July 06, 2017
I often hear bowhunters question whether today's new bows are really any better than bows from five years ago, or last year, for that matter. The answer is, yes.
It's true that today's bows aren't all that much faster than last year's bows, and are only marginally faster than bows from five years ago. But speed doesn't tell the whole story. Arrow speed is only one measurement of a bow's performance, and personally, it's not what I focus on when bow shopping. In fact, I rarely shoot my bows through a chronograph, because I don't care how fast they are. I care about how accurate they are, how fun they are to shoot, and how quiet they are.
Now, arrow speed is important. It plays a role in how well our arrows will penetrate and how flat they'll shoot downrange. But we haven't seen overwhelming gains in arrow speeds during the last five years, which lumps most bows into the same realm as far as how fast they'll shoot. Pretty much all of them will generate enough speed to give you a pass-through on a moose, provided you shoot the right arrows and are accurate enough to hit him where you need to.
This brings me to accuracy. It's an intangible that's not as sexy or as easy to explain as arrow speed. But it matters far more than how fast your arrow is going. You've got to hit what you're aiming at. Period.
This is one of the reasons why you see parallel-cam designs, cable-guards that move to reduce overall bow torque, and a serious focus on promoting perfect nock travel in our current bows. All of those things are designed to make a bow function more accurately. There might be other benefits built in as well, like cam designs that produce a buttery smooth draw cycle or a rock-solid back wall (or hopefully, both). While this is easy to appreciate for the comfort factor, it also contributes to being more accurate in two ways:
1. You're relaxed.
When you're relaxed, you'll generally have better shooting form.
2. If you enjoy shooting, you'll shoot more.
The more you shoot, the better you shoot typically. It's simple, but it's one of the best reasons to pick up a new bow. You may have no problem with that 10-year-old bow, but you just might enjoy shooting a new bow a lot more. That matters, and it comes with a host of performance extras that will make you a more lethal shot as well and will help you increase your effective shooting range.
BIG BUCKS...AS IN CASH
While there are clearly benefits to upgrading hunting rigs, it usually boils down to a matter of finances. Today's flagship bows nearly all carry price tags north of $1,000. Not everyone can swing that.
There are some new bows that don't cost a grand, and in fact, cost considerably less. Generally speaking, you'll give up something going with a $500 bow versus a $1,000 bow, but that feature might not matter to you. For instance, that lesser-priced bow might be a bit slower (no big deal), or it might be a little bit louder or heavier. Neither are deal breakers for most folks.
What I'm most concerned with when checking out wallet-friendly offerings is how they shoot. Both subjectively, and objectively.
I've got the benefit of having a shooting machine at my house, and it has always amazed me how some bows are tack drivers and some aren't. Again, I'm being general here, but the more you spend the more likely it is that the bow will be highly accurate. Of course, some bows carry a hefty price tag for other reasons, like they are built with carbon risers or other expensive materials.
If a fresh-off-of-the-production-line bow isn't your thing, you can always find a used bow. There are plenty of ways to come across a new-to-you bow, but always remember: it either has to fit your specs perfectly or allow you to easily adjust it to get it where you need it in regards to draw length and draw weight.
I frequently see bowhunters fall into the trap of buying a bow that seems like a killer deal only to realize that it doesn't exactly fit them somehow, or they simply don't like shooting it for one reason or another. A bow that isn't the correct draw length, or is far heavier in poundage than you are comfortable with, is no deal at all.
This is one of the reasons why a good pro shop is hard to beat. Whether you're looking for a $1,500 top-of-the-line offering or something with a few miles on it, consider working with a good pro shop so you'll be able to shoot your potential purchase and decide if it's right for you. That's important. Plus, you'll be working with someone who can take a long look at your shooting form.
Nothing tells you whether you'll like shooting a bow more than shooting it for yourself. Forget brand allegiance, forget what you've seen on outdoor television, and simply shoot as many bows that are set up to your specs as it takes. Make sure to use your go-to release aid, take your time, and focus on whether you enjoy the bow and whether the arrows seem to group well in your initial sessions.
The experience will expose the bows that aren't right for you, and of course, the one that is.
SPLURGE OR WAIT?
The decision to pick up a new bow is personal, but also demands a bit of self-reflection and honesty. Are you comfortable with your level of accuracy and ability to shoot? Have you lost a few deer, or other critters, from poor penetration or poor shot placement? Maybe you're running into tuning issues or simply can't get broadheads to fly all that well out of your current rig?
They are signs that it's time to upgrade, but you've got to look for them and be willing to acknowledge them if they exist. Perhaps they don't, and you're truly comfortable and confident with your current setup. That's good. But if that's not entirely true, then it might be time to start squirreling away some money in a new-bow fund.