The 2023 archery season is still going in many states, but it’s never too early to reflect on past hunts. How did it go? Would upgrading equipment last summer have sealed the deal on a missed opportunity in September, October or November? If so, now’s the time to set up for 2024.
Randy Smith has owned Pappas Trading Post, in Arena, Wis., for 13 years. He’s been slinging arrows for 47 seasons. From a pro-shop owner’s perspective, upgrading bows or accessories over the winter makes sense.
“If you’re buying a new bow, post-season is great for many reasons, but inventory is a major factor to consider,” he said. “Sometimes people wait until the last minute to buy a bow before season, but winter months means you’ll find more in-stock bows. And if you want to order one, delivery will be quicker, too.”
The archery industry unveils new bows and accessories during the Archery Trade Association expo in January 2024. New gear will arrive at retailers across the country shortly afterward.
“The latest and greatest archery equipment will start to hit the market,” Smith said. “So, you can get good deals on the previous year’s equipment as the new models start to hit shelves.”
Question is: When do you upgrade a bow? Hardcore techies want to own the new flagship bow every year, but technology is consistently high-quality these days, so an archer may not gain big advantages by upgrading.
But what about hunters who are happy with their old bow?
“For sure you should be getting strings and cables changed every three to five years depending on how often you shoot,” Smith said. “Changing them will just help you be more consistent. If you do that and don’t want the cost of a new bow, then I would consider upgrading accessories for your current bow.”
Stabilizers, sights, quivers, and rests today are superior to those 10 years ago in weight, and versatility. Adding new accessories to your old bow can make a difference in how the bow feels. It can cost a couple hundred dollars to upwards of $500, so you must weigh investing that kind of money into an old bow.
“Some people will look into consignment bows or barely used bows on local marketplaces,” Smith said. “Those are viable options, but you just have to be sure the bows are sound. We don’t sell consignment bows because if something goes wrong, the dealer gets blamed even though the bow wasn’t off our floor. Shops do well with those bows, but if you go with them be sure to see if the bow has been inspected or if there is any type of limited warranty.”
To save money, Smith advises not buying a used bow, but instead buy a new, non-flagship model.
“Look for a used flagship Mathews that is three to four years old and probably find one,” he said. “But you could buy a new Mission compound that is custom fit for you and is about half the price of a new Mathews. So, you can always consider buying a model that isn’t quite top of the line of a particular brand, but is new and likely just as good as a flagship model that’s a few years old.”
An archer might remember buying a new bow a decade ago and how unbelievable it felt. How fast it was. Would that archer notice much difference from a new one today? Smith says yes.
“They’ll notice the difference when they pick it up,” he said. “It will be lighter, better balanced, and thinner than past models. The cams will be different and modules in the new cams let us adjust everything to make the bow a custom fit. Once you fire it, you will notice how much less vibration and how much easier to shoot it is even though the bow is much faster than their old one.
“It’s hard to put in words, but once it’s in your hand and see the way the arrow flies, you’ll know exactly where that money went.”
An advantage to upgrading over the off season is the extra time to practice and tune the bow before next season. Consider joining an indoor league during the off-season.
“You’ll have to practice with these new bows, even though they’re more user-friendly and forgiving,” Smith said. “Winter is when leagues start and you can have a great time shooting with other hunters so when next season comes you have confidence when heading afield.”