Month: August 2018

Is the Quest Thrive the Best Bow of 2018?

Category : Bowhunting Gear

How the Thrive stacks up against the top bows of 2018.

At the beginning of the 2018 calendar year I began searching for a new hunting bow.  I decided to approach the process with as little bias or brand loyalty as possible.  I wanted to end up with a bow that fit me well, was forgiving, and comfortable to draw and shoot.  I shot a good many bows from a variety of manufacturers, there are still some that I haven’t shot and frankly, it would be almost impossible to shoot every flagship bow from every manufacturer.  I’ll do my best to outline some of the specs of each bow I’ve included in this review and detail what general things I was looking for, but be aware that this isn’t going to be a tech filled article.  I’m a bowhunter, not a target archer, and as such, my opinions are, in many ways, that of a layman.  There are so many bows made today, all of which can kill most animals in North America with the right arrow combination, so the search for the right bow comes down to a lot of personal preference.  The recent uptick in traditional bowhunting has done a great job in showing both traditional and compound archers that high speeds do not have to be achieved for maximum penetration and so (full disclosure) I don’t give it much weight when making a decision on a bow to buy.

At a high level, the main criteria I consider in a bow are: draw cycle/valley/let-off, back wall, brace height, mass weight, balance, hand shock and price.  Detailed below is what I am looking for in each of those categories.  Your needs may be different than mine, so it becomes important to outline the preferences that affect my determinations on the shoot-ability, performance and comfort of each bow.

  • Draw cycle/Valley/Let-off- I prefer a smooth draw cycle that doesn’t stack up before let off. Some people might refer to this as a “hump and dump”.  I also prefer a fairly wide valley as I find that this makes the bow a little more forgiving to shoot.  Along those same lines, I like the additional let off that can be achieved with a deeper set valley and a bit more cam rotation, and I am more than happy to sacrifice some bow efficiency to achieve these comfort gains.
  • Back Wall- I like a very solid back wall, and for this reason I really prefer a bow that can utilize limb stops vs. cable stops. I prefer a bow that likes to stay on the wall and this is another reason I prefer a deeper valley and also why I steer away from a bow with a ‘jumpy’ cam system.
  • Brace height- Because I am big on hunting with a forgiving bow, I prefer a longer brace height. I’ve shot bows in the past with brace heights of over 8”, and I really prefer no less than 7”.  Since I’m not too concerned with maximizing arrow speed, I don’t feel it’s necessary to move to a 5” or 6” brace height for the purpose of a few feet per second.
  • Mass weight- Some archers prefer a heavier bow. Heavier bows can typically absorb more vibration and they tend to offer more stability.  While I don’t like an extremely light bow, I don’t want a heavy, clunky bow that leads to more fatigue when I am target shooting in pre-season.  I prefer a bow with an out-of-the-box weight in the high 3 to low 4 lb range.
  • Balance- A bow that is balanced will sit in your hand with minimal need for counter weights. This keeps mass weight to a manageable level for a hunting set up and can aid in improving your form, consistency and follow through and, as such, your accuracy.
  • Hand Shock- Over the past decade, bow manufacturers have achieved huge strides in vibration reduction. Regardless of the model you choose, in comparison to the older bows you may be used to, you are going to be amazed at the improvement in vibration dampening technology on a new bow.  Still, there are some models that are leading the way in this area and its worth noting!
  • Price- Unless you are independently wealthy, price should, responsibly speaking, play a role in a purchasing decision. It certainly does for me.

The Bows

        Of the 10+ bow models I’ve shot this winter, I’ve chosen 5 to compare and will give a short description of my opinion of each followed by a 1-10 score for each of the categories listed above.

