The 20 Best Hunting Bows Under $500

Searching for a bow that won't blow your budget? Look no further

manufacturers have designed and produced some great bows that won't tap into your kids' college fund.

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Manufacturers have designed and produced some great bows that won't tap into your kids' college fund.Outdoor Life Online Editors

Unless you've recently struck it rich in the lottery ― you're broke like the rest of us. Hey, nobody has to tell you times are tough and getting tougher. As archers tighten their bowhunting belts, manufacturers have designed and produced some great bows that won't tap into your kids' college fund.

Here's 20 of the best on the market today. At the end of the gallery I explain the difference between a $1,000 bow and a $500 bow.

See our test of the Best Broadheads.

1. Parker Buckshot (Youth)

parker buckshot youth bow

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The Buckshot is designed with youths and small framed archers in mind.Parker Bows

The Buckshot, $249.95, is designed with youths and small framed archers in mind. While weighing a mere 2.75-pounds, the Buckshot is big (for a youth bow), at 28-inches axle-to-axle. Draw weights range from 15- to 45-pounds with 17- to 26-inches of draw length adjustment in ½-inch increments.

A great grip fits small hands neatly and a braided sling is standard issue. An 80% let-off assures archers can remain at full-draw comfortably as they settle on their intended target. The "Grow Up With Parker" program helps users adjust the bow as they grow, for years of enjoyment. Available in right or left handed models in RealTree MAX-4.

2. Mission Craze

mission craze compound bow

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Craze zips arrows up to 306 fps.Mission

The Craze, $299, is uber-adjustable, with the draw length stretching from 19- to 30-inches. The draw weight can be changed from 35- to 70-pounds without swapping limbs or cams. At 28-inches axle-to-axle, this bow is maneuverable while retaining a generous 7.5-inch brace height.

At a mere 3.75-pounds, the Craze zips arrows up to 306 fps (depending on configuration). The Craze is available in a number of crazy color combos too (including Pink Lost Camo AT). This truly is a bow that can be adjusted to fit just about any archer and his or her specific shooting needs.

3. Parker Sidekick (Youth)

parker youth bow

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Designed for beginner archers as it comes in 18- to 28-inches of draw length.Parker

The Sidekick, $299.95, is designed for beginner archers as it comes in 18- to 28-inches of draw length adjustable at ½" increments. Draw weights are available from 20- to 40-pounds and 40- to 60-pounds with a comfortable 80 percent let-off.

While designed for young archers, the Sidekick is full-sized at 31-inches axle-to-axle, and with a big brace height of 7 5/8-inches. The bow weighs in at 3.25-pounds, and shoots a respectable 270 fps. The "Grow Up With Parker" program ensures the Sidekick will fit the youngest archer for years to come (upgrades only available within the draw length and draw weight ranges for each bow).

The riser is CNC machined and comes standard with a string suppressor to dampen any residual vibration or noise and the integrated braided wrist sling. Available in right or left-handed models in NEXT G-1 camo.

4. Parker Blazer

Parker Blazer compound bows

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The Blazer features a dual cam system sending arrows at 295 fps IBO with an 80 percent let-off.Parker

The Blazer, $324.95, features a dual cam system sending arrows at 295 fps IBO with an 80 percent let-off. The Blazer has a generous overall geometry with an axle-to-axle measure of 32 ½" and easy shooting 7 ¾" brace height. Draw lengths are available from 26" to 31" all in one rotating module design that doesn't require a bow press to change the draw length.

A nice two-piece walnut finished grip and integrated wrist sling are standard. The Blazer has two limb weight ranges of 45- to 60-pounds and 55- to 70-pounds. Available in right or left handed models in NEXT G-1 camo.

5. Hoyt ProHawk

Hoyt prohawk compound

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FuseTM brand custom strings, a pro-fit grip and pro-lock limb pockets add to this bows appeal.Hoyt

The ProHawk, $399, features a bridger riser design (TEC riser), slim parallel split limbs, and proven Cam & 1/2 technology. This 32-inch axle-to-axle bow has a 7.25-inch brace height with draw weights ranging from 20- to 60-pounds.

The Cam & ½ eccentrics produce 305 fps at a mass weight of 4-pounds. Integrated limb vibration dampers minimize shot vibration. FuseTM brand custom strings, a pro-fit grip and pro-lock limb pockets add to this bows appeal. Available in nine different finishes including RealTree AP.

6. Alpine Archery F2 Liberator

alpine archery F2 liberator bow

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This Lewiston, Idaho company has been producing quality shooting machines for years.Alpine Archery

This Lewiston, Idaho company has been producing quality shooting machines for years. The Liberator, $399 motivates arrows at 315 fps with a feather-light mass weight of 3.5-pounds. At 30-inches axle-to-axle, it is well-suited for treestands and ground blinds.

