A Guide to Arrow Rests for Hunting and Target Archery

News & Tips: A Guide to Arrow Rests for Hunting and Target Archery...

If you shoot a compound bow, you know that your arrow rest is an integral component. You might have even found out the hard way that there's a world of difference between a good and a bad one. 

 ArrowRestBG TrophyRidgeQuickShotWhiskerBiscuit
Full-capture rests like the Trophy Ridge Quick Shot Whisker Biscuit Arrow Rest is ideal for being quiet when the bow is raised.

Unless your rest matches the arrow, your style of shooting (fingers or release) and the purpose (hunting or target archery) you will never maximize your bow's full potential.

Luckily, there are a lot of models to choose from and many of them are very good and purpose built. When I started, it was not uncommon to have a rubber finger rests or, if you were getting fancy, a plunger button and wire rest. And while they worked fine, there was a lot to be desired, especially in terms of durability and ease of tuning. It seemed like I was forever replacing both.

Like compound bows, however, arrow rests have come a long way. Still, before you go out and buy a new rest, it is best is to consider what a rest is actually supposed to do.

A Perfect Arrow Rest

In a perfect world, an arrow rest would cradle your arrow securely in the exact same starting place on every shot. It would hold the arrow there no matter what the vertical or horizontal orientation of the bow was.

It would be also quiet during the draw and launch the arrow consistently. During that consistent release, the rest would have minimal contact with the arrow's shaft, feathers or vanes. This last characteristic is critical. The more the rest interferes with the launch, the more arrow flight is affected. This interference can lead to tuning problems, flight issues, inconsistency and ultimately frustration and poor groups.

Oh, and if all the things on that wish list aren't enough, a perfect arrow rest would also be durable, rock solid and easy to adjust and fine tune.
That's what you'd have in a perfect world. In the real world, however, you need to choose what characteristics are most important to you.

For the Hunting Archer

For instance, the hunting archer would not be well served by the delicate launcher style rests used by many competitive archers. While they do a fine job enhancing consistent accuracy, they might not stand up to the rigours of the hunt. They are also designed for idyllic range conditions where shooting is on level ground.

As any bowhunter knows, that's not always the case in a hunt.

ArrowRestBG NewArcheryApacheDropAway
Some hunters prefer drop-away arrow rests, which drop out of the path of the arrow at some point shortly after release.

A hunter needs a rest that will hold a hunting arrow on it at the shot angles he or she would use in the field, from level to almost straight down, as can be the case when shooting from a treestand or bowfishing. That rest needs to be designed so that the arrow doesn't fall off or alter position when the bow is drawn or moved.

It's also critically important that this rest be quiet when the bow is raised, moved or being drawn and released. Full-capture rests, such as one of the Whisker Biscuit models, are ideal for this sort of shooting but they do contact the arrow more than other styles.

Having said that, the amount of interference is not an issue within normal hunting ranges with hunting weight arrows.

Still, some hunters prefer drop away rests. As the name suggests, these drop out of the path of the arrow at some point shortly after release — typically after a few inches of arrow has passed. Set up properly, they should have minimum contact with the fletchings or vanes.

My only issue with drop-away rests for the hunter is that they are a little more complex. That is to say, because they have more moving parts, more things can go wrong with them in the field. For instance, the pull rope, which raises the rest can get damaged or cut. True, this is an extremely rare occurrence, but it could happen. So before committing to this type of rest, consider if this is worth the extra accuracy you might gain.

For many that's a perfectly reasonable trade-off.

Bowfisher are a special case too. Their rests need to deal with heavy arrows and be exceptionally rugged to take the abuse inflicted by a day of battling coarse fish. Accuracy isn't all that critical because most bowfishing shots are relatively short. So keep that in mind.

For the Target Archer

A target archer, on the other hand, doesn't worry with the same needs as the hunting archer.

 ArrowRestBG NewArcheryQuikTune800
For target archers, durability is the concern, which is why prong-style arrow rests are preferred.

Durability is hardly a concern since these bows do not typically get abused. The competitive archer's key concern is consistent launches, ease of adjustment and minimal arrow contact. That's why prong-style launch rests are preferred by many. They are quickly adjusted and fine-tuned for center shot and vertical alignment and have minimal contact with the shaft.

Center Shot Alignment

Whatever type of shooting you do or whatever style — whether with fingers or release — you are striving for center shot alignment.

Essentially, this means that the nocking point and rest keep the arrow flying along the strings power path. Ideally, you want nock point and the rest lined up precisely along the strings path with no divergence.

This is a problem for finger shooters. That's because when releasing the string off of a tab or gloves the string has to roll around the fingers. This means that the strings release begins out of center shot alignment. Rests with plunger adjustments help to adjust for this. On the other hand, full capture type rests are not suited for finger shooters as much because the arrow isn't passing through them straight. And that means more contact, which we are trying to minimize.

In Conclusion

The arrow rest you choose can be as simple or complex as you feel necessary; there are plenty of good ones of all designs that fit the bill. So long as you understand what the rest is supposed to do and what characteristics are preferable for your needs (hunting, bowfishing or target shooting), you are headed in the right direction.

Buy a quality rest from a reputable manufacturer and pay close attention to set up instructions provided. With that done, you and your bow will be one step closer to achieving your full potential in the field or at the range.