Two first-time bow buyers shared their experiences and advice to help others understand how to navigate the process. Photo Credit: ATA

How To Buy Your First Bow: Tips From New Bowhunters

  Cassie Gasaway   FeaturedGear   March 25, 2021

Buying a bow can be both exciting and intimidating. To make it a little easier, we spoke to two Bowhunting 360 followers who recently bought their first bow for tips and insights. Let’s meet our new hunters and hear what they have to say. 

Julius Zolezzi, 46, is from San Diego, California. He grew up in a tuna fishing family and had hunted hogs only twice. He decided to buy a bow after listening to the Joe Rogan Podcast about bowhunting. He knew bowhunting would be more challenging, but also more rewarding because he’d have to get closer to game animals to make an ethical shot. Plus, he liked the idea of harvesting his own organic food and wanted to get outside more. 

Brittani Owens, 24, grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent most of her time practicing and performing ballet. She wasn’t introduced to hunting until she made a spur-of-the-moment decision in college to enroll in a hunter education course. After she passed, she started hunting waterfowl with her stepfather. Two years later (last season), she bought a bow and started hunting deer on private land with her boyfriend. Now, she lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and can’t imagine her life without the sport. 

Both were eager to share their bow-buying experience to help others understand what to expect and how to navigate the retail landscape. 

Find a Reputable Archery Pro Shop

Working with knowledgeable pros will enhance your buying experience. Owens visited Whale-Tales Archery in Dousman, Wisconsin, which friends and coworkers recommended. Zolezzi went to Performance Archery in San Diego after hearing about it on a podcast and from friends. 

If you don’t have an archery pro shop recommendation, use Bowhunting 360’s store locator to find a pro shop near you. Simply type in your zip code and you’ll get a list of reputable archery stores in your area. 

Feel free to shop around, too. Some places offer only certain bow brands. And service fees (the cost to set up a bow) will differ from store to store. 

Do Research and Think About the Bow You Want

Research the archery shops in your area and choose the one that will best fit your needs. Photo Credit: Julius Zoletti

Zolezzi said beginners should do research, set a budget and think about what kind of bow they want (for bowhunting, target archery or both). Watching videos and reading articles is a great way to learn terminology before stepping into a pro shop. You don’t need to know it all to buy a bow, as the sales representative can teach you along the way, but it might make you feel more comfortable during the interaction.

Set a Budget and Be Prepared To Invest

Zolezzi said the most intimidating part of his buying experience was spending “that kind of money” on a bow. However, after he started shooting it and realized he would use it to for hunting and securing food, he felt a lot better about the investment. Where most people go wrong is forgetting about accessory costs.

“Also consider the accessories you will need or want, and how much they cost, so you can stay within your budget,” he said.

Another thing to keep in mind: An expensive bow won’t make you a better bowhunter. Practice will.

“You don’t need the newest, most expensive bow and accessories to harvest an animal,” Owens said. “To be successful, you need to practice – and practice some more. You’ll be more successful with a bow you feel comfortable with.”

Read Bowhunting 360’s article “Bowhunting on a Budget: The Bare Minimum Gear List” for tips and guidance on buying on a budget.

Consider the Bow’s Adjustability

Owens and Zolezzi said draw weight, or poundage, is an important bow feature to think about. Draw weight is the measure of force needed to draw a bow. Every bow has a draw weight, and on some compound bows, it can be adjusted over a 50-pound range, such as 15 to 65 pounds. Others offer a smaller range of adjustment, such as 10 pounds. Determining your optimal draw weight is very important when deciding on the right bow for you.

“I’d never pulled a bow back before, so my draw weight is pretty light,” Owens said. “I wanted something that I could work my way up on (aka adjust) without needing to get a new bow.” 

Zolezzi bought a bow that maxes out at 60 pounds. He says he wishes he had known about bows with an adjustable draw weight because he might have chosen differently. Regardless, he can buy a new set of limbs for his current bow to increase his draw weight if he wants. 

Test Different Models and Let the Bow Choose You

Test different bow models. Photo Credit: Brittani Owens

Before you buy a bow, Owens, Zolezzi and most retailers recommend you test-drive different options. Testing multiple brands at different weights will help you make an educated decision.

“They will all shoot different,” Zolezzi said. “It will help you find what bow you’re most comfortable with.” 

Owens agreed. “Go in with zero expectations,” she said. “I was dead set on one certain brand of bow, but that’s not the brand I ended up buying. The bow kind of chooses you; it’s a weird feeling to describe, but what worked for me didn’t work for my coworker who also just bought a bow.”

You Might Be Intimidated, But You’re in Good Hands

Owens didn’t know where to start and was overwhelmed with all the choices and accessories, but the pro shop experts helped her weigh the options and get everything she needed. They also answered all her questions, which made her more confident. 

“I didn’t think about buying arrows, broadheads, a rest, a sight, a quiver, etc.,” she said. “It was a lot of information to take in all at once, but with the help of Tyler at Whale-Tales and my coworkers, it was easy and enjoyable.”

Zolezzi had a similar experience and was grateful for the help, advice and assistance.

“I was very excited and a little intimidated at the same time, but my buying experience was awesome,” he said. “The guys at Performance Archery were really helpful and very knowledgeable about archery.”

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Bow technicians and pro shop staff have heard it all. And remember, every archer had their first day. You’re not alone. Trust the experts, and you’ll soon be on your way to shooting bull’s-eye after bull’s-eye.

Want more information on buying a bow? Check out these Bowhunting 360 articles:

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