If you’ve been following this series on learning to shoot a compound bow, you should now be comfortable with everything from your stance – the way you align your feet and body before beginning the shot – to gripping the bow, nocking the arrow and positioning your release aid. That means you’re ready for the fun part: drawing the bow!
Before detailing the proper way to draw a bow, heed this caution: Don’t try to draw a bow that’s too heavy for you. Instead, be sure to visit your local archery store, where you can be fitted for a bow that’s the right weight and draw length for you. Why is this so important?
Issue 1: This person is strong from participating in other sports or activities. Because they’re muscular, they think they can draw the same bow poundage as someone with much less strength and muscle. Archery, however, uses much different muscles than those used in other sports or weightlifting. So just because you can lift fifty-pound dumbbells doesn’t mean you can draw a fifty-pound bow.
Start with a lightweight bow and work your way up! The more you practice using the proper form, the easier it’ll be to engage and build your archery muscles. And drawing a lightweight bow is nothing to be ashamed of. Archers with leighter draw weights are just as successful as those with heavier draw weights.
Issue 2: This person can draw a heavier bow, but doing so means drawing the bow in an unsafe or less-than-ideal manner. If you can’t draw the bow with proper form, the bow is too heavy for you. Shooting the correct draw weight lets you make better shots, spares you injuries, and increases your success. An archery shop can help you choose an ideal draw weight, and ensure you comfortably and correctly draw your bow.
What’s the proper way to draw a compound bow? Your hands should start about at nose height, with your grip hand (the one supporting the bow) and the release hand (the one hooked to the D-loop and holding the release aid) extended in front of you and in line with your target. Keeping your grip hand steadily extended at nose height, you then use your release hand to start pulling the bowstring toward your face. You should begin inhaling as the string comes back. Your release hand will follow a slightly downward path back toward your face, and your rear shoulder should rotate into your back as the bowstring comes farther back.
You should feel the muscles in your back, not just your arm, working as you draw the bow. In fact, it’s important to NOT use your biceps or triceps while drawing. Doing so can result in tension in your arms and shoulders, and lead to injury. Instead, lead with your elbow and continue with your rear shoulder moving in an angular direction until you feel the bow hit its “wall.” Trust us. You’ll feel it. Your hand should rest lightly on your lower jaw, and the bow will reach a natural stopping point where it cannot be drawn any farther. When you feel the bow’s solid wall, you’ve reached full draw. At this point, you’ll bring your hand into close contact with your jawline to find your “anchor point” – the spot that you’ll draw the bow to each time (more on this in a future article!).
By using the proper muscle groups and proper form to draw your bow, you’ll be able to shoot for longer periods of time, and hold the bow at full draw long enough to focus on proper aim and well-placed shots.
Once you’re comfortable drawing your bow, you’re ready to take a shot. Until then, practice gripping and drawing your bow with the correct form. But do not release the string without an arrow in place. This can cause personal injury and damage to the bow. Instead, use resistance bands to practice indoors, which give you a great chance to get more consistent – and build strength!