When I set out to buy my twin daughters their first real bow in December, I was surprised at the quality and quantity of youth options. It also made me realize that someone could easily be overwhelmed with the task of outfitting their future deer slayer with a decent rig.
Countless variables go into a purchase like a first bow, but certain aspects of the process bridge those individualities. This has to start somewhere, and for most of us, the jumping off point will be price.
The Cost of Quality Look at youth bow purchases this way—if you go super cheap, the bow will probably not be much fun to shoot. That will be a deal-breaker, eventually. A cheapie is also probably not going to be very adjustable, and it’s probably not going to perform very well from shot to shot. Now, I realize that dropping $400 (or more) on a bow that might never make it into a treestand is a tough pill to swallow, but I look at it like fishing gear.
We often preach the benefits of taking kids fishing but then hand them a rod that costs about what a value meal at Arby’s would run. Then we expect them to enjoy fishing with a 2.5-foot spaghetti noodle. This might cut it for three-year-olds and dock-side bluegills, but eventually, an older child requires a decent rod built to cast, that can make quality hooksets, and gives them a chance to land fish that weigh more than a few ounces.
The same rules apply to youth bows, but the good news is a lot of them are offered in hunting packages—meaning they’re fully accessorized and ready to shoot. That’s a good start if you don’t want, or don’t know how, to set them up yourself. It also tends to justify a higher price tag because it’s a one-and-done purchase.
If that’s not enough, consider that well-known bow manufacturers make most quality youth rigs. The technology in that youth bow was probably cutting edge in the adult market a few years ago. Cam designs, string and cable materials, and a host of other not-so-obvious quality aspects tend to trickle down from flagship offerings to a manufacturer’s full lineup over time. That’s good news for you and your future hunting buddy.
Of course, being open to the prospect of paying up for a decent setup is just a start. The most expensive youth bow in the world does little good if it’s not fully adjustable, which brings us to the next consideration.
Adjustability Is Everything When it comes to kids and archery, you can keep most things simple. A shoot-through rest is ideal, as is a non-movable, low-pin-count sight. This is starter stuff with better upgrades, always a possibility later if the archery bug really digs in. What’s attached to the bow is important but not nearly as important as what the bow can do fit-wise.
For example, the bow I just bought for my daughters allows for draw weights of six to 60 pounds and 12- to 30-inch draw length adjustability. That means I can start them off with their exact draw length and a comfortable draw weight. The importance of proper fit can’t be stressed enough when it comes to accuracy and enjoyment, but with kids, fit changes as they grow. If the bow can’t easily change with them, it’s going to result in a bad experience, eventually.
Bows with a high level of adjustability also allow kids to not only grow with their rig, but grow into legal draw weight as well. This is a big consideration if you hope your youngster will eventually head into the whitetail woods with you. If they get comfortable with a bow that can only adjust up to 30 pounds but your state minimum is 40, you’ll need to make a new purchase long before their first season in the field. Instead, opt for a youth rig that will accommodate shooters of all ages and sizes, and also allow them to work into specs that ensure the opportunity for ethical in-field performance when the time is right.
What Matters Most We love stats, which is evidenced in the adult bow market by the emphasis on advertised arrow speeds. While it’s cool to buy a bow capable of shooting 350 fps, that really doesn’t matter much to the average hunter. Those numbers are generally unreachable by the masses and really unimportant to the overall performance of a bow.
The same rules apply with kid’s bows, which often tout arrow speeds that would be tough to replicate under perfect laboratory conditions. With all bows, especially youth rigs, what matters is enjoyment in the shooting process. This is built on easy accuracy, which comes from a quality design and a perfect fit. There’s really no way around that, so if you want to instill a deep love for the flight of the arrow in your youngster, that’s how you’ll do it.