+1 for going to a good pro shop first. You've got to shoot all the bows before you can make a good decision. I can see where ando31 is coming from, as there is not a lot of difference in performance between the mid to high price bows, but the flagship bows are more expensive for a reason. Buy the best bow you can justify spending the money on, as it will lead to more shooting confidence and less frustration in the long run. As far as resale, if you're anything like me, you'll kill so many critters with your bow, and make so many memories with it, you'll never want to sell it anyway.
Live to hunt, hunt to live.
I have only shot Mathews because I am left-handed and the only other left-hander around is my brother and he has 2 Mathews (MQ-32 and Z7). Being a lefty makes it really difficult to sample other bows, as most shops will not carry many on their shelves and if they do it won't be my draw length. There are plenty of good companies out there making compounds, I'd also say to shoot as many as you can get your hands on and buy the one that fits you the best. If you settle for a "average" bow that you are not shooting very well, you may get discouraged with it and put it down, being a total waste of $. Just because you shoot a compound doesn't mean you have to replace your gear any more than you have to replace your ol' ford stroker.
I agree that going to a pro shop will be your best bet and I would seriously just flat out tell them that you are wanting to get started in archery and they should be able to explain everything to you; however, take everything with a grain of salt. I did this when I first started and talked to a guy that has only shot one brand of bow and will only shoot that brand of bow. I bought that brand of bow because he talked me into it. Make sure you keep an open mind and don't get stuck on the name brand of something. Shoot it, like it, buy it. I have had two bows in 6 years now because the more I find out about archery, the more I tweak and change some things up. Good luck and let us know if you have any questions about something a sales person told you.
Now therefore, please take your weapons, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me.
Genesis 27:3 (NKJV)
I'm in the process right now of picking out my third bow ever (in the 20 years I have been shooting). I don't change bows a lot....But I do shoot a lot between 3d shoots and practice. I can also tell you a low to mid range bow now is better than the top of the line bow I purchased in 2002 when I still worked for Cabelas. In fact, WOW, it is unbelievable how much of a difference there is.
With that said, I too love Cabelas, but sometimes it can be difficult to find someone who can really get a new archer set up when you get a bow from Cabelas. Not saying you can't but you will have better odds at a pro shop.
My best advice, go in with an open mind. I'm not partial to any brand. Right now I have shot pretty much every 2014 Pro line bow made by Elite, PSE, Bowtech, Diamond, Hoyt, Bear, and Prime plus a few of the Main line bows at pretty much every price point. I want to see what a $200 bow gets me compared to a $1000 bow. Now I'm probably in a different situation since I've been shooting for a while but I'm leaning towards some of the bows at the higher end. But that doesn't mean you can't find a good bow in the lower price points. In fact there are some nice ones that I shot well. I could provide model recommendations but I rather try to get people to shoot any and all models they can and go from there. You will be different from me and what I may highly recommend May not feel comfortable to you. Just so you know I've been looking and shooting for 2 months and still haven't decided. There is lots of options and no need to rush.
My other points to note:
Brace height, for a beginner shooter go longer. Typically a longer brace height means more forgiveness but less speed.
ATA, axle to axle, longer is typically more forgiving, but heavier. Shorter will have more maneuverability. If you are wanting to shoot fingers (some still do). Go real long....like 40 plus inches.
Speed, obviously higher is faster, but sometimes the speed can be harder to tame if you are just starting out.
Draw weight, shoot what you can, but for deer and elk 50-60 lbs is all you will probably need. A razor sharp broad head and shot placement will be more important. Sure you can shoot 70 or 80 lbs on a nice summer day in shorts and tee shirts but drop the temp to 30 and add coats and stuff and now you start struggling. Personally I can shoot 80 but my bow is at 62 lbs.
Carbon bows will also be lighter, more expensive and not have a cold feel. If us grab a cold aluminum bow you'll know it....not so much with a carbon bow.
My gut tells me you can probably find a real nice bow in a mid range price point that you will be happy with for years and not feel like you will need to upgrade on. Especially right now if you are willing to look at 2013 models. However, don't be surprised on the accessories for the bow. You may spend just as much on arrows, sight, rest, and release as you will the bow. I shoot Cabelas carbon express for $65 a dozen but you could spend triple. A sight, rest, and release could each cost another hundred, at least.
