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The Best Hunting Bow for Survival: Traditional VS Compound

Avatar for James Walton James Walton  |  Updated: August 1, 2022
The Best Hunting Bow for Survival: Traditional VS Compound

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For two years I would walk out into my backyard, into the cover of some sparse woods, and shoot a recurve bow. I fired hundreds of shots at paper targets affixed to hay bales. I wasn’t using the best hunting bow but I was shooting and getting better.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of shots with that bow and not a soul in my suburban community, here in Virginia, was ever the wiser. They couldn’t hear it, they couldn’t see it and that, my friends, is why a bow is such a great weapon for hunting in a survival situation.

Sure, a 30-06 is going to punish a big animal, send them into shock, and give you dinner with serious consistency. The problem is, most American’s have to set aside time and money to head out to the range and fire rifle rounds.

The right preparation and gear also have a lot to do with successful hunting.

Once you get decent with a bow you will stop losing or bury field points and then you don’t spend as much money on ammo that gets lodged into the side of a berm.

We are going to look at traditional bows and compound bows to seek out the very best hunting bow for survival. I am going to try to remove my own bias but I will tell you upfront, I like the feel of a traditional bow.

However, they do have some serious downsides. So, let’s get to it.

The Compound Bow

The compound bow is a powerful weapon. Depending on the weight of the pull these bows have the potential to send an arrow 60 yards with deadly velocity.

Even giant elk can be taken at a great distance if you are using a bow with around a 90lb pull. Caveat: That’s not an easy weapon to yield for most.

With that kind of intro, you might assume that compound bows are just too strong for women or kids to use. In reality, compound bows are created with a variety of pull weights.

In other words, you can have a bow with a 60-pound pull which requires 60 pounds of force to pull back. You can also have a bow that requires 10 pounds of force to pull back. So, the strength needed to pull compound bows varies, depending on the type of bow.

Where the compound bow gives me concerns is when the inevitable happens and it breaks. In survival, you are not going to be able to go out and buy a new stabilizer, string or cams to make the bow work again.

The good news is they are easily adjustable if you have a set of Allen wrenches.

Best Compound Bow for Hunting

While it is important to consider yourself a beginner, understand that these bows will take down a whitetail deer. If you have arrows that are tipped with broadheads then an accurate shot will induce hemorrhaging and that animal will bleed out.

These bows were picked for their ability to be used out of the box and a reasonable price point for a beginner.

XGeek Women‘s Compound Bow

amazon product

This great starter bow gives you a grip on the benefits of shooting a compound bow. You can purchase this model with a pull between 10-50lbs That means even a young girl will be able to use this model.

Riser, stabilizer, release, peep sight, sling, string, quiver, and 18 carbon mix arrows are all part of this starter package. For the beginner, this is everything you could need to understand your new bow and get started using it right away.

This bow only weighs 3.85lbs which is nothing to worry about when it comes to a weapon you can use for self-defense and for procuring food.

Bear Archery Cruzer G2 Adult Compound Bow

amazon product

Bear Archery is a monster in the world of bowhunting and they make some of the best bows on the planet. This is an example of one such bow. The Cruzer G2 is one of those rare models that can be used by a beginner but also by a seasoned bowhunter.

One of the best features of this bow is the sheer variety of options when it comes time to purchase. The Cruzer comes in a variety of colors, it features pull options from 5 – #70lbs and can be purchased for left or right-handed shooters.

This model does not come with arrows to shoot but you will have a high-quality bow that is ready to hunt out of the box.


  • Power
  • Ease of Use
  • Accuracy
  • Variety


  • Replacement Parts
  • Specific Arrows

Traditional Bow

“Dada, look!” Carter pointed up to the sky as we walked down a sliver of sidewalk on our way to Jiu-Jitsu.

“It’s a bow and arrow!”

The cloud, drawn into a mostly blue sky, curved at the center just like a recurve bow. To have my son recognize that was cool enough, but at the same time a high altitude airplane was putting out contrails that moved right through that “recurve” cloud as an arrow would.

For a long time, I thought about that moment. One of the great experiences where your influence on your child manifests itself as a gift. I also thought about how long we have been using the traditional bow to survive and wondered if that also had something to do with how easily he identified the shape.

