As bows become more machine than tool, many hunters are heading back to the roots of the hunting tradition. Rather than making the test about a machine vs an animal, they want a true test of their skills and abilities. You can go back to the most ancient equipment or stick with one of the best recurve bows available today.
Sure, they aren’t the all wood or composite bows that were used for tens of thousands of years. However, they are much closer than the monstrous compound bows embraced by most of today’s hunters. You don’t choose a recurve because it's easy but because it will really put your instincts as a hunter to the test.
Likely you won’t be shooting from a stand but shooting from a stalk. This was how many of the best hunters the world has seen took their game. Being able to replicate that is a true test as to what you are made of.
In 1995 I took a 162 pound, 8 point whitetail from 15 yards after stalking and it was by far my favorite kill and the one I am most proud of. Until you do this, you won’t know how good a hunter you are.
- Why you should use a Compound Bow
- Recurve Bow Considerations
- Top 5 Recurve Bow - Comparison Table
- Best Recurve Bow Reviews
Why you should use a Compound Bow
If you are out for as close to a guaranteed kill as you can get, choose a compound bow like so many others. Simply put, shooting and hitting a target with a compound bow is so easy it would be considered cheating next to a recurve bow. I am not saying that a compound bow is simple to master but that it is far simpler than more traditional equipment.
If you choose a recurve bow, you are choosing it for reasons other than ease. Maybe it’s a test of your skills as a hunter or even a test of your manliness. Perhaps its just the challenge of a pure hunt that gets you. Regardless of your reason, the first animal you take with a recurve will give you bragging rights for a lifetime. Most hunters will never graduate to this level of skill.
There is a myth that a compound bow is more accurate than a recurve but most recurve bows can be just as accurate as long as they are matched correctly with the arrow. A trained person with an Olympic recurve bow will shoot as good or better than any compound bow on the market. With a bow more suited to hunting, you can still get impressive accuracy.
Part of this accuracy comes from the somewhat slower speed of the arrow. It is a good general rule that a slower bow will be more accurate, especially at closer ranges. Typically, a recurve bow will shoot 50 or so FPS slower than a compound. While this sounds extreme, it is highly unlikely that a deer will have time to dodge an arrow traveling at 200+FPS and the slowest recurves can hit that speed.
The one major issue with a recurve bow, especially in hunting, is that your range will have to be short. Probably shorter than the ranges a person would shoot with a compound bow. The recurve bow has more of an arc in the shot so arrow drop will be more pronounced than a recurve.
You can learn to shoot well at distance with a recurve and gauge this arrow drop but it takes some skill to do so. A recurve bow takes more practice to become proficient with than a compound. This will, in the end, make you a better hunter overall. Even if you go back to a compound bow, you will benefit from having learned to shoot and hunt with a recurve.
If you would consider yourself a hunter worthy of the title, you owe it to yourself to put your skills to the test with a recurve. There is nothing like the experience and bragging rights earned from the experience. Not to mention proving all of the compound bow shooters who will naysay you wrong. That alone is worth the effort.
Recurve Bow Considerations
Like a compound bow, getting the right recurve bow for you takes knowing what you need and what you want a bow to do. In some ways, picking a recurve is a little more difficult than a compound bow. They are not usually adjustable. To get the most out of your bow, here are some points you will want to consider.
Draw length is the single most important point of consideration with recurve bows. This will determine the accuracy of your bow as well as the actual power your bow will be able to achieve. Even the most amazing recurve bow in the world will not perform correctly if the draw length is not correct to the shooter.
Simply put, the draw length of a bow is the distance from the back of the grip to the string when at full draw. With a compound bow, the string will stop when it reaches full draw but a recurve bow will not. A compound bow will also reach the point where the cams turn over and you reach the point where the bow is much easier to hold at this point.
