How much should you spend on a bow? What makes a $500 setup any better than a $200 bow on craigslist? What will the $1,000 model do that the $500 package can’t? In this blog I will provide an outline for three levels of bow quality. What you want to get out of the bow will determine what you should put into it. As a hunter consider your experience, budget and goals before taking out your wallet.
Level 1: $100-$200 Used Bows 5-10 years Old
Best Bow For: Beginners, bow fishing, high schoolers, whitetail, as a gift
A level 1 bow will have been released at least five years ago, but they will still shoot well enough to hunt whitetail and enjoy target shooting. These bows provide a great opportunity for beginners to try out the sport on a budget.
Hunters can find great level 1 bows on eBay and craigslist. Unless the owner lives in your town you won’t have a chance to shoot the bow before buying it, so read a few reviews online beforehand. Look closely at the photos to make sure the strings haven’t frayed. Replacing strings will cost about as much as the bow. The cost of arrows, broadheads and other gear adds up quickly, and can easily cost as much as the bow itself. A level 1 bow can really help keep your costs down.
Level 1 bows excel as first bows for a high school kids or for bow fishing setups. Because they only have one cam, timing doesn’t become an issue. Additionally, these bows usually have a stationary sight and a whisker biscuit rest. A hunter could drop one of these bows out of a tree stand and probably shoot roughly the same groups. Basically these bows offer great durability as with fewer moving parts there are fewer things that can go wrong.
The bow will group well enough out to 30 yards to use during whitetail season. If you live out west or expect to take shots farther than 40 yards, I would recommend jumping up to level 2.
Level 2: $500-$700 New Second-Tier Bows and Used Bows from the last 3-4 years
Best Bow For: college students, weekend warriors, any species, a future backup bow
A huge number of bows cost between $500 and $700. Most bow manufacturers make a lower end model or kit that costs around $600. And, the flagship bows from a couple years back usually resell around this price as well.
Search for used bows that have had good reviews like the Hoyt Defiant or Mathews Halon. They still have great speed and in a lot of cases perform better than the newer models. A three year old bow that has stood up to scrutiny provides a great option. You may have trouble finding new mods or cams for some models. I’d recommend buying a popular used bow that hasn’t had a bunch of custom work done to it. If a hunter isn’t super picky on the attachments, they can get a great used bow.
I bought a new Quest for $600 a few years ago, and I still keep it around as a backup. The bow performed well during hunting season, but the cables wore out quickly in certain spots where the cams were poorly designed. I’ve seen this happen with other bows around this price point as well. If you only shoot once every few weeks or in the month leading up to the season, you probably won’t have to replace strings often. However, if you plan to shoot every week I would jump up to the next level. The bow still works great as a backup and as a hunting bow for anyone that doesn’t prioritize over almost everything.
These bows can group out well past 50 yards and handle anything from whitetail, antelope, mule deer and elk. Also, a hunter can make sure the bow fits properly and shoot the bow before buying it. All in all this price range offers a solid bow for most hunters.
Level 3: $1000-$1 Billion
Best Bow For: Five years experience, enthusiast that shoot every week, western hunters that may take longer shots, hunting antelope and longer range species
Beyond $1000 hunters don’t have to compromise. Archers can select from a variety of color options and have draw length and weight set precisely. Shops carry new mods to make adjustments, and the techs will have experience setting up these bows.
The bow will remain in tune through thousands of shots. The difference between how a top-of-the-line bow shoots compared to level 2 is noticeable, but if you’re not shooting every week and have your form dialed in, the groups won’t improve significantly. Archers that shoot several times a week come into the shop with level two bows that can’t handle the workload, this is the group that should make the jump to a level 3 bow and keep the level 2 around as a back up.
It costs $1000 for the bare-bones bow. Get a quality drop away and a sight with third axis adjustability. The components and arrow selection have a huge impact on accuracy. By the time it’s all said these bows end up costing at least $1,500. When archery becomes a weekly hobby and a fall obsession the price tag seems much more reasonable.
Don’t jump into archery too quickly. You won’t shoot a $1000 bow that much better than a $600 bow unless you practice every week. And, if you’re not going to hunt a bunch of days do the math on how much each hunt costs when you spend $400 more on a bow. That being said, if you have shot for a few years and know you’re going to shoot year round, buy the nicest bow you can afford.
Spending money doesn’t mean you care about it. Breaking the bank won’t force you to practice, it will only make you feel guilty when you don’t. The money saved can be used for tags in the fall. I see guys with top of the line gear that can’t afford an out of state tag. I’d rather walk through the woods with a Walmart bag and cargo shorts than sit at home decked out in KUIU. Be realistic about where you’re at and what you plan to hunt. There’s no shame in saving a couple hundred bucks and not having quite as nice of a bow as your buddies. Practice remains the ultimate equalizer.
Thank you for reading,