Traditional bows are broken into two categories

  • Long Bow – This bow has straight limbs when unstrung, and the power comes from a single bend in the wood. Think about Robin Hood’s bow or traditional archers from the medieval battles.
  • Recurve Bow – The recurve bow is stronger and its power comes from the two curves in the bow’s limbs. The recurve, when strung, creates great tension in the opposite direction of those curves, hence the name. It’s recognized by the curved tips that point away from the shooter rather than towards the shooter with a traditional longbow.

    In the world of the recurve bows, there are also variations called TAKEDOWN recurve bows. These are cool bows with removable limbs. They break down into three pieces so they are easier to carry and ship.

    Personally, I have never shot a takedown bow. Though I have heard good things about them.

Though it would take skill and practice the traditional bow is a weapon that could be repeated in the wild. You would likely not be able to reproduce a recurve bow but something resembling a traditional longbow could be made from wood and a drawknife or a survival knife.

These bows are designed to shoot cedar arrows. Though I have shot carbon arrows with my recurve and it works fine, a compound bow is too powerful to fire cedar arrows.

The ability to fire wood arrows means you can recreate arrows after your store-bought ones are used up. That is HUGE when it comes to a survival situation.

Now, it’s not all icing and cake when it comes to hunting with a traditional bow. Even the best recurve bow for hunting is going to only be effective at 20 yards, for the average hunter.

It’s not easy to get that close to an animal without them knowing you are there and trying to kill them!

Best Recurve Bow for Hunting

We have a couple of interesting choices for you in terms of recommended recurve bow. For most of us, firing a recurve bow that is made from PVC or one made of handcrafted hickory is going to feel pretty similar.

Until you fire your bow a lot you will not quite understand the nuances. For the purposes of hunting, you want a weapon that you can hit your target with consistently.

If you know how to use it, the recurve bow can be the best bow for deer hunting. It is also a great weapon for hunting small game.

Change your broadheads out for judo points and you can thump squirrels and rabbits with that same bow.

We have two recurve bows that are worth your consideration below.


  • Single Piece of Wood
  • Minimal Parts and Pieces
  • Uses Wood Arrows (which can be reproduced)


  • Maximum Effective Range is about 20 yards
  • Harder to Learn

Bear Archery Grizzle Recurve Bow, 30# Pull

amazon product

The traditional recurve bow is produced, primarily, by Bear Archery. I am sure there are others out there making recurves but if you want to invest in the experience of shooting a traditional bow, buy Bear Archery.

The 30lb pull on this bow means that most adults and teens will be able to shoot it. Children 10 and under will struggle to pull this bow back. If they do pull it back it will not be something they do over and over again.

This recurve bow comes with a bowstring and will be ready to fire when it arrives. I would recommend purchasing some kind of tool for stringing your bow.

The Grizzly by Bear Archery is one of the best recurve bows for hunting on the market. These are also the pinnacle of what a traditional recurve bow can be.

Samick Sage Takedown Recurve Bow, 35# Pull

amazon product

If you are looking to pack up clean and tight, a takedown bow will fit right down into your pack. The Samick by Sage is a 62-inch bow with maple and fiberglass limbs. It’s undeniably a starter bow at a great price. If you are new to hunting with a bow or using a traditional bow, the Samick is a great answer for you.

This bow is not the same quality as the Grizzly. No takedown bow will look or feel like a single piece of wood that is painstakingly shaped to perfection. That said, you can not break a Bear Archery recurve down to fit into tight space.

The Sage is also 1/3 the cost of the Grizzly and when it comes to survival and limited budgets that means something. Chances are you will want to feel out this bow hunting thing before you go investing big bucks into chasing big bucks.

My Choice for Best Hunting Bow for Survival

When it comes to the best hunting bow for survival it’s a different kind of conversation. We are not outfitting for the average deer seasons. Instead, we need to look at things through the lens of a survival situation.

To me, the Grizzly by Bear Archery is the survivor’s best choice on this list.

A simple fall could tweak or damage the compound bow. Unless you are committed to carrying replacement parts, and know-how to repair the bow, this thing could be rendered inoperable.