The 6061 machined riser is film-dipped in the Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity camo and complimented with hard-anodized brown hardware, an antiqued medallion and rosewood grip. The Alpine adjusts via modules from 27- 30-inches of draw length and is available in 60- and 70-pound draw weight models.

7. Alpine Blush

Alpine blush

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The Blush is designed for women who want a high-performance shooter at a budget price.Alpine Archery

The Blush, $399, is designed for women who want a high-performance shooter at a budget price. The Blush has one of the most outlandish finishes I've seen. Make no mistake, you'll get noticed when carrying the Blush.

It's a full-sized bow, measuring 30-inches axle-to-axle. At this respectable length, it is still manageable at 3.5-pounds of mass weight. Draw lengths range from 24- to 27-inches. Draw weights are available in 40 and 50-pounds. A great two-piece rosewood grip, 6.25-inch brace height and surprising 290 fps of arrow speed round-out this offering.

8. Martin Ridge Hunter

Martin ridge hunter compound bow

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The unique grip is nice, promoting a solid anchor and steady aim.Martin Archery

The Ridge Hunter, $399, sends arrows downrange at 315 fps via the ACU-Trak single-cam system, HammerHeadTM bowstrings and PowerToughTM limbs. The riser is CNC machined from a single block of aluminum, providing a solid base for the with pivoting limb pockets. The Ridge Hunter is available in 25- to 31-inches of draw length and 50- to 70-pounds of draw weight.

The unique grip is nice, promoting a solid anchor and steady aim. The 7.2-inches of brace height (at 32.5-inches axle-to-axle) promises an accurate shooting machine and the 3.7-pound mass weight promises all-day carry comfort.

9. PSE Brute

PSE Brute bow

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Solid limbs anchor the power system, providing a healthy 312-320 fps of arrow speed.PSE

The Brute has been an econo-performer, and workhorse of the PSE line-up for some time now. This bow is one you can grow with "no bow press needed" to adjust the draw length over a full 6-inch range in ½" increments (25- to 30-inches).

Solid limbs anchor the power system, providing a healthy 312-320 fps of arrow speed (depending on set-up). Vibracheck™ limb bands reduce vibration and minimize shot noise. The single-cam system draws smoothly and optimizes level nock travel. A shock-absorbing grip provides further stealth and comfort to the shooter. Machined timing marks keep the bow tunes easily in sight.

10. Quest Hammer

Quest hammer compound bow

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The Hammer enters the lineup as a top-performer melded with an economical price tag.Quest Bowhunting

The Quest bow line has been producing some great shooters of late. The Hammer, $399, enters the lineup as a top-performer melded with an economical price tag. A modular single-cam makes for an easy draw cycle and silky shooting.

The Durafuse finishing process (with Realtree AP HD and G-Fade custom patterns) makes this bow an eye-catcher. The Hammer features a 33" axle-to-axle length, a 7 1/4" brace height, pivoting and locking limb pockets and 80-percent let-off. At 4.2-pounds, the Hammer delivers an IBO speed of 312 -315 fps. The forged T6 aluminum riser is solid and feels good in hand. A 7.25-inch brace height promises a forgiving shooter.

11. Quest Torch (Youth/Beginner)

quest torch compound bow

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The Torch is able to accommodate shooters as they grow with Quest's "Grow As You Go Guarantee."Quest Bowhunting

The Torch, $399, is designed for smaller to intermediate shooters searching a bow with shorter draw lengths at manageable draw weights. The Torch is available in 30- to 45-pounds of draw weight at 24- to 28-inches of draw length.

The riser and limb pockets are CNC machined from T6061-T6 aluminum, lending to a rock-solid and very rugged bow. At 33-inches of axle-to-axle measure and a brace height of 6-inches, the Torch is able to accommodate shooters as they grow with Quest's "Grow As You Go Guarantee."

The program allows the shooter to increase the poundage and draw length as they outgrow the bow. Available in left or right handed models in G-Fade finish, including Pink AP Snow Camo or RealTree AP camo.

12. Martin Exile ACU-Trac

Martin Exile compound bow

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The Exile is a good choice for groundblinds and cramped treestands.Martin Archery

The Exile, $399, is very short at 30.25-inches axle-to-axle (a 7.25-inch brace height) making it a good choice for groundblinds and cramped treestands. A respectable 3.4-pound mass weight helps keep it light when hunts cover rough terrain.

The Exile feature list includes the ACU-Trak cam, PowerToughTM Limbs (anchored in rotating pivot pockets) and no-stretch HammerHeadTM strings and cables (BCY string material). Draw weights vary from 50- to 70-pounds with 80-percent let-off. Draw lengths range from 25- to 30-inches.