  1. Mathews Triax– The Triax is Mathews new short axel-to-axel design that is proving to be making some noise in the hunting industry.  I loved the Triax when I shot it and most of my concerns about the axel-to-axel length were eliminated after I tested it out.  To me, it felt just as stable as a longer bow and the most noticeably impressive thing about it is how dead in the hand it is.  The bow felt plenty fast and was plenty quiet.  I felt that the draw cycle was surprisingly hard given the rounded, oversized cams, but the valley was excellent and the back wall was good for a bow with cable stops.  The bow stayed on the back wall well and the let-off was adequate.  The bow has a lot of weight at the top and when holding it, it has a tendency to want to tip forward.  However, when its shot, the top of the bow still wants to kick back and it will probably require more weight out front to compensate than you might expect.  The bow’s 6” brace height is shorter than I prefer in most circumstances, but the feel of this bow was more like a bow with a 7” brace.  For such a short bow, the Triax is fairly heavy at 4.4 lbs.  Some of this is likely due to the rather robust riser and limb pockets on the bow.  The suggested retail price on the Triax is $1099 but I have found many bow shops to have it listed at $999.
  • Draw Cycle/Valley/Let-off: 8/10
  • Back Wall: 8/10
  • Brace Height: 7/10
  • Mass Weight: 7/10
  • Balance: 6/10
  • Hand Shock: 10/10
  • Price: 8/10
    • Score: 54 –  Average: 7.71
  1. Bear Kuma– Bear came out with their newest flagship bow, the Kuma, and offered it in both a regular and long draw option. I shot the standard Kuma.  This bow has slightly smaller and slightly less rounded cams than some of its predecessors from Bear.  The 33” axel-to-axel bow is well balanced and feels very fast.  However, I found the draw cycle to be very uncomfortable and harsher than I would ideally prefer.  I would also like a deeper valley, but to be fair, some improvement in that area could be achieved by adjusting the limb stop.  The cams felt a bit more jumpy than I would like and the bow doesn’t like to stay on the wall.  The Kuma has a 75% let-off at full draw.  The bow I shot came out of the box with cable stops, and the back wall was fairly spongey.  Some of this could be mitigated with higher quality strings and cables, as well as the installation of a limb stop.  The bare bow comes in at 4.3 lbs and the brace height in 6”.  It draws, shoots and feels like a 6” brace height bow.  Most noticeable when shooting the Kuma right after the Mathews Triax was the increase in hand shock and torque.  I also shot the Bear Moment, a carry-over from 2017, and have to say that I personally prefer this bow to the Kuma.  The Moment has a better draw cycle, a better valley, a better back wall, a slightly more compact 31” axel-to-axel, 80% let off and significantly less vibration.  Both the Kuma and the Moment retail a few hundred dollars less than other manufacturers’ bows, coming in at $899 MSRP.   I have even seen the Kuma around $800 at some shops, a great price point for a flagship bow!
  • Draw Cycle/Valley/Let-off: 5/10
  • Back Wall: 5/10
  • Brace Height: 6/10
  • Mass Weight: 8/10
  • Balance: 8/10
  • Hand Shock: 6/10
  • Price: 9/10
    • Score: 47 – Avg: 6.71
  1. Bowtech Realm– Bowtech followed up its successful Reign series with the Realm in 2018.  Don’t get them confused, in my opinion they aren’t comparable.  I shot a Reign 7 before I shot the Realm.  The Reign draws and shoots like a speed bow while the Realm feels like the very smooth, very forgiving, very comfortable Bowtech hunting bows I have owned in the past.  The Realm uses Bowtech’s Smart Bow technology to offer two draw cycles to the archer, a speed setting and a comfort setting.  I prefer to shoot on the comfort setting and will sacrifice some speed for increased shoot-ability.  The silky smooth draw of the Realm gives way without dumping into the valley.  The draw cycle is superior to the Triax, but once at full draw the bows feel about the same.  The back wall is similar and both bows stay on it well.  While plenty fast to be extremely lethal, and rated at the same 340 fps as the Reign 7, I would be surprised to find that the Realm was as fast as the Reign.  However, I didn’t shoot either through a chronograph because speed is of little concern to me.  The Realm rivals the Triax in terms of hand shock elimination.  It is extremely dead in the hand.  The Realm has a 7 1/8 brace height and a 30 ¾ axel-to-axel length.  It has a fairly blocky riser, with beefy limb pockets and very short, wide limbs.  The bow is listed at 4.3 lbs mass weight, but actually looks like it should be heavier than that.  Although rated the same as the Kuma, it felt more comparable to the Triax in weight.  The let off of on the Realm I shot felt somewhere in the 75-80% range.  The bow retails for $1099 MSRP but you may find it on the rack at many shops for $999.