A recurve bow that is not drawn fully will not shoot with the advertised power of the bow. A recurve bow that is drawn farther than the optimal draw length will risk damage to the bow and can even cause failure. This makes it very important to draw the bow to the appropriate length but vital to never draw beyond it.
The best way to determine draw length is to go to a pro shop and get it measure on one of their specifically made tools. This will get you the perfect draw length and you will know what to shop for. If this is out of the question, you can use any number of methods to get your draw length. A Google search or Youtube can provide you with these methods, this video works well and is quite easy.
Be very cautious when you measure your draw length and always double and triple check it. So many people overinflate their draw length as if it were a point to brag about. Generally, an adult will have a draw length between 25 and 28 inches. If yours differs, get it checked at a pro shop.
There are a few points you want to consider when choosing a bow so that it serves your needs but meets with your personal capabilities. Many people who shoot compound bows quickly discover that they can not use a recurve of the same draw weight. They simply function differently.
This is a point you will need to consider that will be strongly aided by trying a few recurve bows and erring on the safe side. You can always get a bow that has interchangeable limbs so you can have the bow grow with you as your strength increases.
As a starting point, it was not uncommon for Native Americans to take a variety of game animals including deer and buffalo with bows drawing no more than 35 pounds. For target shooting that is a great weight to start with for most people. If you are a hunter, you will need to go a little higher. Most states allow hunting with bows 45 pounds and heavier but check your local regulations.
If you are an experienced archer, you could stretch that into the 55 to 60-pound range. For most people who haven’t had significant experience with a recurve bow, I would not suggest going any higher than 60 pounds of draw at your draw weight.
There may be a time where a good deal on a bow comes up and the weight exceeds the recommendation above. Remember that this weight is only accurate at the draw length the bow was made for. If your draw length is less than the bow you are looking to buy, you can go with a heavier draw. Usually, about 5 pounds per every 3 inches of draw less is acceptable.
Just remember that a heavier draw weight can be a struggle. When you use a compound bow, at full draw the bow gets much easier to keep drawn. Recurves do not do this! At full draw, you will have to hold the full weight of the draw as you try to line up your shot. This can be very challenging if your bow is close to your maximum strength.
For some reason, people are speed-obsessed when it comes to bows. It's almost like speed trumps everything else. There is some truth behind this. More speed will end up imparting more penetration to the target.
For a hunter, this means more depth and more damage which can be the difference between a clean kill and a wounded animal. Speed is important but probably not king when it comes to bow considerations. As noted above, speed affects and is affected by many aspects of a bow.
Faster bows are inherently less accurate than slower bows. This may be counter-intuitive as the arrow will drop less on a bow that shoots faster. If the bow were a rifle, this would be true but the arrow does things upon release that a bullet doesn’t when fired.
The arrow flexes, no matter how stiff it is, when the string is released. As the arrow spins, the wobble of the arrow straightens out. The slower the arrow travels, the more time it has to stabilize and the more accurate the shot will be.
A faster arrow will drop less but learning to compensate for drop is much easier than predicting the erratic flight of a wobbly arrow. This wobble will be more pronounced with a heavy hunting broadhead than it will a field or target tip.
Any speed over 200 fps is sufficient for hunting and will do well in target shooting. This isn’t a magic number. The longbows used in Europe during the middle ages often shot less than 200 fps and were still effective tools. It's about getting that right blend of power, speed, and accuracy.
Bows that exceed about 260 feet per second tend to be quite inaccurate for target or competition shooting. Good arrows can mitigate this but you would probably be better served by a bow in the lower 200s.
Size and Weight
Generally, the lighter and smaller a piece of equipment is better. We drag enough stuff into the woods without the need to carry anything more than we have to. This is not the always the case with a bow.
While the benefits of a light bow are mostly easy to figure out, we can quickly address them. A lighter bow is easier to maneuver, carry, and hold up. A lighter bow will also shoot faster due to lighter limbs that have greater momentum.
