MATHEWS NOCAM HTR BOW REVIEW
Everyone loves a winner. Even more, everyone loves to hate a winner. Stay on top long enough and it is inevitable that you will gain not only a legion of supporters but a legion of haters as well. And, if you happen to be the largest bow manufacturer in the world then you can expect plenty of both. Throughout its short history Mathews Inc. has endured almost as much criticism as it has praise; at least in certain circles.
Early detractors claimed that the solocam design was a gimmick, a flash-in-the-pan if you will. However, history has proven that the solocam was anything but. Invented in 1992, solocam technology put Mathews on the map by using one cam and one idler wheel. As a result, bows took a giant leap in both simplicity and smooth draw characteristics. Still, despite winning more archery tournaments than any other bow design in history and helping an unmeasurable amount of bowhunters realize their dreams…..there are still those that love to hate.
And let’s not forget the time Mathews manufactured a “dual-cam” bow under the McPherson name. For many it was the end of the world; at least the “Archery” world. After all, how could a bow company that was founded on a single-cam design possibly make a dual-cam bow? Good question. For a good deal of the haters it was somehow a form of admission that the single-cam design was indeed inferior. Quite the contrary. The release of the Monster series bows was simply Mathews showing us how inferior the current two-cam design really was. Invented in 2009, the AVS Cams virtually eliminate the timing issues inherent on most two-cam bows by tying both cams together to create a powerful yet smooth system. Still, haters existed.
HTR 1 The new Mathews HTR NOCAM
A big step forward in bow design in a completely new direction
Fast forward to the present day and one has to wonder if bow design has reached its pinnacle as each year manufacturers try their best to feed an insatiable public appetite for the latest and greatest in bow design. The result has been mostly a trend in small changes to bow specs and/or cosmetics. Sometimes its speed, sometimes its weight, sometimes its radical materials or different color options. Whatever the case, I think many will agree that things have started to get a little stagnant. Unless of course you’re Mathews and completely eliminate the most basic component in bow design….the cam!
Single-cam, Dual-cam and now….NOCAM? Yes, the new Mathews HTR has no cam. At least not in the sense that many bowhunters consider. In simplest terms, the revolutionary NO CAM ST™ Technology on the 2015 HTR utilizes two “circular” and concentric string tracks, allowing the string to travel at a constant distance from the center of rotation during the shot cycle. This eliminates the common camming action on both top and bottom string tracks, creating a balanced and synchronized system with straight and level nock travel for superior accuracy. In other words, the HTR is unlike any other bow you’ve drawn back and performs even better.
Most of us are accustomed to a “non-circular” cam and the characteristics that come with such a system. And, while I won’t delve into the differences in cam design and how each affects overall bow feel and shootability, I will say that I have found nothing that compares to the NOCAM system.
Drawing the HTR is somewhat unusual, but in a good way. Because the string tracks (circular wheels) are round there is no harsh buildup of draw weight, followed by the customary “rollover” feel of typical cam systems. Instead, the draw cycle begins with a consistent feel and carries that sensation throughout until full draw is reached. There is no sudden drop into the let-off phase of the draw cycle. Just a pleasant stop.
HTR 2 The NOCAM utilizes two completely round wheels that allow string pay out without the characteristics associated with typical cam systems.
Honestly, it is sort of hard to put into words. I guess you have to shoot it to understand it. I do know that after sitting in my treestand during November for hours on end the HTR NOCAM still felt extremely easy to draw back. To me, “real world” conditions like that mean more than how a bow draws when its 95 degrees outside. I’ve often written about the ill effects of harsh cam systems when it matters most (during cold treestand hunts) and the HTR certainly takes care of that dilemma.
The model I tested was equipped with 85% let-off and is nothing short of a dream to hold at full-draw for extended periods of time. For example, when that trophy buck decides to stop before walking into my shooting lane or that big bull-elk hangs up just a few short steps away. I have the utmost confidence that I can outlast the wariest of game animals. The ability to draw early and hold late is a big plus in my book.
Along with the radically smooth draw cycle of the HTR, the NOCAM system is also incrediably efficient. This means that more energy is delivered to the arrow and less is being transferred to the bow. The result is a drastic reduction in post shot noise and vibration along with a deadlier arrow. I was amazed at the lack of vibration and noise when I test fired the HTR into a foam block 3 feet away during initial set up. There was little if any felt vibration and I (along with everyone watching) was shocked when the NOCAM barley made a whisper after the string jumped forward.
I will be the first to acknowledge that something must be sacrificed in the name of a smooth draw. After all, you simply can’t get around the physics and the fact that extremely harsh cams will always be faster than smooth cams; at least for now. But how fast is fast enough? And at what point does all of that speed become a liability?
Over the years I have held the belief that the Mathews Switchback was perhaps the best overall “hunting” bow Mathews ever created. Sure, there have been faster, lighter, longer or shorter models. But when it comes to applying said bow to the purpose of bowhunting, nothing else compared in my opinion. Until now.
HTR 3 The HTR produces enough speed and energy to excel in any hunting situation it is placed in.
With the ability to deliver arrows at 330 fps @ 65% letoff, the HTR can take down any animal in North America. Even at the 85% setting my model is set on arrows still travel downrange at 321 fps IBO. I’ll take those numbers any day of the week. Especially when they come in a package that is as smooth and accurate as the NOCAM system is. As I mentioned, I can sit in a cold treestand for hours and still draw this bow back with little to no effort all while delivering an accurate, fast flying arrow.
