Choosing The Right Bow For You
By: HuntingNet Staff
DSCN0845.jpg 
 Choosing the right bow for you will
greatly increase your performance and confidence.
Selecting a bow is a very personal choice, and while one skilled bowhunter will pick one bow, another may purchase a bow entirely different. There are many different bows on the market and virtually endless accessories to go right along with them. Picking the right bow for you will be like picking the right pair of hunting boots: quality, fit, durability, and ease of use all come into play.

Because there is such a wide selection of bows on the market today, it is a buyer’s market and, as such, the potential buyer should try out as many bows as possible. Getting a bow that feels good in your hands and is properly set up for your body type and shooting style will greatly increase your accuracy and comfort while shooting. Remember, your bow is an investment and when it comes down to the moment when you are drawing on that whitetail buck of your dreams, you don’t want to lose confidence in your equipment or shooting ability.

There are quite a number of things to consider when buying a bow.  Here are a few tips to help you decide which bow is right for you:

Eye Dominance

You must know your eye dominance in order to pick a left hand or right hand bow. Most of the time, a person who is right handed will be right eye dominant; the same is true with a left hand dominant person.  However, sometimes a person will be opposite eye dominant.

To find your dominant eye, point to a distant object with both eyes open. Next, close your left eye, and if your finger is still pointing exactly at the target, you are right eye dominant. If your finger is no longer pointing at your target, then you are left eye dominant.

If you are right eye dominant, you will want a right handed bow. If you are left eye dominant, you will want a left handed bow.  For those of you who are opposite eye dominant and are hesitant about learning to shoot a bow with the "wrong" hand - don't worry about it.  You will be able to learn easier than you think and your accuracy will thank you for it.

Draw Length

The length of your arms and the width of your shoulders will determine your draw length, which is defined as the difference between the grip and the bowstring when the bow is drawn. It is best to go to an archery pro shop and let them measure you and help you determine your proper draw length. It is imperative that you get this measurement right as having a bow that is too long or too short for you will dramatically affect your accuracy and consistency.

Draw Weight

Draw weight varies from shooter to shooter. As a rule of thumb, the shooter should be able to comfortably draw the bow back without straining or lifting the bow up over his head in order to draw it back, and hold it back for at least 60 seconds.  After all, you never know when you're going to draw back on that trophy of a lifetime and have to wait for the perfect shot opportunity.

Bows in the fifty to seventy pound draw weight will work just fine for most shooters. This draw weight is sufficient to hunt the majority of North American big game animals. There are, of course, people who choose to pull more than this and that is fine depending on their ease of pulling it back smoothly and comfortably. Straining to pull a bow when positioned for a shot on an animal is a good recipe for a blown shot or spooked game, especially in cold late season weather.

Which Manufacturer?

Pick a bow that is made by a reputable company that will stand behind their product if you should have a problem with the bow - preferably, a company that can offer a measure of customer support. A good guarantee goes without saying; after all, you are investing a sizable amount of money and you should be assured that your purchase is warranty covered.  The majority of high end bows come with an unlimited lifetime warranty, provided you are the original owner and fill out the warranty information upon purchase.  Do not forget this very important step because if anything ever happens to your equipment you want to make sure it is covered!

Some of today's more popular bow manufacturers are Mathews, Hoyt, Bowtech, PSE, Browning, Pearson, McPherson, and Martin.

Axle To Axle Length (ATA)

The distance between the point at which the cams attach to each end of their respective limbs is known as the axle to axle length of a bow.  As a general rule of thumb, a bow with a longer axle to axle length will be easier and more forgiving to shoot.  The reason for this being that as the ATA length decreases there is a greater angle placed on the string at full draw, resulting in possible nock pinch and inconsistent releases.  This problem can be combated with a string loop, however the vast majority of archers seem to prefer bows in the 34" - 36" axle to axle range.

If you will be hunting in conditions where you do not have a lot of room, such as from a ground blind or a tree stand, you may want to look at a shorter hunting bow in the 32" - 35" ATA range. However, if you will be strictly target shooting or taking long distance shots in open country, you will want to pick a bow that is partial to that type of shooting. Popular ATA on target bows and longer range bows is anything 36" and longer.

Let Off

Let off is the amount of tension that is released on the string when the bow is at full draw.  For example, a 100 lb bow with an 80% letoff will only require 20 lbs of force to maintain at full draw.

Popular let offs today are anywhere from 65% to 85%. In the past, many archers were hesitant about using a bow with more than 65% letoff due to Pope and Young requirements for entering animals into their records.  However, their standards have recently changed and they are now accepting entries that were harvested with bows having more than 65% letoff - although they will be noted with an asterisk.

Brace Height

Brace height is the distance between the string and the back of the riser.  It can be affected by the shape of the riser, the length of the bow's limbs, or a combination of both.  Generally speaking, bows with a larger brace height are more forgiving, and therefore slightly more accurate and easier to shoot than bows with shorter brace heights.  The reason for this is that the shorter the brace height, the longer your arrow stays on the string after you have released it, therefore amplifying any imperfections in form or bow tuning.  Most archers today seem to be most comfortable with a brace height near 7 inches.

Silencing and Vibration Reducing Devices

Over the past several years few pieces of bow technology have advanced as much as silencing and vibration reducing devices.  The introduction of Limbsavers by Sims Vibration Labratory revolutionized the industry and set a new standard for a quiet and vibration free shot.  Many of today's bow manufacturers are including limb silencers on their bows directly from the factory.  However, there are a number of aftermarket products available, as well.

 justbowa.jpg
The parallel limb design of Bowtech's Allegiance
helps to eliminate shot noise and vibration

Another new feature that helps reduce shot noise and vibration are parallel limbs.  This simply means that unlike conventional bows that have curved limbs going up and away from the riser, parallel limbs are shorter, straighter, and come off the bow at more of an angle.  The science behind this new technology is that with the limbs moving in opposite directions  to each other, they cancel out excess vibration and noise that previously has been transferred into the rest of the bow.  Companies such as Bowtech, Mathews, and Browning are all offering parallel limb bows.

Cam Design

There are three basic cam designs - single cam, dual cam, and hybrid cam.  Each has its own positives and negatives so it's up to you to decide which one feels best for your shooting style and ability.  In general, single cam bows are smoother drawing and offer a very pleasant shooting experience.  Dual cam bows tend to be faster; however, they can be more difficult to tune and maintain, and can sometimes offer harsh draw cycles.  The relatively new hybrid cam systems on today's market are tremendously popular and offer the best of both worlds with simple ease of tuning, softer draw cycles, and good speed.

Shop around!

The key to purchasing a bow that is right for you is to not settle for the first one you pick up.  Shoot several different bows by several different manufacturers and determine which one suits you best.  Every bow shoots a little differently than the next and it is important to be comfortable with the one you choose.

Utilizing these helpful tips and guidelines, you should be able to find a bow that will maximize your shooting potential and prove to be a useful hunting tool for years to come.


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