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Backcountry Bow Setup

Now's the time to build your perfect hunting partner

Backcountry Bow Setup

Bowhunters are a finicky bunch. Those that roam the rugged West in search of high-country, big-game nirvana are downright neurotic. This is especially true when it comes to gear—from their vertical assassin to the accessories they attach to it. Some will say backcountry nomads go overboard— put too much emphasis on gear— but I disagree. Those that take the spring and summer months to build the ultimate back- country bow and spend time sending carbon downrange will punch more tags and have fewer mishaps this fall.

Backcountry Bow Setup


Mountain hunters pay attention to weight. I know several that evaluate the mass of every item that goes in their pack. Most spend countless hours researching, testing, and ultimately purchasing light- weight clothing, feather-light boots, and the list goes on. The same mentality should be applied when looking for the perfect mountain bow. No, I’m not saying you have to find the airiest bow on the planet and fit it with flimsy, lightweight accessories. I recommend visiting a quality pro shop and shooting a number of bare bows—nothing more than a rest attached. Find the one that feels perfect in your hand, weighs in at 4.5 pounds or less, and sports a build that promises lasting durability. Why the 4.5 pound or less mark? Simple: Savvy backcountry bowhunters fit their bows with durable accessories. Most run a five-arrow quiver lined with arrows over 400 grains, and many run a front-and-back-bar stabilizer system. Each item adds weight to the bow, and if you start with a rig that’s too heavy from the get-go, you’ll be toting a tank around the hills.

The carbon craze has captured the admiration of a number of bowhunters, especially mountain bowhunters. Carbon bows are significantly lighter than aluminum bows and provide the bowhunter with a bulletproof platform. While I give carbon-riser bows a nod of approval, especially those crafted by carbon mastermind, Hoyt, dropping an extra $500 or $600 on a carbon riser bow isn’t an absolute necessity. Aluminum-riser bows from quality manufacturers are also backcountry killers.

When it comes to the length between a mountain bow’s axles, only you can decide. Again, it all comes down to testing and finding a bow that feels perfect to you. Top-tier bowyers make bows with various axle-to-axle ratings. While a 28-inch axle-to-axle bow may be more maneuverable in the woods, you may find it’s not as balanced as a 34-inch axle-to-axle bow. Any pro shop worth its salt will let you sling some arrows. Take advantage of this. Finding the perfect backcountry bow is all about finding the one that fills you with confidence.

Backcountry Bow Setup


More pissing matches have been had over bow accessories than scandals in congress. Here’s the nuts and bolts when choosing accessories that will work in the backcountry. Ultimately, you’ll be choosing between a cable-driven drop-away and a limb-driven drop-away rest. The good news: You can’t go wrong with either. I will note a limb-driven rest is a bit easier to fix in the field as the cable that controls the launcher doesn’t run through the bow’s downward-moving cable. However, those who’ve been shooting a cable-driven drop-away for years and have confidence needn’t worry. Most cable-driven builders offer a clamp or other device that secures the rest's drive cable to the string, which makes a quick repair easy.

Your sight will be a single-pin adjustable, multi-pin adjustable or a fixed multi-pin with options for three to seven pins. It doesn’t matter what style you choose, just be sure the sight offers second- and third-axis adjustability. Simply put, the second axis runs right through the middle of your housing as you look through it. If this axis is not square, it means your pins are not perfectly aligned when you level up your sight bubble. Third axis, especially for the backcountry hunter, may be even more critical. When shooting on level ground, your third axis means nothing, but when shooting uphill or downhill, an errant third-axis setting will cause serious left and right accuracy issues. Talk to a pro shop staffer and pick a sight with second- and third-axis adjustability. Choose one with durable pins, a heavy-duty housing, and a strong mounting bar.

Backcountry Bow Setup

I get annoyed with stabilizer talk. I have a buddy who’s an avid whitetail hunter—a stone-cold killer by the way—that doesn’t use a stabilizer. Why? He knows mounting a 4 or 6 inch hunk of metal on his riser does zero for his balance. The stabilizer may soak up a minimal amount of bow noise and hand shock, but in truth, it only adds weight. Whether you opt to run a front bar, a front- and-back bar, or something in between, make sure and take full advantage of the purpose of a stabilizer. This purpose, of course, is added balance. Better bow control leads to better accuracy, and the right stabilizer system can really help with this. Spend time tinkering. Play with different stabilizers in lengths between 8- and 12-inches. Add weight and subtract weight. Try a sidemount stabilizer as well as a front-and-back bar system. A little research and the willing- ness to try a few different systems will make you a better shot, especially when shooting at distance and in high wind.

Backcountry Bow Setup


The following is not gospel. Every backcountry bowhunter, over time, develops a system of gear that works for them. This is mine— I trust it. It has yet to let me down. Steal what you want, but don’t be afraid to try other bows and gear. I have included multiple items in a few specific categories, but all have proved remarkable over the years.

  • BOW: Prime Logic 33, Hoyt rX-4 ultra, and Mathews VXr 31.5
  • REST: Quality Archery Designs MXt and integrate MX
  • SIGHT: Spot-Hogg Hogg Father Double pin and Hogg Father 5-pin
  • STABILIZER: Bee Stinger MicroHex 10-inch and Bee Stinger MicroHex 10-inch with 8-inch MicroHex Back Bar
  • QUIVER: TightSpot 5 arrow
  • ARROW: Easton 5MM FMJ, Easton 5MM axis, and Easton Hyper-Speed pro
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