Besides, the majority of treestand shots are taken within the 20 yard mark. Why would I want an extra 10-20 fps when it comes at the cost of an aggressive draw cycle or accuracy killing brace-height? I wouldn’t. Can you find a faster bow? Sure you can. But at what cost? I prefer a bow that is ultra-smooth to draw (even in the coldest conditions), produces straight and level nock travel and delivers arrows with nail driving accuracy. The HTR delivers all of these in spades.
Built with an integrated draw stop, these new, interchangeable mods provide shooters with 65, 75 or 85% let-off. Corresponding IBO speeds for the HTR, with a 6 5/8 inch brace height, look like this: 330 fps @ 65%, 325 @ 75% and 321 @ 85%. In addition, these mods provide a rock solid back wall for shot-to-shot consistency.
HTR 4 The Rock Mods not only allow customizable performance they also provide a solid back wall for the shooter. Making it highly accurate to shoot.
I was thrilled to see the draw stop make it onto the HTR NOCAM as it was one of my favorite aspects of the Chill X. The back-wall on the NOCAM is rock solid and allows the shooter to actually pull through the shot; adding to the inherent accuracy of the bow. Rock Mods can be found at your Authorized Mathews Retailer.
HTR Skeletal System
First time shooters or Mathews loyalists will immediately notice the updated look of the HTR riser. While the grid-lock theme remains throughout the majority of the bow the ends of the riser have been changed. I’m no engineer, but I suspect the rounded cut-outs add strength and a stable platform for the shortened quad limbs.
HTR 5 The HTR packs plenty of punch without the need for an aggressive cam system thanks largely to the shortened, more rigid limbs it carries.
My theory is that these shorter, more rigid limbs are responsible for giving the NOCAM its speed and power; rather than deriving it from an aggressive cam system. The round string tracks (wheels) are simply a place for the string to pay out during the draw cycle. The addition of a shorter, more rigid limb system also meant that the riser needed to be less reflexed. This is evident when looking at the HTR. Its GridLock riser is noticeably “straighter” than previous models.
HTR 6 The large cut outs on the NOCAM riser give it a distinctive look that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
HTR Color Options
In addition to the exclusive, highly popular Lost camo, the popular Black Tactical and Solid Black options, Mathews is offering two new color schemes to the HTR NOCAM. New for 2015 are Lost Camo OT (open terrain) and Stone Tactical. The Stone Tactical has a cool looking gray finish to it that would match up with just about any environment.
The Lost Camo OT resembles more of a snow camo in my opinion. However it looks great and performs even better. When placed against a white or gray skyline it excels. Throw a little late season snow in the mix and you’ve got a bow that will disappear if you sit it down.
HTR 7 The new LOST OT pattern is a refreshing break from other patterns on the market and looks great no matter what the environment.
My particular model is wrapped in the Lost OT pattern and honestly I was hesitant to use it in the treestand. Hunting “Mountain” whitetails often means I can’t get high above them due to the terrain. However, when a mature buck came in to me during the rut at nearly eye level (yes I was in my stand) he paused for a moment and continued on his way; despite the fact that the HTR was in my hand and at the ready. In short, the white nature of the pattern didn’t hurt me at all. In fact, it might have actually helped break up my outline. Besides, it just looks really, really cool.
Mathews is known within the industry as the leader in cutting edge technology and the HTR comes with a plethora of exclusive Mathews technology.
Zero T Axle: Mathews’ Zero-T™ Axle eliminates excess space in the cam assembly which provides consistent component location for enhanced accuracy.
GridLock Riser: Mathews’ innovative GridLock® cut-out pattern creates a riser that’s lighter, yet structurally stronger.
Reverse Assist Roller Guard: The Reverse Assist™ Roller Guard system reduces friction in the draw cycle by positioning the cables in a reverse manner in front of the rollers. This adds to the encredably smooth feel of the NOCAM system.
Focus Grip: The patent pending “focus ridge” on this grip optimizes hand placement and minimizes hand torque. It accomplishes this by keeping pressure in the center of the grip.
Harmonic Stabilizers: Harmonic Stabilizers® are located on each end of the bow riser and they essentially kill all post-shot vibration within the riser. Easy to install, they reduce up to 75% more vibration than previous models. The NOCAM HTR comes with a standard Harmonic Stabilizer in the lower end of the riser and a Harmonic Stabilizer Lite in the upper end of the riser. Either are interchangeable for a custom feel.
Monkey Tails: Effective string dampening material that installs in seconds to the bow string without the need for a bow press.
Dead End String Stop: The Dead End™ String Stop is simply to install and drastically reduces residual vibration and virtually eliminates post-release noise.
Where do I start? Each year I write a review on the latest Mathews offering and each year I’m excited about what rolls out of the Sparta, WI manufacturing facility. However, this year things are different. The technology is different, the feel is different and more significantly the direction that Mathews is taking bow technology is different. It reminds me of 1992 when I saw my first ad for a Mathews bow. I was excited about how radically different the concept was but I had no idea about the direction bow technology was heading. Twenty-three years later and the trend seems to have started over again.
However, before I begin to wonder what’s next I’m going to set back and enjoy this incrediably smooth drawing, tournament accurate piece of bowhunting technology. You would be wise to do the same; despite what the haters will tell you…