Recently, while hunting during the early archery season, I discovered a problem with my bow and decided to take it to a pro shop at one of the big box stores. Soon after dropping off my bow, I received a phone call telling me the shop personnel had "accidently" dry-fired my bow causing slight damage to the limbs and the cam, and that the string had broken as well. Immediately my blood pressure surged to unsafe levels. From there, things continued to get worse.
Earlier in the year, I was introducing a friend to the sport and sold him my back-up bow to help him get started. The news from the "pro shop" meant that I would have no bow (back-up or otherwise) for the coming deer season. The "professionals" at the pro shop decided that they would try to fix my bow themselves. This didn't work out so well. After holding my bow hostage for a month, they concluded they were not able, willing, or qualified (which is why you should always take your bow to an authorized dealer) to do the necessary work so they sent it to the manufacturer. When the good people at Bear Archery received my recently destroyed bow, they quickly repaired and returned it at no cost to me. Obviously, I have not returned to that particular shop. Now that the madness of my story is over, I still need to purchase a back up bow. As a bow hunter with 25 years of experience, I know what to look for, what questions to ask, and where to go. Over the years, buying archery equipment has become almost second nature to me. But what of my novice friend? If he wants to purchase a "back-up" what does he need to do to ensure that he is buying quality equipment that fits his level of experience without falling victim to his own "pro shop" incident? These are the questions I hope to answer in this article so that the reader will be able to purchase the right equipment and enjoy the sport of bow hunting, as I have, for many years.
Countless hours reviewing bows on the internet, participating in online forums, and holding conversations with other archers have led me to conclude that opinions are like elbows ... everyone has their own. Someone will say "this" is the best bow, while someone else will say "that" is, based on the bow's resale value, speed, or even brand name. Many bow owners jump on the bandwagon of a certain manufacturer and stay on it out of loyalty to a particular company. But, as with anything, consumers need to realize that someone else's opinion is just that ... an opinion. There is nothing wrong with getting recommendations from other bow hunters. This can be a great way to get feedback on that particular model. However, making a purchase based on what others think will generally result in selecting a bow that may be good, but probably won't suit you best.
A common scenario might look like this: First, you go to a local shop and look at all the bows that you like because of how they look, feel or cost. Next, you reduce your decision down to two candidates: the Bear Carnage and the Mathews Z7 Extreme, for example. But which bow are you going to choose? Both are really good bows with excellent reviews and ratings. Still, given that you're new to the sport you decide to continue your research online. You ask the members of several online forums what they think and quickly realize that there is tons of hype out there, such as, "choose the Mathews because of its high resale value" or "choose the Bear because of its low cost". Finally, you realize that you still don't know what to do, so you make a quick decision based almost entirely on others opinions and purchase one that you are unsure of. Don't fall into this trap!
Given that I am now in the market for another bow, I want to pick one that will allow me to either make it my primary hunting bow or use it as a back-up. After multiple comparisons of different makers, I have concluded that the newer bows are so alike that you could choose one from nearly any company and be happy with your selection. There are really good bows on the market today such as the Bear or Mission which keeps the cost minimal and are often just as good as the more expensive bows like the Mathews, Bowtech, or Hoyt. Remember, however, that this is simply my opinion. Some shooters want a new bow for the popularity, the looks of it, or because of all the hype the pros give it (which is what they get paid for). Still, it is always best to let the bow pick you. Let me try to explain concept this by outlining a simple process that I think will help you make the right decision for YOU!
First, sit down and think about what you are in the market for financially. Can you afford one bow over another? If money is an issue, look at less expensive bows as there are plenty of great bows on the market today that don't cost an arm and a leg. Savings from buying a less expensive bow can be used to upgrade your accessories, arrows, broad heads, sights, etc. (As an added bonus, less expensive bows will also keep you out of the dog house at home). On the other hand, if funds are not an issue, spend some time looking at some of the higher end bows. Either way, it never hurts to have an extra bow.
Your next step is to compare various options keeping in mind that bows today are very similar in speed, accuracy, weight, style, design, and price which could make the decision very difficult. Still, it is necessary to ask the right questions to ensure you allow the right bow to pick you. Questions such as, do the options from one bow offer something another bow does not? Some options to consider are the total weight of the bow; its rated speed (if you are one of those shooters that desires to have insane speed), how quiet it is; how much it vibrates; lifetime warranties; quality; or a combination of them all. Does one bow feel better to shoot than the other? What are you looking to do with the bow? These are important questions that need to be answered if your future bow is to make the right owner selection. Armed with your answers to these and other questions, you should be able to narrow the field to 2 or 3 bows that can give you the most benefits for your needs at the price that fits your budget.
Next, try them out! Many avid bow hunters, like those on various archery forums, will tell you that when making such an important decision you simply need to go to a dealer and shoot the bows on your list (and maybe a few others) until one picks you. This is great advice because every bow is going to fit different archers differently regardless of brand, style, or price. Most local pro shops and local archery dealers are happy for you to shoot their bows because they know you will be more likely to buy one that you've taken for a "test drive". Many big box stores hate having to do this for multiple reasons. Ask the dealers or pro shop to set the bows up for you i.e. draw length and poundage, so that you can shoot it and compare each one fairly. You may have to spread this out over a period of time or multiple locations because not all pro shops carry all models. However, doing so is well worth the time and energy it takes to make the best decision.
One more thing worth considering is the purchase of the previous year or older models. They offer deep discounts on price and most of them shoot the same, if not better than, brand new ones. You might be surprised as to which bow jumps to the top of your list. I found this out after doing all my own research on different bows. I did not buy into all the hype and selected a bow that fit my budget and, more importantly, fit me.
Once you reach this point your bow will be ready to choose you based on your individual needs rather than on what others think. When you allow your bow to choose you, you'll have a better and more successful archery experience in and out of the woods. Good hunting for the perfect bow!