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The Compound Bow and Its Parts


The beginner is strongly advised to use a compound bow rather than a traditional long bow or recurve bow.  The compound bow is characterized by eccentric wheels or cams on the upper and lower limbs.  The maximum force necessary to draw a bow to its full extent is called the draw weight.  The cams allow a compound bow to be held at full draw with only a fraction of the draw weight.  That fraction expressed as a percentage is called the letoff.  The letoff of most compounds is between 50 and 80%.  In other words, when you draw a compound bow you have to use the force of full draw weight, but suddenly the draw weight falls off to the letoff fraction when fully drawn.  This is very useful in hunting situations where you may have to wait after drawing the bow for an animal to move into range or favorable position to shoot.

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A right hand bow is drawn with the right hand and sighted with the right eye, whereas the left hand bow is drawn with the left hand and sighted with the left eye.  Most experts recommend choosing the bow based on your dominant eye.  Certainly this is the correct choice if you   shoot with both eyes open.  But if you close one eye, then the open one is the dominant one by default, and the stronger arm may be more advantageous.  My advice is to choose the bow type that is most comfortable.

In choosing a bow, the draw weight is one of the main factors to consider.  The minimum draw weight for hunting deer should be 45 lbs.  Although you can kill a deer with a weaker bow, you will end up wounding many that you do not recover.  Most bows used in deer hunting have a draw weight of 50-70# and are somewhat adjustable in draw weight.  Bows tend to shoot best when at maximum draw weight.  The major advantage of a higher draw weight bow is that the arrow trajectory is flatter.  You have to estimate the distance to game when aiming, and a flatter trajectory makes errors less of a problem.  When choosing a bow you should choose one with a draw weight that you can draw quickly and smoothly.  Also keep in mind that a bow that you could easily draw in practice may be too hard to draw smoothly after sitting in the cold in a tree stand for an hour or more.  To build up my strength for hunting I set my bow at maximum draw weight for practice and then adjust it down 5 lbs  for hunting.  This requires changing the sights of the bow.

The next thing to consider in choosing a bow is the draw length.  A proper draw length is one that brings the bow string about even with your lips when the bow is fully drawn.  Most bows have adjustable draw lengths that will accommodate the arm length of the average adult, 28-30".  The draw length is changed on a bow by changing the attachment of the cables to the cams.  This is better left to a technician since a limb compressor is required to release the cables.  The bow could be damaged if it is not properly bent to release the cables.  If you are buying a new bow from a sporting goods store the seller will probably set the bow up to your needs.  You will pay at least $200-600 for your bow there.  Wal-Mart  may have bows for less, but you have to set them up yourself or find someone to help you.  After bow hunting season Wal-Mart stores sell out their remaining bows and arrows for bargain prices.

Whatever it is you can get it on eBay!

Unless money is not a consideration I would purchase a used bow to start out.  A reasonably nice used bow can often be purchased locally or on E-bay for about $50-$150.  This is especially true in the off season.  Before you do this though, be sure to try a few bows to find out the draw weight and draw length that suits you best.  Also, remember that bows come in right and left hand versions so be sure to get one that is right for you.  You can bring a used bow to the technician of a sporting goods store to have it set up for you. They can adjust both the draw weight and draw length over a limited range.