Every year bowhunters are faced with the same conundrum: do I upgrade to the latest and greatest in bow technology, or stick with the bow that carried me through last season (or the last ten seasons)?
It’s not an easy question. Your inbox and social media feeds fill up with all the amazing things your bow company of choice is offering in next year’s lineup, and it all sounds like it could be just the thing that propels your archery game to the next level.
At the same time, you’ve probably sent hundreds of arrows through your current bow, you’ve got it tuned perfectly for your setup, and do you really wanna mess with a good thing if it’s working?
Obviously, this is a big question with a pile of factors that will be unique to each bowhunter, so I can’t answer this for you. But, having made both choices over the years, I can lay out a few pros and cons you may not have considered to help you make the best decision for your particular situation.
Buying a New Bow Every Year
Let’s not pretend that new things aren’t awesome! There’s an excitement and a rush of endorphins that comes when that new bow box gets dropped off at your front door. But, that’s certainly not the only benefit to being the type of bowhunter that gets a new bow every year. Here’s a few other new-bow advantages to consider.
Bow companies don’t employ teams of engineers who spend all their time tinkering and making minute (or sometimes major) adjustments to their products just for the fun of it. These master mechanics are inventing new ways to squeeze every ounce of efficiency and effectiveness out of their bows.
Constantly chasing the perfect balance of speed, power, comfort, and overall effectiveness drives these brilliant men and women to release new technology every year. If you’re always shooting the latest bow, odds are you’re shooting the pinnacle of archery technology for that moment in history.
You Get Better at Tuning
As a result of changing your archery setup every single year, you’ll simply become better at tuning your bow. If you get a new bow each year, that means each year you have to play with your rest, sight, arrow setup, and anchor point. You simply have to know what works for you because you have to find it again every single year.
If archery is more than just a way to get out into the field for you and you just love geeking out over the whole process, the fact that you have to go through these steps over and over probably feels more like a get to proposition. And more power to you! The experience you’ll gain year after year will make you a very knowledgeable and effective bow tuner.
Learn What You Like and Don't Like
A byproduct of having to tune and adjust a new bow every year is that you’ll end up learning a lot about all those little details that make a bow feel great to you. Some years you may have the best bow on the market, but you might not enjoy shooting it as much as the previous year’s model.
Over the years, you’ll learn what aspects of bow technology are truly important to you, and when you’re faced with multiple options in a new lineup, you can make a more informed decision on which one will probably suit you best.
But, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in the “new bow every year” camp…
Starting from Scratch Every Year
Depending on how often you shoot, it can take a couple months to fully dial in your new bow. Sure, you can get it close in the shop or on paper, and it doesn’t take terribly long to dial in your pins.
But think of all the little adjustments you make over the course of a few months as you prepare for hunting season. Getting broadheads tuned in to your setup, or maybe the time it takes to “grow into” a new grip.
Depending on the bow, these are issues that come every time you purchase a new bow. You go through all of the tweaks and changes, get yourself shooting darts, and are as confident as ever in your bow – then it’s time to start over with a new setup.
Personally, I’m rarely confident in a bow until I’ve put at least a few hundred arrows through it. You’ll have to decide for yourself if you’re willing to lose that confidence and have to gain it back every year.
Buying the Accessories
Okay, it goes without saying that buying a new bow every year is the more expensive option. But, often we only consider the cost of the bow itself…you may even be planning to swap all your accessories over so you’re only out the cost of a bare bow. But, depending on how big of a change you’re making, you may have unexpected additional costs that pop up.
You may have to change arrow spines, which will certainly set you back. If you’re switching between manufacturers, there’s a possibility that certain accessories (quivers come to mind) may not swap over if you were using a company’s proprietary equipment.
In some cases, you’ll definitely be able to swap everything from one bow to the next, but just double check that before shelling out your hard-earned money only to discover you have to spend more of it before the whole setup will work.
