Think all high-performance bows are priced out of reach? Bear’s new Divergent EKO proves you CAN have it all without breaking the bank.

by Rob Reaser

I’m one of those guys who has a hard time turning something out to pasture that still has a few miles left on it. Take my favorite GLOCK T-shirt. I’d worn it for a good ten years. Sure, it had a hole or twenty in it. Yeah, the collar was horribly bacon-necked and the GLOCK logo on the lapel had all but faded to oblivion. Some would say it was worn and ratty. My feeling was that it had reached peak maturity in terms of comfort. But when my wife’s take on said garment went from, “You’re not going to wear that out, are you?” to “You’ve got to get rid of that thing!” I knew I it was time to move on.

The only problem with moving on, such as the case with buying a new bow, is usually the cost differential between what you paid for your previous bow and that of the hottest and newest models on the rack. Yes, technology, speed, and smooth operation come at a price—one that can be justified only by the buyer. Fortunately, there are a few hunting compounds on the market today that sit in that Goldilocks zone of exceptional performance and modest sticker price. A standout among this small group is the new Divergent EKO from Bear Archery.

If you pay attention to the comings and goings of bow models, you may recall that Bear introduced the Divergent in the fall of 2018. As compact powerhouses go, the Divergent stood on the front line with its 28-inch axle-to-axle length, 3.9 pounds overall weight, and impressive 338 fps arrow launches. More impressive yet was that it all came at a price well below the bow’s performance credentials, retailing with an MSRP of $699.00.

This year, Bear kicks the Divergent line up a notch with the introduction of the new Divergent EKO. The platform is similar to the previous year’s model although there are a few changes that elevate performance, appearance, and shooter customization that place the Divergent EKO squarely in what we consider to be the premium bow category but without the premium bow price. In fact, Bear has held the line on the new Divergent EKO’s sticker by keeping the MSRP at $699.99.

Bear is offering the Divergent EKO in two of the hottest concealment patterns from Veil Camo…Veil Stoke seen here and Veil Alpine.

The Divergent EKO adds a couple inches to its predecessor, measuring 30 inches axle-to-axle. That’s still a tight bow that’s highly maneuverable in cramped quarters such as ground blinds or tree stands, but those couple of inches move the Divergent EKO in the right direction for increased stability.

Stretching the bow’s ATA length necessarily added to overall weight, but only by .2 lbs. With a bare bow weight of 4.1 lbs., the Divergent EKO is deliciously light in the hand and delivers a comfortable carry and shooting weight when outfitted with the requisite accessories.

Two draw weight ranges are available: 45-60 pounds and 55-70 pounds.

If you like finish options, the Divergent EKO has them. The halo finishes, in our opinion, are the Veil Stoke and Veil Alpine, but buyers can also choose between the way cool new Fred Bear® Camo (far right), One Nation Midnight, TrueTimber Strata, Iron, and Realtree Edge.

The EKO Cam System

What truly distinguishes the Divergent EKO are its cams. Bear introduced the EKO Cam System (Equalized Kinetic Orientation) on the mainline Divergent EKO and the Legend Series Status EKO for 2020. This system brings two significant performance and customizing elements to the equation.

First, the EKO Cam System is designed around a three-track modular system that ensures perfect cam synchronization. Part of this system is Bear’s Spiral Cable Track, which is designed to counter cam lean throughout the draw cycle for optimal arrow flight and efficient energy transfer.

Archery tech pro Mark from McFly Outdoors in Horner, WV, rotates the cam module to establish our draw length.

Second, the modular EKO Cam System not only allows for broad draw length adjustment—from 26 to 30 inches in half-inch increments—it also allows for four different let-off settings at each draw length. Better yet, these draw length and let-off adjustments can be made without the use of a bow press, so custom adjustments are easily done at home or on the range with nothing more than an Allen wrench.

This diverse adjustment system is made possible by rotating the cam module and adjusting the position of the draw stop. Demarcation lines and numbers on the module combined with lettered holes for the cable stop both reference to the cam adjustment chart provided in the owner’s manual. Simply follow the chart to set the modules and draw stops to achieve the desired draw length/let-off combination. The four let-off settings are 75, 80, 85, and 90 percent.

To the Field

For our hunting setup at a 27.5-inch draw length, an 85-percent let-off proved to be ideal—light enough to hold at full draw on a hung-up whitetail with ample tension to keep our back muscles from getting lazy. We set the draw weight at 56.8 pounds, which delivered a 6.6-pound hold weight, according to our pro shop’s scale. Assuming the scale was properly calibrated, that translates to about an 88-percent let-off for our cam settings.

