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Author: Chuck Adams
Every projectile needs three things to be a success. A propulsion system for speed and power. An aiming system for accuracy. And a launching system for consistent flight.
A guided missile used rocket engines, electronic guidance, and a tube or silo to meet this trio of requirements. A hunting rifle uses gunpowder to propel the bullet, telescopic or iron sights for aiming, and a precision barrel to launch each bullet precisely.
A bow-and-arrow is not much different. The limbs, cables, and a string propel the arrow after you draw it back. A bowsight and string peep let the bowhunter aim exactly at deer. And every bit as important, the arrow rest launches the shaft cleanly and consistently from shot to shot.
All arrow rests are not created equal. Some are strictly for target shooting, with noisy metal surfaces guaranteed to scare whitetails, or tiny "shoot-through" gaps suited only to small, non-spiraling target fletching. Others are modified target rests, with heat-shrink Teflon™ or plastic over metal surfaces to tone them down.
But the best arrow rests, in my experience, are those designed with bowhunters specifically in mind. These combine three essential hunting traits: (1) Rugged durability; (2) Silent performance; and (3) Accurate arrow launching with full-sized, spiraling fletching.
Rests for Finger Shooters
If you belong to the shrinking number of finger shooters in America, you still have a surprisingly good selection of time-tested deer-hunting rests. An estimated 750,000 bowhunters still draw and release with their fingers, and most use simple rest like the coil-wire springy or the flipper/plunger combination.
Unlike an arrow launched with a mechanical release aid, a finger-released arrow wags side-to-side as it leaves the bow. This requires the shaft to touch the rest at one side as well as the bottom. Since flexible, spring-loaded arrow guidance yields better accuracy than rigid rests, a simple springy rest is great - provided steel surfaces are covered with quiet Teflon tubing.
Even better for precise tuning are plunger rests like the Centerest® Flipper. This rest features adjustable side-spring tension and a flipping, silent rest arm to guide the arrow precisely and fold out of the way as arrow fletching passes by.
Rests for Mechanical Releases
Shooting with a mechanical release aid requires an entirely different kind of rest. A mechanically released arrow usually wags up-and-down as it leaves the bow, requiring a launcher-type rest that cradles the arrow from below.
The best launcher rests are spring-loaded to tame an arrow’s vibration and oscillation as the bowstring accelerates a shaft across the rest.
The most common setup today is the so-called TM Hunter, a two-prong rest that theoretically lets the arrow perch between adjustable prongs and lets fletching slip between these prongs in flight. TM versions are numerous, with prong arms of various shapes. Some prongs are flexible spring-steel, as in the Bodoodle rest. Others are rigid, with the entire prong assembly flexing downward against a spring.
Prong-type launcher rests present three problems for hunters. First, these make it almost impossible to achieve complete fletching clearance with large, spiraling plastic fletchinges designed to stabilize big hunting broadheads. Bowhunters are often forced to use feather fletching and/or folding mechanical broadheads to compensate for chronically wobbling arrow flight.
A second problem with prong rests concerns noise and wear. These were first designed for target shooting, and hunting versions require plastic or Teflon over the prongs for silence. Better models, like NAP’s Quik Tune 3000 Micro, are indeed quiet. But all prong coatings wear over time, which can change point of impact and ultimately cause noise.
There’s a third problem with prong rests. Because the arrow is perched atop a tiny gap between the prongs, it falls off easily in hunting situations. If the wind blows, if you get nervous, or if odd shooting angles present themselves, you can have serious trouble keeping the shaft on the rest.
If you opt for a prong-type hunting rest, you must combine it with some sort of secure arrow holding device. Without an arrow holder or a similar "spare finger" to secure the shaft between the prongs, you are asking for problems when hunting.
Most better release-aid users I know avoid mass-marketed prong rests and the problems these rests invite. Such experts opt instead for springier rest designs with better fletching clearance. A common coil-wire springy rest or flipper/plunger rest with the shelf arm bent upward near the tip will hold an arrow securely yet will allow fine fletching clearance.
The best bowhunters experiment with arrow rests to find a quiet, rugged, secure, and accurate choice. Common sense should guide arrow rest selection. If your rest does not perform perfectly, neither will your projectile!
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