Understanding How to Size Your Compound Hunting Bow

Use these Pro Tips to help you find that perfect fit.

November 12, 2018

Bowhunting is a technical activity. In order to stay safe and successful in the field, archers need to understand a variety of data points and measurements, especially in their compound bow. Having a bow that is too light, heavy, short or long can wreak havoc on your shot.


Having the right compound hunting bow size is key to making the most of your archery experience. By understanding what goes into sizing a bow, along with the necessary measurements, you can hone in your search and take aim with confidence this season.




When looking at compound bows, the two most important measurements listed will be the bow’s draw length and draw weight. These numbers explain how far the bow can be drawn back as well as how heavy the draw will be. Having the correct draw length and draw weight for your compound bow is a hunting necessity.




The draw length of a compound bow describes the distance at full draw from the nocking point on the string to the throat of the grip (the deepest part of the grip) plus 1.75 inches. A trip to your local archery technician is a surefire way to find out your exact draw length. If you're unable to head to your local archery expert, this good at-home technique can also get you started:


First, spread your arms outward from your side to form a “T” with your palms facing forward.  Next, have a friend measure your wingspan from the tips of your middle fingers. Divide this number by 2.5 and you should be relatively close to your actual draw length.




The draw weight of a compound bow is a unique measurement, as it is neither static or linear in nature. Draw weight describes the amount of force required to draw the string back, but the energy required to reach full draw will change throughout the cycle. This is due to the geometry of the cam system that allows for maximum energy storage and comfortability in holding full draw. Draw weight is taken in the middle of your draw cycle, where the energy needed will be the highest.


Another number associated with your draw weight is the bow’s let-off. Your let-off percentage is the difference between your draw weight and holding weight (the amount of force needed to hold the bow at full draw). For example, a compound hunting bow with a draw weight of 70 lb. and a holding weight of 14 lb. indicates an 80 percent let-off.


Your comfort level determines your draw weight. You should be able to repeatedly draw back without becoming fatigued, yet still have enough energy stored in your bow to ethically and effectively take down game. This is especially important when pursuing big game species.


Most male hunters can comfortably pull back between 50 lb. and 70 lb.. Everyone’s strength is different, however, so listen to your body. Also, don’t think that the draw weight your bow is set at when you purchase it is final and concrete. Many bows can be slightly adjusted within a 10 lb. range, so there is some room to work with, if needed.


If you are still unsure, you can always try a lower poundage bow and work your way up or down until you find your comfort level. In addition, check with your state Fish and Wildlife Commission on any minimum draw weight regulations prior to hunting.




Having the right draw length and draw weight for your hunting profile is not just important for performance, but important for safety as well. Having too long of a draw length, or too heavy of a draw weight, is what’s known as being “over-bowed,” or having too much to handle in your compound.


A long draw length can force you to lean your head back in order to properly see through your peep sight. This can result in bad form and unwanted bow tension, which can damage your gear. Also, a longer draw length can force your front arm to a full extension, leaving your inner elbow in direct path of the string and potential injury.


A compound bow that’s too heavy can also inhibit your hunting skills. If your bow is too heavy to draw back, a typical tendency is to arch the bow toward the sky to use the downward force to reach full draw. This can compromise your shooting form, leading to inconsistent shooting and potential safety concerns.


In contrast, being “under-bowed” can also be cause for concern. Too short of a draw length can leave you with floating anchor points, sacrificing accuracy and consistency. Also, a low draw weight can be inefficient in placing a clean shot on your target. Not only can this allow your target to evade your efforts, it can potentially leave the animal wounded and in distress. The end game in compound bow hunting is to harvest, not harm.




In addition to draw length and draw weight for your compound bow, there are a few other measurements that can affect your bow’s performance this hunting season.




This measurement is taken between your bow’s cams and refers to how long your bow is from top to bottom. Typically, longer bows can be a little more forgiving than shorter bows, meaning they make for less mistakes. Shorter bows can be more maneuverable, however, which can benefit bowhunters hunting from blinds or compact treestands.




The distance between the string (at resting position) and the throat of the grip is your brace height. The brace height on a compound bow will be set by the manufacturer and can affect bow forgiveness along with arrow speed. Shorter braces heights typically generate more arrow speed, but are less forgiving. In contrast, the longer a brace height is, the slower and more forgiving the bow.


The right size bow can help you keep your focus on your target without worrying about performance. Make sure the numbers line up for your needs this hunting season by following these archery Pro Tips. Good luck and happy hunting.