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How To Choose A Hunting Bow

How To Choose A Hunting Bow

Selecting a new bow can prove to be as challenging as purchasing a vehicle. Before deciding what is right for you, several key questions need to be addressed. With an automobile, typical factors to consider might include the principal use of the motor vehicle, whether it's two-wheel or four-wheel drive, the desired gas mileage, color and expected level of comfort.

When choosing a hunting bow, you'll want to identify the primary use, draw length, draw weight, total mass, arrow speed, bow length, color and other specifications pertinent to your situation. All of these pieces to the puzzle determine the most critical factor of all.

Can you shoot the bow accurately? It is possible for one bow to fit all of the criteria you consider, but more often than not, concessions must be made in the selection process.


When addressing the issues of bow mass, draw weight and draw length, no compromises should occur. There are a wide variety of choices in the total mass -- or weight -- of a bow. Keep in mind, the total weight also increases as you add a quiver of arrows. If the bow is too heavy, the archer will be unable to hold it comfortably and execute a shot with proper form. In contrast, a bow that is too light will be difficult to hold steady during the aiming process. This can be corrected by adding a stabilizer to achieve the correct weight.


Next, draw weight needs to be studied closely. Most hunters attempt to use a bow with too much draw weight so they can achieve more arrow speed. With the right amount, a hunter should be able to hold the pin on the target and produce a smooth, steady draw.

This results in a comfortable shot that creates a minimum of movement for the deer to recognize.

When stalking a deer, it is common to hold the bow at full draw while waiting for the best shot. If the holding weight is too great, the bow arm will likely register a 6.5 on the Richter scale.

Choose a draw weight that you can manage comfortably, even when you must hold at full draw. For cooler climates, also consider the extra clothing that might restrict the drawing process.


Many hunters own one bow and use it for both target shooting and hunting. If you fall into this category, I suggest you purchase a bow with adjustable modules, so the draw length can be changed.

Shooting targets requires a slightly longer draw length than one might utilize during a hunt. All of my hunting bows have draw lengths that are about one inch shorter than that of my target bows.


Much of my time in the woods occurs during cooler weather. Clad in bulkier outerwear, I use a one-inch shorter draw length to slightly offset the bow arm and produce more string clearance. If the bowstring makes contact with your coat when shooting broadheads, the arrow will take an erratic flight path. A bow that is used strictly for hunting can be purchased with this shorter draw length in mind.

With the vast array of wheels and cams available, selecting a bow can be confusing. The options for hunting bows fall into the categories of hard cams and soft cams, as well as dual or single cam. Most soft cams are user-friendly but slower in arrow speed.

Hard cam bows usually generate more arrow speed, but some present a problem when the break-over of the wheel is too abrupt. If the break-over is too sharp and the draw is executed too quickly, the arrow can jump off the rest. Unnoticed, the results will be an "air ball." When detected, the archer can let the bow down or put the arrow back on the rest while remaining at full draw, either of which is undesirable.

Many hard cams have a very short valley that follows a sharp break-over. At full draw, only 25-35 percent of the actual draw weight is being held. If you unknowingly allow the wheel to come off the wall, the additional 65-75 percent of the draw weight will engage.

Without warning, the release can be jerked from your hand. When shooting a wrist-strap release, a premature discharge can occur. With a hand-held release, a flying piece of metal can be launched toward your bow hand. Experience has taught me that it hurts when the release makes contact with the bow hand.

Though some may have difficulties, many of the hard cams are excellent for hunting.

Before purchasing a particular model, test it first to determine if you are comfortable with how it operates.

Shorter hunting bows seem to have become more popular in the marketplace recently.

They are fast, lightweight and easily maneuvered in a tree stand. The drawback is the short axle-to-axle length that makes them more critical for shooting accurately. Shorter bows are easier to torque and harder to hold steady. I personally prefer a hunting bow that has at least 38 inches of axle-to-axel length. Though it may shoot an arrow slightly slower, the results are more precise.

For many, the most important criterion in choosing a bow is its speed. Though this is essential, it should never be traded for accuracy.

A slow hit in the kill area is much better than a fast miss. The obsession with arrow speed often results in too many poor choices made during the selection process, and accuracy is sometimes sacrificed. One of my first compound bows was so slow I often joked that I could run down to the target before the arrow arrived. I thought it was a great piece of equipment because it was faster than the recurve bow I had been using for years, and I harvested numerous deer with it.

Instead of forfeiting precise arrow placement for speed, I highly recommend hunters work to hone their yardage estimation skills. Countless bows on the market have good speed with accuracy. To discover if you can shoot one of the faster bows, go to a pro shop and ask. Many proprietors are willing to let you test a few set-ups if you are interested in buying.

Selecting a hunting bow that is comfortable and accurate to shoot can be a challenging experience. Invest time in studying the options, so you can design a bow that will give you optimum performance.

Then, when your whole deer season comes down to the moment of truth, you will be prepared for that big boy who walks into your shooting lane.

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