The reason you need a bow stabilizer is to provide resistance to movement as you draw, hold and aim. In short, it stabilizes the bow.
Adding weight to the bow calms down movement when trying to settle the dot squarely on the target.
The length of the stabilizer you use is going to play a part in that calming process.
The further out front the stabilizer extends, the greater the resistance to movement.
This begs the question, what is the optimal length of a stabilizer for hunting?
And as with just about everything involved with this sport, the answer is...it depends.
Adjusting Weight For Optimal Performance
An important thing to remember when trying to decide on the length of your stabilizer is that the longer the stabilizer, the less weight you will require to achieve the stabilizing process.
The ideal scenario is that when you grip the bow it is perfectly balanced or, at the least, wants to gradually lean forward.
If it’s not, after you’ve added your stabilizer, you need to go through the process of getting the bow into balance.
Do this by gripping the bow as you normally would and then loosen the grip.
If it falls backward you need to add some weight to the stabilizer. Go through the process of adding 1 ounce at a time and rechecking the bow.
It should only take a few ounces before the bow is properly balanced and you’re ready to go.
It is crucial to check the performance of the stabilizer after you’ve added weight to it.
If the bow wants to quickly fall forward you’re going to need a back bar stabilizer as well as a front stabilizer.
When you think you’ve got the bow well balanced you’re going to have to test it on the practice range.
Come up with the maximum distance you’re likely going to shoot and focus on a target from that mark.
You’re looking to hold the dot steady on the target without any erratic movement.
If the movement is too much you need to continue adding weight until that movement settles down.
If it takes more than just a few ounces, your answer may be to change to a shorter stabilizer. Or you may need to mount a sidebar to compensate.
One of the best articles I’ve read that explains this clearly and completely can be found here at Cutter Stabilizers.
Long vs. Short Stabilizers
The length of the stabilizer you use can largely be a matter of personal preference.
It might also come down to a process of trial and error, gradually using and discarding stabilizers that aren’t working for you.
But a good place to start is the type of hunting you’re predominantly doing.
This is because the more confined conditions will cause the stabilizer to snag, bump or generally get in the way as you move into position.
If you are a spot and stalk hunter in more open conditions, you will appreciate the extra length that will steady the bow and help you get much tighter groupings.
In some cases you might require a long front stabilizer and a shorter rear stabilizer.
By the way, adding a rear stabilizer can be a real game changer if you are struggling for accuracy.
There’s Short and There’s Too Short
Using a short stabilizer is fine and many hunters prefer their stabilizer is compact.
In many cases the reason for using the really short stabilizer is for its noise deadening qualities.
When shooting out of a tree stand and over shorter distances the need to quieten the sight pin over the target is not as great.
Noise and vibration suppression takes precedence in this case.
If, however, you are expecting to use a short (4-6 inch) stabilizer to balance your bow and improve shooting accuracy, I’m afraid that’s going to be when it’s too short.
The Case Against Long Bow Stabilizers
Similarly, not all bow hunters are going to want to use a 12-14” stabilizer.
For many hunters, carrying excess weight is a big consideration and this includes the weight of a long stabilizer.
When the majority of your hunting day is moving through dense undergrowth you’re going to get pretty pissed off if your stabilizer is repeatedly catching on things.
Carrying hunting bows along with the rest of your equipment can be a tiring exercise and the added annoyance of a long rod might be more than you’re prepared to put up with.
The close confines of a hunting blind is a similar scenario.
You don’t want to be bumping on the sides or front of the blind every time you move to take your shot.
In these circumstances the longer stabilizer is simply not going to be practical.
A bow stabilizer is a very important piece of equipment and can drastically improve your accuracy with very little change to any other facet of your setup.
The length of the stabilizer you use is going to be dependent on where you hunt and how.
But in general terms a longer stabilizer will give you a more balanced bow and will help steady the dot on the target.
For even greater control and better hold on the target you could also mount a rear stabilizer.
Take a moment to understand your bare bow’s balance before adding a stabilizer as well as extra weight.
The result should be a high performance rig that shoots way better than before.
There is a perfect solution for those who are still unsure about what the ideal length of their stabilizer should be - a telescopic stabilizer.
These stabilizers by Crossroad Archery allow you to lengthen or shorten the stabilizer to suit your shooting circumstances.