What You Need To Know Before You Buy Your Next Bow

By Tyler FrantzFebruary 8, 20162 Comments

The new lineup of 2016 bows has been unveiled, and many sportsmen are on the hunt for the latest and greatest in archery technology. Trade shows and marketing campaigns are drawing attention to innovative models, while stir-crazy bowhunters are already looking forward to next year.

With months to prepare for another early season opener, now is the ideal time for those shopping around to upgrade their bows. When it comes to maximizing the bow buying experience, it’s hard to beat the professional guidance of your local archery pro shop and the experts who work there. Kyle Stokes, founding owner of Pennsylvania-based Swatara Creek Outfitters and Stokerized Stabilizers, is one of my favorites. This month he shares a little insight on what shooters need to know before they buy their next bow.

Put your local archery pro shop to the test when buying your next bow. Their expertise will save you time and money.

Put your local archery pro shop to the test when buying your next bow. Their expertise will save you time and money.

Stokes operates a first class archery pro-shop, where he also runs a nationally acclaimed stabilizer company. He has built a reputation for being one of the best in his trade, and through his professionalism, has earned the respect of countless faithful repeat customers.

Stokes was kind enough to offer his sage advice for those seeking a new bow. What follows are his recommendations for ensuring the bow-buying process goes smoothly, leaving customers completely satisfied with their prized archery investments.

Do Your Research

 “Typically, when customers walk through the door, most have a few brands in the back of their mind that they’re already drawn toward or have an interest in trying,” said Stokes.

“Between the internet, outdoor shows and word of mouth, some already have it narrowed down to a specific bow they’re looking for. However, if customers are open-minded, I’d rather have them test shoot as many bows as possible before making a decision, so they can be satisfied knowing they found the right bow for them.”

New bow options are seemingly endless. Do your homework. Research the options before you lay down the cash.

New bow options are seemingly endless. Do your homework. Research the options before you lay down the cash.

Know Your Price Range

“Price is a good indicator of the type of bow someone is going to purchase,” said Stokes. “If a guy tells me he has $750 to spend, I am going to steer him towards a bow in that price range. Most entry- to mid-level bow packages range in price from $299-$699, while the upper, flagship model bows can run around $899 and up for just the bare bow.”

“That is important to keep in mind when test shooting various brands of bows. You need to compare apples to apples…Chevy Silverados to Ford F-150s. In other words, make sure you are aware of the class and caliber of bow models you are shooting when making a comparison between two companies.”

First Impressions

“The biggest thing that’s going to come to a guy’s attention when he picks up a bow will be the grip,” said Stokes. “He will immediately notice whether he likes or dislikes the feel of the grip. It’s important that this naturally feels comfortable to the individual.”

“Next will be the physical weight of the bow itself. As he holds the bow in his hand, he will notice the slight weight variance in each bow, though most hunting bows these days are under the four-pound mark. But again, it has to feel right.”


Take the time to shoot as many bows as you can get your hands on before you lay down the cash.

Shooting Look-Fors

“All these bows have different cam systems, and they’re all good, but the draw cycle will feel slightly different for each bow,” Stokes explained. “Some will pull a little harsher, while others are silky smooth the entire way back.”

“When shooters come to full draw, the biggest thing they’ll notice is how aggressive- or how short the depth

New Mathews Halon Bow

of the valley is- when the let-off kicks in. As they draw back, those holding weights will vary from company to company.”

“Most of the bows are 75-80% let-off right now, but that doesn’t always completely equate to how the valley feels. You can have a really short valley where if you ease up a little, it is already pulling on you a bit, while others are deeper.”

“That’s a personal preference. Some lean towards that softer, squishier valley that has some play in it; but obviously, the most consistent is when the valley has a real hard, solid back-wall. When the draw-stops hit the limbs, you can’t under-draw or over-draw, and the holding weight and draw length will be identical for every shot. It’s important to figure out which type feels the most comfortable.”

“Additionally, when the bow goes off dynamically, pay attention to the noise you are hearing and the slight amount of riser vibration you might experience. Having said that, all the new bows are in the 96th percentile or better for noise and vibration. They are super quiet.”

Match Your Body Type

“Probably the most critical aspect of buying a bow is to match it to your individual body type,” Stokes advised. “If you are of average height, you can buy almost anything. However, if you’re small in stature or over 6’2”, it’s important to understand that your options are unfortunately somewhat limited.”

“Bow companies have gotten better at catering towards more compact hunters (women, children, etc.), but the axle to axle length and draw length capabilities are still very limited for large-framed shooters. Finding an appropriate draw length is very important for maintaining consistent accuracy.”

 Keep An Open Mind

 A lot of times guys are surprised at which bows they end up liking,” said Stokes. “I’d say 50-percent of people buy what they originally had their minds set on, while the rest actually purchase a totally different bow.”

“There’s always those guys who bleed Mathews, or Hoyt, or whatever, but it really doesn’t matter what hat you wear or what sticker you put on your truck. It’s not about what your buddies tell you to buy or what I tell you to buy; it’s about you.”

“You need to be comfortable with the bow you are taking into the woods, because at the end of the day, you’re the one shooting it. The bow you buy needs to feel right and shoot well for you. If you stay true to that, you can’t go wrong.”

Swatara Creek Outfitters is a dealer of Mathews, Mission, Hoyt, G5 Prime, Elite and Fred Bear compound bows, as well as a full line of crossbows and traditional bows. The shop can be reached at 717-867-4995 or online at www.swataracreekoutfitters.com.



Tyler Frantz
Tyler Frantz is an award-winning outdoors freelancer from Pennsylvania where he serves as an elementary teacher by trade. Bowhunting, family and faith are his three main passions in life, but he dabbles in everything from fly fishing to maple sugaring. Explore more of his work at www.naturalpursuitoutdoors.com
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