Adding stabilizers to your set-up can help you shoot more consistently, but there are many misconceptions that prevent people from utilizing them.
It will get in the way… Too much on my bow… It’s too heavy… Keep it simple.
Those are just some of the statements that come up when someone looks at my bowhunting setup. I’ve been running long front bars and back bars for over 10 years on my hunting bow with great success. I believe if you feel it will help make that one shot count, then by all means, use it to your advantage.
How does more weight lead to better shooting?
Typically the number one use for a “stabilizer” in the realm of hunting has been noise and vibration dampening. While the Flatline™ stabilizer does help in those areas, I do not exclusively think of them in that way. To me, they are an important part of my bowhunting arsenal and are actually used to fine tune my bow.
Do you ever notice that once you get to full draw, it takes a while for your bow to get settled and for the bubble level to even out? That slight amount of time could be the breaking point when that moment of truth happens this fall.
Stabilizers and a back bar will help make your sight settle faster, which then gives you more time to focus on aiming and pulling through your shot process. That time you gain could be the difference in releasing a perfect arrow or having to pass up a shot due to settling at full draw taking too much time and the animal moving to where you don’t have a shot.
What we are trying to accomplish here is bow balance at full draw. Having a bow balance perfectly in the static position and full draw position are two totally different things. We are only concerned with full draw balance. We want that bow to settle fast and that pin to naturally float in a controlled motion.
Front stabilizers are meant to give your bow resistance to movement (a tighter hold) while you are at full draw. The longer the stabilizer is out front, the increased effects of that resistance you will see to some extent.
Rear Bars and V-Bar Brackets
Rear back bars, V-bars, etc. really shine when it comes to the right and left balance of the bow. Back bars and the angle they are placed will help resist your bow from leaning one way at full draw, and can help you with a tighter hold.
I like to think of a front and back bar setup similar to the alignment in your truck. If your truck is out of align, you’re going to fight trying to keep your truck pointed straight down the road. The stabilizer is the alignment of your bow that keeps everything pointed straight ahead at your intended target. If your bow isn’t in the correct alignment… then your sight picture might lean to the right or left and even up and down.
Why use a back bar for bowhunting?
A back bar has many benefits for a bowhunter. When you build your bowhunting setup and start tossing on accessories, you’ll quickly notice that everything mounts on one side of the bow. If you’re a right-handed shooter, your rest, sight and quiver full of arrows all mount to the right side of the bow.
What these items are doing, is stacking weight on one side of your bow. So at full draw, you’ll now have to fight your bow’s natural tendency to lean to one side. You can feel this effect at static, (bow at rest) but especially at full draw. Fighting this lean from the accessory side of the bow adds to slight muscle fatigue while shooting since you will always be struggling to counteract this lean at full draw.
Having a well balanced bow will lead to an increased confidence during that moment of truth due to the ability to hold steadier.
How do you select your stabilizer length?
For the most part, the length of a stabilizer is all personal preference. But certain considerations should come into play. If you routinely hunt from a ground blind, then a shorter front stabilizer will benefit you the most. The same could be said for the treestand hunter if you hunt from a stand that has limbs that could get in the way.
On the other hand, there are western bowhunters. For the most part, stabilizer length for a western hunter isn’t as critical and you can just shoot the length that helps you shoot the best groups (within reason on length of course). The extra length will help stabilize your bow, and in turn, tighten your groups.
How do you decide how much weight and the angle of back bar?
The simple answer to this question is by feel through trial and error. The long answer is going to require some testing out on a target face and keeping track of your score through a round of arrows, then moving the offset of the bar or adding/subtracting weights and trying it again.
Setting up your back bar
The quick and dirty method to set your back bar and is pretty simple and is my preferred way of setting my back bar. First, mount the v-bar bracket and position the rear bar as close to the string as possible and slightly aimed downward. This starting position is a great way to feel things out, and a little movement goes a long ways on a back bar.
Next, draw your bow back and settle into your anchor points with your eyes closed. Open your eyes and take a look at your bubble. If the bubble is left, move the bar left and if your bubble is right, move the bar to the right. Always chase the bubble with your back bar. This is really when the click marks on the new Mathews v-bar bracket really shines. Take your time through this step and shoot several arrows to check how it feels.
If your sight picture at full draw is pulled down, this is when I’d adjust the weight or height of the back bar. A combination of the two is a great bet at this stage. At full draw, if you find yourself holding slightly low, you can add weight and lower the back bar to bring up your sight picture. Lowering the back bar has the same general impact as adding weight. So you don’t really need to go crazy with weight since we are talking about a hunting bow. Another things to keep in mind is that the longer the stabilizer, the less weight that will be required. Keep in mind that the weight you add to your back bar, helps the bow stand up straighter.
Throughout the entire process and for weeks after you settle on a back bar position, you should every now and then take note of your sight pattern while aiming. The best way I do this is by coming to full draw on a 3D target. (I choose a 3D target because aiming at an animal is something I am more comfortable). If you have a lot of float, it might be time to do some additional tinkering. In the end, the way your bow feels at full draw and the amount of movement you have in your sight picture while you aim at a target is going to be the ultimate determining factor to any stabilizer setup changes.
Weighing the benefits
- Quicker to level at full draw
- Steadier hold
- Tighter float pattern
- Fine tune how your bow holds and shoots
- Adding a slight amount of weight
- Long front bar can get in the way in a ground blind
The bottom line
When it comes down to it, you’d be surprised how much better your sight picture can float in a small steady pattern once you get your bow balanced nailed down. They only way to know if you’d shoot better with a stabilizer and back bar setup is to get out and experiment. Best of luck this season!