Are you looking for the perfect draw weight for bow hunting? Selecting the best draw weight is crucial for success in the field. In this article, we’ll discuss why draw weight is essential for hunting and what the best draw weight for bow hunting is based on your body type, shooting style, and the game you’re hunting. Plus, we’ll give you tips on how to determine the right draw weight for you.
If you’re new to bow hunting, choosing the right draw weight can seem daunting. But fear not, we’ll cover all the basics you need to know. In this article, we’ll define draw weight and let off, explain their significance, and guide you in determining the optimal draw weight for the type of game you’re hunting. So, let’s dive in!
What is Draw Weight?
Draw weight is the amount of force required to pull the bowstring back to its full draw length or the maximum distance you can draw the bowstring back. It is a measure of the amount of force or weight you need to exert to hold the bow at full draw and is usually measured in pounds. The appropriate draw weight for a particular hunter will depend on their individual physical characteristics, as well as the type of hunting they plan to do.
When shopping for a compound bow, you will see the draw weight listed on the specifications, and it’s important to choose a bow with the right draw weight for your needs. If the draw weight is too heavy, you will struggle to hold the bow at full draw and your accuracy will suffer. If the draw weight is too light, the arrow may not have enough energy to reach its target with adequate speed and accuracy.
What is Let Off?
You can’t talk about draw weight without talking about let-off. Let-off for a compound bow refers to the percentage of the draw weight that the archer does not have to hold once the bow is fully drawn. For example, if a compound bow has a draw weight of 70 pounds and a let-off of 80%, the archer will only have to hold 14 pounds of weight once the bow is fully drawn. This makes it easier to hold the bow steady and aim for an extended period of time.
A higher let-off percentage allows for a more relaxed hold on the bow and makes aiming for longer periods of time more comfortable, but can also affect the speed and energy of the arrow. A lower let-off percentage allows for more control of the bow and can increase the speed and energy of the arrow but can also make it more tiring and harder to hold the bow for an extended period of time. Different bows have different let-off percentages and some are adjustable. Bow let-off percentages normally range from 65-90%.
Why Does Draw Weight Matter?
There are several reasons why draw weight matters for bow hunting. The draw weight of a compound bow is an important factor for hunters because it affects the bow’s ability to launch an arrow with enough speed, kinetic energy, and momentum (penetration capability) to take down game effectively and humanely.
When hunting, a higher draw weight means that the arrow will be traveling at a higher speed, which translates to more kinetic energy and momentum delivered to the target. This increased kinetic energy and momentum are important for two reasons: they help ensure that the arrow penetrates deeply enough to reach the vital organs, and they help increase the chances of a one-shot kill.
Draw Weight’s Impact on Arrow Selection
In addition to what we just talked about, one of the most overlooked impacts is the impact it has on the arrows you use for hunting. When choosing arrows for a high-draw-weight bow, it’s important to select arrows with heavier spine ratings. Heavier spine arrows can handle the increased kinetic energy and speed better, and they are less likely to deform or break upon impact. Additionally, heavier spine arrows are better equipped to penetrate the target and reach the vital organs, which is crucial for a quick, humane kill.
On the other hand, if you’re using a lower draw-weight bow, you can select arrows with lighter spine ratings. Lighter spine arrows are less likely to over-penetrate, which reduces the chances of losing game or damaging edible meat.
It’s important to note that arrow weight also plays a role in selecting arrows for hunting. Heavier arrows have more mass, which increases their momentum and helps them penetrate deeper. However, heavier arrows also have a slower speed, which can affect accuracy and trajectory. On the other hand, lighter arrows travel faster, but they may not have enough mass to penetrate the target effectively.
When selecting arrows for hunting, it’s important to consider the draw weight, draw length, and IBO Speed of your bow and the type of hunting you’ll be doing. You should also consider the weight of the arrow, as well as the arrow’s spine rating, to ensure that you choose arrows that are well-suited for your bow and your hunting needs. The spine rating of arrows required for your specific compound bow can change based on the draw weight you choose to shoot. This is a critical element and one of the more important reasons why draw weight matters.
The Minimum Draw Weight Required for Hunting
There are minimum draw weight requirements for bow hunting in the United States. These requirements vary by state and are set by state wildlife agencies to ensure that hunters are using equipment that is capable of effectively harvesting game animals.
The exact minimum requirement varies by state, but most states require a minimum of anywhere from 35-45 pounds. Alaska for example requires a minimum of 40 pounds for bow hunting deer. Some states may also have additional requirements, such as a minimum arrow weight or a requirement for certain types of broadheads.
It’s important to check your state’s regulations to ensure that you’re using equipment that meets the minimum requirements for the type of game you’ll be hunting. These requirements are in place to ensure a humane harvest, and to ensure that hunters are using equipment that is capable of effectively harvesting game animals.
However, it’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and the actual minimum draw weight required for hunting will depend on many factors such as the size and weight of the arrow, the bow’s efficiency, and the hunter’s personal preference and experience.
Ultimately, the minimum required for hunting will vary from hunter to hunter and from situation to situation, and it’s up to each individual hunter to determine the appropriate draw weight for their specific needs and hunting conditions.
