Editor’s Note: This is a little longer blog, but if after the intro you’re still interested, keep on reading! Please note that with summer approaching, blogs may appear on random days due to Tate and myself busy with fishing/archery tournaments, and other activities. But don’t worry, we’re still here working to push out content when we can and are still working on new apparel!
In recent months since 3D archery shoots have kicked off for the 2019 season, I’ve had multiple friends ask me about getting involved in archery. Some of the questions that I’ve been asked are: “Where do I start?” “What kind of bow should I try? Compound? Crossbow? Recurve?” “What brand should I go with and how will I know what to look for?”
I’m not an expert in archery by any means and have a lot of learning left to go myself, but I will tell you I can give you a good base to start with and pass on any knowledge I’ve gained since I’ve became addicted to archery. So if you’re looking to get involved in shooting a bow and/or archery hunting, or are wondering what to look for in your next purchase of a bow, here’s a brief overview of important factors that I look for when it comes bow selection, and how to get started!
(GIF from Google images)
How to Get Started
To get an idea if you’ll like shooting a bow or not, one option is getting in contact with someone that is already invested in archery that you know is a good place to start. You can ask them how they got started, but more importantly you can discuss ask them questions and possibly try to shoot their set-up. The only problem with shooting a set-up someone else has is that it may not fit you. I’m only 5’9” and with my compound set-up, my draw length is set at 27” and my draw weight is 64 lbs. Aside from the poundage that my bow is set at, someone who is 6’1” will probably need a longer draw length than what I’m shooting to feel comfortable.
Being comfortable is key when it comes to choosing the right bow for you. So what can you do if no one you know shoots a set-up that fits you? Resort to option #2 which is visit your local archery pro shop. To be honest, it might even be best to start with this option. Odds are, your local archery pro shop will have the ability to set you up with a bow that best suits you (draw length and draw weight wise). Most archery shops, or at least the ones I’ve been to, will give you the opportunity to shoot different bows and tune it to what feels most comfortable to you; giving you the chance to see if shooting a bow is something you think you’d enjoy and want to get involved in.
What Should I Look For When Selecting a Bow?
There are compound bows, cross-bows, and traditional bows (recurve, longbow). For the purpose of this blog, we’re going to stick strictly to compound bows when talking about what to look for while you’re selecting your bow.
I think one day I might write a blog on the engineering that goes into a bow, because it truly is fascinating. But even if you don’t care about that, it is important to understand what cam system will best fit the style you’re looking for. Plus, you may find that one cam is more comfortable when it breaks over during the draw cycle than a different one.
For example, with a dual cam (aka Twin cams) system, there is symmetrical cams on each end of the bow and both store energy when rolled over, so when the arrow is released, there is more kinetic energy and momentum created; thus creating more speed. So yinz who are looking for speed, that’s probably your best bet.
Those of you looking for accuracy and forgiveness specifically and aren’t afraid to lose a little speed for it, solo cams may be the route to go. These have a cam rolling over to store energy on the bottom side of the bow, with the top end of the bow having just a wheel for guidance.
If you want the best of both worlds, hybrid cams might make the most sense. Hybrid cams are built with the thought that the bottom cam is your power cam for stored energy/speed, and the top cam is the control cam for accuracy and forgiveness.
There are other cam systems as well (no-cam, binary, etc.), but I would have to assume these are the most popular among archers and have been the ones that I’ve come across the most.
When it comes to bow grip, it can be a little bit of a touchy subject (see what I did there? Hehe). Everyone has a difference preference when it comes to what bow they’re gonna like, and grip is no different.
The way you grip the bow can potentially affect your left and right, which is why I believe grip comfort is a huge factor. Let’s say for example you’re a right handed shot. If you have the grip pressured too far back into the pocket of your thumb and pointer finger, your hand is going to want to torque the bow to the right. If you have the grip pressured too far onto your thumb, then you run the possibility of torquing the bow to the left. It’s the little things that affect how you shoot, and your pressure point in your grip is no different.
