Selecting a compound bow: video workshop with Ben Guire
Bowhunting season for deer already opened in West Virginia and continues until December 31.
Many hunters start off as bowhunters and many begin bowhunting after several years of hunting with a gun. Traditional bowhunters prefer an old-fashioned straight, wood bow or even a homemade bow, but most bow hunters use a modern compound bow.
A compound bow uses levers, pulleys, cams and state-of-the-art materials to efficiently convert human energy to mechanical kinetic energy that will propel an arrow up to speeds more than 300 feet per second (fps).
An archer must be armed with a bow that is suited specifically for his size, body type, strength and eyesight in order to maximize his chance for a clean kill.
Ben Guire, expert bow hunter and manager of Hunters Haven in Elkins, said the key factors to consider when choosing a compound bow are draw length, draw weight, dominant eye and price.
Unlike a traditional bow, that can be drawn back to virtually any length, a compound bow will draw back only a specific distance before it stops. Draw length is the maximum distance a bow string can be pulled back. Compound bows are designed to be shot from the full-draw position. Most mens' bows can be adjusted between 26-30 inches.
Guire said draw length is the most important factor in selecting a compound bow.
ﾓDraw length is the distance you actually pull the string,ﾔ he said. ﾓIn my opinion, that is the most important factor when you are picking a bow. If you get it too long, you're not going to shoot right. If you get it too short, vice-versa, you're not going to shoot right. However, you can deal a little bit better with a draw length that is too short. Obviously you want it right, but if you're wrong, you're better short than you are long.ﾔ
Before determining correct draw length, Guire said a hunter should decide whether or not to use a release, a wrist mounted trigger that releases the bowstring. A release can slightly affect the proper draw length.
ﾓIt slips on the string and releases the string truer,ﾔ he said. ﾓYou can group better. You get better accuracy, better arrow flight and everything about it is beneficial, in my opinion. Most people do shoot them now.ﾔ
After putting on a release, if using one, the next step is to try out a bow for proper draw length.
ﾓPicture perfect form is feet shoulder length apart,ﾔ Guire said. ﾓYou want your bow arm ﾖ if you're left handed it's your right arm. I'm right-handed, soﾠ I hold the bow with my left arm. You want your arm not completely straight but almost. You just relax your elbow just a little bit. If you have your arm out there straight you're kind of wobbly. If you bring it back a little bit, you're a lot more stable.ﾔ
With the bow arm almost fully extended and the bow fully drawn, the rearmost bowstring should touch the side of the hunter's face, near the mouth and chin, but not too far back on the cheek. The archer should be able to establish contact points with the bowstring, the fingers and the side of the face. The contact points should be the same every time the hunter draws the bow and become ﾓanchor points,ﾔ or reference points to establish a consistent firing position.
Guire said anchor points include where the bowstring touches the corner of the mouth; where the bowstring touches the tip of the nose; or where the knuckle touches the cheek.
ﾓYou either want to have your nose on the string, or flush with the corner of your mouth to establish anchor points as you're looking through the peep sight,ﾔ he said.
Too short a draw length will make contact between the face and bowstring impossible. Too long of a draw length will result in a bad firing position and cause the bowstring to hit the bow arm, often painfully.
The next factor to consider in selection of a compound bow is draw weight - the amount of force that must be used to pull a bow to full draw and the primary factor in determining a bow's power. Compound bows come in a variety of maximum draw weights, but the most common are 50-60 pounds and 60-70 pound models.
To determine maximum comfortable draw weight, draw and hold the bow back for at least a minute without shaking.ﾠ If you canﾒt, the draw weight is too high.ﾠ You can also draw the bow while sitting on a chair without raising the bow over the head to gain leverage - if you canﾒt, the draw weight is too high.
ﾓDraw weight is the amount of force that your string applies to the arrow, or that's what you're pulling back,ﾔ Guires said. ﾓThat's the amount you feel when you're pulling your bow.ﾔ
Guires said higher draw weights generally produce a faster arrow speed, flatter trajectory and a longer range.
ﾓBut you don't want to get too much,ﾔ he said. ﾓThere isn't really a science to the correct amount other than the amount you can comfortably pull, cold. Usually, when you get out deer hunting, you sit there for a couple hours ﾖ you're cold and your muscles don't work as well cold as they do when you're standing around in a bow shop. You don't want to over-bow yourself. You want a draw weight you're comfortable with and efficient.ﾔ
Dominant eye is the third factor in selecting a compound bow, which are made in both right and left-handed models. Guires said most people select a bow based on the hand they write with, but, if uncertain, should use a technique to determine their dominant eye.
Holding a finger up at arm's length, focus on the fingertip and place it over an object across the room. Close one eye at a time. When either the left or right eye is closed, you will notice the finger tip move off to the right or left of the object. Whichever eye remains open when the fingertip remains over the object is the dominant eye.
Finally, Guires said, a prospective bowhunter needs to decide how much to spend on a bow.
ﾓTo get a nice one, you need to spend about $300, in my opinionﾔ he said. ﾓThat's all that's necessary for hunting. That's a good solid bow and will carry a good warranty. Quick, decent speed ﾖ that's a good, decent bow. $300 to $400 ﾖ that's about what that range runs.ﾔ
ﾓWhat you get when you spend more money on a bow is, you're faster, you're lighter, you're quieter,ﾔ he said.
Guires recommended expert assistance when selecting a bow.
ﾓGet a little bit of knowledge about it before you jump into anything,ﾔ he said. ﾓAnybody who wants to swing out to the shop and check us out, we'll help you to the best of our ability and I hope to see you guys in the woods.ﾔ