As I mentioned in Part I of this two-part series, my rough and tumble assignment at the Archery Trade Association (ATA) trade show in Columbus earlier this month was to shoot new compound bows from virtually all the major manufacturers, then choose the best bow from each and give you a brief overview. I know, I know—a brutal job, but somebody has to do it! I have listed the manufacturers alphabetically, not necessarily in the order in which I personally liked one bow over another. Here’s the rest of my best compound bows for 2012.
Hoyt Carbon Element RTK: I love Hoyt hunting bows, and for the past three years I have bowhunted pretty much exclusively with the company’s Carbon Element line of high-end bows. The 2012 version—the Carbon Element RKT—ups the ante by incorporating the new Rocket (hence the RKT name) Cam, a totally new Cam that is the company’s fastest, smoothest version yet. Also upgraded this year is an improved Roller Guard and new Pro Lock X-Lite limb pocket system. The bow weighs just 3.6 pounds, has a 6 ¾-inch brace height, is 32 inches axle-to-axle, has draw weights of 50 to 80 pounds, a draw length range of 24 ½ to 30 inches and IBO speed rating of 330 fps. Another cool feature is the Silent Shelf, which pads the riser shelf to eliminate any noise from drop-away rests or carelessly bumped shaft, and an offset stabilizer bushing that helps counterbalance bow sights and bow quivers. This is one outstanding hunting bow. MSRP: $1,399
Limbsaver Proton: Best known for its superb vibration-dampening products, Limbsaver also builds some fine hunting bows. This year’s 32 ½-inch Proton is one example. It features a super reflexed riser—which helps make it very shootable—and a new load-leveling H.E.A.T. cam system that moves the cable string track to the other side of the cam, which pretty much eliminates cam lean and torque. A new seven-position Posi-Lock limb poundage adjustment allows you to adjust the poundage by simply turning the fulcrums to one of the seven positions using the provided wrench—a great system and one that also allows for draw poundage adjustment without affecting bow-tuning parameters, which means you can adjust the bow in the field and it will remain in tune. The Proton has a 7-inch brace height, weighs in at 3.8 pounds and has an IBO speed rating of 330 fps. And as you might expect from a company that specializes in noise reduction, vibration and noise are essentially nonexistent. MSRP: $899
Martin Archery Bengal Pro: Gale Martin was one of archery’s true pioneers, and Martin Archery continues that tradition today with high-quality, reasonably priced hunting bows like this year’s 31-inch Bengal Pro. The bow has Four Vortex Vibration VEMs in the riser, giving it a “can’t miss” look, as well as 7-inch brace height, a new Fury XT single cam that can be adjusted from 24 to 30 ½-inches and an integrated adjustable draw stop that makes fine-tuning draw length easy. It weighs in at 3.8 pounds, has an 80 percent let-off and an IBO speed rating of 330 fps. It has the company’s Quik-Lock stabilizer mount, Roto Cup Pivoting Limb System and Silent Hunter Arrow Shelf. I found this bow easy to shoot and very quiet. MSRP: $449
Mathews Heli-M: Though the company does not exhibit at the ATA show, no report like this would be complete without featuring Mathews Archery. Mathews’ 2012 flagship bow is the Heli-M, a takeoff on “helium” to emphasize the bow’s light, 3.5 pound overall mass weight. Weight was shaved off partially by using the new Geo Grid Lock Riser, which features squares that follow the riser’s contours. Also lighter are the bow’s Harmonic Dampers and new Reverse Assist Roller Guard. The bow has an axle-to-axle length of 30 inches, draw weights between 40 and 70 pounds, 80 percent let-off (65 percent module also available), 7-inch brace height and shoots like a dream. MSRP: $959
Mission Archery Riot: 2011’s Mission Archery 28-inch long Craze was the first-ever hunting compound (albeit for the youth market) that offered a draw length adjustment between 19 and 30 inches and draw weight adjustment from 15 to 70 pounds without changing limbs on cams or a bow press. I am not making that up. For 2012, the Riot does the same thing for adult hunters. It is 31 inches axle-to-axle, weighs 4.3 pounds, has a 7-inch brace height, 80 percent let-off and can reach IBO speeds of 310 fps. It also has a Zebra Hybrid bowstring and Dead End string stop for quiet shooting. I have shot one, and this thing is no gimmick. MSRP: $399
PSE Dream Season EVO 7:Pete Shepley is one of the archery industry’s great innovators and has never been shy about touting fast compounds, and with an IBO rating of 345 fps, this bow is fast. When I shot one, though, it was the smoothness that grabbed my attention. The bow is 32 ¼ inches axle-to-axle, has a 6-inch brace height and 75 percent let-off while weighing in at 4.4 pounds. It has peak draw weights of 50, 60 and 70 pounds, and its improved EVO Hybrid cam profile seems almost noiseless without excess vibration. Draw length adjustments can be made from 26 to 31 inches. Other highlights include Planar Flex riser, pre-loaded X-Tech split limbs, Centerlock Limb Pockets, a B.E.S.T. Raptor Grip and all sorts of noise and vibration dampening add-ons. It’s one hot hunting bow. MSRP: $849.99
Strother Archery Wrath: In its second year Strother Archery is rapidly making a name for itself as the maker of bows designed for bowhunters—pure and simple. The Wrath is built around the company’s new Badger Cam, which helps it achieve an IBO speed rating of 330 fps—an impressive number when you consider this bow has a shooter-friendly 8-inch brace height and 80 percent let-off. The bow is 32 inches axle-to-axle, weighs 4 pounds, has a draw length range of 27 to 31 inches and draw weight upper limits of 50, 60, 65, 70 and 80 pounds. It also has a riser-mounted string suppressor, a set of No-Gloves on the bowstring and low-friction cable guard. This bow fits the hand nicely and shoots very well. MSRP: $839