Predator Classic 53#@28" by Hunters Niche
Hunters Niche offer just one bow, the Predator. I make the distinction because there are a whole heap of bows out there in one form or another named Predator. I actually like the idea that a maker sells just one bow, it shows a certain confidence and something of a swagger. It comes in 2 forms or riser styles, the Hunter which is a "no Frills" single (resin impregnated) wood riser priced at a competitive $250 or the Classic which has all the frills, accent stripes, choice of several woods and runs from $325 to $425. Limbs are sold separately.
This is a classic riser with Bocote/Shedua whilst the limbs are Zebra wood facings under glass, the limbs are offered from $399 to $499 depending on wood/glass combo. The Belly is black glass and the core is solid maple. The limb tips are strengthened to take a modern string material. There is an option to add a carbon core for just $100 - it always surprises me that someone would buy a bow for hundreds of dollars and not go the extra mile and include carbon where available, it is claimed it will add a little stability and a few extra fps... for a hundred bucks, why not ! Whilst I am having a whinge about the original owner.... looking at the website there are quite a lot of handsome combinations of wood and futurewood for the riser in conjunction with an equally impressive number of limb colours... this is perhaps the least attractive and a somewhat insipid blend, maybe you disagree..
No matter how many bows I get to shoot or how many I currently own the arrival of a new bow always gets my heart pumping and is accompanied by a general air of excitement. I imagine I am not too unlike many archers out there who despite shooting a lot of fine bows always feels that there is a bow that will be "The One", the bow that is somehow easier to shoot, faster than the rest, more accurate than any before, the bow that will complement your shooting style. This one could be it. It's funny how those first few shots can influence your whole demeanour to a new bow. I have seen someone pick up a new bow, nail an inner kill and declare the bow to be awesome... regardless of the fact that they may never hit a kill again.
I had concerns when I put this bow together, the brace was up around 9" which for a 62" bow did not feel at all right.. I took the brace down and as it happened my wife was bringing me a cup of tea right at that moment and she stood behind me and asked " what's wrong with it ?, what is all that noise and vibration about ?" I could feel the limb tips vibrating and the noise was 'orrible - definitely not right. This was obviously why the previous owner had upped the brace height until the vibration and noise became less noticeable. I have owned several recurve bows with a tendancy to make a lot of noise and some require very fine tuning to make them right.
The bow is actually very nice to look at, I like the symmetry of the limbs and the way the bow when strung forms a pleasing triangle which puts me in mind of an Egyptian chariot bow. The limbs are mounted on the front but once screwed on they make the bow look like a one piece. One piece bows always look much nicer than take downs, but the take downs always shoot harder... this is the perfect marriage between a take down bow that looks like a 1pc. The riser is quite simple in design - no fancy curves that don't need to be there and the lines are all very clean, it is an aggressive looking bow in an understated way. The Ozzies have a phrase for this "as lean and mean as a sheeps mouth". The very qualities that attracted me to it in the first instance. Even though I had never shot one I was sure that this is not the way it should feel or sound. Happily I actually enjoy the challenge of tuning a new bow.
The only way to proceed is to start from the ground up.. upon checking the website I found the recommended brace to be 7 1/4" to 7 3/4" - pretty much where I normally start with a new bow. Apart from the colour I didn't like the string, in the bin for you. It often surprises people how much difference a new well made string can affect the bow or indeed how much a poor string can make a good bow feel bad. I have currently a surfeit of Dynaflight 10 and a 14 strand string will do nicely, even before serving it the change was more than dramatic, noise was reduced, the limb tips were not vibrating like crazy and the whole feel of the bow was changed. I get an awful lot of stick about the wool silencers I tend to put on my strings, they make a difference to even the smoothest of bows with very little effect on speed, I don't use a mass of wool just a dozen or so strands which when puffed out do a nice job of getting a bow whisper quiet. Once served and brought down to 7 1/4" the bow starts to live up to it's name. The way the power is delivered will be the first thing you notice when drawing up a new bow and this one is syrupy slick, smooth as an ACS, not even a hint of a power band just an ultra smooth delivery as the limbs start to store the energy. I noticed it because I generally shoot bows in the 47-50# bracket and thought I might notice the 53# if it loaded early or late, but it wasn't the #age I became aware of first, with the bow now shooting quietly it was the elasticity of the draw which caught my attention..
