Pick an archery range in a populated area and then head there about three weeks before your state’s deer season opens up. You’ll see folks who can hit a golf ball at 40 yards consistently and others who can’t hit a four-foot-square bale blind with half a dozen arrows.
The folks in the latter category have problems and probably shouldn’t head to the woods until they get their act together. They also, almost to a person, are shooting bows that aren’t set up correctly, which is a big problem, particularly for beginners.
Hand-me-down bows, garage-sale finds, and just poor setups likely due to equally poor setup advice all account for some of the least accurate shooters you’ll see. On the surface, this might seem like an argument for starting out with a new, high-quality (more expensive) rig, but it’s not.
Cost is a consideration, but a high price tag alone does not make an accurate archer.
It’s rare for people to shop for their first bow while looking to spend flagship-bow money. This makes sense because they don’t know if they’re beginning a lifelong journey as an archery hunter or just trying something out that might not stick after a season or two.
Because of this, it’s common to seek out a used bow or a freebie. There’s nothing wrong with either category, but they have to fit you as a shooter. This is non-negotiable if you want to hit your target.
Spending mid-level money for a bow that is somewhat new and highly adjustable is a safer route. It’s not necessary (neither is splurging on a $1300 barebow), but it’s a good hedge against trying to shoot something that just doesn’t work for you. It all boils down to fit and feel.
Before you buy a bow, go to your local pro shop. Have them measure your draw length and then have them walk you through shooting a few different models. Ask them what the draw weights are on the models you shoot.
Those two numbers, draw length and manageable draw weight, are the foundations of accurate shooting. If you opt for a bow that isn’t set up to your draw length, you won’t shoot as well, won’t enjoy shooting as much, and you might find yourself gun-shy if your new rig gives your wrist a welt.
Too much poundage, which is the curse of men because we can’t get out of the way of our own egos, is bad as well. You want to shoot a bow that is comfortable to draw, easy to hold at full draw, and doesn’t threaten to rip your shoulder from its socket.
Before buying a bow, figure out your exact draw length and a comfortable draw weight.
While drop-away rests and movable sights are awesome options for experienced shooters, simplicity is key for beginners. A static, whisker-biscuit style rest and a simple three-pin sight should do it. The less that can go wrong or change during shooting sessions, the better.
If you’re shopping for your first bow, look for a bow that is easy to use and understand. This might seem like you’re dumbing down your setup for no good reason, but there actually is a good reason. An easy-to-shoot bow that is set to your specs and is outfitted with reliably simple accessories will allow you the chance to shoot comfortably and confidently.
This is important. You want to think about your form and your shot execution. You want to have fun while shooting tighter and tighter groups. That’s about it.
Now, if you think a rig like that won’t kill like a high-end setup with all the bells and whistles, you’re wrong. The bows we shot 25 years ago versus something created in the last decade would be like driving a Model T versus a new Porsche.
But you know what? When we managed to hold our brass pin where it needed to be, our aluminum arrows found the target and went all the way through even the biggest deer. Today’s bows are significantly more efficient, so even a cheaper, simpler setup is going to be plenty powerful in the deer woods, considering what we used to shoot.
Focus on price as well as compatibility with your personal shooting needs. Enlist the help of a pro shop, learn your basic specs, and then keep it simple. If you do, you might arrow your first deer this season and also find yourself in the lifelong-bowhunter category before you know it.
For more archery advice, check out these articles: Has Compound Bow Technology Peaked? The Best Time To Upgrade Your Bow, and The Best Archery Advice I’ve Ever Gotten.