Compound bows differ from traditional bows in many ways, but you’ll notice one difference as soon as you pull back your bowstring: Compound bows have a defined draw length. Once you reach that length, you can’t pull the string any farther. As a result, the end of the draw cycle on a compound bow is often called the back wall.
Although you can’t pull the string beyond the back wall, you can pull against it with varying degrees of force. The question is, “How hard should I pull into the back wall?”
The short answer is however you prefer. But consider a few factors when establishing your preference.
Find your back wall
First, determine the back wall your bow is capable of producing. You can customize the wall on many bows.
Back wall stiffness is determined by what stops the draw cycle. Either a post on the cam hits one of the cables, or a post hits a limb or a pad attached to the limb. A limb stop is the most solid, because once the stop hits the limb, it can’t move any farther. A cable stop has some give. Some bows give a little. Some bows give a little more.
Often, bows offer either a limb stop or a cable stop. Other bows allow you to choose between the two. That’s where you can customize the feel.
With a limb stop, you can pull harder even after you reach full draw, but you’re pulling harder on something that can’t move. With a cable stop, you can pull harder and the cable will give a bit, creating a spongy feel.
Adjust your strength
The lightest you should pull into the wall, regardless of its feel, is enough to reach that wall and hold until you release the string. Now you’re using the bow to its full potential.
A light pull into the back wall might be relaxing and allow you to aim comfortably through the shot. For some archers, light tension at full draw equals minimum sight-pin movement on the target.
A possible consequence of the light pull, however, is string creep. This occurs when you are holding at full draw and your shoulders collapse inward just a bit, or your string hand moves forward enough to take you off the back wall. If you release the arrow at this point, it’s probably not going to hit where you’re aiming.
Because of string creep, the light pull might work better with a limb stop, rather than a cable stop. It’s easier to creep off a spongy back wall (cable stop) than a solid back wall (limb stop).. You really might not notice that creep with a light hold while using a cable stop that gives.
Avoiding string creep is one reason some archers pull hard into the back wall. You won’t creep if you’re pulling into the back wall with a great deal of force. The hard pull, however, can cause your sight pin to dance – especially if your bow has a limb stop. When you increase tension on a bow that has been drawn to full extension, your arms may start to shake.
Of course, that’s not true of all archers. Some of the best archery pros talk about pulling as hard as they can into their back wall in high-stress situations, because it helps avoid shaking from nervousness.
If your bow has a cable stop, pulling hard into the wall might feel good. The give at full draw is not as harsh as if you had a limb stop, and can actually have a steadying effect on your bow arm, which is good for aiming.
Aim for consistency
When pulling hard into the wall, consider repeating the same pull from shot to shot. If your pull varies each time you draw, your accuracy will suffer.
So how do you develop a consistent pull into the back wall, whether you pull hard, light or somewhere in between? Lots of practice. The more you shoot, the more you’ll develop a feel for the right pull to achieve the best results.
One way to gauge this feel is to think about how you activate your mechanical release. If you relax your hand to get a back-tension release to rotate, or to allow a thumb trigger to move forward into your thumb to fire, then a hard pull might work best.
If you like to get to full draw and then slowly pull backward to rotate a back-tension release or to activate any kind of trigger, then try a light pull.
The only way to know how hard you should pull is to experiment with these techniques. Ultimately, the best pull is one that allows you to hold steady at full draw and then complete a clean, consistent shot.