Draw Weight: How Much Is Too Much?

As a Pro Staff member for a bow manufacturer, I get to attend numerous hunting trade shows and expos each year. At the consumer-oriented shows we let anyone and everyone shoot our bows, and are happy to do so.

There are always several guys at these shows act like they have something to prove, and insist that their draw length is much longer than it really is, and that they “only shoot 70-pound bows”. Yet, when I watch them shoot, it becomes very obvious that they shouldn’t be pulling 70-pounds. I’ve been there before. It has taken me a while to set my ego aside and realize that shooting as much weight as I can possibly draw isn’t always the best option. In fact, it is rarely the best option.

How do you know when you’re pulling too much draw weight? The answer is actually pretty easy to find out. Here are four shooting tests that provide insight into how we are handling the draw weight of a bow.

1) Breaking Parallel

If you’re drawing too much weight, then your shooting form is going to breakdown from the very beginning. The need to perform a “sky draw” is an indicator that your draw weight is too high.

Test this by setting a target that isn’t it an extreme up/down angle or height, then hold your bow out in front of you – putting it roughly in the position that you will be holding it when you’re aiming at full draw. Now, try to draw the bow without raising the bow or angling it up so that the arrow would miss above the target.

Can you draw the bow while keeping it aimed on target, so that the “draw stroke” is horizontally parallel with the path to the target? Or, are you raising your bow arm up and pointing it to the sky as you draw?

Also check to see if your form remains vertically parallel. When you setup before your draw the bow, your head should be squarely in the middle of your feet, and your hips shouldn’t be cocked to one side or the other. If you notice that your head shifts over your back foot and your hips shift towards the target as you draw the bow, then you’re pulling too much weight.

Draw on a parallel planeIf you have to “sky draw” your bow there’s a good possibility you may be shooting too much draw weight.  You want to keep your bow arm parallel to the ground as you draw.

2) Put It On Hold

In addition to peak draw weight, also consider your “holding weight” – which is the amount of weight that you are holding at full-draw. For example, a bow with a 70-pound peak weight and a 80% let-off should have a holding weight of around 14-pounds.

The question that you need to consider is, “How long can I hold my bow at full draw and still make a controlled and accurate shot?”

There are many different schools of thought regarding what minimum amount of time a bowhunter should be able to hold at full-draw for. Personally, I think most bowhunters should be able to hold for at least 30 seconds, and I often practice holding for a minute or more.

But remember, there are two parts to the question that I said you need to ask yourself. The second part, “making a controlled and accurate shot,” is extremely important! Being able to hold a bow at full draw for 30 seconds is great, but if you’re shaking, struggling, and exhausted at the end of that time, then you’re not going to be able to make an ethical shot.

Practice holding at full drawHow long can you hold your bow at full draw and still make a clean shot?  If it’s less than 30 seconds you may need to reduce your draw weight or practice more often.

3) Take A Seat

This simple test can be eye opening. How well can you draw your bow when seated? Try it from a standard folding chair or office chair. Better yet, try it from a chair or stool that’s designed for hunting out of ground blinds. Want a real challenge? Try drawing your bow while sitting “indian style” on the ground.

I tend to be less strict about having perfect parallel form when drawing from a seated position, but you should still be able to get the bow back and anchored without too much extra movement. If you can’t get your bow back when seated, or are struggling to maintain decent technique while doing so, then you’re trying to draw too much weight.

Shoot from a seated positionMake sure you can draw smoothly from a seated position.

4) Get Out of Bed

Get out of bed after a long night’s sleep and go straight to your bow. Do you struggle to draw it back effectively when your muscles are tired and stiff?

That sounds like a silly test, but this actually helps replicate what it is like to draw your bow after you’ve been sitting and waiting on that buck for hours. And if you’re sitting in the cold, it’ll only be harder.

If you struggle to draw your bow first thing in the morning, then you might be trying to draw too much weight.

Drawing bow

Why These Tests Matter

If we only test our draw weight during pre-season practice – when the temperatures are warm, our bodies are conditioned, and we are at the apex of our shooting abilities – then we are fooling ourselves about how much weight we can effectively handle in a hunting situation.

These tests help replicate some of the stressors and inhibitors of a real hunting scenario, and tend to be quite revealing concerning our abilities.

