I have only ever hunted with compound bows. I have owned three compound bows in my life starting with a ProLine, then graduating to a Jenningsand just recently my third new bow-a Mathews Reezen 6.5. The technology used in compound bows is amazing, but a few basic principles always hold true for hunting. Compound bows must be accurate, quiet, and reliable. Speed, vibration after the shot, grips, cams, and camouflage are all secondary and are what manufacturers use to sell high end compound bows.
Know that any bow set to legal draw weights for your state will kill a deer given the animal is within the effective range of the bow. I have killed deer with each of these three bows – however, I have created more shot opportunities with my last 2 bows as they have a greater effective range due to speed and technology.
Compound bows are available in a wide range of prices but they are really all built to deliver the arrow down the range – some just do it more efficiently, which makes them easier to shoot and also helps the bow deliver the most energy to the target. This energy means good penetration with broadheads and a better chance that the animal will be taken cleanly. Let’s review a handful of the features you will want to research before buying your first compound bow.
How does it feel?
The feel of a compound bow is measured in a lot of different ways. The vibration and jump of the bow in your hand after the shot can range a great deal from one compound bow to the next. Ideally you will get the best accuracy from a bow that is easy to handle at the shot which means low vibration and no jump. The weight of the bow is critical even though we may only be talking about a few ounces. Holding the bow at full draw for any period of time can make those few ounces feel much heavier.
Be sure your local bow shop measures your draw length. Most bowhunters draw a bow that is too long for them because it usually means they can get a few extra feet per second (FPS) in arrow speed. The drawbacks are not worth it, namely the lack of accuracy you will find because your bow twists you inside out at full draw. And finally, the draw of the compound bow. Draw weight aside, you will want to be comfortable with the draw cycle, or how the string feels when you pull it back. Different styles of compound bows will feel differently as you draw them and you may find one feels much easier and smoother than another set at the same draw weight.
Did you hear that?
Aside from the feel of a compound bow, the noise it makes when you shoot it is important. A deer can react to the speed of sound quicker than it takes the arrow to arrive at the target. This can result in a deer jumping the string-basically moving before the arrow gets there. Today’s compound bows are very quiet for the most part and manufacturers have gone to great lengths to engineer sound dampening technology into their designs. Accessory manufacturers have also worked to reduce sound on compound bows, and products like limb savers and cat whiskers do a great job of quieting down a compound bow that may not come out of the factory in stealth mode.
The price is right.
Expect to pay for a quality compound bow. Prices for mid range setups start at around $400 and a top of the line compound bow will be closer to $900. Take into account the need for accessories like a sight at $80, a quiver at $50, arrow rest at $80, release at $100 and 1 dozen arrows at $100 and you can see that this is no small investment. These prices are averages and you can spend more or less, but for our illustration, the top of the line bow set up with middle of the road accessories is going to be around $1,300. Buy the best bow you can afford.
With this type of investment in your future, it is important to spend a great deal of time on the shooting range before you buy. Go to a handful of archery shops – explain to them how you hunt and then ask them to make some suggestions on compound bows. The shop should allow you the opportunity to shoot a variety of bows in various price ranges. It is this time with the bow that will tell you which one to buy – it should feel smooth in the draw and solid when at full draw. When you release the arrow it should feel dead in your hand–no vibration or jumping. All of these small things add up to create a great shooting bow that shoots well for you and that you’ll be happy with.