If bowhunters need a mantra while shopping for a new compound, it should be this: Quiet kills. Though today's models are faster than ever, a spooked white-tail can still easily duck an arrow zipping along at 300 fps. And the bow itself is often what raises the alarm. From the millisecond an arrow is released, a bow turns into a yard-long tuning fork that can produce more than enough sound to alert game.
Top manufacturers are attacking this problem, focusing on vibration, the primary source of the noise. Almost every part of a bow shakes on the shot. Subduing or "dampening" this motion is the key to silence. Traditionally, the solution has been aftermarket accessories. But now makers are building dampening technology into the bows' most susceptible parts. Here are the components to examine when you're out shopping:
Riser: To reduce vibration here, bow makers sculpt in ridges or cutouts and incorporate rubberlike synthetics within the riser material.
Limbs: The trend toward ever more parallel limbs also cuts down on noise because these don't travel as far or create as much torque as conventional designs. Limb pockets are being improved with stabilizers and pivoting mechanisms. Finally, some makers of split-limb bows have added synthetic dampening material between the sections.
String/Cable/Cable Guard: In a nod to the time-tested "cat whiskers," some bows include similar string "chubs" as standard issue. Others feature rubber stops, or bumpers, to quiet string slap, or have cable guards that reduce the distance the cable travels.
Below are five of the latest, quietest models.
Ben Pearson Pride
Length: 32 inches • Weight: 4.2 pounds • Draw Weight: 50, 60, or 70 pounds • Price: $569 • Dampening Technology: BioGrip performance riser, Vib-X dampening system, pivoting limb pockets • Comments: The Pride is proof that America's oldest bow maker can keep up with today's high-tech crowd. The unique angled BioGrip riser feels great in the hand.
Length: 35½ inches • Weight: 4 pounds • Draw Weight: 40– 80 pounds • Price: $750 • Dampening Technology: Advanced TEC riser design, AlphaShox limb quieting system, Triax limb pocket stabilization • Comments: Hoyt teamed with LimbSaver to produce the AlphaShox system, an ingenious device that deadens vibration in split-limb bows, making them quieter and more comfortable to shoot.
Martin ShadowCat Magnum
(509-529-2554; martin archery.com)
Length: 35½ inches • Weight: 3 pounds 15 ounces • Draw Weight: 60–70 pounds • Price: $881 and up • Dampening Technology: Seven riser cutouts filled with "vibration escape modules" • Comments: You get solid dampening technology from a top bow maker. The optional Nitrous X "shoot thru" system eliminates cable guards and cam torque.
Length: 33 inches • Weight: 4.3 pounds • Draw Weight: 40, 50, 60, or 70 pounds • Price: $769 • Dampening Technology: Harmonic dampers in riser and cable guard, nearly parallel limbs, string suppressors, cable roller guard • Comments: The leader in battling vibration, Mathews has another winner in the Switchback, which has more dampening technology than any bow in its line.
(800-441-6734; mcpherson archery.com)
Length: 34 inches • Weight: 4.3 pounds • Draw Weight: 50, 60, or 70 pounds • Price: $699 • Dampening Technology: Pivoting limb pockets, frequency-ridged riser equipped with Vib-X dampening system • Comments: The Edge's sculpted (not machined or stamped) riser speaks to the company's quality craftsmanship, and the Vib-X system makes for a very quiet bow.
*All lengths listed are measured from axle to axle.