Alternatively, a heavier bow will be harder to carry and use while losing a small amount of speed to the heavier limbs. This may be a worthy trade for some people because a heavier bow will usually have much less vibration and hand-shock than a lighter bow.
If you are hunting and may only take a single shot, this may not matter much. If you are shooting a lot, and you should be to keep your skills up, this can be a real pain on your wrist. Keep this in mind when selecting a bow.
Longer bows also tend to be easier and more forgiving to shoot though much harder to maneuver in the woods. A longer bow will have less movement in the limbs to get to full draw. The angle of the string will stay be lower and the bow will be much easier to draw.
A shorter bow can have what is called stacking. This is caused by a very acute string angle and will make the bow feel much harder to draw. The overall weight of the draw will be the same but it will take more exertion from your body to move the string due to leverage.
Neither bow will shoot that much different than the other. There may be a small difference in speed and accuracy but not enough to be noticed by most people. If you get into the big leagues, this will make a difference but by then, you won’t need my guide on bow selection.
A final consideration on size is transporting your bow. If you have a full-sized truck, you can fit the bow anywhere but in small cars or on long trips, it may be more of a challenge with a larger bow. This brings in the idea of a takedown bow.
Many outdoorsmen tend to prefer a takedown recurve bow for hunting. They can carry it into the woods and assemble it when they get there. This can be a nice feature but is hardly necessary.
To better understand takedown bows, there are two types. The most common now are bows with limbs that are removable. They attach via Allen screws or knobs and are typically very strong. The other type which was popular in the past comes apart in the middle of the bow near the handle. Both types are just as effective as a single piece bow.
Top 5 Recurve Bow - Comparison Table
Max Draw Length
Best Recurve Bow Reviews
1 Samick Sage Takedown Recurve Bow
Before we get into the other bows, you need to meet the Samick Sage. Truthfully, this may not be the best recurve bow on the market but you aren’t going to find a better bow unless you spend hundreds more. It isn’t even the most expensive bow on this list but it will shoot as good or better than any listed below.
You can get this bow in weights as low as 25 pounds if you just want a recurve bow for target shooting or you can get it as high as 55 pounds if you want a bow capable of hunting. You can get limbs straight from Samick that can be interchanged for different weights so you can have one bow for many uses.
That means this is potentially an ILF hunting bow. What does ILF mean? That is a term used for bows that have limbs made standard to interchange. Most takedown recurve bows meet these specifications. You are better to stick with the brand of the bow by other limbs should fit with little issue.
At 62 inches long, the size of this bow is great for most hunting applications while a weight of under 3 pounds makes it easy to take along. While the true challenge of a recurve is to keep it plain and learn to shoot instinctively. This bow does have install points for sights and any arrow rest you would care to add.
Draw length maxes out at about 29 inches with this bow but Samick makes a comparable bow called the Journey if you are taller than 6 foot or so and need the extra length. Either bow is impressively accurate, at least good enough to hit a 2-inch mark at 50 feet which I have personally done dozens of times. I have used this bow extensively for hunting and done very well up to deer sized game.
2 Southland Archery Supply Maverick
If the Sage isn’t what you are looking for, you may find the bow you want from SAS. This company has borrowed the construction methods of the famous Lancaster Archery to produce bows in many different styles and weights.
This particular bow is a single piece, non-takedown recurve that fires like a rocket. The accuracy may suffer just a little, but with practice this bow is plenty accurate and has a good power. Between 40 and 45 pounds of draw weight. You can hunt with this bow but check your local regulations before you order to make sure.
At 60” long and under 2.5 pounds, this bow is short, light, and very comfortable to shoot. Its appearance is modeled closely after some of Fred Bears designs that proved to be the most effective hunting bows of their times. This bow is several times cheaper than the Bear bow and shoots almost indistinguishable.
Draw length is suggested at 28 inches but can go an inch more or a few inches less if needed. Drawing the bow more than 30 inches is not recommended. Unless you are 6’3” or more, you shouldn’t have much of an issue. This bow is bare bones with no attachment points for sights or other options.
