The first bow I ever purchased hit me for $369. Although that was nearly 25 years ago, I remember it as if it were yesterday. At the time, being in my mid 20’s and newly married, it was a stretch to come up with that amount of cash. It was by no means a flagship model — those were double the price and even more back then. However, looking back, that “average man’s bow” did its share of damage to numerous P&Y critters. Needless to say, 25 years later you still don’t need a flagship bow to find bowhunting success. Although some guys today wouldn’t even consider a bow with a price tag under $1,200, I can assure you, bows half that price can easily get the job done.
Most of today’s budget bows are packed with features and technologies that were all the rage a few years ago. Sure, you may be giving up some luxuries like a little speed, a completely silent shot, or a draw cycle that may not feel as crisp as their higher-end counterparts, but today’s budget bows still have all the makings of killing machines. Truth be told, with the technology and materials being used today, it’s generally the hunter — not the equipment — that leads to failures in the field. But that’s a storyline for another column.
Whether you’re new to the sport or even looking for a slight upgrade, here’s an overview of some dependable budget options you can’t go wrong with.
Hoyt Torrex ($799)
If you’re looking to jump into the Hoyt family and save a few greenbacks in the process, their Torrex would certainly be a good option. Designed to replace Hoyt’s noteworthy PowerMax bow, the 30” axle-to-axle Torrex hits an impressive top-end speed of 327 fps. It’s equipped with Hoyt’s proven TEC-LITE Riser with X-ACT Grip System, which ensures consistent hand placement with each drop of the string. The engine behind the bow’s efficiency is its parallel split limb design and Hoyt’s Cam & 1/2 System that takes advantage of the best features of single- and dual-cam technology to deliver the speed, power, and accuracy for which Hoyt bows are known. The Torrex is equipped with a 6-inch brace height with a draw length stretching from 25.5 to 30 inches; and for those needing a little extra length, the XT pulls out to 31 inches with a brace height an inch deeper. Both rigs come in at 4 pounds, have draw weight options ranging from 30 to 70 pounds, and are equipped with a Fuse custom string.
Mathews Tactic ($849)
Mathews is another legacy brand that arguably makes some of the best compound bows on the planet. Combining those decades of experience with the quality you’d expect from Mathews, they developed the Tactic. Don’t let its entry-level price point fool you. The Tactic sports Mathews’ ultra-smooth AVS DYAD cam system that delivers a top-end speed touching 335 fps. With a leftoff set at 80 percent and draw length adjustments ranging from 23 to 30 inches, it’s designed to fit virtually any shooter. With an axle-to-axle length just over 30 inches, its compact design makes maneuvering in tight spots like ground blinds or heavy cover a big advantage, and with Mathews’ stable riser platform and a forgiving brace height of 7 inches, the Tactic has the makings of a top-end bow without the price tag. The Tactic features peak draw weights of 50, 60, and 70 pounds and a mass weight just over 4 pounds.
Bear Alaskan ($529.99)
Adding yet another gem to their growing Legend bow series, Bear Archery launches the new Alaskan this season. As a bowhunter, its name alone makes me want to give it a spin, and with a top speed touching 335 fps, it certainly has the guts to get the job done. Featuring an adjustable draw-length between 25.5 and 31 inches, it will fit virtually any bowhunter, and at less than $550, you’ll have enough coin left over to complete the rig with some great accessories as well. Sporting the all-new in-limb KillerWave dampeners, the Alaskan has a dead-in-hand feel with each drop of the string, and with Bear’s new DHC Hybrid Cam system, it also has a smooth and controlled draw cycle with a relaxed 80-percent let-off rating. Lastly, the Alaskan features a brace height of 6.25 inches, offers peak draw weights of 60 and 70 pounds, and comes in a tad under 4 pounds.
