Alright, so you or someone you know wants to get started in archery. What equipment do you actually need in a beginner bowhunting setup?
In almost every state in the country, hunters wait in anticipation for the most wonderful time of the year... deer season. While many more hunters chase whitetails with a firearm, those of us who go with the stick-and-string often have much longer seasons to work with. In fact, archery seasons in many states open as early as September and many stay open until January.
If you've been wanting to give archery a shot, it's not too late! Here you will find a list of everything it will take to put together the perfect beginner's bowhunting setup for you or for someone you love, as well as several places to consider when purchasing equipment.
1. The Bow
When purchasing a bow for a first-time or inexperienced shooter, there are several things to consider. Choose one that has a wide range of adjustments that are easy to make. For a bow to work properly, it must fit the shooter, and getting a bow to work for a new archer often takes several rounds of adjustments.
If these adjustments are difficult to make (like needing to be put in a bow press to change draw length), then a new shooter may become discouraged or lose interest. If the new shooter is a young person who still has some growing to do, adjustability becomes even more important.
You ultimately want the best hunting bow you can afford, while still saving funds for extras and accessories.
While there are many bows on the market specifically designed for the new (or younger) archer, here are several standouts:
Diamond Infinite Edge
The Infinite Edge by Diamond Archery is a fantastic choice for new or young shooters. The draw length is adjustable from 13 inches all the way up to 30 inches, and the draw weight can be adjusted from five pounds to 70 pounds without the use of a bow press.
Diamond Archery bows are all made by Bowtech, a company that's near the top of the heap in the archery world. This bow can be purchased as a package that includes a sight, a full-capture rest, a quiver, a peep sight and a string loop at Cabela's.
Bear Apprentice III
The quality of Bear Archery products has soared in recent years, and this is especially visible in their entry level bows. While designed primarily for young archers, the Apprentice III represents a great value for adults as well. It offers 95% of the performance of the Diamond, at a significantly more wallet-friendly price point. Bear offers the Apprentice III in two levels of draw weight adjustments; either 20-60 pounds of draw weight or 15-50 pounds (the draw length of both models can be adjusted from 15" to 27").
My wife shoots the Apprentice III, and loves it. Either model can be had in several different color variations, including pink. The Apprentice III is sold in package form, with sights, a rest, quiver, peep, and loop at Cabela's.
PSE Stinger 3G
While the Stinger 3G from PSE doesn't have quite the range of adjustments as the Bear or the Diamond (and costs a little more), its performance makes it perfect for the new archer who is serious about chasing whitetails. It isn't the cheapest nor the most expensive bow from PSE, but the Stinger is probably the darling of the PSE lineup.
It's available in three levels of draw weight adjustment; 30-50 pounds, 40-60 pounds or 50-70, and the draw length can be adjusted from 30.5 inches all the way down to 25.5 inches without a bow press. It's fast, forgiving, quiet, extremely accurate, and very reasonably priced.
After several years of owning and shooting it, I've never been disappointed with the Stinger's performance. The Stinger 3G is available as a package that includes a sight, a Whisker Biscuit rest, a stabilizer (not include with the other bows), a quiver, a peep sight, a string loop, and a PSE neoprene sling. You can usually find them at Cabela's.
2. The Arrows
Here's where archery can get expensive if great care isn't taken. Many archers invest a fortune in high quality arrows, but it may not be wise for new archers to break the bank in this area. There's often a steep learning curve, which usually means losing arrows.
While traditionalists abound in archery, those new to the sport should look no further than carbon arrows. Carbon arrows are tougher, quieter, faster, and can often be found cheaper than their aluminum cousins. Here are a few of budget-friendly options that would work great for a beginning archer. These can be found at Cabela's for less than $50 (per 6).
Cabela's Carbon Hunter
Both of these arrows, offer everything a new archer could ever need; rugged carbon construction, reasonable tolerances (how much each arrows straightness could vary from one to another), and a wide range of stiffnesses for different draw weights. Whatever arrow you choose, be sure to purchase the correct spine stiffness for your draw weight and length. As always, the pros at your local archery shop are a great source of info in this area.
3. The Broadheads
The broadhead is perhaps the single most important piece of archery equipment in a hunting situation. Archers can spend literally thousands of dollars on bows, arrows, rests, releases, targets, and lots of other equipment, but at the moment an arrow strikes an animal, what matters most (other than shot placement) is the broadhead.
There are two main categories of broadheads: fixed blade and mechanical. Mechanical broadheads have blades that are tucked away until they strike a target; the theory being that a compact head without blades sticking out will fly more like a field point. Fixed blade broadheads have blades that do not fold away. Proponents of fixed blade broadheads say that they can offer greater penetration into a target, as well as offering a 0% chance of the blades not expanding.
There are two main things to consider when purchasing a broadhead: accuracy and blade sharpness. While many broadheads offer varying levels of inherent accuracy, choose a head that offers flight characteristics similar to the field points you practice with. Be sure as well to choose a head that offers blades that are as sharp as possible. Dull blades do not kill deer, plain and simple.
Cost is an important consideration to many beginning archers, and when comparing cost vs. performance it's hard to beat the several varieties of 3-blade broadheads offered by Muzzy. Muzzy broadheads fly well, are sharp out of the box (the blades are replaceable as well) and are budget friendly. Here are a few varieties, all available from Cabela's for less than $30.
Muzzy Trocar 100-grain
4. The Release
While experienced archers often let personal preference decide what type of release aid they use, for a beginner there is no better choice than a trigger-type release. The wrist strap can give a sense of better control, and can make drawing the bow feel a bit easier.
In choosing the right release aid, there are two main considerations to make. First, it must be safe. Many release aids simply "fall" open when the trigger is touched; this can cause the bow to fire unexpectedly, which is extremely dangerous! Choose a release with a trigger that takes intentional effort to open, and closes when released. Comfort is the other main consideration; a release aid that's painful can discourage an inexperienced shooter.
Release aids can get pretty expensive, but for the beginning archer there's no need to break the bank on a release aid. Here is a good option that would work great for a new archer; it is available from Sportsman's Guide for less than $45.
5. The Target
Archery targets vary wildly in size, shape, color.... and cost. While a target used by a beginner is going to take some abuse, there's no need to go crazy.
Targets come in two broad categories; either they are a canvas (or similar) material filled with enough filling to stop an arrow, or they are of a layered foam-type design. Bag-style targets, while more wallet-friendly and more easily transportable, tend to wear out a little faster. They also will not stop a broadhead-equipped arrow. While layered foam-style targets cost a bit more they tend to last longer, and many can be used for broadhead practice as well.
For a beginner to get comfortable with their equipment, practice is the name of the game. We recommend layered targets for beginners simply because of their durability, but bag targets are not a bad choice. Here is a great option available at Bass Pro Shops.
Delta McKenzie Realtree Archery Bag Target
Archery is not only a great way to extend the length of your hunting season, it's also a great sport with a long and proud history. While the sky is the limit as far as the amount (and the cost) of equipment available, this list represents everything you'll need to get started. For the beginning bowhunter, it doesn't get much better than what we've listed here
How far you take it is up to you.