Some people like a thick grip, some like a thin one. Me personally? I’ve grown to like a thinner grip on my bows. Why? Because it’s easier for me to find my pressure point before I draw my bow and I’m more consistent in finding it, plus I’ve found if I’m struggling, it’s normally just a tweak of how I’m holding my bow. But like I said, everyone is different so it’s all a matter of what you like best and what feels most comfortable.
This is a pretty simply one. What feels more comfortable, a heavy or a light bow? I think the lightest bow I’ve ever held is a Bowtech Carbon Icon. In full draw, it feels like you aren’t holding any weight in your hand at all.
Then there are Mathews bows I’ve shot, along with an Elite that I used to own, that are on the heavier end of the weight spectrum. For me, I like a heavier bow because I find that when I’m in full draw with a heavier bow, it helps me stay steady on my target. With light bows I’ve shot, I find my arm wavering more and that makes it hard for me to settle in on my spot.
With that being said, I know a lot of people that are the exact opposite of me and like the fact that they aren’t holding any weight in full draw. And hey, nothing wrong with that! Key phrase once again: it’s all about being comfortable.
DRAW CYCLE / VALLEY
When I’m looking at bows, this is the most important factor I’m looking at. How does the whole draw cycle feel? I’m always looking for a bow with a smooth draw and a comfortable valley. Whether I have to pull my bow back 1 time to take a shot at a deer, or 30 times during a 3D shoot, or 56 times during winter scalps; I want to be sure every time I pull the bow back it’s smooth and comfortable, not a hard or rigid draw.
The valley is known as the point in your draw cycle where the cams break over and your % let-off begins. So, it’s the distance from the “wall” (where you can’t pull the bow back any farther), to where if you were to creep forward and the let-off lessens, and you’re starting to hold the full weight of the draw (in the photo below, it’s the region where the curve begins to drop off to the back wall). Personally, I like a longer valley. A longer valley provides me the opportunity to feel more comfortable getting to my anchor point and settling in. Also, if I was to creep forward a little bit on accident, the bow won’t jerk forward immediately and will give me a chance to get the bow back to full draw.
(Photo from Outside Magazine)
Let-off is pretty straight forward. Once the cams break over, your % let-off begins. So if your draw-weight is set at 60 lbs, and your cams are set at 80% let-off, then at full draw you’ll only be holding 12 lbs. Crazy, right?
So the whole draw cycle is an important factor when looking at a bow, but more specifically, finding a valley and a % let-off that feels comfortable to you is a huge factor in bow selection.
Last but not least, how does the bow feel once you pull the trigger? Does it fall forward after you shoot, or does it stay steady in your hand? Part of that has to do with how heavy/long your stabilizer is, but a big portion is the balance of the bow. If it’s top heavy, it will want to fall forward after your shot. I don’t like a bow that’s over-the-top top heavy, but I don’t mind the bow falling forward a tad.
Technology has come so far with bows that this isn’t as big of a factor nowadays, but bow vibration (even with a stabilizer bar in) is something to pay attention to. Odds are, you don’t want a bow that shakes your hand/arm every time you shoot, right? So it’s important to find a bow with the least vibration possible (or at least for me) and one that feels comfortable after/through your shot.
Time to Go After It!
I know, this was a long blog. But believe it or not, this really is a brief overview. There is so much to learn and so much to look for in a bow, and hopefully this gives you a good base to start with! Keep in mind these are just things I find important during bow selection, and you might find others that are critical to you feeling comfortable.
So if you made it the whole way through this blog, I hope you are planning a time to go look at some bows now and I’m looking forward to hearing not only your thoughts on what this blog entailed, but also your experiences in bow selection!
As always, find the outdoors within.
P.S. – Well, Tate and I said from the beginning that we’re learning everyday how to make Small Town Outdoors better and how to work the website, etc.. One of those examples is that for our reoccurring authors on the blog (Tate, myself, and anyone who plans on writing more than one blog), those authors will have their blogs posted under their own name after their first blog so it’s clear who is writing what and it’s easier for us to post. Nothing special, but just shows we’re still figuring out how to handle this rodeo as we go!