Most hunters buy bows by going to their local archery pro shop, picking out a bow, and then having the professional adorn it with expensive accessories. Like most other retail products, you’ll pay more for this personalized service, but in most cases you can be assured of a personalized fit. However, if you’ve owned a bow before or you’ve done your research and know exactly what model and size bow you’re after, you can save money by purchasing a package bow from a big box store or mail order operation. Often these bows are paired with accessories—a sight, peep sight, rest, quiver, stabilizer, string loop and other accoutrements—to get you shooting immediately. If you can make simple adjustments on your own, you’ll be set. If not, you might have to pay your local professional a few bucks to fine-tune it for you. But it may be worth the money you save.
Generally bow companies don’t sell their latest and greatest bows to these stores because they want to keep their local dealers happy. Frankly, a bow model that’s a year old represents a great value. It’s just like buying a 2014 model car that’s still on the lot in 2015. The car’s fine, but the dealer needs to get rid of it. Here are five of my favorite bow packages for around $500 bucks.
PSE Stinger X While some top companies like Mathews and Hoyt choose to not offer ready-to-shoot packages, PSE does. The Stinger X is an excellent bow that features the company’s revolutionary X-Tech Split limb technology that revolutionized the industry several years back. Short, split limbs are hyper parallel, and this technology delivers a great balance of speed and quietness. Other features of the Stinger are its minimal, target-style grip that places the hand in direct contact with its machined aluminum riser that mitigates bow torque. Even with one, albeit highly adjustable SX cam, it’s super-fast at around 315 fps; with its 7 1/8-inch brace height it’s easy to shoot. This 32.5-inch bow weighs but 3.5 pounds. What’s more, it comes with a Whisker Biscuit rest (my recommendation for hunters), Gemini pin sight, stabilizer, string loop, peep and sling. Honestly, the Gemini sight is not the best listed here, but at $399-and because I prefer the feel of PSE bows, it’s my favorite bow package going.
Bear Cruzer from Midway USA Midway isn’t just for gunsmiths; it offers several package bows at great prices. One bargain I’ve identified is the Cruzer by Bear Archery. This bow is unique in that it’s adjustable from 12 to 30 inches and in draw weight from 5-70 pounds. This means that any sized shooter, from the sickliest kids to burly men, can shoot it. At its maximum draw length and weight it’s touted to shoot 310 fps, so it’s plenty fast. Designed much like the PSE X Force technology mentioned above, it uses short, past-parallel split limbs harnessed to dual cams to generate its power. It’s a great feeling, high performance bow that is perfect for a teenager who’s serious about hunting but who’s growing fast. Available in many colors, it’s also a great option for females. What’s more, its accessory package is very strong. Built by one of the best sight and rest companies out there—Trophy Ridge—it comes with a Whisker Biscuit rest, a fiber-optic Joker sight, and a peep sight that always rotates to fit the shooter. Best of all, it’s $399.
Bowtech Regulator from Cabela's One of my favorite bows I’ve ever owned was Bowtech’s Destroyer model of a few years ago. Of course they discontinued it—as companies always seem to do after you fall in love with one of their products. It was smooth, fast, quiet and accurate. So I’m happy to see a similar bow emerge recently at Cabela’s. The Regulator is made by Bowtech and boasts many of the design features as the old Destroyer. Its riser is balanced nicely with a thin, plastic-covered grip. At 32 inches axle-to-axle it generates a purported 325 fps even with its single-cam design. While it does have a fairly short brace height at 6 ½ inches (the shorter the brace height, the faster, but the touchier it is to shoot), it’s also adjustable from 26 to 30 inches, from 50 to 70 pounds, so it gives young adults room to grow. Make no mistake; this is a serious bow with serious accessories from Bowtech’s accessory line, Octane. Its capture-style, Hostage XL rest takes the good things about the Whisker Biscuit and eliminates it’s only negative, which is contact with the vanes. It’s simple and effective. It also comes with a decent Octane quiver, Apex sight, string loop, peep and stabilizer. $549.
G5 Quest by Bass Pro Shops Bass Pro has contracted with the machining/archery firm G5 to offer its Quest bow package at a good price. The quest, like some of the others here, is a great bow for teens who need a serious bow but don’t want to buy another one in a year after they grow. Because it adjusts from 23 to 27.5 inches (30-60 lbs.) it’s perfect for women and smaller dudes like me. Its Fluid cam features respectable speeds up to 290 fps; I like its brickish back wall. Another reason I like this bow is that it weighs 3.7 pounds and is only 31 inches axle-to-axle, yet with its 7-inch brace height it’s easy to shoot. Finally, I like its accessories. The Halo rest, much like the Hostage above, is an evolution of the venerable Whisker Biscuit and is perhaps the simplest—and one of the best—rest for hunters. Its fiber-optic sight that requires no tools to adjust is perhaps the highest quality sight listed here, as is its G5-machined metal Meta peep sight. Of course it comes with everything else to get you shooting right out of the box—and a $50 rebate from G5. That puts this $529 package under 5 bills.
Diamond Black Ops Outlaw from Academy Another bow ultimately made by Bowtech (Diamond is this company’s value-priced sister brand) the Outlaw has many of the features (and accessories) as the Regulator listed above—such as its excellent grip, parallel limb design and others—but it’s got a 7-inch brace height so it’s slightly more forgiving. Yet its single Throttle Cam system offers 330 fps and 80 percent let off. Make no mistake; with its 70-pound draw weight with draw lengths from 26.6 to 30.5 inches, this is a man’s bow. But it’s incredibly smooth and forgiving too. I really like the riser’s “In-Velvet” finish that’s slightly rubbery; it makes the bow quieter when shooting and moving through the woods. While Bowtech’s R.A.K. (Ready Aim Kill) acronym is a cute slogan, it means that this bow is paired with quality Octane accessories that you need to hunt. (The Hostage rest is standard.) But perhaps best of all, while researching package bows for this story I found that Academy is currently offering this package for about $88 less than normal, now at $412. You’ve still got to practice if you’re planning to kill a buck this fall with it, but now at least it will be easier on your wallet.