Getting Started in Archery

getting started in archery
Carbon fiber arrows are very popular and work with a wide variety of bows

Archery is one of the world’s oldest sports. For nearly 35,000 years archery has been used for hunting, battle and recreation. Archery has come a long way from the ancient wooden long bows.

Now they are made from plastics, fiberglass, carbon, and other space aged materials. Getting started in archery is easy, one you learn how to choose the right equipment.

Eye Dominance, Draw Length, Draw Weight

The most important aspects of choosing a bow are to know which is your dominant eye, your correct draw length, and draw weight. Each of these is different for everybody, but is needed to choose the proper fitting equipment for you.

archery for beginners
A recurve bow is commonly used for target shooting, either indoor or outdoors

Your dominant eye is the eye that you will aim with. Usually it is the same as your writing hand. To verify, point at an object across the room, while keeping your finger lined up with the object close one eye and open it again.

Then try the other eye. Whichever eye lets your finger stay lined up with the object is your dominant eye. This means that if your right eye is the dominant eye, you are right handed and will require a right-handed bow.

Your draw length is basically how far back you can draw the bow. This measurement is different for everybody. To measure draw length, have a friend hold a yard (meter) stick perpendicular to your Adam’s apple on your throat.

Clasp your hands together on either side of the yard stick and the measurement at the end of your middle fingers is your draw length. A typically sized adult male will usually have a draw length of around 29”. Your draw length can change as you grow and age so it is a good idea to check it each time before you purchase a new bow.

Your draw weight is a measurement of how much effort you have to pull back the string. Once again, draw weight is different for everybody but usually breaks down like this:

20lbs for children under 13 years of age.

25 to 40 lbs for people ages 14 to 18 years of age who are target shooting

40lbs to 50lbs for adults who are target shooting or bow hunting

60lbs to 70lbs and up for bow hunters of very large animals such as deer, moose, bear, etc.

Try drawing several different bows at your local bow shop. By trying different kinds of bows you will be able to find one that suits your size and ability. Most bows are adjustable by about ten pounds. This allows you to grow into it and make adjustments as your ability to draw the bow increases.

kinds of bows for archery
A compound bow showing it’s many parts

Types of Bows

Once you have determined your dominant eye, draw length and draw weight you are ready to choose a bow. First you must decide what style of archery you intend to do. Will it be target shooting or bow hunting? Each style has a bow to suit it and each bow is slightly different.

Target bows are mostly comprised of traditional or recurve styles. The traditional wood D-shaped bows are still available, but most competitors use a recurve bow. The tips of the limbs on a recurve are bent back slightly giving a mechanical advantage to the shooter. It also allows for more draw weight in a shorter bow. Most recurve bows are 62” to 68” in length. Many have inter-changeable limbs should they wear out or for taking the bow apart for transportation. A recurve bow is a good bow for the beginner as they are usually inexpensive and have a lower draw weight.

Bow hunters should use a compound bow for hunting. The compound bow is usually shorter in length than a recurve and has a cam on one or both bow limbs. A cam allows the shooter to pull back the full draw weight, but as the cam turns over to only hold a fraction of the full weight. This allows the shooter to easily hold the bow at full draw while aiming or waiting for the animal to move into position. Many target archers also use this style of bow for the same purpose. Compound bows usually cost more and require yearly tuning, but the shorter overall length is a huge advantage when walking through the bush. The greater draw weight from the shorter compound bow is another big advantage when bow hunting.

Cross bows are still available and have a very short bow horizontally mounted on the end of what looks like a gun stock. The cross bow is a very accurate bow, but requires both hands to re-load therefore making it a one shot weapon. This is not very helpful when hunting because if the first arrow misses its target, the animal will be long gone by the time the next arrow is loaded

Copyright 2019 Mike Wilson

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