I didn’t expect to do this. I really didn’t . Two years ago, I shot and ordered a short axle to axle, single-cam bow. When I bought it, I told myself (and everyone else) that I wanted to keep the bow for “a long time”. When I said this to my buds, they gave me the utmost in grief and said it was only a matter of time before I bought a new bow. I like to try out bows, and love the challenge and technical aspects of setting them up. So last fall, I pulled a different brand bow off the shelf and decided to try a couple shots with it. I’d never shot a bow from this manufacturer before, and I figured, “What the heck…why not??” After shooting the bow, I immediately fell in love with it. I knew that it would be the brand bow I would shoot in 2013, and possibly beyond. We’ll talk more about this brand a little later …. but for now, let’s talk about what goes into buying a hunting bow and how you can make wise decisions when doing so.
The first thing to consider is what type of bow hunting you want to do; will you be hunting from a ground blind? A treestand? Or will you be stalking animals in the mountains or plains? There are bows of about every shape, size, and color, and whichever brand/model of bow you choose needs to reflect the type of hunting you primarily intend to do. The trend in the archery industry is toward shorter axle-to-axle (ATA) bows. I used to shoot a bow that was 49″ tip to tip; in fact, I killed my biggest deer with it. But as the years went on, bows got shorter and shorter….the bow I used for the last two years was a mere 28 inches ATA, and was ultra compact. If you’re planning on hunting from a ground blind or a tree stand with a lot of brush & limbs around you, a short ATA bow would be ideal. It allows you to move around obstacles that could limit you with a longer bow. The down side is that some hunters find shorter bows to be less forgiving on longer shots than longer ATA bows. Also, string angles are much more severe with shorter axle bows. The 28 incher I shot for two seasons was amazingly compact. But personally, I wasn’t as confident with it because of the shorter length, and it was rather torquey on the shot. I did manage to kill a doe at 44 yards with it last year, and it worked perfectly. It just got to the point where I felt it was TOO short and I was uncomfortable with that.
Are you planning on hunting elk in the mountains? Or spotting/stalking pronghorn on the prairie? If you want to hunt these animals, where longer shots are the norm, I recommend a longer ATA bow, purely for its forgiveness on long-range shot accuracy. I feel a “longer” ATA bow in today’s industry is 35″ or greater. Anything less I would consider “short”. Longer bows have less string angle are usually more forgiving on average. It’s crazy to think that just a few years ago, our “long” bows were considered very short. It just goes to show how the archery industry – as well as what hunters want in a bow – are evolving. Weight is another factor here. I live in Kansas, and I really don’t worry much about the weight of my bow. I don’t walk long distances, and my bow is either propped against a log or my ground blind wall, or hung on my bow hanger. But for mountain hunters, mass weight could be a major consideration in what bow you purchase. Most bows today range from mid-three pound to mid-four pound mass weights. If you’re a huntress, it’s a good time to buy a bow. The amount of women enjoying the outdoors, especially hunting, is at an all-time high. Manufacturers know this, and they’ve answered with a wide range of bow models built for our better halves. Once again, your needs will dictate what bow to buy.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, and what your needs are, I recommend going to a pro shop and shoot as many bows as possible. Don’t worry about the brand name. Manufacturers want your money, and they will all say their bows are the best. But what’s best for one hunter isn’t always what’s best for the next one. Look for a bow that just “does it” for you. Be sure the bow fits you. Test bows out with your correct draw length, and shoot the bows without and then with a stabilizer to see how much vibration they have and how steady they hold. After shooting multiple bows, you will find a bow that “chooses you”, and then you will know it’s the bow for your hunting needs. If you’re torn between two brands or models, and you simply can’t decide, then look at the warranty and research customer service of the manufacturer(s) in question. Having a company that stands behind their products is an amazing confidence booster. And confidence is your best friend when it comes to shooting your bow.
To wrap it up, be sure to ask yourself what you want to use the bow for, and then go shoot as many bows as you can. Be sure the bow fits you, and isn’t a huge struggle to draw back. In the end, the draw cycle, mass weight, how steady the bow holds at full draw, the amount of hand shock, and speed all work together to contribute to your shooting experience. So what bow “did it” for me when I shot it last fall, and made me go buy one? I’ll let you know in another article next week…….