Contrary to popular belief, it's never too late to start hunting with a bow or crossbow. With more hunters hitting the woods in search of the next big challenge, many are a bit intimidated by the prospect of archery. Whether it's because of concerns about the learning curve, physical endurance or just plain hard-headedness, perhaps you don't believe you can keep up with younger hunters the way you'd like to. Well, we're here to talk about bows you can use to get a piece of the hype. If you're 40 or older, you've likely lost some of the muscle and strength you once had. Endurance, cardiovascular performance, and even flexibility can be adversely affected as you rise in age. As many have, I shot my first deer with a .243 Remington 700. Then I shot a bow. Not only did the speed and accuracy impress me, but the increased challenge intrigued me.
I even felt like I was late getting into bowhunting at 15 years old, but that doesn't mean folks can't start much older. If you're a bit late to the game on starting bowhunting, we have a few suggestions, with emphasis on the features that make them better suited for archers getting a start in the game later in life.
If strength and muscle capabilities are of top concern, the first thing you should pay attention to in a bow is draw weight. When I started off, I was shooting a youth bow that pulled only 40 pounds. This helped me understand that you don't have to be pulling 70 pounds to take down an animal. In 2018, Mathews came out with the Triax bow. This model offers full adjustability for draw weights ranging from 50-70 pounds. Many archers make the mistake of overdoing it on the weight they pull. You don't need to kill yourself with heavier draw weights to harvest deer. Bowhunting isn't a weightlifting competition. Pick the draw weight that's comfortable within that range. If you go too heavy, it might start affecting consistency and accuracy. You don't want that. Consider the weight of the bow itself in your decision too. In the case of that Triax bow I mentioned earlier, it's a great option for any hunter regardless of age. It's lightweight and won't kill your back either, weighing in at just 4.4 pounds.
The next key specification for finding a bow is let-off. This statistic is based upon how much weight is taken off the pull when you reach the back wall of your draw. Most bows can range from 60-90-percent let-off. The higher percentage your let-off is, the less weight you're going to have to hold while waiting for that big buck to step into your shooting lane. Another highly praised bow that has a very high let-off percentage is the Hoyt RX-1 (featured below). The stats show it has a range of 80-85-percent let-off at the back wall. Let's say you buy a 60-pound draw weight RX-1 with an 80-percent let-off. You'd only be holding 12 pounds at full draw.
If you are hoping to take trophy-sized animals that can be recorded in the record books, let-off is something to watch. Pope and Young finally relaxed their famous, long-standing rule on letting animals taken with bows greater than 65 percent let-off. However, they do put an asterisk next to them. If you don't want that, you will need to keep your bow choice under that 65 percent mark.
Crossbows are an excellent option for anyone concerned with accuracy and quick, ethical harvests. Because these can use a heavier draw weight and a smaller, lighter bolt, they are also much faster and more likely to achieve a complete pass-through of the animal than a compound. Crossbows are the best possible option for anyone who is disabled or has major back or shoulder issues. Simply because it takes most of draw weight out of the equation. You feel nothing at full draw besides the anticipation of pulling the trigger. Taking your grandkids to the blind couldn't be easier. Modern crossbows come with a bevy of devices to assist in drawing the huge weights behind them.
There are plenty of crossbows worth testing on the market, and believe me, they do the job just as well if not better than compound setups. Consider the Mission Sub-1 and the Ten Point Nitro X that helped some youngsters take down big bucks.
We know that crossbows are controversial. We've heard plenty of arguments from hunters who do not consider them real archery. Pope and Young also does not accept crossbow-killed animals in their record books. However, crossbows are an excellent way to access the traditional bowhunting seasons for hunters who may never have tried it before in the past.
As a hunter that toddled into the woods with his old man, I can say the first deer I shot with a bow was just as rewarding as the first deer ever. There's nothing quite like putting in the practice and sitting feet away from animals who have no idea you're there. However, I should warn you, you're going to get hooked. The time will come when you've put in the work. You've done plenty of shooting with your bow. You've graduated from field points, and you're now equipped with broadheads. You have all the appropriate hunting gear, your scent control is locked down, you have your treestand set up with multiple shooting lanes and the right safety harness holding you in. When that first deer walks within 5 yards of your stand, you come to full draw and let that arrow fly, you might just get that buck fever you felt back in the deer hunting seasons of your younger days.