In Part 1 of Choosing a Youth Hunting Bow, we narrowed down the type of bow to a compound bow, so now we will be looking at the various attributes of the different bows on the market. The choices that my daughter and I made on her bow were made based on my particular child, and our specific hunting situation, but yours may be quite different. We will discuss a variety of items in this article that the parent of a bowhunting youth should be cognizant of when making a purchase. Much of the decision making comes down to personal preference of the buyer/archer. However, the items discussed below can eliminate quite a bit of stress, buyers remorse, and heartache later in the hunting season.
I want to reiterate that this article has not been sponsored by any manufacturer, and the items that we selected have been researched and purchased with our own money, so we are beholden to no one with regard to the outcome of our decisions.
Riddle Me This! Things to consider when purchasing the bow are as follows:
The Parents’ Experience Level: First, you need to honestly decide what you are capable of doing yourself, and what items you will need the help from an expert, or bow shop. Remember, this is your kid. Mama will not be happy if you bring said kid home after a weekend at the camp with arrow shards sticking out of said kid’s body parts. Moms are funny that way. They want you to always bring home all parts of your kid. Even if you bring home most of said kid, or more parts of the kids are undamaged than damaged, Mama doesn’t give partial credit regarding these matters.
If you are proficient enough to be able to handle setting up the bow, adjusting certain things, tuning arrows, etc., then your options are wide open. If you are not proficient in certain areas, then be honest enough with yourself to purchase a bow in accordance with that level of knowledge and skill. If you don’t feel comfortable doing any of the fixin’ your self, then factor in the price of the bow tech when you make your purchase. Some places will set up the bow (minus the cost of any add-ons) for free if you purchase the bow from them.
Draw Weight: This is the biggest mistake that every first time bow hunter makes, regardless of their age. Having a bow that is over powered helps nothing and no one. Missing with a more powerful bow is still missing, and more frustrating for your kiddo. Never has a hunter said “I never would have killed that deer that I missed if I wasn’t drawing 75lbs!” Having a child who is over bowed, and just learning the sport is a recipe for mistakes, and problems with form that may take years to correct. Purchase a bow with a variable draw weight that has the widest range possible. And get an idea if that range is appropriate for your child’s strength level, and potential for growth. For instance the bow that we eventually picked for my daughter has an adjustable draw weight from 5 to 55lbs. With that range of draw weights, it’s likely that my daughter could hunt with that bow into adulthood!
Draw Length: This is pretty strait forward. Measure your child’s draw length (with their hands out, measure from middle finger to middle finger, and divide that by 2.5, and that number is their draw length in inches; i.e. 70″/2.5 = 28″ draw), and find a bow that is adjustable to that length, with plenty of room to grow. If you’ve ever purchased a new pair of shoes for your kids, then you know that you get them a little large, because if they fit the day you buy them, then you’ll have to cut holes for their toes in a month or two. Archery equipment is similar, except that you can adjust it to fit them perfectly throughout their inevitable and unstoppable stages of growth. Again, the bow we purchased for my daughter was adjustable from 18″ to 30″ of draw (which means that I could shoot this bow with a few inches to spare!).
Brace Height: This is often not a big consideration for archers, and bow hunters, but it should be. The Brace Height is the distance from the string to the closest point of the arrow rest. The brace height is measured in inches, and the larger the brace height, the more forgiving the bow is to shoot. The shorter the brace height, the faster the bow is capable of slinging an arrow, but the bow will also be less forgiving of deficiencies in form, and release. To give you an example, the Matthews Halon is advertised on their website as having a choice of brace height. The same bow with a 5″ brace height shoots 353 fps, or 7″ at 335 fps. That is a difference of 18 fps for 2″ of brace height. The brace height for the bow we chose for my daughter is 7″. I will sacrifice small amounts of speed for forgiveness at this stage in her bowhunting journey because I’d rather my daughter hit it slow than miss it fast.
Let-Off: Let-off is the mechanical advantage derived from the cams (wheels) on the bow, that enables the shooter to hold back only a portion of the total poundage of the bow’s draw weight once it is drawn to full draw. It is measured in percentage of the draw weight. This is one of those things that can get easily overlooked when you are berated with other “cool factor” items when attempting to purchase anything these days. Again, don’t assume that due to your super hero genetics your kid is Chuck Norris. If your child can’t hold at full draw for any length of time, they will not shoot as accurately…period. I would recommend attempting to find a bow with the highest percentage of let-off as possible for first time archers. This allows for the child to remain at full draw while they carefully take an un-rushed shot. In practice this is important, and in a hunting situation it could be the difference between the picture of a lifetime, and “you’ll get ’em next time, Tiger.” For instance, my daughter’s bow has 80% let-off. Meaning that if she is drawing 35lbs, then she is only holding back 7lbs.
Mass Weight: Most people think that it is the fatigue of the arm that you draw the bow with (right arm for right handers, and left for a South Paw) that causes the drop in accuracy. It is more often the weak side (non-dominant) arm that has been holding up the weight of the bow that is starting to wobble, thus negatively effecting the shot. Think about it this way. Your strong side (dominant arm) provides the power, but your non-dominant arm provides the accuracy, and when it comes to bow hunting, we all know accuracy is king. Too much weight, and your child will tire too soon or not be able to stabilize the bow for an effective shot. The bow I chose for my daughter was 3.2 lbs. By comparison, the Matthews Halon in the 5″ brace height is 4.83 lbs. That’s 1.63 lbs greater for a bow that has only 1″ greater axle to axle. Keep in mind that both of these weights are before adding any accessories.
Price: This is one of my most important considerations. This is a personal one, but also a very important one. Will your child like bowhunting enough to stick with it? Will they spend enough time bowhunting to justify spending some hard earned dough on equipment? Can your budget fit the bow, and accessories comfortably? Are you sick of me asking rhetorical questions? Only you can answer these questions. I know that prices vary greatly, so some homework is in order. You will spend money like a drunk rapper in a strip club if you don’t do some homework before you make a purchase, so take the time to ask around, and shop around. Used bows are a great option if you are cash strapped as long as they are in good shape and safe. There ain’t no shame in that game. This ain’t a runway in Milan; it is the deer woods. Deer die every season from old, ugly bows. Mine is a Fred Bear recurve that’s literally older than I am, and I’ve never had a dead deer complain about it.
The Bottom Line:
As always there are other details to consider, but once you’ve hammered down on the details listed above, you will be able to make an educated, and functional decision for your little bow hunting padawan. Tackle the items listed above first to narrow the field, then consider other items like ergonomics, aesthetics, etc.