  • Draw Cycle/Valley/Letoff: 9/10
  • Back Wall: 8/10
  • Brace Height: 8/10
  • Mass Weight: 7/10
  • Balance: 8/10
  • Hand Shock: 9/10
  • Price: 8/10
    • Score: 57 – Avg: 8.14
  1. Elite Ritual- Elite certainly improved its offering in 2018 with the Ritual. In comparison to some of Elite’s prior flagship models, the Ritual blows them away. This is a sweet shooting machine that offers about everything you could want in a hunting bow.  The precise weight distribution on the bow is immediately noticeable.  It offers a draw cycle that very much resembles the Bowtech Realm.  I felt that the Ritual had a valley that was a bit more to my liking than that of the Triax or the Realm.  The back wall was very similar to the Realm and the bow is incredibly dead in the hand.  Like the Realm, it does not cede much ground to the Triax in that area.  The axel to axel is comparable to the Bear Kuma at 33 ¼”.  The brace height on the Ritual is 6 ¾” and the mass weight is rated at 4.3 lbs.  Of the bows I shot, this bow felt the lightest, which I attributed to the excellent balance and weight distribution.  The Ritual retails for $999 and I’ve seen it advertised at local shops for $949.
  • Draw Cycle/Valley/Let-off: 9/10
  • Back Wall: 8/10
  • Brace Height: 7/10
  • Mass Weight: 8/10
  • Balance: 10/10
  • Hand Shock: 8/10
  • Price: 8/10
    • Score: 58 – Avg: 8.29
  1. Quest Thrive– Quest brought the Thrive to market in 2018 and it wasn’t even on my radar as a bow to test.  I was getting one of my old bows restrung at a local shop and the owner encouraged me to try one.  I was both surprised and impressed enough to shoot a couple follow up shots just to make sure I felt what I thought I felt!  Keep in mind that Quest is to Prime what Diamond is to Bowtech, Mission to Mathews or, back in the day, Reflex was to Hoyt.  These brands manufacture quality bows that can be offered to the consumer at a more affordable price point.  To meet those price points, sometimes the manufacturers forego the use of some of the more expensive technology and components.  In this case, G5 does not incorporate the parallel cam technology of the Prime bows into the Quest line.  Still, they are good looking and great performing bows.  G5’s advanced riser technology allows them to boast some of the most rigid aluminum risers in the industry.  If you are at all familiar with G5, you could easily mistake the Quest Thrive for a Prime Rize.  Aside from the Rize’s parallel cam, the two bows spec out extremely similar.  The Thrive has a 33.75” axel-to-axel length, making it one of the longest axel-to-axel bows I tested.  The listed mass weight of 4.3 lbs felt heavier than the Kuma or the Ritual and more in line with the weight of the Realm and the Triax.  The draw cycle stacked up a bit but did not dump into the valley.  The valley on the Quest was adequate, but I would adjust the draw stops a bit to make it wider than it comes out of the box.  Even so, the bow stayed on the back wall and the limb stops are rock solid.  This had the absolute best back wall of any bow I shot.  The weight distribution on the bow, while not quite as impressive as the Elite Ritual, was close to it, and the bow is incredibly balanced and maintains it through the shot.  Quest is even shipping these bows with all the modules to adjust from 26-31” draw lengths!  One of the biggest “wow” factors for me with this bow was how dead in the hand it is.  We’re talking Triax dead, here.  This bow sacrifices nothing in vibration dampening to any flagship bow in the industry right now.  The second “wow” factor was the price.  At a MSRP of $679 and most shops carrying them at $650, this bow and its price point are hard to beat.  Imagine a bow that can compete with any flagship model, for box store pricing.  It’s almost too good to be true!
  • Draw Cycle/Valley/Let-off: 7/10
  • Back Wall: 10/10
  • Brace Height: 7/10
  • Mass Weight: 7/10
  • Balance: 9/10
  • Hand Shock:10/10
  • Price: 10/10
    • Score: 60 – Avg: 8.57

The way I break it down, the Quest Thrive is on its way to becoming one of the very best bows in 2018.  I suspect Quest will move a lot of these bows in the coming months.  The level of competition in the archery industry is staunch and many manufacturers are producing a phenomenal product.  Each bow I tested seemed to excel in one field or another.  All of them are more than capable of taking any game animal on the continent with the right arrow combination.  The Quest Thrive, quite frankly, excelled in the most categories while remaining the most economical bow of the group.  When performance meets affordability, you get great value!