July 08, 2013
Bows: Does Too Long a Draw Length Hurt Your Shooting?
By Dave Hurteau
Here's the sixth in our seven-part series of tests designed to prove or disprove some common conceptions about compound bows. These tests all appeared in the July issue of Field & Stream, but keep reading for more content exclusive to our website.
The Conventional Wisdom
Many bowhunters shoot a draw length that is too long for them, which hurts shooting form and degrades accuracy. You hear this all the time—that a long draw overextends your bow arm and makes it harder to hold against the back wall and to maintain a consistent anchor point.
But Wait a Minute
Shortening your draw length costs speed—about 10 fps per inch. Is this a worthwhile trade-off?
We shot three bows, each at the correct draw length (as determined by our bow-shop pro) and 1 inch too long.
Total average group sizes for correct draw length, too long a draw:
30 yards: 2.77; 3.53
40 Yards: 4.04; 5.95
60 Yards: 5.39; 9.77
Yes. All three of us utterly fell apart with too much draw length, and for the same reasons. It messed up our anchor points and stretched out our bow arms to where they were in line with the string. And once the string whacks you in the arm a couple of times, you get jumpy, and everything goes straight to hell.
The Inside Story
We all expected to shoot a little worse with too long a draw. In fact, we shot way, way worse, cementing the notion the proper draw length is critical to accuracy. Which begs the question: How do you determine your proper draw length? The simplest method is to measure your arm span and divide by 2.5. My arms, held out parallel to the floor, palms forward, measure 70 inches from the tip of one middle finger to the other, for example, which divided by 2.5 equals 28 inches. That is the draw length I typically shoot, and it fits me well.
If the math doesn’t work out quite so neatly for you, round down to the nearest half-inch. This should put you either right on or very close. If, however, it’s still not quite right—if your anchor point is back behind your ear, or you can’t comfortably drop your nose down on the string, or your bow arm feels over- or under-extended, or the string is frequently slapping you during the shot—you may need to tweak things a bit. Most bows allow for easy draw-length adjustments in half-inch increments without a bow press. But some don’t. Always ask about this before you buy a bow. If the make and model you want doesn’t allow for easy draw-length adjustments, then get yourself down to the bow shop and have your pro determine your correct draw length precisely before you plunk down your money.