Compound Bows – School Me.

When I was a kid, I had a little fiberglass recurve bow. I can’t remember much about it, but it was similar to the little JetBow that Wee Bot has now. I kept it strung with whatever piece of twine I could find that was stout enough that it wouldn’t snap when I drew it. I never had any real arrows, only pieces of dowel rod with the tips ground to a point. I didn’t even bother cutting a nock into the back of my “arrows”. And yet, I slew many a dry leaf or cardboard box with that crappy little bow. At some point, it broke in a way that made it not worth fixing, and it went to the garbage. I didn’t think much about archery since then until recently.

Right now I’m thinking about next year’s deer seasons. As I’ve been studying Oklahoma’s hunting regulations, it looks like we’ve got all of four weeks a year (including antlerless holiday season) that we can shoot a deer with a gun, and one week for a muzzle loader. By comparison, archery season spans two and a half months! This has me thinking about archery again.

The problem is, I don’t know anything about bows. Money is as tight as ever right now, so I really can’t afford to waltz into the local sporting shop and lay wads of cash on the counter for some slick, brand-new, guaranteed deer slayer. In fact, the closer to free I can get is going to advantageous. It looks like prices on used bows are quite reasonable on Craig’s List. The problem is that I don’t really know anything about these things.

The Wildlife Department dictates a 40-lb minimum draw, which seems to include any compound bow on the market made for grown-ups. I’ve seen some ads from people that I would be hesitant to do business with based entirely on their grammar and spelling, and other ads that are for a bow in a bag. As in, if you can put this thing back together, you’ll probably have a pretty decent bow! That sounds like it could be fun one day, but not for my first one, thanks.

So, how about some recommendations? Any brands or models that I should specifically avoid? Any features that are particularly noteworthy? Do you have something serviceable in the back of a closet that really ought to get a new, loving home? All donations are graciously accepted. You, my readers, are the smartest people on the planet, so let’s hear what you have to say about it. Thanks in advance!

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8 thoughts on “Compound Bows – School Me.

  1. Smartest? Clearly, you’re referring to a reader other than I.

    I bought my first compound bow last year after spending many (many) years away from archery. As a wee lad, I shot longbows and recurves. Last November, I ultimately bought about the least expensive thing I could find: Martin Threshold compound from Sportsman’s Guide. Yes, there’s a bit of assembly required, but nothing challenging: attach the arrow rest, bow sight, and quiver. No deer with it yet, but so far I’m pretty satisfied with my ability with it out to about 40 yards.

    Best of luck to you, though.

  2. I shoot a compound. Draw weight is 50 to 70 pounds adjustable. The newer ones are very light weight which maters if you are walking around a lot. I have an older one I would be willing to trade. It needs a new string. It has pin sights. The bow I shoot has fiber optic sights. I have taken deer with the one bow I am willing to trade. E-mail me if you are interested. Gary Griffin

  3. Wai is probably going to be one of your best resources, but here’s my nickel:
    Any modernish compound with modern broadheads will kill a deer. The guy who brags about his 70- or 80-pound draw is just bragging. Find a draw weight that you can comfortably pull *and hold for a minute or two*. I can pull a 70-pound bow. I don’t like to. A 60# is far easier and more comfortable, not to mention safer. If you have to do the “reach for the sky and swing down” draw, it’s too heavy.

    If you’re shooting a modern compound with parallel or near-parallel limbs, you’re going to be shooting with a release, not finger shooting. (This is because the string angle is acute enough to not get the proper three-finger grip on the string.) There’s an art to it, and rule one is like guns: keep your booger hook off the twang switch. Seriously: you will punch yourself in the nose or teeth with 60# of force if the string releases mid-draw.

    I’d strongly suggest spending the extra money to go to an archery shop and get a bow that is sized for you. Most of them will have an indoor range where you can try a few bows. Spend the hundred bucks or so to get it properly tuned, and get arrows that are cut to the correct length. They’ll fly more accurately and be less likely to do unpleasant things on release.

    You don’t need the super-duper fastest bow out there, either. The current speed demons are launching arrows around 320-330fps, but you pay through the nose ($1000+) for that. For a third or half the price, you can get one in the 280-290fps range that will kill deer just as dead*.