There was only a bare radiused shelf and no strike plate which the previous owner must have removed and I quickly stuck on some Velcro as a make do solution. Feeling pleased with myself it was time to go to the range and do some shooting. The shelf looks like it is cut 1/8" past which will mean an easy job tuning. The weight overall is 1lb 10oz and the sight window is cut 3 7/8" high. The grip is medium high recurve and the finish is so smooth and matt that it feels very very comfortable in the hand, overall the bow has a very solid feel with most of the weight right where you want it... in the riser.
The limb tips are very aggressive and as such I would expect a little feedback from the bow, only once ever have I experienced true "zero shock" from a bow and recurves such as this tend to have some feeling in the shot, it isn't hand shock just a hint of feedback which in fact some folk will like, after the first couple of shots I didn't notice it at all.
With a nice heavy arrow (for 3D at least, 535grain is plenty heavy ) the arrows are spat out fast and smoothly, in fact the bow is very stable in that shot after shot arrived at the target in a tight group, it's easy to shoot and the extra 5# of draw weight is only something I remembered after I had shot it. Usually I would notice that extra weight but it's a testament to that smooth draw that I could shoot an extra 5# with seemingly no penalty at all. I found the best results with a tapered arrow of 60# spine in pine. They were shooting like supersonic missiles, the bow seemed to accommodate a slight cant which I find is my most comfortable and natural shooting style so I expect instinctive archers will really like this bow.. I do. In fact I was surprised the previous owner wanted to sell it, he told me that it was just a tad too heavy for him and I almost feel guilty that had he taken the brace down a few inches, got himself a nice string and had a re tuning session he would have found an easier draw and more power, a high brace height just increases the draw weight whilst decreasing the power-stroke.. too late now as she is mine !
Shooting it at some 3D's I can really see how very good this bow is, effortlessly accurate, the smoothness becomes very much apparent once you are drawing and shooting a large number of arrows because you won't start to tire quickly - it shoots hard and with authority. I was joined by Andy and we started to have some fun stump shooting around the field, shoots like these often degenerate as each target chosen became wilder and wackier - we both looked at some stakes in the ground over 60 yards away and decided this 2" wide post would make an excellent target - under normal circumstances you could stand there all day and not hit it ---- Andy took 1 arrow and it took me 3 tries to nail it.... what a cracking bow..Over the weeks I have been shooting it one thing becomes very apparent, it is totally stable. Certainly much of that will be down to the 1 3/4" wide very solid looking limbs which no doubt offer great torsional consistency, this stability manifests itself as accuracy and this will be one of the most accurate bows I have had the pleasure to shoot. Because of this consistency the bow is very forgiving, perhaps one of the most forgiving bows I have shot - that combination of forgiveness, stability and consistency in turn gives you the confidence to shoot well. I say that because of late my form has been off but even within several sessions with this bow I could feel myself shooting more calmly and steadily.
Inevitably I needed to know how fast this bow shoots, at 53# I knew it was quick, the reason I hadn't checked the figures sooner was simply that the bow is devastatingly accurate and I would always rather hit my target regardless of speed, than miss really fast.. hopefully I can have speed and accuracy and this bow looks like it delivers both..
12 shots off fingers at my 28" draw, top two and bottom two discarded and the rest averaged:
450gn 8.50gn/# 185 fps
560gn 10.60gn/# 174 fps
No doubt you could get faster readings off a machine, the speed test is far from scientific but does represent real world shooting. Despite the very quick speed at lower grain weights the combination of a heavy pine tapered shaft and large helical fletches offered incredible accuracy and a small drop in speed is a price well worth paying for sticking those arrows right on the money.
Features & Design
A beautiful looking bow which feels very solid and well balanced in the hand. Designed as a hunters bow it has a purposeful look about it.
Very punchy, the real secret to the bow is it's smooth draw and solid feel, consistency and stability.
Value for Money
A great price for a very well designed bow that is a joy to shoot. I don't think anyone would bat an eyelid if it cost several hundred dollars more than it does.... I guess this make it good value at it's current price.
Only very occasionally do I feel that I want another almost identical bow but I have a feeling I want to get one in another wood combo at a slightly different weight.... I know I can only shoot one at a time but this bow is beautiful to look at and it would be fun to see 2 together... is that strange ?? I love it because it inspires confidence in my shooting.