By popular demand, today’s article is the best deer hunting bows. There are a lot of options out there. Some are fantastic—but others fall short of the mark.
We’ll start with a quick “buying guide” of features you’ll want to keep in mind when selecting a bow, then we’ll jump into our reviews that inspect a range of bows for hunters of all skill levels. We’ll finish off with what we consider to be the best-performing deer hunting bow overall.
Deer Hunting Bows: Quick Picks
Here’s a quick list of the bows we’ll discuss:
TIDEWE Compound Bow: Thanks to its adjustable draw weight and high let-off, it’s a good choice for beginners and experts alike.
PSE Archery Mini Burner RTS Compound Bow Package: We suggest this model for youth who need a smaller bow but still want enough power to hunt with once they learn the ropes.
Diamond Archery Edge 320: With blistering arrow speeds and a quiet shot, this compound bow is a good way to take down that elusive trophy buck.
Bear Archery Cruzer G2: One of our longtime favorites, this Bear model’s lightweight design and adjustable draw weight makes it hard to beat.
Diamond by Bowtech Deploy SB R.A.K.: Our new all-around favorite, this bow has incredible power while still being lightweight and consistent.
How to Select the Right Deer Hunting Bow for You
If you’re new to bowhunting, here are the factors you’ll want to consider when selecting a bow for deer hunting. We’ll start with the first—and perhaps most important—question:
Choose Your Bow: Recurve vs. Compound
This is your first decision when you’re selecting a bow to hunt deer with: do you want a recurve bow or a compound bow?
Generally speaking, more hunters use compound bows to hunt game, and that’s probably a good thing: they’re easier to draw, easier to aim, and they’re usually a lot more powerful than recurve bows. As a result, you can take accurate lethal shots at longer distances and with less practice beforehand. For all these reasons, if you’re new to hunting and looking for a bow, we’d suggest you start with a compound bow.
If you are going to choose a recurve, though, you’ll have fewer features to consider—recurve bows are far simpler than compound bows, and if you have a well-made, quality bow, the main feature you need to think about are the draw weight, partly because in most states, you’ll need a bow with a draw weight of 40 pounds or more hunt game like whitetail deer. You may also consider a bow sight, though many recurve hunters forgo this accessory altogether since they prefer a more bowhunting experience anyway.
A high quality bow with a draw weight of 40 pounds or more and a bow sight (or not!) is all you need to hunt deer with a recurve—but again, if you’re just starting out, we’d urge you to use a compound bow to hunt because they’re easier for new hunters to use, and you’re more likely to put down an animal rather than just wounding it, which is more ethical.
Bottom Line: If you’re new to bowhunting deer, it’s usually better to go with a compound bow, rather than a recurve bow.
For those opting to use a compound bow to hunt deer, here are the features you need to consider:
Sound Quality (The Less, the Better)
Deer are light and agile on their feet, and if they hear a sound they don’t like, they bound away instantly. That’s true for mule deer out west, but it’s especially true for whitetail deer out east.
The first time you see it, you’ll be amazed—aside from being quick, they have excellent hearing.
Consequently, the amount of sound that your bow makes is important. Luckily, this is one of those features that manufacturers have really worked on over the last decade or two—probably because deer hunters kept telling them, “THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO IS MAKE A QUIET BOW”—and we’re happy to announce that all of the bows we review in this post are quiet enough for hunting deer.
Keep in mind that no bow is totally soundless, and there will always be some noise when you release your bowstring and let an arrow fly. That said, the only time your bow may make a loud “twang” or “thwack” sound is if it is improperly tuned (and your local archery shop or range can help you with that), or if there’s a problem with your draw. One good work-around is a string silencer, which can gobble up a lot of the vibration from your string and dramatically quiet things down. We like Limbsaver Dampeners.
Bottom Line: Bows are a lot quieter than they used to be, but higher-end bows are usually quietest; if you’re having noise problems, a sound dampener may do the trick.
Important: Feet per Second (FPS)
Over the last decade or so, you might have noticed that all of the big bow manufacturers have been knocking themselves out to make faster bows. There are a couple main reasons for that.
First, due to physics, for the same arrow weight, a faster arrow speed equates to more kinetic energy on impact. This makes your shots more lethal and more capable of punching through tough tissue like cartilage and even bone.
More importantly, faster arrows mean more accuracy. That’s because they can travel farther for a given amount of drop, so over a fixed distance, say 20 yards, their trajectory will be straighter. That makes it easier to aim, and it increases your accurate range so you have more opportunities when hunting.
Most compound bows have a range of arrow speed from 270 fps on the lower side to about 330 fps on the higher side. You might imagine the arrow speed is vitally important, but it’s not the end-all feature to consider.
