Is One Bow Better Than The Other? - December 2008

Question: I am looking at purchasing my first bow. I have done some research on several of the most popular bows on the market today. Is one any better than the others? -- Jerald Bankston, Aberdeen, SD

Boy, I don't think so. I test many new bows each year and truthfully, everything that is coming from the most popular manufacturers today is so much better than the stuff we shot just a few years ago; it is like night and day. I would stick with name brand bows and you can't go wrong. Seriously, they are all good.

There are a few things to consider when making the choice. First, get a bow that is reasonably fast. It doesn't have to be the fastest on the market, but solid performance-an IBO speed rating of about 305 to 310 is fast enough. Second, make sure you work with a pro shop or a very experienced friend to assure that you get a bow with the right draw weight and draw length.

The draw length of the bow will determine your body positions at full draw. Correct body positions produce consistent accuracy so this step is important. When aiming at full draw, the forearm of your release arm (the one holding the string back) should line up with the arrow. The elbow should point straight back away from the target.

Ask someone to stand behind you when you are fitting the bow. As you aim at the target using the release aid you will hunt with (attach a nocking loop if you will use one), have that person monitor where your elbow is pointing. If it is pointing too far to the right (for a right-handed shooter) the draw length is too short. If it is pointing too far to the left (again, reverse for left-hander) the draw length is too long.

You will find that this exercise forces you to arrive at the correct anchor point with your body relaxed and your chest expanded (not collapsed). In my experience, this will lead you to anchor with the large knuckles of your release hand back by the corner of your jawbone. If you are releasing the string with your fingers, this will bring your anchor point back along your jaw line, below and slightly behind the corner of your mouth.

Another mistake many people make when establishing their anchor points is turning their heads too far away from the target in order to stretch their draw length. This promotes poor shooting form; you should avoid this bad habit. Instead, face straight at the target so you are looking out of the middle of your eyes rather than out of the corners of your eyes.

Today's new bows produce excellent efficiency. They convert draw force into arrow speed better than any we have shot in the past. That means you are getting more for less-more speed and Kinetic energy for less draw force exerted.

For North American big game, you don't need more than 70 pounds. You will shoot more accurately if you are not struggling to hold the string back while aiming. This applies if you are struggling with 80 pounds or 60 pounds. The struggle is the problem, not the exact draw weight. If you can't fully relax, you are shooting too much weight, period.

I still tell everyone to shoot the most draw weight they can handle accurately. Of course, I then have to define what I mean by "handle accurately" This is the maximum draw force at which you aren't going to shoot better by reducing the draw weight but you are going to shoot worse by increasing it.

Here are a couple of guidelines to help you find your ideal draw weight. First, make sure that you can hold the string back for at least a minute without noticeable shaking. After holding the bow for this long, can you still relax and hold the pin steady when aiming? If so, you are fine, you might even try bumping up the weight a little and repeating the test.

Second, make sure you can draw the bow back without having to raise your bow arm high into the air and bring it down as you draw the string. This is a bad habit that some archery hunters get into; generally because they started with a bow they couldn't handle and then developed the wrong muscles over time.

You should be able to hold your arm out straight and draw the string back without any lurching motion. You should also be able to draw the bow while sitting flat on the ground, with your feet out in front of you. If you can't, the bow is too heavy for awkward hunting situations where you may be called on to draw the string from any angle.

You need to know which of your eyes is dominant. A simple test will reveal this. First, with both eyes open, casually point at something specific across the room. Now, without moving your hand, first close your left eye. Then open it and close just your right eye. If the finger continues to point at the target when your right eye is open and your left eye is closed, you are right eye dominant. If it continues to aim at the target when your left eye is open and your right eye is closed, you are left eye dominant.

Ideally, you will shoot a bow that fits your eye dominance. For example, if you are right eye dominant, ideally you will shoot a right-handed bow. Left eye dominant individuals should shoot a left-handed bow.

Finally, make sure the bow feels good in your hand. It is important that the bow have a grip that feels comfortable to you. You will never be able to relax your hand as much as you must for accurate shooting if the grip feels awkward. In most cases, a narrow grip with a smooth surface is the best because it slips into your hand cleaning without clinging to glove or skin to produce bow torque that would begin to shift the bow off target as soon as the string is speeding forward.

Today's bows are all very good. Choose one that has a good warranty from a local dealer that will help you get started and learn to shoot it well by joining a local club. You will do great and will love the new sport of archery and bowhunting.

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