All that being said, let’s look at the case for sticking with old faithful for a number of years…
As the old Clint Smith quote goes, “Beware the man who only has one gun. He probably knows how to use it.” The same is true of a bowhunter who’s been married to one bow for several years.
Sticking With Old Faithful
As exciting as a new bow may sound, there are ample reasons for sticking with old faithful.
Below is a look at why sticking with the same bow might be a great option as well.
Hunting with a Bow You Know
There is a certain intangible feeling of confidence that comes from years spent behind the same bow. Your whole shot sequence and sight picture becomes as natural as breathing. Almost instinctively you know what your arrow’s arc will look like, what that 44-yard gap shot should feel like – it can become as if the bow is an extension of your arm.
That kind of familiarity will serve you extremely well when it’s the moment of truth, the adrenaline has dumped into your veins, and your heart is pounding in your ears.
Depending on how long you’ve had the bow, it may not be the fastest or sexiest thing on the market today, but if it’s legal, ethical, and you shoot it well, don’t feel like you have to run out and keep up with the archery world at the expense of the incredible level of confidence you may have with your current setup.
It’s no secret that bowhunting can be an expensive pursuit, and buying the Cadillac of bows every year makes it exponentially more so. Now, saving some money isn’t necessarily a reason in and of itself to keep shooting your old bow, but perhaps reallocating that money allows you to have brand new adventures with Old Faithful.
The money you would spend on a top of the line bow could easily take you on an out of state OTC bowhunting adventure. Perhaps you could invest some of what you would spend on a new bow into some formal archery training.
Rather than hoping a new bow fixes issues that may not be the fault of your bow in the first place, you can make sure that you are as effective as possible. Then, when you finally do upgrade your bow, you’ll get significantly better results out of the deal.
Now, just so we’re fair, let’s look at a few obvious downsides to sticking with your old bow…
Not the Best Technology
We talked about it earlier, but obviously bow companies tinker with their equipment all year in an attempt to keep making things better. So, if you’re shooting a bow from a couple years ago, there have certainly been some design improvements since that bow rolled off the line. However, not all improvements are created equal, and not all of them will benefit every archer.
They may have made some improvements that add a few FPS to your arrow speed, but maybe it came at the cost of a tougher draw cycle or a shorter (and less forgiving) brace height.
Now, those improvements may be worth making some adjustments in how you’re used to shooting, but I’d suggest trying a number of bows at the shop before just ordering the newest model from your favorite manufacturer.
Make sure the new technology you’re buying will actually help you be a more effective bowhunter, even if you’ll have a slight adjustment period as you get used to it.
Parts and Repairs Get Tougher
If you’ve had your bow longer than your dog, it’s inevitable that you’ll eventually have to get something repaired. Unfortunately, the older your bow gets, the harder it may be for you (or even your bow shop) to track down the parts you need. If you’ve ever driven an old or unique car, you’ve experienced the same kind of problem.
Your bow shop will surely be happy to keep your old bow running as long as they can, but at some point you may find yourself dead in the water until you can find a new cam (or riser, or whatever is causing your issue) on the used market.
You Don’t Know What You’re Missing
If you’re not the type of hunter who is always considering a new bow or hanging around the bow shop in the winter just to try out the new models, you may have no idea how much better your archery life could be. You’re used to your bow and you shoot it well, but it’s possible that you’ve just grown accustomed to what may be some significant weak points in that old bow’s design.
If it’s been a few years, it might be worth a trip down to the bow shop just to shoot a few and compare it to yours. Worst case, you can always decide you still prefer Old Faithful and just come back home with her.
Wrapping it Up
At the end of the day, most questions about archery gear come down to what works best for you. As long as you’re at a legal draw weight and an ethical arrow speed for the game you’re hunting, it doesn’t matter how new or old your bow is.
If it feels good to you, if you’re confident with it, and if your groups are stacking up nicely, you should carry that thing into the field with pride expecting that today is the day you’re gonna harvest the big one.