Hunting is a growing sport and one of the biggest segments of growth is archery. Bowhunter numbers are rising for many reasons. Quality equipment is one of them. Even entry level bows are more than capable of performing well in the field. If you’re thinking about buying your first bow, there are a few things to think about before pulling out your wallet.
Pro Shop or Big Box Store
A lot of people buy bows from big box stores or online catalogs. Many of them undoubtedly have good experiences doing so. However, in my opinion, the best place for a beginner to buy their first bow is an archery pro shop. Stop in and visit with staff members and get a feel for what the environment is like. Let them know you’re new to the sport and would like to try some bows out. They should be happy to help you. New customers are vital to their business. Let them know what your price range is up front so they’re not showing you top of the line bows if you’re only looking to spend $500. The big difference between a pro shop and a big box store is setup. Most shops will help you get your bow dialed in for you. At most big box stores you get just that, a big box.
Speaking of money, what you’re willing to spend will have a big effect on your choices. Being new to the sport, you will need a bow, arrows, a release, accessories like a sight, quiver, arrow rest, and probably a case. If you plan to shoot on your own, you will also need a target. Many shops and manufacturers have entry level packages to get you started. A smart shopper can find all of these things for around $500. An extra hundred or two will get you more midlevel products. If you’re trying to decide what to spend extra on, put the money in the bow. You can always upgrade the accessories down the road as you go.
Again, generally the more money you can spend, the better bow you will end up with. But this doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to get started. My first bow package was just under $400. That cheap bow killed two deer in it’s first season. The pro shop will help you find your draw length. When it comes to draw weight, I think 60 pounds is the ideal weight for most men. Women and youth should go lighter. If you can pull back more, great but comfort is important. Remember, what feels good in a 70 degree pro shop may not feel so good at ten degrees in a tree stand. A less aggressive cam is smoother and allows for more let off. This will come in handy as you get started in archery.
The arrow rest may be the most important accessory for your bow. It holds the arrow as it flies off the bow and heads downrange. Fall away rests are very popular with experienced archers due to their top end accuracy. However, they may not be the best choice for beginners. Whisker biscuit rests are probably on more bows than fall away rests and are virtually idiot proof.
Fiber optic sights are the industry norm. More fiber optic material usually means a brighter sight in low light. If you plan to deer hunt with the bow, low light sensitivity is vital. Experienced archers like a lot of pins in their sights. For beginners, I recommend a three pin sight. This gives you a 20, 30, and 40 yard pin. Most novice archers can’t shoot further than 40 yards and the extra pins will just complicate things.
The stabilizer on most entry level bows is four to six inches long and protrudes out from the front of the bow. The purpose is to balance the bow. Try to get a stabilizer with most of it’s weight at the end that’s furthest from the bow.
A release helps you pull the bow back consistently. A loop should be tied into the bowstring for you to attach your release. A buckle style release is quieter and will aid in keeping your anchor point the same shot after shot. A single jaw release is usually more accurate, but also more expensive. If you can afford a single jaw release go for it, but most archers have used dual jaw releases effectively for years.
A lot of archers still use aluminum arrows but the market is now dominated by carbon arrows. Have the pro shop staff help you pick out an arrow that is right for your bow and your budget.
There is a lot to think about when buying your first bow. Luckily, there are quality products at just about every price point these days. Do a little research before heading to the store, but don’t be afraid to ask questions.