The History of Compound Bows for Hunting


When you think of bow hunting, do you see a medieval peasant lugging around a chunky wooden device? Wrong! Nowadays, most huntsmen use (and love) compound bows— the most innovative brainchild of modern archery.

But what is the history of compound bows? And how do you make sure you are choosing and using yours the right way?

Navigating the waters of innovative archery can be tricky, especially if you’re only starting out. Here, we’ll help you understand when and why the evolution of compounds bows began. You’ll also learn how, exactly, they work, as well as how to use them for hunting.

Read on to become the local expert on cutting-edge bow hunting!

What is a Compound Bow

Let’s start with the basics: what is a compound bow, exactly? It’s a bow made of synthetic materials typically fiberglass for the limbs and aluminum, magnesium, or carbon fiber for the central bit, the riser.

Unlike traditional bows, compounds have a system of pulleys and cables that bend the limbs, taking the strain away from the rest of the bow and from the archer themselves.  This means it’s easier to draw and aim accurately.

How do compound bows work? When you draw back the string, the connected cams (rounded parts at the end of the rigid limbs) rotate and effectively multiply the strength you put in. This means this kind of bow stores more energy than the traditional ones.

When the bow is fully drawn, it stops via a mechanism that takes off the brunt of the effort from you, allowing you to keep on aiming for a longer period of time. The released arrow is faster and more accurate than a traditional bow, while the recoil after shooting is a lot less marked.

Compound bows often have other useful gadgets, like specialized sights and laser pointers, optimizers, and arrow launchers.

The History of the Compound Bow

Who came up with the idea to chop off the ends of a recurve bow and install all these technological advancements instead?

The idea of a mechanical bow started, of course, with old-fashioned crossbows. But these, around since 700 BC China, are completely different from the conventional bow. Holless Wilbur Allen, a mechanical inventor and deer hunter from Missouri, experimented with varied bow designs until he hit the sweet compound spot. In 1966, he patented his revolutionary discovery.

Because of their innovative main characteristic— maximizing arrow power at the same draw length—, the manufacture and sales of compound bows (by Holless and Tom Jennings)  were successful from the start! Today, at least in the US, compound bows are a majority and an undisputed favorite among archers.

Why Use a Compound Bow for Hunting?

In particular, this ultra-modern, hi-tech bow became the favorite of most bow hunters. Its design gives it special advantages that make it an asset when you’re out stalking your prey. Holless himself said that, when developing this device, he only wanted to increase arrow speed in order to hit prey before it could move away.

Huntsmen love compound bows because it’s easier to shoot than a traditional one, while still providing the thrill of honing your technique and using an ancient sort of weapon.

Compound bows are fast— not only when shooting the arrow, but also when you’re loading it onto the device. This extra speed can be crucial in hunting situations. You will also avoid spooking your prey, as this bow minimizes string vibration and, thus, sound. An extra advantage: faster arrow speed means deeper penetration into the target, making for an easier, cleaner kill. It also reduces the chances of your shot being deflected by leaves and other obstacles.

As you already know, the mechanism of the compound bow reduces the force you have to use when at full draw. Because of this, you’re able to stay in position longer, waiting for the best possible shot at whatever you’re hunting.

Also, compound bows are customizable: you can add countless devices and gadgets to improve performance or, simply, to make the bow more comfortable for your own body, skills, and technique.

Now you know that a compound bow is one one of the best bows for hunting. It combines versatility, arrow speed and penetration, and practicality. The whole history of compound bows, from the very beginning, is devoted to hunting. You can’t go wrong choosing one of these!

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