13. Bear Archery Strike

Bear Archery compound bow

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The dual offset string suppressors reduce vibration, while flared split limbs distribute stress evenly across the limbs when drawn and during the shot.Bear Archery

The Strike, $399, touts zero-tolerance limb pockets that help maintain a tight limb-to-cup-to-riser fit, regardless of draw weight. The dual offset string suppressors reduce vibration, while flared split limbs distribute stress evenly across the limbs when drawn and during the shot.

The perimeter-weighted cam system allows the adjustment to all draw length positions without the use of modules and does not require a bow press for draw length adjustments in 1-inch increments.

60- and 70-pound draw weights are available, with draw lengths ranging from 26- to 31-inches. Stainless steel sealed roller bearings keep the eccentrics rotating smoothly, while propelling arrows at 310 fps.

14. Parker Wildfire

Parker wildfire compound bow

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The 80 percent let-off and the comfortable two-piece walnut finished grip make for comfortable all-day shooting.Parker

Parker's Wildfire eccentrics system (cam system) is fully adjustable (modules included) from 26- to 31-inches with an adjustable draw stop on the cam for precision tuning. The Wildfire, $424.95, throttles arrows at 310 fps with a forgiving brace height of 7 ¾".

The 80 percent let-off and the comfortable two-piece walnut finished grip make for comfortable all-day shooting. With a compact axle-to-axle dimension of 32-inches and a light mass weight of 3.65-pounds―the Wildfire maneuvers effortlessly. The Wildfire also features an adjustable string suppressor and braided wrist sling. Available in left and right handed models in NEXT G-1 camo.

15. Darton DS-600

Darton DS 600

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The DS-600 comes with a complete set of draw modules and an adjustable positive draw stop for changing draw lengths.Darton Archery

The DS-600, $444, at 31 3/8" axle-to-axle boasts a large 7.5-inch brace height, one sure to increase accuracy. E-flex limbs are coupled with Darton's proprietary DualSync cam system attaining chronograph readings of 307-310 fps.

The DS-600 comes with a complete set of draw modules and an adjustable positive draw stop for changing draw lengths. Draw lengths of 25- to 30-inches and 40, 50, and 60-pound draw weights can be customized to fit the individual user. Available in RealTree APG HD and Shadow Black.

16. Hoyt Rampage

Hoyt rampage

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The Rampage features Hoyt's sleek bridged riser design (TEC riser); one designed to remove any flex from the riser during draw.Hoyt

The Rampage, $499, features Hoyt's sleek bridged riser design (TEC riser); one designed to remove any flex from the riser during draw. High-end features on the Rampage include a low-profile pocket design, in-line roller guard system, XTS limb system, and Fuel Cam.

Quad split-limbs provide power, shuttling arrows to the target at 306 fps. At an overall length of 34-inches, the Rampage weighs in at 4.2-pounds with a brace height of 7-inches. A rubber-coated arrow shelf keeps arrows quiet during the hunt and a carbon-rod string suppressor keeps noise to a minimum.

17. PSE Bow Madness XS

PSE Bow Madness XS

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The PSE Bow Madness line of bows has enjoyed tremendous success recently.PSE

The PSE Bow Madness, $499, line of bows has enjoyed tremendous success recently. PSE's resurgence in the market can be attributed to their uber-engineered compounds. Without a doubt, PSE builds the fastest bows on the market.

Their XS is a fast one-cam bow, generating some 320 fps with a smooth draw cycle that is synonymous with one-cams. A generous eight full-inches of brace height make this bow forgiving of shooter-induced error. At a short 29 ¼" axle-to-axle, it's an easy carry when you're on a long trek.

Draw weights range from 50- to 70-pounds and draw lengths stretch from 25- to 30-inches. A mass weight of 4.2-pounds allows for a steady anchor and shooting platform.

18. Mission Venture

Mission venture

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The Venture continues along the lines that have built the Mission company; high-end bows at blue-collared prices.Mission

The Venture, $499, continues along the lines that have built the Mission company; high-end bows at blue-collared prices. The Venture shoots arrows at a 323 fps clip at a mass weight of 4.3-pounds.

The vertically challenged 30 ¼" axle-to-axle measure offers a substantial 7 1/8" brace height. The Zebra Hybrid string is an unexpected pleasantry as is the machined double roller guard. Dual string suppressors and a dead-end string stop eliminate unwanted vibration. The fully-machined riser is yet another A-list indulgence on a budget bow.

19. Bear Archery Mauler

Bear archery mauler bow

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With speed up to 328 fps (depending on configuration) and a compact 31.25" axle-to-axle measure, the Mauler is compact.Bear Archery

Industry giant Bear has made a strong return to the market in recent years by manufacturing quality compounds at very reasonable pricing―the Mauler, $499, continues in this tradition. With speed up to 328 fps (depending on configuration) and a compact 31.25" axle-to-axle measure, the Mauler is compact.