If you can’t effectively hunt with as much draw weight as you thought, don’t worry. Modern bows are typically so efficient that you’ll still be a capable, ethical hunter – even if you loosen those limb bolts a bit.

And always remember that a well-placed arrow from a lower-poundage bow is better than an erratic arrow that’s flying with blazing speed.

Comments

  1. Ross Thomas says:

    Eye opener. Great article. I recently went through a conversion like this and realized I needed to drop my weight by about 7 pounds.

    Reply
  2. Rudy Ferdinand says:

    Try seated but with your feet off the ground. I've watched hunting shows where the archer will point the arrow skyward his drawing arm angling downward just to come to full draw, I call this muscling the bow to full draw. I only shoot 60# more then enough for anything in North America.

    Reply
  3. Deerslayer says:

    Try shooting an Elite bow. My 70 lbs draw weight feels like drawing 60 lbs. I think in colder weather another good tip is to draw the bow once or twice to loosen up the rotator cuff muscles a bit. That when the deer comes through the draw is easier. I'm saying this no matter what draw weight your bow is set at!

    Reply
  4. Michael Allen says:

    Excellent article. The guy that taught me to "correctly" shoot a bow has mentioned many of these things to me. I also shoot a traditional longbow (which he helped me make) and that bow has really helped me with control on drawing back the compound. Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Hamon Hazelwood says:

    Awesome article, I was that 70lbs guy too, but I shoot 62lbs and I shoot a whole lot better. I like the idea of pulling your bow back after you wake up, I will have to remember that one.

    Reply
  6. I would caution against the final test (Get Out of Bed). As a trainer that works with clients in early classes (5am) that is a perfect recipe for a muscle pull/tear, especially a rotator cuff tear. I understand it can simulate a long sit before shooting but the first three tests you list can safely accomplish the goal of proper draw weight. Good article!

    Reply
  7. D Goldsmith says:

    Very helpful! I'm not drawing close to 70# but I cannot draw while seated. Thanks for the help.

    Reply
  8. Rob Hill says:

    I have a bad back and I find shooting from a chair is easier for me. I can draw nice and smooth seated and I struggle with control standing. I'm pulling 74# on my Z9

    Reply
  9. SharpEyeSam says:

    If you have to bow your back and push your pelvic forward when you draw your bow is a sign of too much draw weight. Great Article!!

    Reply
  10. I personally agree with Ted nugent, shoot as much weight as you can but be able to do so gracefully. Which for me is 80lbs, but I am a very big man who carries block and mortar every day of my life

    Reply
  11. Im pulling 100# all day at the range while riding my unicycle……and i work at Starbucks! Lol! Im shooting a 64# DXT and i practice alot from sitting and kneeling as most my shots are taken from there. Going to have to try indian style though. Very good article.

    Reply
  12. Tony Hinshaw says:

    Good article.

    Reply
  13. So I guess if you don't keep in young shape
    And you get to your 60's age I guess we have
    To give up hunting if we can't still draw your
    Bow like a young man, I own a Z7 and I have
    To draw pointing in the air a little at 55 lbs draw
    And still love bow hunting at 64 and don't plan
    On quiting to soon!

    Reply
  14. From a target shooters perspective, 50-55# is a solid weight to shoot at. When I'm slinging 300-500 arrows a week, the last thing I want is a 70# draw weight. Keeping good form and tight groups will serve you a lot better in that tree stand than the macho 70-80# draw weights some of these guys try to shoot from…of course, these are the same guys coming in at the end of deer season bragging on that 70yd shot, but I'm not getting on that soap box here.

    Reply
  15. I shoot 54lbs and have since I got my first compound at age 45. Aim small miss small. Archery is not about kinetic energy.

    Reply
  16. Chris Sizemore, Just says:

    Great article! Years ago I read a book about Fred bear, if I remember correctly Fred said if you sit down and cant draw your bow without putting your feet on the ground your pulling to much. I tried it and at 77 lbs couldn't. Got my bow down to 65 lbs and what a difference! Tightened up my groups big time and wasnt near as tired after an all day shoot

    Reply
  17. Need Help says:

    I'm looking at a few bows over at http://www.bowhuntingheaven.com and need help choosing a good draw weight. If I start at 50 pounds will I be able to move up to 60 pounds fairly easily?

    Reply
  18. Is a 50 pound draw weight for a teenage girl unusual?

    Reply

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