For example, if you’re hunting from a tree stand at short range, less than 20 yards, an increase in arrow speed is going to provide a marginal improvement in accuracy. Nonetheless, many hunters sacrifice other important features just to get higher arrow speed.
Arrow speed is more important when hunting long distances since it increases accuracy over a longer range. For this reason, still hunters hunting elk out west may find arrow speed to be their primary concern, but casual whitetail hunters should balance it with other aspects of bowhunting.
Bottom Line: Arrow speed measured in fps is important, especially if you’re hunting over long distances. Nevertheless, you should not prioritize it over other important features.
A Crucial Tool: The Bow Sight
We mentioned traditional archers above, those who shoot game without the use of bow sight. That’s an incredible ability, and it’s important to remember it’s a SKILL. It takes years of practice to aim at a target with the naked eye and hit it. For the rest of us, particularly beginners, that’s where bow sights come in.
Most compounds come with a basic bow sight included, and for the most part, a basic bow sight will do you just fine. As long as it has three pins, you should be able to adjust it to aim at targets up to about 40 yards away, and most hunters seem to set their three-pin bow sights at 20 yards, 30 yards and 40 yards. That’s especially true on the east coast where deer hunting is done in dense forest, so things are a little more “up close and personal.”
If, however, you’re going to be aiming at targets more than 40 yards away—and that happens frequently in the broader expanses of land in the western United States—then it can make sense to get a five-pin bow sight, and set your pins at 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 yards. Remember, though, if you’re shooting at a deer 30 yards away or farther, you want to be very confident in your abilities. There’s a lot that can go wrong aiming at a target that far away, and it’s not ethical to take a shot at that distance if you’re not sure you’re going to hit it.
Bottom Line: A good bow sight is important, and for close-range hunting, a 3-pin sight is usually fine. For longer-range shooting, a 5-pin sight is usually a better idea. Also, remember—if you find a bow you really like but don’t like the bow sight, you can usually replace it with one that you like more.
Axle-to-Axle Length: Not as Important as It Used to Be
For the longest time, bow manufacturers insisted that if you wanted to go hunting, you wanted a shorter bow—one that had a small axle-to-axle measurement. The thinking made sense: bows with shorter axle-to-axle lengths usually shoot faster arrows, and they’re easier to lug through the woods during a hunt, a huge benefit if you’re still hunting and doing a fair amount of walking.
The trade-off, though, is that bows with a shorter axle-to-axle length aren’t as accurate as longer bows. That’s why target archers in competitions tend to have super long bows—they’re easier to hold in a single position, and they can prove to be a little more accurate.
All that said, in our humble opinion, the length of the bow isn’t the most important thing in the world, and if you’re fairly new to bowhunting deer, it might make sense to get a slightly longer bow because it can provide some added stability and aim. If you’re a pro and your marksmanship is on point, a shorter bow with a shorter axle-to-axle length can be a good choice because it can offer a lot of speed.
Bottom Line: If you’re an inexperienced archer, a shorter axle-to-axle length may be challenging and a mid-length bow can be a good bet. If you’re an experienced archer, a shorter bow can provide some extra speed.
Rest: Biscuit vs. Drop-Away
Some bowhunters swear that drop-away arrow rests are the be-all end-all whereas plenty of other bowhunters say a regular old whisker biscuit performs just fine. That’s our experience, too. A drop-away arrow rest offers a little more accuracy because it allows the arrow to be shot without any interference whatsoever, but the truth is, we’ve had no problem maintaining accuracy using a whisker biscuit.
The one verifiable difference is that a whisker biscuit offers better containment for an arrow, so if you let off arrows from all sorts of weird angles—maybe you’re bent over at a weird angle in a thicket, or all wrapped up in a ghillie suit and hunkered down in some brush—a whisker biscuit may be a better choice.
Bottom Line: Either is a good option, but if you find you end up shooting from odd angles and need some arrow containment, a whisker biscuit will hold your arrow steadier as you aim.
Draw Weight and Let-Off: Your Top Priority
This is arguably the most important feature, and we’ve saved it for last: the draw weight of the bow and the let-off of the bow.
In most states, your bow must meet or exceed a minimum draw weight in order for you to hunt game. That makes sense if you think about it because if the draw weight on your bow is too low, your arrows won’t travel with enough force to properly penetrate the animal and put it down humanely. Your bow needs to be strong enough to shoot arrows that will penetrate, and usually, for deer hunting, the minimum draw weight that states require is 40 pounds (although you’ll need to check with your state to make sure).
Here’s what we’d advise: if you’re new to bowhunting, a bow with an adjustable draw weight can be a great feature. You can practice on lower draw weights, gain skill and musculature, and then move up to higher draw weights that’ll send your arrows flying at higher speeds and with more kinetic energy.