    Broadheads: there are fixed, fixed-replaceable, and mechanicals. Being a fan of simple, I like fixed or fixed-replaceable heads. Mechanicals can leave a MUCH larger wound channel when they work right (which is, admittedly, most of the time) but are more likely to deliver a non-lethal shot if you hit a shoulder or such.

    Sights: you really don’t need (or want) a five- or six- or more-pin sight. Again, simple is better. I like a max of two pins with fiber optics. Zero one for “close” (20ish yards) and one for “far” (40 yards if you’re comfortable shooting that far) and then spend time practicing at intermediate distances.

    Practice. Archery is far more perishable skill than rifle or shotgun shooting. I can open my safe, pick up any gun, and make a reasonable-distance killing shot on a deer even if I’m a bit rusty. Archery works more muscles much harder and may require you to stay at full draw for two or three minutes waiting for the deer to step into just the right spot. If you’re going to get serious about bowhunting, you’ll be shooting a couple shots every single day for most of the year, and ramping up to five to ten shots a day in the month before season start. (Yes, that’s it. Build muscle memory, but treat it like weightlifting – because it is.)

    * – if you get Really Into This, then feel free to drop big bucks on a fancy bow. I personally think it’s foolish when you can buy a used one for half price because some other guy decided he needed another 10fps.

  4. If cheap is a prime consideration, why not another recurve?

    You could hit dry leaves with dowels as a kid? No sights, no release, no tuning, less expensive arrows, even wood with fixed broadheads. More practice is the biggest down side. Lots of satisfaction if you have the time.

    Just a thought. Nice blog, can’t remember where I linked from. Theo maybe? Nice holsters too!

  5. Archery is addictive. I wouldn’t buy a secondhand bow, unless I do the research on a particular bow someone is selling. Stay away from bows that are over 5 years old, and especially stay away from bows with standard limbs. You want a bow with parallel limbs so it doesn’t jump out of your hands when you pull the trigger.

    Some very nice used bows would be:
    Bowtech Tribute, Allegiance, Admiral and Guardian
    Parker Red Hawk and Black Hawk (not the E-Z Draw)
    Diamond Ice Man, Black Ice and The Rock
    Mathews Drenalin, DXT and Switchback (their new stuff is crap)

    You need to get a bow fitted to you, like a fine Italian suit. If you have to conform to the bow, then you’re never going to shoot as well as the bow can. You don’t want a bow with an axle-to-axle length that’s shorter than your drawlength, because the string angle will be too steep and you won’t be able to anchor properly. If you watch YouTube videos of compound bow archers, you’ll see them coming to an anchor point behind their jawlines with their release hand and the string touching somewhere on their nose. Consistently finding these two anchor points at full draw will make your shooting very consistent. From there, you set your peep sight so that it lines up with your eye every time and then the front sight, in turn. You want to maintain that eye/peep/sight alignment at all times.

    There are basically two choices of peeps – tubed and tubeless. I prefer tubeless, because tubed peeps cause a loss of about 10 fps from the arrow. The tube also tend to snap off at the most inopportune times. The plus side to a tubed peep is that the peep comes back straight every time, esp. if you have a bow with crappy strings or if the strings are too old and tend to rotate. With a tubeless peep, you’ll need to shoot a D-Loop so that it pulls the string and peep back the same way every time. These are better on high quality strings as they won’t stretch and rotate with repeatedly use. The D-Loop also saves the serving on the bowstring.

    Peep-to-sight aperture alignment must always be maintained for greatest consistency. My favorite sight is the G5 XR2 with one fixed pin that I set at 20 yards and one floating pin that goes from 30 to 70 yards by rotating a dial. However, I’ve had to play with this sight to improve its functionality as there were a couple of quirks that had to be ironed out.

    Arrows will need to match the bow’s drawlength and draw weight, with the correct spine. If the spine’s not stiff enough, you’ll snap the arrows upon release and could very well turn into a disaster and a trip to the emergency room. My arrow of choice are Easton Axis Nanos. They are built tough and are a thinner diameter and a bit heavier than most arrows for increased kinetic energy retention downrange and penetration on what you’re hunting. This is important for longer range shots, and I’m sure you’ll have plenty of those in OK. With the energy efficiency of the bows today, 50-yard shots on a deer are not unheard of.

    Most important of all is practice practice practice. Good luck and if you have any questions, give me a call.

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