How to Choose a Hunting Bow

Before you buy a bow for hunting or archery, you will have to get fitted for a bow. Know what the right bow is for your body and the game you’re hunting. Whether you choose a compound bow, recurve, or longbow the right fit and release makes for better control, comfort, and accuracy. This ensures a safer, truer, and more ethical kill shot. 

To choose a hunting bow, you will need to get fitted for a bow and determine bow dominance. 

How to choose a hunting bow. Bowhunting for beginners.

GETTING FITTED FOR A BOW

To find the right hunting bow, determine three basics of being fit as discussed below. Then, determine bow dominance with the simple following tests. 

1. Measure Draw Length

To get fitted for a bow, first determine your draw length. This is important for compound bows. The draw length is the set distance a bowstring can be pulled back before stopping. Traditional longbows or recurve bows have no set draw length and can be drawn back as far as your strength allows.

Every bow has a draw length range. You also have a physiologically determined draw length. The right draw length matches your personal draw length to the right bow. Longer arms need to pull back further. Shorter arm spans require a lower draw length or they won’t be able to draw the bowstring.

Draw length also determines what arrows to buy. Arrows are not one-size-fits-all.

Usually, your bow seller will be able to fit you for a bow. If you are buying online or decide to do it on your own, determining your draw length is easy.

 Measure draw length to have the most comfortable, accurate shot.

To measure your draw length:

  • Stand up and extend your arms straight out on either side of your body. Reach outward and parallel to your shoulders for the longest arm spread.
  • Have someone measure the length from the tip of one middle finger and across your back to the tip of your other middle finger. 
  • Divide that measurement by 2.5 and round down to the nearest half-inch.

    Example: 
    • Bob measures 72 inches from fingertip to fingertip. 
    • Divided by 2.5 that equals 28.8 inches. 
    • Rounded down to the nearest half-inch is 28.5 inches. 
    • Bob has a personal draw length of 28.5 inches. 

2. Determine draw weight

You also need to know what draw weight works for you. Draw weight is the amount of force needed to pull back the bowstring. An improperly set draw weight causes fatigue and inaccuracy.

Draw weight is determined in pounds. Most adult men’s compound bows are set for a 40 to 70 pound draw weight. With all compound bows, the draw weight is the maximum force needed to draw back the bowstring. The actual draw weight can be adjusted within 10 to 15 pounds. So, that 70 pound draw weight can be set to 55 or 60 pounds up to 70 pounds.

Note for beginners: New archers will only be able to draw about 10 lbs less than after a few weeks of practice.

The average draw weights by sex and age:

PERSON
WEIGHT
DRAW WEIGHT
Children
50-70 lbs
10-15 lbs
Children
70-100 lbs
15-25 lbs
People
100-130 lbs
30-40 lbs
People (+ stronger women)
130-150 lbs
40-50 lbs
Men (Target)
150-180 lbs
40-55 lbs
Men (Bowhunting or 3D hunting)
150-180 lbs
50-65 lbs
Muscular builds
> 180lbs
60-70 lbs


3. Minimum bow weight limit by game

Know the minimum draw weight limit for the game you are hunting. It varies by state. Wherever you plan to hunt, know the state’s laws. 


What is Dominance in a Bow?

Bow dominance is a combination of which hand and which eye is more dominant. This will make for the best combination of accuracy and power. Below are the steps to determine what your bow dominance is. 

Do you need a right-handed or left-handed bow?

Handedness: You may also need to select for right or left handedness, depending on what type of bow you are looking for. 

Which eye is dominant?

Eye dominance can be a little harder to know. To figure it out, take this simple test for eye dominance:

  • Create a circle directly in front of you with both hands. You’ll overlap your fingers on the top and thumbs on the bottom. 
  • Center an object that is far away in the center of the circle so it fills the space. 
  • Close one eye and then the other. Which eye has the object jump out of the circle? 

If your left eye closed caused the object to jump from the circle, then you are left eye dominant.

If your right eye closed caused the object to jump from the circle, then you are right eye dominant. 

Picking the best bow fit for you means knowing what your dominance is. 

Dominant Hand

Dominant Eye

Dominance

Handedness of Bow

Left

Left

Left

Left

Left

Right

Cross

Right

Right

Right

Right

Right

Right

Left

Cross

Left 

Ambidextrous

Left

Left

Left

Ambidextrous

Right

Right

Right

Ambidextrous

Neither

None

Either


Test your bow before you go hunting

Test your bow by checking the following: 

  • Hold the bow at target level. 
  • Point at the target. 
  • Draw with minimal movement.

Remember that compound bows allow you to be further away from a target. Traditional bows will require more arm strength and stealth.

Tuning Your Bow

Once you have chosen a bow, you will want to be sure to have it tuned. Keep your bow tuning accessories handy in case you need some last-minute fine tuning. Whether target-shooting or hunting, keep your bow tuned for proper balance and shooting accuracy. A complete bow tuning kit will contain most of the common tools, like bow squares, nocking points, and nocking pliers. You can also find archery scales, stringing aids, and bowstring wax to maintain your weapon preseason and postseason. 

Next, pick The Best Bow Releases for You.