If you’re a pro and you’ve been shooting for a number of years, and you know exactly what your draw weight is—and your draw weight meets your state’s minimum requirement for the game that you’ll be hunting—then it can make sense to buy a bow with a set draw weight.
The let-off is important too. When you pull the string of a compound bow all the way back, you’ll feel the draw weight suddenly decrease. That decrease is called let-off, and it’s usually measured as a percentage. If you were pulling a 100-pound compound bow that had 80-percent let-off, when you’re at full draw, the draw weight you will feel will be 20 pounds. 80% of 100 = 80. 100 – 80 = 20.
That’s an important feature when you’re hunting because if you see a deer and pull the bow string back, you might need to wait a little while until you get a clear shot. Having a bow with significant let-off can be a great thing to have, particularly if you’re shooting a high-poundage bow.
Bottom Line: Most compound bows provide significant let-off and should suit most bowhunters; if you’re shooting a bow with a very high draw weight, a high let-off percentage is an important factor.
The Best Deer Hunting Bows: Options We Like
Now that you have a clear idea of what to look for, here are the bows we consider good options for deer hunting:
Best Deer Hunting Bow for Beginners: TIDEWE Compound Bow
Our Verdict: We highly recommend the TIDEWE Compound Bow for beginners because it has a highly adjustable draw weight and high let-off that makes it easy to aim and practice with. However, its power and accessories make it a good model for any whitetail hunter.
Highly adjustable draw weight 0-70 lbs
Adjustable draw length 18-31 inches
315 fps arrow speed
Let-off up to 80%
5-pin sight included
A little heavy
We like the Tidewe compound bow for deer hunting primarily because of its incredibly adjustable draw weight, one of the most adjustable out there. You can tune it all the way from 0 to 70 lbs.
We really like this for beginners since you can start with a lighter draw weight and practice until you can handle 40 pounds or more for hunting. That said, the high amount of power is great for anybody. It produces arrow speeds of up to 315 fps which gives you good accuracy over a good range as well as penetrating power that increases your chances of a kill.
Additionally, the high let-off of 80 percent helps beginners who might not be used to holding back heavy bowstrings. However, it will help any bowhunter. The lighter the bowstring, the easier it is to hold steadily, and that means a more accurate shot, especially if you have to hold your aim for a while.
The included accessories are great for beginners too, though any bowhunter can benefit. They include a stabilizer and release as well as six carbon arrows. Best of all, you get a five-pin sight. This lets you take advantage of the bow’s speed and power and shoot accurately over a longer range.
Best Deer Hunting Bow for Youth: PSE Archery Mini Burner RTS Compound Bow Package
Our Verdict: Getting the appropriate bow can help youth learn correct archery practices and start bowhunting with the right skills. That’s why we recommend this compound bow and its mid-range draw weight that’s good for learning but still enough for hunting.
Accessible draw weight 5-40 lbs
Smaller draw length for youth
Lightweight 2.7 lbs
Only 65% let-off
Only 3 arrows included
The PSE Mini Burner is perfect for a teenager new to bowhunting because it has a mid-range draw weight. Starting at an easily manageable five pounds, you can still adjust it up to 40 pounds, which is enough to hunt with in most states. In other words, a young archer can start small and work their way up until they’re confident enough to hunt.
Similarly, the draw length is appropriate for an adolescent archer or even a small adult. It’s adjustable as well, from 16 inches to 26.5 inches. This means a young archer can continue to use it even if they’re growing.
One thing to note: the let-off is low, just 65 percent. It’s not much of an issue because the draw weight is low anyway. However, it does mean the bowstring requires 14 pounds of force for 40 pounds of draw weight, so it’s important that a young archer work their way up and not go for high draw weights until they’re ready.
Last of all, the Mini Burner is good for beginners because it comes in a ready-to-shoot package. This means basic accessories are included, such as a three-pin sight, arrow rest, quiver and, best of all, a stabilizer. This way a beginner can hit the range right away without having to worry about finding compatible accessories.
We just wish it came with more than only three carbon arrows. Beginners are likely to lose arrows while hunting or practicing. Plus, the included quiver is extra large with room for five.
Best Deer Hunting Bow for Mature Bucks: Diamond Archery Edge 320
Our Verdict: For dominant mature bucks, you need speed and power as well as stability and silence. That’s why we recommend the Edge 320 and its 85% let-off for taking your trophy this whitetail season.
Binary cam system
Adjustable draw weight 7-70 lbs
320 fps arrow speed
Impressive 85% let-off
Adjustable draw length 15-31 inches
Slightly heavier than other models
Limited camo options
If the dominant buck in your area has been giving you the slip season after season, it might be time for a high-quality bow that has a fast but quiet shot that can penetrate his tough body. That’s the Edge 320.
