Buying a bow is not like buying a pair of shoes. You can’t just decide you like the look and make sure it fits well enough. There are tons of questions you need to ask yourself when considering buying a bow. Below are some of the more important questions to address, but there may be others I haven’t thought of. Take your time and get the right bow for you. If you do, you’ll be happy for years; if you don’t, you’ll have regret every time you shoot it.
What brace height do you need?
Admittedly, you might not know this until you shoot some bows, but you need to figure this out. Brace height is the distance from the string to the riser when the bow is at rest. The shorter the brace height, the faster the bow but the harder it is to draw and shoot. A long brace height will give an easier draw cycle but at the cost of some speed. I started off shooting a 7.25″ brace height bow, then moved to a 7″, and now my Mathews Halon is 6″.
Do you plan on doing your own tuning?
Some bows are very easy to tune; others are not. If you plan on doing your own tuning, you may want to consider a more simplified cam system like a single cam. However, if you are confident in your abilities to tune anything on the market, then go for whatever floats your boat.
Does the grip feel comfortable during the draw cycle and at full draw?
If your first thought when you hold the bow is, “That doesn’t feel good,” you’re done with that bow. The grip needs to sit comfortably in your hand at rest and at full draw. It should sit in the channel between your thumb and index finger while not digging into the sides of your hand. Make sure you get a bow that is comfortable.
Does the draw cycle feel smooth enough that you can consistently have the same anchor point?
Draw cycle is an often over-looked aspect of shooting a bow in the sense that people will give up a smooth draw for the sake of speed, not realizing that a smooth draw might be better than the extra FPS. A draw cycle should be smooth enough that you can find your anchor point every single time, without question. If you have to point the bow up in the air and then bring the bow and string back to your face after you are at full draw, you need to find another option.
Is the draw weight manageable to the point that you could easily draw your bow while sitting with your feet lifted off the ground?
Sure, you can draw that bow once or twice in the climate controlled shop after having a chance to warm-up your muscles; but can you draw it when it is 20 degrees at 6:30am after sitting still in the cold? A good way to test if the draw weight is appropriate is to sit in a chair, lift both feet off the ground, and then draw the bow. If you can draw it, then you’re good and should be able to draw that bow in any circumstance. If you can’t, try to go down in draw weight. You will only lose a few FPS and you’ll have a bow that is more enjoyable for you to shoot.
Does the bow length (ATA) and weight meet your specific hunting needs?
Are you hunting from a blind? Then you can rule out a 36″ bow. Are you hunting in the wide open country? Then you might not want a heavy bow. On the other hand, if you have a hard time holding a light bow steady in the wind, a heavy bow might be what you need. You have to evaluate your specific hunting style and needs before you lock in on specific bows. No sense in buying a bow that doesn’t meet your needs simply because some celebrity told you that was what you needed to shoot.
Does this bow fit into my price range?
Money talks, right? Well, a bow could be the bow of your dreams but if you can’t afford it to save your life, then you need to find a different option.
If you know your price range, only shoot bows around that price range. If your price range is $500-$600, you have no business shooting a $1,200 bow. You might shoot a $700 bow and then figure out a way to save the extra $100 if you like it; however if a bow is obviously too much money, leave it on the rack.
Will this bow meet my hunting needs for the foreseeable future?
Maybe you’re wealthy and can afford a new bow every year; I’m not. A bow should be an investment that pays dividends for years to come. Will this bow serve you well for years to come? Will you be able to draw the same weight in a few years or do you need to plan for physical changes that may inhibit your ability to draw that bow down the road?
Like I said at the beginning, these might not be all of the questions you need to ask, but they are important questions nonetheless. Don’t be too quick to pick up a bow that isn’t good for you. Take your time, do your homework, and get the best bow for you. You will be happy you did.