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WHISPER Quiet.

I 'm a fanatic about bow noise. As far as I'm concerned, a bow that makes too much noise shouldn't be allowed in the woods. I'm convinced that bow noise is one of the most overlooked and least publicized reasons for missed shots and, worse, poorly hit animals, particularly whitetail deer.

I know that's a strong statement, but it must be said, because many people ignore bow noise. The quietness of a bow must be a top priority.

Recently I read an article about antelope hunting in which the author recommended the fastest bow possible (his own bow shot around 300 feet per second) because, he said, antelope jump the string so readily. Then I thought about the loud whang of the 300-fps bows some guys in elk camp had this year. It was horrid, and I can't imagine that any animal would not react violently to that noise. I know that ultra-fast bows are in vogue today, but I also know that many of them sound like the hood slamming on a '51 Pontiac when you shoot them. Personally, I think there's another and better choice than faster and faster arrows -- a slower bow that shoots quietly.

Until the speed of an arrow surpasses the speed of sound, the sound of a bow will always reach an animal before the arrow does. Thus, in my opinion, sound will always be more important than arrow speed.

Be it compound, recurve or longbow, a quiet shooting bow is far more likely to deliver your arrow to an undisturbed animal than is a noisy bow. And the more that animals are hunted, the more jittery they become and the more important bow silence becomes. Consider that most animals' hearing and reaction times are two, three, maybe four times faster than ours. Cautious animals at waterholes or wired whitetails that have smelled people sign daily for a week, are contained explosions waiting to go off. A noisy bow will set off the explosion instantly, and the results are usually bad.

But if your bow is really quiet, the first indication an animal will have that something is wrong will be your arrow striking home. In that case, shot placement is totally dependent on your shooting ability, with no concern for string-jumping (I hear people talk about "allowing" for an animal to dodge and jump). The arrow will be hitting a relaxed animal, which translates into good shot placement, maximum penetration and, usually, less panicked flight of the animal. In many instances, relaxed animals do not know they've been shot and simply continue walking or feeding. I can personally attest to getting second shots at animals that have not been spooked by my first shot. That is because I go to great lengths to make my bow as quiet as possible.

Compared to compounds, most traditional bows are quiet. But, more and more, I'm seeing traditionalists chasing the arrow speed demon, and bow noise almost always increases proportionately with arrow speed.

In traditional bows, a number of things cause bow noise, starting with design. Recurves normally are noisier than longbows because of the limb shape and the additional limb movement. Some of the newer longbows, which typically have longer risers and shorter reflex/deflex limbs, are similar to recurves in the noise department. Typically, self-bows are the quietest bows of all. Adding laminations and fiberglass increases limb speed, string tension -- and noise. The quietest laminated traditional bows are usually the Hill style longbows, which basically have straight limbs, occasionally with a little setback, and fairly short risers. There are some differences from bow to bow, and among manufacturers, but in general longbows shoot very quietly and don't need a lot of silencing.

Recurves, on the other hand, can run the gamut on noise. Some are fairly quiet, others are terribly noisy. Not only does more speed usually produce more noise, but the shape of the limb also seems to play a role. Some of the old bows from the '50s, '60s, and '70s were fairly quiet -- and most of them were slow compared to today's recurves -- although some were noisy. Years ago my friend Bob Pitt shot a recurve that was pretty fast for that time. We could be in opposite ends of the woods, and I'd hear his bow every time he shot. Whang! He never got any second shots.

Luckily, all recurves and longbows can be adjusted and modified to shoot reasonably quietly. Here are some pointers:

BOWSTRINGS: The newer bowstrings made of Kevlar, Fast Flight and other synthetics typically increase the noise level of any bow. In general that is because the string material stretches less and produces more tension than Dacron. You might compare it with wire -- lots of resonation. Also, because the material is lighter and stronger, strings can have fewer and lighter strands, which equates to faster but noisier. The noise increase is less in a longbow than in a recurve. If you take off your high-performance string and replace it with a Dacron string, you'll see an obvious noise reduction. The amount varies from one bow to another. If you want to stay with a high-performance string, increase the number of strands to reduce noise. I have a bow that shoots much better with a Fast Flight string (some do), so I put a 22-strand Fast Flight string on it. You can do the same with a Dacron string. The more strands, the quieter the bow.

BRACE HEIGHT: Brace height can be a major factor in bow noise. Usually, the higher the brace height, the quieter the bow, although that's not always true. Every bow is different. Experimentation is the best way to find what works best. Twist the string to shorten it, untwist it to lengthen it. One-eighth inch can make a significant difference with some bows. Regularly I find myself twisting my string up or down a turn or two, just because I think it's a bit loud. Experiment to find your best string length.

STRING SILENCERS: I always have string silencers of some sort on my bows. Regardless of how quiet my bow may be, string silencers will always make it a bit quieter. I have used puffs of yarn, which I buy from a fabric store, for many years, but many commercial string silencers work equally well. Move them up and down the string until you find the place where they have the most effect. I used to hunt with a guy who always put two sets of puff balls on his bow, which really quieted his bow.

BOWQUIVERS: Bowquivers can be real noise makers, and you may need to spend some time quieting the one you're using, especially if it has many parts or doesn't attach solidly to your bow. Look for one that is quiet without arrows in it. If it isn't quiet under those circumstances, it will be relatively noisy with arrows in it. Some quivers screw on, some slip over the limbs, some have rubber straps that wrap around the riser. Find one that works best on your bow. Sometimes feathers rustle together, or screw-in points rattle, but those are easily solved problems. To locate and eliminate noisemakers, have a friend watch and listen as you shoot a few arrows. It took me forever to figure out that the bleeder-blades on my broadheads were touching the side of the hood and creating noise, but that's the kind of nagging problem you must eliminate.

ARROW WEIGHT: Arrow weight can have a greater effect on bow noise than all the above points put together. Heavy arrows absorb more of a bow's energy than do light arrows, and that reduces vibration through the bow and, thus, the amount of noise. Increasing the overall physical weight of your arrows will dramatically silence your bow. So why doesn't everyone shoot 700 to 800-grain arrows? First off, it's not always easy to find arrows that heavy that will match your bow. Secondly, and probably the major reason, really heavy arrows are slow and have poor trajectory. Even though most animals are shot closer than 20 yards, fellas want to see flat trajectory out there at 40 yards. It is one of the oddities of bowhunters.

I recommend shooting about 10 grains of arrow weight for each pound of draw weight. For example, with a 50-pound bow, shoot a 500-grain arrow; with a 62-pound bow, a 620-grain arrow, and so forth. Ten grains per pound will usually turn down the volume dramatically. I consider 8 grains per pound of draw weight as the very minimum for me.

One last thing: We traditional shooters love our big feathers, and I'm worse than most. Even though you've gotten your bow so it shoots nice and quiet, if your feathers sound like a flaming torch flying through the air, you'd best look at cutting them down a bit. Stand downrange, safely behind a tree, and have someone shoot one of your arrows past you. If you can clearly hear it coming, you know animals can too.

Above all, remember that quiet bows are much more effective hunting weapons than are noisy, fast bows. Work on this all-important priority.
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Author:Asbell, G. Fred
Publication:Bowhunter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2000
Words:1529
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