What we really love is the synchronized binary cam system that produces up to 70 pounds of draw weight. That’s a lot of power and can produce arrow speeds up to 320 fps. Bucks are usually pretty suspicious, even in the rut, and you may need a longer shot to take down a mature one. A higher bow speed will help with that.
Similarly, it’s hard to beat the 85-percent let-off. That means you only have to hold around 10 pounds at full draw. Again, due to the intelligence and caution of a mature buck, you need to hold your bow steadily with little motion. The high let-off really helps with that.
A last side note on this bow, it has an adjustable draw length up to 31 inches. That makes it good for taller archers with longer wingspans. Though arm length varies by height, it should likely work for archers up to around 6’3″ unless they have particularly long arms.
Best Deer Hunting Bow Runner Up: Bear Archery Cruzer G2
Our Verdict: A great choice for a hunter looking to commit to bowhunting, it offers a blistering 315 fps of arrow speed along with a four-pin sight for longer-distance shots, and it even has a RockStop string suppressor that dampens sound and vibration during the shot.
Adjustable draw weight 5-70 lbs
Lightweight at just 3 lbs
Included string suppressor
4-pin bow sight
315 fps arrow speed
Multiple camo options
70% let-off is a bit low
What’s great about the Cruzer G2 is that it fits a wide range of bowhunters. It’s worth looking at regardless of your skill level and whether you’re hunting mature bull elk or small whitetail does. The reason is that the draw weight is highly adjustable, from five pounds to 70 pounds. Tune it as you like to get power, distance, manageability, accuracy, etc.
Additionally, the Bear Cruzer has a few other advantages over other popular models. For example, it produces a maximum arrow speed of 315 fps, and it comes with a four-pin bow sight. Combined, that really allows you to increase your range and push the limits of your current skills.
The only place the Cruzer G2 lags behind is the 70-percent let-off. This isn’t bad, per se, but for a bow of this quality, we’d expect a little more. 70 percent means that with the maximum draw weight, you’ll be holding back 21 pounds on the bowstring. Again, not too bad, but you may find that you can’t hold your aim for as long as you’re used to.
Perhaps our favorite feature, though, and the one that earns the G2 a place amongst the best bows for deer hunting, is the RockStops offset string suppressor. Deer can hear incredibly well and react quickly. A noisy shot could cause a quarry to jump, ruining your shot. Plus, it’ll scare off any other game in the area. The RockStop feature gobbles up a lot of the sound and minimizes that problem.
Finally, we love the wide range of camo options the Cruzer G2 comes in. This helps you blend in in your specific local environment. For example, go with the greener Toxic option if you’re in the south where plants stay green through deer season, but consider TrueTimber Strata if you’re in the Midwest where everything is brown by the rut.
Best Deer Hunting Bow Overall: Diamond by Bowtech Deploy SB R.A.K.
Our Verdict: With eye-popping arrow speed, 80% let-off, and advanced accessories included, it’s our all around favorite bow for hunting deer in any climate or situation.
Lightning-fast 330 fps arrow speed
Maximum 70 lbs draw weight
Binary cam system
Advanced accessories included
Lightweight carbon riser
The Deploy SB is an advanced model, and it shot up the list of our favorite deer hunting bows this year because of those advanced features. Admittedly, it’s a pricier compound bow as well, so when considering its power and specialization, it’s best for serious bowhunters who have a few seasons under their belt and know what they’re doing.
First, just consider the lethal power of this bow. You can get it with a maximum draw weight of 70 pounds that produces an arrow speed of 330 fps, one of the fastest you can get on the market today. That means serious kinetic energy and better penetration, even at long distances.
Be aware that this draw weight is not especially adjustable. You can get a version adjustable from 50 to 60 pounds or 60 to 70. Frankly, this is better for experienced archers who consistently use the same draw weight. It means the bow is more structurally sound and likely to last you more seasons. This is in addition to a binary cam system that requires less tuning to remain accurate.
Meanwhile, the let-off is a full 80 percent. Regardless of the draw weight you use, the Deploy SB is much easier to hold at full draw. This gives you a more accurate aim, even if you have to wait a long time for a quarry to come into range or turn for a good shot.
Finally, though this is a top-shelf model with the corresponding price tag, the full “Ready Aim Kill” kit increases the value for your money. This includes accessories like a four-pin sight, brush arrow rest, stabilizer and a quiver with room for five arrows.
Happy Deer Hunting!
As with all our product review posts, we try to educate as we discuss bows, so hopefully there’s something here that will illuminate the art and science of deer hunting. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We’re always open to ideas for new articles and reviews.
As always, be safe, have fun, and happy hunting!