Question: I am considering taking up bow hunting. I am 54 years and in reasonably good
shape. I need advice on what kind of bow to get; the type of arrow shafts
most forgiving for a novice; and any other information you might be able to
give me to help me in my decision.
Welcome to the world of bowhunting. I hope you get as much fun out of it as I have over the years.
Where to start? Well lets start with the bow. There is virtual cornucopia of reliable hunting bows out there. Depending on your desires, stick bows(like old English long bows), recurves (like the bows made famous by Fred Bear), and of course compound bows.
Without getting into specific brands (most brands have exceptional bows), one of the most important considerations is the draw weight of the bow of your choice and its draw length. Go to a bow shop and have your draw length determined by an experienced pro. Whether you shoot a compound or recurve, your draw length is of critical importance. Secondly, select a bow in the weight range that is comfortable for you. Don't make the mistake of many and select a bow that is over powered in the hope that you will "grow" into it. Shooting an overpowered bow will result in bad shooting form habits that will be hard to break down the road. Pick up and shoot, if possible a number of different bows, with different weights, lengths etc. All things being equal, the individual "feel" of a bow will make a major difference in the way you shoot it.
If you are going to go either the stick bow, or recurve route, consider a bow within a 50 to 60 pound max range. That is more than enough to do the job, and is still within a range one can handle. I shoot a recurve of 53 lbs.
If you are going to a compound, you might consider a bow in the 60 - 65 pound range. Generally speaking, if you can handle a recurve of a certain weight, your compound should not me more than 15 pounds more weight than a recurve. I shoot 63-65 pounds in my compound.
If you are choosing a compound bow, look for one with a higher brace height. That is the distance from the string to the riser of the bow. A bow with a higher riser will be a more forgiving bow. It will not exaggerate your form errors quite as much as a lower riser height. A higher riser will generally will not be the fastest bow, but for the new archer will be a better place to start from.
Arrows. Cedar shafts, Carbon or Aluminum? First of all select your arrow shaft spine according to the bow, and weight you are shooting. An archery dealer can help you there. Determine what you will be using your bow for mostly. If you want to be rustic, with your stick or recurve bow, cedar shafts are the ticket. If however you are into a compound, you will probably need to consider either carbon or aluminum. Depending on you goal, carbons are more durable, and lighter resulting in a flatter trajectory. Aluminum are less expensive and a little weightier, allowing for slightly higher kinetic energy. If you will be hunting Elk or Moose, for example, I would opt for a heavier aluminum shaft. For whitetail deer, or turkey or even bear, a lighter shaft would be fine, either an ultra-lite aluminum or a carbon arrow. If you will be shooting at long distances, such as at pronghorns, a lighter shaft will help reduce distance judging errors. In any case, any properly tuned arrow will work. Carbon arrows are more expensive, but will generally take more beating than aluminum, but aluminum are a lot cheaper to loose.
There are other issues. Sight or no sight, stabilizer, fletching or vanes(see Fletching or Vanes). But I think you have enough to get started with.