Quest Centec ($579.99)
The mission of Quest has always been to design the best possible compound bow at an entry-level price, and with their parent company Prime behind them, they have done just that with the Quest Centec. At under $600 out the door, it certainly is a great option if you’re looking to save in this tight economy, and with a 32-inch axle-to-axle length and an arrow speed topping 325 fps, it offers far more than a budget-friendly price. By utilizing the same cam system without the split string tracks, it offers a similar smooth draw cycle as many Prime bows, and it also gets positive marks by allowing shooters to adjust its 25.5 to 31-inch draw length in half-inch increments without the use of a bow press. Plus, with Centec’s Center grip riser, it incorporates Century Technology so shooters can get on target quicker and stay there longer to ensure 10-ring performance.
Elite Terrain ($699.99)
New this season, the Elite Terrain is one to be reckoned with when it comes to bows below $700. The muscle behind its ability to launch arrows up to 325 fps is its smooth drawing hybrid cam system that features a rock solid back wall so shooter can really lock in and find the right pin quicker. Its rotating mod allows for 25.5 to 31-inch draw length adjustments in half inch increments as well. Tipping the scales at just under 4 pounds, the Terrain’s Riser Cage technology coupled with its slim Precision Grip enhances stability, balance and vibration reduction, while also allowing shooters to get on target quicker. The Terrain’s 32.5 inches axle-to-axle length is the ideal size for most shooters, while its brace height of 7 inches provides plenty of forgiveness.
Diamond Edge XT ($469)
Adding yet another gem to their popular Edge series, the folks at Diamond launched the new Edge XT this season. Coming in at less than $500, it will certainly grab the attention of younger bowhunters, while also offering enough perks to interest adults wanting to see what bowhunting is all about. It features an axle-to-axle length of 31 inches with wide-ranging draw weights and lengths from 20 to 70 pounds and 19 to 31 inches respectively. At 3.7 pounds, the Edge XT “edges out” much of the competition in reduced mass weight, and with its engineered caged riser and quad limb design, it delivers stability, accuracy and top arrow speeds touching 300 fps. Completing the package, it also includes an Octane Furnace quiver, Octane Brush rest, Octane 5-inch stabilizer, 3-pin sight, D-loop, peep, and a wrist sling. All you need to add are arrows, your favorite release and some work at the range.
Bowtech Carbon Zion ($799)
Bowtech certainly has a faithful following, and if you’re a new archer looking to jump on the Bowtech bandwagon, their popular Carbon Zion would certainly be a good place to start. At 3.3 pounds, it’s one of the lightest bows in their lineup. Driving its performance is its synchronized Binary Cam system that is not only easy to tune and delivers exceptional consistency, but also produces a top arrow speed of 335 fps. Its FlipDisc technology allows shooters to choose between Performance and Comfort settings to match their style of shooting. Adding to the Carbon Zion’s overall performance is its improved torque-eliminating grip, a forgiving brace height of 6.625 inches and a 31-inch axle-to-axle length for lightweight maneuverability for those tight spots bowhunters often find themselves in. Rounding out the specs, it offers a max draw weight of 50, 60 and 70 pounds, and its 25.5- to 30.5-inch draw length can easily be changed with the rotating module without a bow press.
PSE Drive NTX ($699)
Taking the highest-performing value hunting bow to the next level, PSE offers the Drive NTX. One of three in the current NTX family, it features a 33-inch axle-to-axle length, a 7-inch brace height and delivers speeds topping 330 fps. Its redesigned riser includes PSE’s ComfortGrip System, a lower stabilizer mount, and quick-disconnect sling mounts; and with the ZF Quad-Track Cam System, it delivers even better stability and tunability than previous models. Other specs of the Drive include a bare-bow weight of 4.3 pounds, an adjustable 24- to 31-inch draw length and peak draw weights of 60 and 70 pounds. It can be purchased as a stand-alone bow, or in a package that includes Torment quiver, Phantom drop-away arrow rest, Recon 6-inch stabilizer, Sierra Micro 5-pin sight, PSE Neoprene sling, 3/16-inch aluminum peep, and a nocking loop.