Arrow Rest Selection

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Shoot Through Arrow Rest
Conventional shoot-through arrow rests are still popular but they are being replaced in the market by drop-away rests and capture rests. Hunter shown wearing Lost Camo.

Full Capture Rests

There is another breed of arrow rests grabbing attention right now, as well. They take many forms: three launchers pointing inward toward the arrow shaft, a hole surrounded by bristles and a plastic cone that looks like an oil funnel. Arrow rests that completely contain the arrow are not really new, but like the drop-away arrow rests they are just now coming into their own.

Capture rests continue to gain market share because they keep the arrow from falling off the arrow rest at all stages of the hunt: while stalking, while sitting, while drawing, when the wind is blowing, etc. Also, in the excitement of the moment, it is possible to bounce the arrow right off some conventional arrow rests. That will never happen with a capture rest, eliminating one more thing that can go wrong.

The pros:

I shared an elk camp in New Mexico a few years ago with a guy that missed a big bull because his arrow fell off the arrow rest and he didn’t realize it until the arrow skipped harmlessly off the ground well wide of the bull. If he had it to do over, how much would John have paid to have a rest on his bow that always kept the arrow in place?

That illustration summarizes the most positive aspect of capture rests. Properly set up, they keep the arrow ready for action no matter what. That’s the main reason bowhunters have been, and will continue to be, buying this style of rest.

There is, however, a second reason that capture rests are a good choice for bowhunters. Because the rest contacts the arrow shaft on all sides it is better able to guide the arrow and soak up the arrow flight discrepancies caused by minor inconsistencies in shaft construction or nock travel without creating poor arrow flight. It is kind of like pressing dough through a spaghetti extruder.

Drop Away Arrow Rest
Most modern drop-away rests like the Apache by NAP also hold the arrow securely during the draw and shot, not allowing it to bounce off the launcher.

The cons:

With the goal to fully secure the arrow in the arrow rest, there is necessarily going to be greater contact between the arrow rest and the arrow shaft. Of course, each additional contact point introduces the chance for fletching contact, and like conventional rests, thin diameter carbon arrows are more likely to hit the launchers. But, when the rest is designed with small contact surfaces properly spaced around the shaft the downside is reduced.

For all intents and purposes, the clearance afforded by most capture rests is at least equal to that afforded by most conventional two-prong launcher arrow rests. Because it is possible to get by with small contact points and still retain the arrow shaft, the clearance on some capture rests may even be better than that on some conventional rests.

Of course, when you look at rests like the Whisker Biscuit arrow rest, you find that there is no way to eliminate contact. In fact, you might call it a full contact rest. The fletchings pass through bristles and so are guaranteed to cause contact. However, because the contact is perfectly symmetrical all the way around the arrow, it tends to keep the arrow on track rather than causing it to kick to one side or the other. The only downside of this full-contact design is fletching damage. These rests cause pretty noticeable fletching damage. If you stick with short, stiff fletchings, such as the Bohning Blazer, you will be fine. But if you use long, supple vanes or feathers, they will show signs of damage after only a few shots and will need to be replaced at least a couple of times each summer if you shoot much.

Arrow Fletching
Short, stiff fletchings such as the Bohning Blazer, and other similar styles, work best with the Whisker Biscuit because they don’t wrinkle as quickly from passing through the bristles.

Conventional Arrow Rests

For the most part, conventional arrow rests are disappearing from the bows of today’s bowhunters. These arrow rests don’t do anything better than the drop-away arrow rests or capture rests and do some things much poorer. They may be less expensive, being their only true virtue – and possibly easier to set up – but beyond that, the drop-away arrow rests and capture rests are the way to go.

For every bowhunter there is an arrow rest, but there is not one arrow rest for every bowhunter. In other words, the varying ways they set up their arrows, the imprecise way they release the string and the specific way in which they like to hunt all have an affect on the best rest for each bowhunter. Drop-away arrow rests are good medicine for bowhunters who can’t achieve total fletching clearance any other way and are especially valuable to carbon arrow shooters.

Fully enclosed “capture” rests work under a wide range of conditions with a wide range of arrow shaft styles but they are not appropriate for target shooting. They aren’t the most accurate arrow rests on the market.

Setting Up a Drop-Away Arrow Rest

Based on personal experience and discussions with both Vince Troncoso at Golden Key Futura and Steve Johnson at Spot-Hogg (makers of the Hooter Shooter shooting machine) the most forgiving way to set up a drop-away arrow rest is to have it maintain contact with the arrow shaft for as long as possible and then fall just in time to clear the fletching.

Experimentation is the best way to determine proper arrow rest timing for your bow and shooting style, but as a starting point Steve Johnson recommends that the arrow rest reach full height when the string is still about three to four inches short of full draw.

Setting Up a Capture Rest

Capture rests also require special care when setting up. According to Ike Branthwaite, the Whisker Biscuit arrow rest will break in with use and therefore you should try to index your nocks the same on every arrow and load the arrows the same way on the string every time. However, if in the excitement of the hunt you should flip the arrow over when nocking it you won’t experience disastrous arrow flight.

If you are using a heavy shaft with a three-prong capture rest, use a stiff set of launchers (most rests come with two sets of launchers for this reason). You don’t necessarily need the top launcher to contact the arrow but it should be close enough that it prevents the arrow from falling out when the bow is tipped.

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