When I was a little kid, medieval war movies were common Saturday afternoon television fare and thus, they served as my fist introduction to the world of archery and obtaining a bow and learning to shoot it soon became an obsession with me. Of course, at that time, it would be some twenty years yet before the compound bow was invented and thus, my first bow was a fiberglass recurve bow from Sears and Roebuck and I have owned several others in the intervening years. However, because I am the type of person who readily embraces new technology whenever it is clearly superior to the old, I eventually made the switch to compound bows by purchasing a Browning kit bow with a wood riser and fiberglass limbs that I had to finish and assemble myself. Then, as the technology improved, I continued to upgrade my bow by purchasing newer models every few years. However, after shooting a compound bow for nearly twenty years now, I decided to reenter the world of traditional archery and I have discovered that not only are the two technologies very different in appearance, they are very different in feel and performance as well. But, I also find that I can no longer truly claim that one type of technology is clearly superior to the other!
For instance, I have two Matthews compound bows and I love each of them dearly. Also, I am completely fascinated with the progression in technology from wood risers to magnesium risers to machined aluminum risers and the progression from round wheels to cams that produced them. Also, I greatly appreciate the amazing speed with which they launch an arrow resulting in a far flatter arrow trajectory than any recurve bow of equal draw weight is capable of producing. Plus, I find the significantly shorter length of today’s compound bows makes then far easier to maneuver in a tree stand or when Still Hunting in thick cover. However, at over four pounds each, they are a major pain in the butt to carry for extended periods of time; thus causing me to resort to employing a bow sling in order to prevent fatiguing my shooting arm. Also, I find them to be excessively noisy. In fact, if you have ever hunted with a partner, then you are well aware that the sound of his compound bow firing unexpectedly is somewhat akin to the crack of a handgun as it shatters the peaceful silence of the surrounding woods! On the other hand, I love the fact that because of the cams, I can draw a full ten to fifteen pounds more weight with a compound bow than I can with a recurve bow and, due to the let-off afforded by the cams, I find that once I pass the peak, I can hold the bow at full draw far longer than I can a recurve bow; even with limbs with a relatively light draw weight. Thus, when I combine the ability to hold the bow drawn for extended periods of time with a set of modern bow sights and a mechanical release aid, I find that I am able to achieve pinpoint accuracy with far less effort and practice than I can with my recurve bow.
However, because I am an old school archer, I find the laminated wood riser and gracefully recurved limbs of a traditional, recurved, bow to be far more aesthetically pleasing than I do the straight lines, sharp angles, and inorganic materials of a compound bow. Also, I absolutely love the light weight of my recurve bow which feels like a feather in my hand compared to my compound bows! In addition, I find that when I release the string and launch an arrow from my recurve bow, it makes far less noise than my compound bows do! Plus, there is so little recoil that I find that I can completely dispense with the need for a stabilizer. On the other hand, with an AMO length of 62 inches compared to axle-to-axle lengths of 35 1/2 inches and 31 inches respectively, my recurve bow is significantly longer than either of my compound bows which makes it far more difficult to maneuver in a tree stand or when still hunting in thick cover. Plus, due to the lack of pulleys attached to the ends of the limbs, I am forced to shoot a draw weight that is a full ten to fifteen pounds less than that of my compound bows which, in turn, results in significantly less arrow speed and a far more arched trajectory. Consequently, I find that I have to be far more accurate in gauging the distance to my target when shooting a recurve bow than I do when shooting a compound bow. In addition, due to the lack of let-off caused by the missing cams, once I have my recurve bow drawn, I find that I am forced to release the arrow far sooner than I do with my compound bows which, in turn, causes me to shoot far more instinctively rather than waiting until the sight pin settles on the target in exactly the right spot as I do with my compound bows. Consequently, although I am certainly able to achieve an acceptable group size with my recurve bow, I find that I am unable to achieve the pinpoint precision that I can with my compound bows.
Therefore, although the two technologies are very different from each other, I find that I no longer think of the compound bow as being clearly superior to the recurve bow. On the other hand, although I am definitely not willing to give up either of my compound bows for hunting purposes, I tend to find myself shooting my recurve bow far more often than I do either of my compound bows these days when target practicing and, I am even looking forward to the occasional hunting trip with my recurve bow! So, which technology is better? Well, I find that the answer to that question to be more a matter of personal preference rather than a scientifically measurable and comparable fact.