Another point I would like to stress is don't skimp on a sight. IMHO, I feel a sight is probably the most important accessory and maybe even more important then the bow (provided you can shoot said bow). I have seen a lot of lower quality sights that in the timber on a cloudy day at sunset won't do you a bit of good. Higher cost sights are generally better built and better at light gathering.
Good luck, I love this stuff, and enjoy. Feel free to let me know if you got more questions. I'll talk all day if you want.
I have been shooting bows since I was six. This last November I turned 38. Going from competition only to only hunting with them now, I had a huge jump in types of bows, as well as accessories on them, arrows, tips, vanes, release etc etc etc.
I went with the same attitude, try and know nothing, as I really didnt. I did know one important thing, bows need to be quiet, or your shot hitting a still animal change to missing a string jumper.
Long story short, Bowtech black ice. I was particular to the bow line anyway, but when testing them all at a shop, only two( 8 years ago ) were quiet. The Bowtech and a matthews. They both shot so dang identical I didn't see why to pay $250 more for a wood handle vs one with thin scales.
Test each bow. Ask the sales guy to please NOT speak their preferences, as each archer is very particular, have the shop set each test bow exactly the same weight, DO NOT TEST AT DIFFERENT DRAW WEIGHTS!
Feel for how smooth to you it is to draw, feel for how much valley you are comfortable with,(valley is the soft spot at the back of the draw that feels light compared to the draw weight) I like a very unforgiving valley less than an inch, some like more.
Pay attention to the vibration that you feel, hear, or somehow notice on each shot. Try to buy as quiet of a bow as you can afford. If you cant seem to notice a twang or any vibration....stop and ask to shoot a Bear truth series bow....then go back to testing others.
As far as carbon, aluminum, wood traditionals....don't pay much attention to factory grips. Sponsored archers cant change them and dont, but many people do, just like guns on personal bows. I personally wrapped mine in leather boot laces, love the texture!
Once you find your dream bow, thank the guy for his time, say you need to think in it, and go home. Pro shops not always but usually charge much more for a bow.
Shop for a good deal, buy everything you need to set it up. Sight, rest( recommend a capture rest for new archers and hunting), balance bar, custom strings if you feel the need at first, release, quiver, case.
Then run from the store....as fast as you can..... And head back to that pro shop, pay them to set it up correctly, and join their local shooting club.( love Cabelas and Sportsmans, but hell will freeze over if I let either ever touch my bow again!) lol.
I hunt because......
I didn't mean to offend anyone, my viewpoint is from an investment standpoint. You will never get your money back out of a bow. Of course a 5 or 10 year old bow isn't worthless, but it probably will be in another 10-15 years. At some point your bow will be just like the 25 year old bows you see for sale now. Your switchback is probably worth 300ish now (I'm sure you could get more or less depending on many factors). After 10 years it likely depreciated around 2/3 of its original value. The point I was trying to get across is that bows are like computers or any other technology today. You pay top dollar for the brand new innovative designs, but you can get a heck of a deal on 1-2 year old bows or brand new bows with less branding costs. Some top of the line consumer goods appreciate or at least hold value very well but compound bows do not follow that premise.
To Musketman: From the investment standpoint, whatever (compound) bow you decide to go with will never be worth what your guns are going to be worth 25 years from now. Buy to use, not collect.
Thanks for all the replies everyone! Its all kinda overwhelming at first and this is really helping me alot! I see what a pro shop is now. I know there are a few within 50-70 miles of here and Ill be looking into them. I remembered this morning that I do have a friend here that bow hunts. I think he is in Alaska right now but I can ask him what pro shops he would recommend around here. Im not too worried about resale value or upgrading to the latest greatest bow every few years. Unless I can really see an advantage to the new one if Im happy with what I have and its working well I usually stick with it. My primary hunting rifle is a model 70 Winchester in 270 win made in 1955 and I have no intention of changing it. A brand new 270 WSM would be nice but I dont think I would shoot any better or kill anything deader with it. I wasnt trying to choose a make or model when I started this thread. I just wanted to learn some basics so I would have some idea of what I was looking at and what questions to ask when I go look at and try bows and I have learned a ton from all of your replies!
What is let-off? I see that some bows are 70% and some are 80%.
My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.