunting bows have higher draw weights and faster arrows.

Speed is also crucial for hunters to ensure their arrows penetrate their prey. The measure used to gauge an arrow’s penetration capacity is kinetic energy, which is essentially the energy an object has due to its motion. Therefore, hunting bows usually have a shorter brace height to boost arrow speed.

Structure

Target compound bows typically have a straighter riser than hunting bows, increasing the bow’s length. A longer bow with a longer brace height is generally more forgiving. Additionally, at full draw, the string angle on a large bow is less steep than that on a small bow. This open angle on a target compound bow eases the release of the bowstring and is more finger-friendly.

Let-Off

Let-off refers to how much easier it is to hold the bowstring back when the compound bow is at full draw. This feature greatly benefits hunters who may have to aim for a while as they track a moving animal.

Hunting bows usually have a let-off ranging from 75% to 90%. Target archers shooting at stationary targets don’t need as much time to aim. Thus, let-off is less critical, with a common range of 60% to 75% on target bows.

Stabilizers

A stabilizer is a long rod that archers attach to the bow’s back to provide stability. Stabilizers are found on both target and hunting bows.

Target bows generally have longer stabilizers ranging from 10 to 30 inches or more. Due to the difficulty of navigating the wilderness with long stabilizers, hunting bows usually have stabilizers ranging from 4 to 10 inches.

Colors

Though not a rigid rule, target bows are often manufactured in vibrant colors like red, blue, yellow, neon, etc. In contrast, guided by the imperative of stealth, hunting bows typically come in black or camouflage to blend in with nature.