The hard part about evaluating archery gear is trying to separate the buzz-word hype from real performance. Often we are sold on mere catch phrases conjured up by marketing and sales magicians working in the smoke-filled back rooms apart from product development and manufacturing.

Over the years haven't we all seen a lot of these gimmicks come and go?

So, as a bowhunter, how do you walk into a modern archery shop and wade through all the eye-grabbing banners and ad displays depicting professional bowhunters and their cute wives to decide what gear is best for you? It's not an easy task, but with a little homework, anybody can wade across the bow bog.


Sifting lumps out of lingo

Little doubt exists today that the technological advancements in archery hunting equipment and accessories continue to be nothing short of astounding. The current use of terminology in today's bow descriptions sounds as if an engineering degree might be needed to decipher them.

Consider these monikers on brand-new 2010 bows available now: overdrive binary cam, UF hybrid cam, dual arc string suppressors, grid lock riser, reverse assist roller guard and modular hybrid cam. These are just a few, and cover currently marketed bows only - no sights, arrows, broadheads or releases.

Do you know what they mean?

"The secret to wading through all the sales hype is to find an archery supply dealer that you can trust," said bow tech Ken Lancaster of Van's in Brandon. "I must say I have the same customers coming in year after year. I listen to their needs and wants, then offer them several options but steer them away from features they don't need or are not ready for just yet.

"I show them the latest bow technologies and help them match up their skill levels."

Certainly, look at the ads, talk to other bowhunters, read magazine product reviews and study manufacturer's catalogs, but in the final analysis before you lay down your hard-earned cash, work with a knowledgeable dealer who helps you find the right bow for you and your budget.


Go with what you know

This is simple enough advice for most folks. Trouble is, you had better have some idea of what you want before you go shopping. Otherwise, you might get caught up into a flash of impulse buying. That's when you end up wasting big bucks on something you can't shoot well or a bow that doesn't work for you.

As a casual outside observer, it seems to me that bowhunters are about as brand loyal as NASCAR fans. That means they will switch in a Mississippi minute to the latest, greatest, hottest thingamajig on the market and buy the T-shirt, too. Then they wonder why they can't shoot the bow accurately or it turns out to be too light or too heavy, or too long, or something wrong. At least they have a ready excuse for missing a good buck.

Maybe the byword ought to be "know before you go." Know in general terms what kind of bow you want. Single cam, double cam, riser type, weight, pull length and weight.

"The reason I have a booth at the Mississippi Wildlife Extravaganza in August is so I can start a conversation with a new customer as early in their buying process as possible," said Bill Leamond of Bill's Archery in Pearl. "Usually my regular customers come into the shop in January to look around and handle a few models I might recommend for them to consider.

"Then a couple months before hunting season starts, they come back in to slap the money down on the counter."

Leamond sells over 400 bows a year, and is currently the 10th largest Mathews bow dealer in the United States.

"I prefer to initiate their selection process as early as possible," he said. "That way they get the best bow set up for them and have time to shoot it enough to know how it works for them with plenty of time left over before hunting for any last-minute adjustments.

"They may find they are not comfortable with the sights, or older hunters might need brighter sight pins, or whatever. They might need a different release or want to try a new type of broadhead. The earlier I can get them into the shop as an archery dealer, the better job I can do for them."

When all that stuff about the bow is settled, then all you have to contend with is buying the right arrows, nocks, points, broadhead types and blades, sights and any other goodies you might want to hang on a bow without it tipping the scales at 25 pounds.

Try to detour around all the sales hype and get the goods that work for you. When you finally connect on that wallhanger buck, you'll know the trial was worth it.