The Divergent EKO has a good feel in the hand and a pleasant balance. The brace height is 6.5 inches, which offers some forgiveness given the bow’s relatively short ATA length. It comes with a string suppressor and cable slide installed, along with Sonic Wave limb dampeners. Combined with the pre-installed Sonic Knot string silencers on the Headhunter Contraband X99 string, the Divergent EKO shoots with quiet authority.

As mentioned, the Divergent EKO is rated at 338 fps. Since we’re all about heavy, small-diameter arrows for maximum bone-busting penetration at typical whitetail hunting distances, we wanted to see how well the Divergent EKO sent our beefed-up Easton FMJs downrange.

Measuring speed and kinetic energy of the Divergent EKO to establish terminal velocity and penetration potential with heavy weight, small-diameter Easton 5mm FMJ shafts.

Our full-length 5mm Easton FMJ arrows, fitted with 75-grain Brass-X inserts and 100-grain field points, tipped the scales at an average weight of 506 grains. The terminal velocity and kinetic energy of these shafts with our Divergent EKO (27.5-inch draw, 88-percent actual let-off, 56.8-pound draw weight) were as follows:

  • Average Launch Velocity (V): 232.1 fps
  • Average Launch Kinetic Energy (KE): 60.1 ft-lbs
  • Average 10-Yard V/KE: 228.8 fps / 58.1 ft-lbs
  • Average 20-Yard V/KE: 225.1 fps / 56.2 ft-lbs
  • Average 30-Yard V/KE: 221.7 fps / 54.5 ft-lbs

With a desired KE of 25-41 ft-lbs for medium game like whitetails and 42-65 ft-lbs recommended for larger, tougher animals such as boars, elk, and bear (per Easton), we can see that our Divergent EKO—even when launching a heavy arrow setup like ours—delivers all the UMPH! needed for quick, decisive kills and deep penetration for superior blood trails.

Morrell’s High Roller Combo Foam target easily sucked up the 54.5 ft-lbs of FMJ impact from the Divergent EKO.

The Wrap

Archery and bowhunting gear technology never cease to amaze us. Just when you think everything that can be done has been done, along comes something that sets a new standard. Sure, we probably won’t be seeing any earth-shattering technological leaps in the near future, but in the short term, we do expect more bow manufacturers to leverage their scales of economy to bring better performance and refinement into the sub-$1,000 bow category. Bear Archery has certainly delivered on that front with their new Divergent EKO. If you’re looking for a bow that shoots fast, hits hard, and handles like a premium bow without the sticker shock, we suggest you check it out for yourself.

Adding On

To outfit our Divergent EKO, we looked to TRUGLO for the essentials. Since the company just came out with their VEROS multi-pin fiber-optic sight, we figured this was the perfect opportunity to give it a go.

The VEROS is a five-pin sight with decreasing diameter pins for more precise aiming at longer distances. The first three pins are .019 inches in diameter while the bottom two pins are .010 inches in diameter. Don’t worry about seeing those smaller pins in reduced light because the VEROS fiber-optics are fully exposed around the sight hood to maximize light-gathering potential. Facing the shooter is a low-light glow shooter’s ring designed to quickly establish a sight picture in murky light.

Available in black or Realtree camo, the VEROS bracket offers multiple mounting points for course elevation and sight radius adjustment. Micro adjustments for windage and elevation are made easy thanks to a mid-bracket elevation adjustment with aggressively knurled elevation and windage adjustment dials. Included is a 2nd and 3rd axis adjustable level, TRU•TOUCH soft-feel coating, and an LED sight light.

TRUGLO offers two accessories for the VEROS—a lens kit that provides 2X magnification and +/- .5 diopter adjustment, and a lightweight aluminum sunshade that that includes a neoprene cover.

For our rest, we went with TRUGLO’s EZ•REST full containment brush model. Much as we like the benefits of a quality drop-down rest, a containment rest such as this minimizes potential damage or failure when we’re miles in the backcountry. “Simple is better” describes our philosophy here.

Finally, the TRUGLO TECTRO was our choice for quivers because, again, we like simple and rugged for those away-from-home hunts. The TECTRO features all-aluminum construction and can hold six arrows .229 inches in diameter or larger. It has a simple yet robust one-handed removal mounting system and two grippers for maximum arrow retention. The frame is exceptionally light and is covered with a soft-feel technical coating. A hanging loop is built into the hood.

Shoot On Editor-in-Chief Rob Reaser is a lifelong outdoorsman, former magazine editor, columnist, and contributing editor to numerous national publications in the automotive and outdoor segments. He has also authored and co-authored several DIY gun building books. His shooting and hunting passions cover everything from traditional archery and big-game bowhunting to the latest in handguns, rifles, and reloading. Rob has a troublesome habit of pulling guns and things apart to see how they work; occasionally, he manages to get them back together...

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