3 Southwest Archery Supply Spyder Takedown
You can expect to see any number of SAS bows on any list of good recurves and probably compounds as well. Though they haven’t been in business for very long, they have made quite a stir in the archery community with their line of budget-friendly equipment.
Any SAS bow is quite a performer. In the case of the Spyder, you get a 62-inch bow that can be purchased to draw anywhere from 20 to 60 pounds. This gives you a great recurve bow for beginners who just want to target shoot but can be taken up to heavy enough weights to hunt even elk and bear.
While I would place these bows as second to Samick in accuracy, the margin is so narrow as not the worth talking about. With up to 29” of draw, you can get some serious speed out of a Spyder and enough accuracy to take down a deer at 20 yards plus. Max range would probably be about 30 yards if you wanted a kill shot with a 60-pound draw.
This bow can take most any accessories that a compound bow can including quivers, sights, rests, and stabilizers. A very versatile bow that weighs a mere 3 pounds or less depending on the draw weight, the Spyder does a great job for potential hunters who don’t want to spend much money. It even comes with a string and stringer. For less than 200 bucks you could have everything you need to hunt with this bow.
4 Toparchery Hunter Takedown
If you are after something with a little more modern look and plenty of hunting power, you should take a look at the Toparchery lineup of bows. The majority of the bow is aluminum and fiberglass with maple-core limbs. The overall effect is quite striking.
With weights available from 30 pounds for target shooting up to 50 pounds for hunting, this near-indestructible bow is great for the backwoods hunter or survivalist. When taken down, the bow is less than 18 inches long, weighing less than 3 pounds and can fit in any go-bag or day pack.
When assembled, the Hunter is only 56 inches long but can draw a massive 30 inches for maximum power and speed. Use any accessories you want on a compound bow can be used on the Hunter. This makes it a very versatile platform for a lightweight hunting rig. Couple it with some carbon arrows and there are few game animals it can’t take down.
This is often a preferred bow by bow-fishermen due to its low cost and amazing durability. Accuracy is a little less than some of the other bows on this page but speed is top notch. With practice, this is an effective hunting tool and one that will fit almost any budget.
5 Southland Archery Supply Snake
To round out the list, it's always a good idea to have a bow for the complete beginner. Someone who wants to try the sport and learn the ropes before they dive headlong into what can be an expensive hobby. The perfect bow for that is the SAS Snake.
As I said, Southland Archery will be a strong feature on any list of current bows. They produce tons of models and all of them are quite good. The Snake is a simple bow but has the same quality of manufacture. It is all fiberglass which makes it tougher than nails but very easy to shoot well.
With draw weights between 18 and 26 pounds, this is only worth hunting the smallest game but for target shooting, it works perfectly. When it comes to learning the basics, you won’t find a style and draw weight much better.
This is pure and simple with no extras. It's just a good, lightweight bow. Tipping the scales at a mere pound, you could take this bow anywhere. It excels at backyard shooting and leisurely practice over any hard use. It may not be a great hunting tool but it is a great little bow and quite affordable.
There are a ton of recurve bows on the market, some of them exceeding a thousand dollars. I have some of those bows as well as most of the bows on this list. For most purposes, the bows here will do what any other bow costing much more would do. As a matter of fact, I use the Samick for hunting as much as my custom Fred Bear bow.
There may be reasons to look into those high dollar bows if the hobby takes you but for the majority of bowhunters after a recurve bow, any of those above will do perfectly. If you are after Olympic level accuracy, you will need a better bow as well as far more practice.
Until you reach that level, bows by Samick and SAS are a great choice. You can learn and grow with them and never be disappointed with their accuracy, speed, and power. I have taken about 6 deer with my Sage since I bought it about 5 years ago. It still shoots as well as day one and has no damage or wear. What more could you ask for?