Compound bow manufacturer's make significant technological strides every year, and a bow that was viewed as top-of-the-line only a few years ago is most likely viewed as a dinosaur today. Modern bows are lighter, faster and quieter than anyone would have thought possible years ago, and engineers at bow companies continue to push the engineering envelope each year with two goals in mind: producing bows that blow the socks off last years models and "wowing" bow buyers. As a result, consumers end up with amazing bows that increase accuracy. And as most experienced bowhunters will tell you, setting up a bow used to be an all-day project. Today's bows can be set up and throwing darts that are fast, accurate and deadly within a few short hours.
There's a lot to consider – such as weight – when choosing compound bows in today's market.
What to Look For
Accuracy. The first thing to consider with new bows is accuracy. Most mid-priced bows have as many bells and whistles as their high-end cousins; they just cost less. In today's highly competitive bow market, poorly made bows don't survive. As you head to your favorite archery retailer to check out the latest and greatest archery gear, realize that the probability of finding a bow with everything you need in the price range you can afford is good.
Accuracy is vital because – regardless of how fast your bow is – if you can't hit the broadside of a barn, you won't harvest anything. An accurate bow is one with a long brace height. Extremely fast bows usually have a brace height in the 6-inch range. If you are an accomplished archer, a 6-inch brace height may be all you need. If you are an average shooter, a longer brace height in the 7-inch range is a good choice. The longer the brace height, the more accurate and forgiving a bow will be. If you aren't as steady as you used to be or not as accurate as you would like to be, a long brace height is a must. Most competitive archers shoot bows with at least a 7-inch brace height. Some professional archers shoot bows with a brace height that is 8-inches or more.
Noise. When choosing a bow, you need to know which features you need and which ones you can live without. Most hunters want a bow that is as quiet and shock-free as possible. A quiet bow makes harvesting game easier. Deer are notorious for jumping the string. Since bows are quieter and faster than they used to be, not as many deer know an arrow is coming until it is too late. A quiet, shock-free bow is a smooth-shooting bow. The smoother your bow shoots, the more accurate you will be.
When shopping for a bow, consider purchasing a ready-to-shoot bow package with vibration-destroying contraptions already on it. Most bow companies offer bows that come complete with limb and string noise and vibration devices already installed. However, if you are on a tight budget, you can always purchase a less expensive bow and add aftermarket anti-vibration devices when you get extra cash. Companies like Limbsaver produce a wide variety of aftermarket products that can quiet a bow and reduce hand shock. These products can be purchased one at a time.
Weight. The weight of the bow is another thing to consider. If you hunt out West, where packing a bow in on your back for miles each day makes every ounce count, having an extremely lightweight bow is very important. If most of your hunting is done in a treestand within a mile of your car, it isn't as important. Most bows weigh between 3.5 to 5.5 pounds. If you fall into the first category, it may be worth paying a few extra dollars for a lighter bow. If you fall into the second category, a heavier, less-expensive bow may be more of what you are looking for.
Cam. Pay close attention to the type of cam system a bow has and consider what type of system you want to shoot. (This means you'll need to shoot a few for comparison.) Years ago, the favorite among most bowhunters was the single-cam bow. Single-cam bows are usually easier to tune than other cam configurations and are just as fast too. In the last few years, cam-and-a-1/2 systems and binary cam systems have become very popular. All three options are fast and fairly easy to tune. Often the deciding factor will be which one feels best to you.
Bow packages like this one from RedHead can be much cheaper than buying accessories individually.
Speed. The last thing to consider is speed. Speed is important, but unless I'm shooting at mule deer and antelope at long distances, where an extremely fast arrow can make the difference if I misjudge the distance to an animal, I don't pay much attention to the IBO speed of a bow. In a hunting situation, almost any bow with an arrow that isn't too heavy will put most big game animals down at forty yards or less. If you enjoy taking long shots, faster bows are available to accommodate your need for speed. Some bows can send arrows sailing at over 340 fps. If you like speed and have the money, you have plenty of options.
Other Things to Consider
Bow limbs have changed considerably in recent years. Some companies continue to make their limbs out of aluminum. Recently, though, more companies started making their limbs out of composite material or carbon. All three options are excellent. Limbs rarely crack or break unless the bow is dry-fired or shot incorrectly. Split-limb bows are often lighter, but some solid bows are just as light, depending on what the limbs are made of.
Another option is choosing a bow package. Some bow companies sell their bows with a sight, rest and quiver all ready to shoot at a price that is less expensive than if you bought each item individually. If you want to save a dollar or two, this is a great option.
In closing, remember that every bow you shoot will feel a little different in your hand. As a result, shoot half a dozen or more to determine what you like about one bow verses another. If you are a person who wants a speed bow, shoot several speed bows and a few bows that are designed to be fast and smooth, not just speed demons.
When testing bows, I suggest you shoot bows from several different bow companies. In some cases, it might be a bow you have never heard of or a bow brand you haven’t shot in a while that feels the best in your hand. Just like when you buy a car or new furniture for the house, take your time. Don’t rush. Most people who buy a bow keep it for years. Make sure you are happy with the one you are purchasing before you hand over your hard earned cash.