Also, if you run out of arrows you are not going to be producing your own carbon arrows for that recurve bow. So how does that look? Making arrows for your compound bow is not about skill and practice, its about materials that aren’t available in the wild.

To me, understanding and using the traditional bow is the better option. You will be limited by distance and it is a harder bow to shoot but you can reproduce the arrows, in the worst-case scenario.

The transition to the recurve from the compound is also easier than the transition to a recurve from a compound. Its cheaper to get started and for all those reasons the recurve bow gets my vote for the best-hunting bow for survival.


In an SHTF situation where people are behaving badly, silence will make a difference. Better to remain an unknown entity than to be outside firing off the .308 and attracting trouble.

As I mentioned, you can practice shooting your bow every day for $0 as long as you can retrieve any wild shot arrows. That means something for the preparedness budget.

You can also legally shoot your bow, in the comfort of your yard, in most localities and not only will you go unnoticed you will be more prone to practice.

From my experience dealing with people who want to get better at a skill or get in better shape, it’s not the practice that’s the problem, it’s getting there. If your gym is too far away you are never going to get in shape. The same can be said for the range.

A traditional bow is harder to learn and cheaper to acquire. To me, it’s just the natural progression for someone looking to start bow hunting. The act of firing arrows over and over might turn out to be something you despise. Better to din that out after spending $88 on a Sage instead of nearly $300 on a compound bow.

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6 Responses to “The Best Hunting Bow for Survival: Traditional VS Compound”

  1. I agree with your conclusion. I own a 54″, Shakespeare Super Necedah, model X-30, with a 55# pull at 28″‘s. It is a fiberglass laminate with a zebra wood grip. Excellent bow. In a SHTF situation, to me, the less complexity and moving parts that may have to be replaced is a very big plus. With a recurve, the only part you need to carry spares for is the bowstring. Also, from what I have read and am lead to understand, the effective killing range for a bow is 1 yard per pound of pull at 28″‘s. This means a 30# pull bow would effectively take large game up to 30 yards….my 55# pull would be effective up to 55 yards. However, depending on the terrain and conditions, shots that far are not normally available, or necessary. //

  2. I’ve had a Bear Super Kodiak recurve since about 1967 or 68. It’s rated at 65# and with my draw, (30″),
    gives me about 69#. I’ve taken an elk at just under 50 yards, Most deer at 30~40 yards. My buddy and I even took out a bear, but that was not an intended bear hunt. Ran into one that charged us. No doubt about it, we got lucky. We fired 2 arrows and ran like heck! It did finally drop about 40 yards beyond where we had originally been standing.
    I also have a longbow. It draws about 80#. At the age of 72, it’s getting a little harder to draw it.
    Personally, I’m not a fan of compound bows. But I can see their advantage for children and women who would be unable to draw a standard recurve. No, this is not sexist, so don’t harangue me about that.
    Maybe when I hit 80 I’ll have to demean myself and go to a compound. Ah, the humiliation.

  3. I have used a 55# conventional bow and a friend had a 70# that he used all the time, too much for me. To say that 20 yards is max for a regular bow is wrong, I have five deer to my credit, all at over 40 yards, and my friend killed one at over 70 yards with his bow.
    Pro- fewer things to break/go wrong, less to get caught in brush, twigs, etc. easier to maintain, as in nothing just string the bow and shot.
    Question, why did you only show a 30 and 35# bow? Was this article only intended for weak teens?

  4. I’ve been learning to use a take-down recurve bow for about two years now. The idiosyncrasies of bows take a while to master, especially when you can’t dedicate to it full time. I recently added a long bow to the fray.
    Anyway, the info in the article is really good. My only complaint is that the article is sometimes hard to follow… like the brain is way ahead of the fingers. Then, maybe it’s just my brain.

  5. I agree that recurve bows are an awesome tool to learn to use. I bought a nice used Bear recurve in 1971 and harvested my first whitetail deer that Fall. It pulls at 43# with a 28 inch draw. I pull a 31 inch arrow and wouldn’t hesitate to attempt a shot at a deer at 30 yards. I’m 65 now but can still send an arrow where it needs to go. Lifetime enjoyment! Thanks for the article.

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