Estimated Starting Draw Weight
The chart below will provide you with the estimated draw weight individual hunters should be able to pull on their bow based on age and weight. This is a general rule of thumb but should give you a basic understanding of where to start.
|Body Type & Weight||Estimated Draw Weight|
|Small child (40 to 70 lbs.)||10-15 lbs.|
|Child (70 to 100 lbs.)||15-20 lbs.|
|Individuals and Adolescents (100 to 140 lbs.)||30-40 lbs.|
|Individuals & Adolescents (140 to 160 lbs.)||40-50 lbs.|
|Individuals ranging from 160 to 190 lbs.||55-65 lbs.|
|Larger Individuals (190+ lbs.)||60-70 lbs.|
What is the Best Draw Weight for Bow Hunting?
In general, hunters prefer a weight that they can comfortably handle while aiming and holding the bow steady at full draw. If the weight is too high, the hunter may experience fatigue and lose accuracy. If the weight is too low, the arrow may not have enough kinetic energy to penetrate the target effectively.
When choosing a draw weight for hunting, it’s important to consider the type of game you’ll be hunting, the size and weight of the arrow, and your physical abilities. It’s also a good idea to try several different weights before making a final decision, to ensure that you’re comfortable with the weight and that the bow is shooting accurately.
For small game such as squirrels or rabbits, a draw weight of 30-40 pounds is usually sufficient. For larger game such as deer or elk, 50-60 pounds may be more appropriate. These are minimum recommendations. As stated above, some states require as little as 40 pounds for deer hunting.
Higher weights will always be better for larger game if possible, but deer are killed every year with youth bows shot at just 40 -50 pounds. Looking at the actual performance of the bow you are shooting and the effectiveness and kinetic energy of your arrows will drive your decision-making when selecting the best weight.
|Wild Game Hunted||Kinetic Energy Required (estimated)|
|Small Game (rabbit, groundhog, etc.)||< 25 ft. lbs|
|Medium Game (deer, antelope, etc.)||25-41 ft. lbs|
|Large Game (elk, black bear, wild boar, etc.)||42-65 ft. lbs|
|Toughest Game (cape buffalo, grizzly, musk ox, etc.)||> 65 ft. lbs|
*To see if your draw weight provides enough speed, kinetic energy, and penetration capability for the game you are hunting, use our calculator here.
The Best Draw Weight for You
The best draw weight for you takes into account everything we discussed above and then fine-tunes it to your specific comfort level. Remember, this is not a competition with your hunting partners. You need to take into account what you can effectively draw and hunt with in different situations and weather conditions. For example, can you slowly and quietly draw your bow in 20-degree weather in a tree stand undetected by a whitetail deer?
A good general rule of thumb is that you should be able to shoot your bow at least 30 times before fatigue takes over or hold your bow at full draw for at least one minute. This allows you to zero your bow sight and practice shooting without fatigue and bad forms interfering with accuracy. Remember, the let-off of your bow plays a big part in this too.
It’s important to know that every time you change your draw weight on your bow, you will need to recheck your bow sight and check your zero to ensure the flight of the arrow has not changed. You will also need to ensure the arrows you use still have the adequate spine deflection required to shoot from your bow without failing.
It is important to modify and adjust your draw weight to your comfort level, but it is critical to understand that you cannot set your bow up, tune it along with your bow sight and arrows, and then change it without throwing things off.
If you adjust it a pound or two here or there, it may not make a difference, but it is important to know that it can. If you do make a change you will need to check your arrow’s manufacturer spine chart to make sure your arrow meets the new setup and you will need to shoot your bow to re-confirm your bow sight zero.
*Note: Draw length plays a huge part in the speed, kinetic energy, and penetration capability of your bow and arrows. An individual with a 30-inch draw length, using a compound bow with an IBO speed of 335 feet per second (fps) and a 400-grain arrow, who has a set draw weight of 55 pounds, will have an arrow speed of 287 fps. An individual who has a much shorter draw length of 27 inches (for example), who uses the same bow and arrow weight, using a draw weight of 70 pounds, will still only have an arrow speed of 282 fps in comparison to the 287 fps shot by the other individual.
**The example above shows you the impact that draw length has on the capability of your bow and arrows in comparison to draw weight. Unfortunately, draw length is a variable that cannot be changed, where draw weight can be. This is why I recommend that smaller individuals look at higher speed bows for hunting when possible.
To see if your draw weight and draw length, combined with your bow IBO speed and arrow weight, provide enough speed, kinetic energy, and penetration capability for the game you are hunting, use our calculator here.
Putting It All Together
The draw weight I shoot for hunting whitetail deer with my 2022 Bear Alaskan Compound Bow (IBO Speed of 335 FPS) is 65 pounds. I weigh 185 pounds, have a 26.5-inch draw length, and my arrow length is 27.5 inches. My arrows have a spine deflection of 340 and weigh 605 grains.
I use a different poundage when I do 3D Target Shooting tournaments. For those, I set my draw weight to 62 pounds and use lighter arrows (398 grains) with a spine deflection of 400. This results in faster, flatter shooting arrows and less sight deviation. Heavier arrows are great for hunting but can require more sight adjustment for different ranges due to slower overall speeds.
Ultimately, one of the best ways to test what draw weight is best for you is to go to your local archery shop and ask an archery professional to help you test different weights with different let-offs to get a baseline and see where you can start. You can always adjust as you get more comfortable with your bow and its individual draw cycle.
I hope this post has helped you understand draw weight better and has helped you understand what you need and why it matters. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments below.
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