At a manageable 3.9-pounds, the 6.75-inch brace height Mauler, with its 80-percent let-off, comes in 26- to 31-inches of draw length--making it versatile. Dual string dampers, some of the trickiest in the industry, keep unwanted vibration to a minimum. A great rubber grip and RealTree APG camo round out this shooter.

20. Winchester Tracker

Winchester archery tracker bow

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The two-track cam is engineered to use the same track of the cam to perform both the cable take-up and cable let-out functions.Winchester

Winchester introduced their new bow line last year. This year they add the Tracker, $499, an econo-priced performer with that great Winchester moniker. Incredibly reliable Gordon glass limbs are the foundation for the two-track cam system that trips arrows through the chrono at 310 fps.

The two-track cam is engineered to use the same track of the cam to perform both the cable take-up and cable let-out functions. This cam-to-cam rigging forces both cams to act as one with no possibility of independent movement.

At 31.25-inches axle-to-axle, and with a brace height of 7.25-inches, the Tracker comes in 27- to 30-inch draw length and 50, 60, and 70-pounds of draw force. Two grips come standard, a two-piece rubber grip and a narrow two-piece target style grip, which promotes torque-free shooting.

The Difference Between a $399 or $1299 Hunting Bow

machined risers

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Machined risers produced by whittling away a solid block of aluminum with costly computer-aided automated machinery.Outdoor Life Online Editors

Cast Risers

Why does one bow retail for $1299 and another at $399? You've heard plenty talk of "machined risers" versus "cast risers." Machined risers are just that―produced by whittling away a solid block of aluminum with costly computer-aided automated machinery.

Cast Versus CNC Machined

archery risers

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Here is a riser being removed from a CNC machine.Outdoor Life Online Editors

Cast risers are mass produced using a machine mold, and molded much like plastic parts, however, using molten magnesium.

Component Quality

compound bow components

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The quality of other components dictate market value and price.OL

The quality of other components dictate market value and price. Strings and cables, while they may seem inconsequential, are critical to a bows performance. Inferior materials stretch and wear quickly, negatively affecting accuracy and a bow's life cycle.

Cams

cam quality

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Now bows shooting blazing fast can be had for a reasonable price.Outdoor Life Online Editors

Other components, like the eccentrics, or the cam system, provide the power. While there is a direct correlation of speed to retail, bows shooting blazing fast can be had for a reasonable price.

6 Best Bow Releases for $50 or Less

A bow release is just as important as a trigger on a rifle. Bowhunting Editor Todd Kuhn picks out the six best releases that won't break the bank.

1. Tru Fire Hurricane Extreme

Tru Fire Hurricane Extreme
Tru Fire Hurricane ExtremeOutdoor Life Online Editors

The wrist strap on the Hybrid version is comfortable and encourages a proper draw using the back muscles instead of grabbing and pulling the release. It adjusts easily and is whisper-quiet when triggered. A supple half-inch-wide nylon strap connects the trigger to the wrist strap.

2. Redhead XPS Deluxe Caliper

Redhead XPS Deluxe Caliper
Redhead XPS Deluxe CaliperOutdoor Life Online Editors

This dual-caliper release offers a wide range of adjustments for a customized fit and feel. The fold-back head lets you tuck the release away when it's not needed. A thin trigger is great for bare fingers but may be too dainty to manage well with gloved hands.

3. Jim Fletcher Archery .44 Caliper

Jim Fletcher Archery .44 Caliper
Jim Fletcher Archery .44 CaliperOutdoor Life Online Editors

The oversize trigger on this dual-caliper release is great for gloved hands, and a roller-sear design makes it the most-sensitive trigger in the field. The leather strap is high quality, if a bit narrow. Gap-free, interlocking jaws and a lifetime warranty round out the offering.

4. T.R.U. Ball Super Stinger

T.R.U. Ball Super Stinger
T.R.U. Ball Super StingerOutdoor Life Online Editors

A pull-to-open jaw design allows for silent operation; however, it leads to some trigger creep. An offset trigger reduces punched trips. The trigger tension and overall length are adjustable, though customizing the length is cumbersome and imprecise. The fleece wrist strap is plush and quiet.

5. Scott Archery Quick Shot

Scott Archery Quick Shot
Scott Archery Quick ShotOutdoor Life Online Editors

The Quick Shot has the smoothest trigger in the groups, but its tension, unfortunately, can't be adjusted. The buckle strap makes it simple to get the release on in the dark; however, the material is relatively stiff. A trigger-head rope connection promotes torque-free shooting.

6. Cobra Pro Caliper

Cobra Pro Caliper
Cobra Pro CaliperOutdoor Life Online Editors

The padded, heavy-duty leather wrist strap with a Velcro enclosure is fuss-proof and easily donned using one hand. The downside: Neither the trigger tension (which is preset at the factory) nor the release length is adjustable. In its defense, the trigger is quite smooth.