6 Tips for Traditional Archery Success

6 Tips for Traditional Archery Success – by Patrick Meitin

6 Tips for Traditional Archery SuccessI’ve never understood the friction between traditional and compound shooters, even if some of it is little more than virtue signaling. On one side the hardest of the hard core traditionalist crowd says compounds aren’t real archery, that bowhunting with “training wheels” is somehow cheating. The anti-traditional crowd say single-string bows are for window shopping, and a compound is what you choose when you’re serious about making a purchase. It’s all pretty silly, as archery is archery and everyone should be free to choose what makes them happy and be left alone. One does not subtract from the other, and in fact, I find the two styles quite complimentary. Having options expands my enjoyment of the sport. I often carry both bow styles to hunting camp, as some days I feel more traditional , and others more modern. 

You may have been contemplating trying a traditional bow after starting out with a compound. Perhaps you are looking for added challenge, or like me, just expanding your archery horizons. Adding a recurve or longbow to your arsenal will certainly add to your archery fun, but here are some points to ponder. 

6. Draw Weight

Traditional bows are obviously different from compounds largely because while a single-string bow adds draw weight for every inch drawn, modern compounds include let-off which makes full-draw holding weight 65 to 90 percent lower than peak weight. When the industry says a trad bow includes a 60-pound pull, that means it requires 60 pounds of draw force to pull to 28 inches. Most traditional bows gain around 3 to 4 pounds per inch of draw length—expressed as something like 60#@28”. If your draw length is shorter, subtract 3-4 pounds for every inch, if it is longer, add 3-4 pounds per inch. A 60-pound recurve at my 30-inch draw length, for instance, is actually 66 or 68 pounds. 

The lack of let-off becomes a trap for many first-time traditional bow buyers. Many assume that since they effortlessly draw 70 pounds with a compound, they can surely handle a 70-pound recurve or longbow. In truth a 70-pound trad bow is a beast that would prove too much for even a seasoned traditional shooter to handle. Different muscles are involved in pulling and holding a trad bow and a compound. 

For a start think in terms of a 45- to 50-pound recurve or longbow. This is a comfortable draw weight for most beginning traditional shooters, and one that will cleanly tag big game animals with the proper arrow and broadhead selection (more on this momentarily). With time and training you might graduate to, say, 65 pounds, but there really is little need if you are struggling to hold that kind of weight at full draw. In general, those with shorter draw lengths are more likely to benefit from added draw weight due to a limited power stoke, whereas those with a long draw length can shoot less draw weight and still deliver the same as those shooting more weight but with a shorter draw length. Shooting a traditional bow should be comfortable and controllable, not a struggle. 

5. Stature & Bow Length

There are no hard and fast rules pertaining to what tip-to-tip (the same as the axle-to-axle of compound bows) bow length is ideal in traditional archery. I am 6-foot, 5-inches tall and have killed animals with recurves as short as 52 inches—a very short single-string bow indeed. That said, it is certainly not ideal. There is a symbiotic relationship between draw length and tip-to-tip specs, which typically allows not only the most shooting comfort (mostly finger pinch and a clean release as string angle at full draw becomes more acute), but also the easiest accuracy. 

A very long recurve—62 to 64 inches—will always be the easiest to shoot well because the long length also makes it most forgiving. That said, pulling a long recurve to a short draw length does not load the limb to their full potential, meaning the bow will lack speed, or cast in traditional terms. At the other end of the spectrum a shooter with a very long draw length shooting a very short recurve is likely overloading that bow, unduly stressing the limbs and eroding stability. 

6 Tips for Traditional Archery Success

As a general rule, those with draw lengths from 27 to 28 will be best served by a 58- to 60-inch recurve, those with a 29- to 30-inch draw a 60- to 62-inch bow, and those with a longer draw length a 64-inch bow. There is such a thing as short and long in straight-limbed longbows, but they are usually so much longer than recurves that these rules aren’t as concrete, though certainly worth considering.

4. Recurve or Longbow?

6 Tips for Traditional Archery Success – The choice of purchasing a recurve or longbow is really a personal matter. Aesthetics seem to be the largest factor in deciding which to buy, and aspects such as whether one is a Howard Hill, Ben Pearson, Byron Ferguson, Saxton Pope or Art Young disciple (classic longbow shooters), or Fred Bear, Jim Dougherty, or Fred Asbell follower (more contemporary recurve shooters).

It really comes down to feel. Some like the straight-forward nature of the less efficient but truly instinctive longbow. Others like the more deliberate character of the slightly more efficient recurve. The longbow generally requires actually taking hold of the handle to maintain control (though some hybrid designs include pistol grips), the recurve allowing a more relaxed loose grip due to the deeper pistol grip. Longbows tend to better accommodate a pure instinctive style of shooting where the anchor point is merely touched before release, while recurves seem better suited to more deliberate shooting styles including remaining at full draw longer or aiming through a gap system. 

Longbows tend to be a touch lighter then recurves because of their minimalist handles and narrow limbs, while recurves hit the scales across the entire weight spectrum, from lightweight wood to heavier milled-aluminum or pure phenolic handles. All that said, the final decision, again, comes down to feel and what suits the individual.

3. Terminal Tackle

Traditional bows are conspicuously less efficient machines than compound bows. Trad bows are simple springs, while compounds include a block-and-tackle-like advantage in energy storage and delivery. In bowhunting, terminal performance—an arrow’s ability to provide clean kills—all lays in the arrow and broadhead. While the compound kills by sheer speed and kinetic energy, traditional bows drive deep into game through momentum alone. 

What this means is traditional arrows must be heavier to penetrate as deeply as a much lighter but faster compound arrow. While many bowhunters wielding compounds shoot arrows weighing as little as 350 to 400 grains with good results, the hunting arrows of the traditional bowhunter usually hit the scales at 550 to 650 grains. Much of this weight is placed up front, boosting F.O.C. percentiles into the high teens or low twenties, instead of the 10 to 12 percent considered adequate by compound shooters. This is accomplished with heavier inserts/outserts made of stainless steel or even brass, or aluminum inserts with added screw-in steel weight systems like those from Precision designed Products (PDP).

Traditional broadheads are also generally heavier, part of the F.O.C.-boosting program. Whereas compound shooters mostly use 100-grain heads, traditional bowhunters are fond of 145/150 to 175/200-grain heads. Too, the best approach to deep traditional-bow penetration is a classic cut-on-contact design that begins cutting the moment it touches hide, slicing like a knife, instead of shoving a conical point through with brute force.

2. Finger Glove vs. Tab

6 Tips for Traditional Archery Success – Traditional bows are shot with fingers, unlike compounds that are largely shot while using a mechanical release today. This necessitates a glove or tab, usually made of durable leather. This not only protects the shooting fingers from abrasion and blisters, but allows a slicker surface for the bowstring serving to slide from. 

Again, there is no wrong answer here, only personal preference based on what feels best to a particular shooting style, i.e. touch-and-go instinctive shooting, or more deliberate aiming or gapping. In general, a finger glove offers a bit more speed in getting on the string and launching an arrow in a hurry, while a tab is typically a bit more deliberate. This makes gloves most popular with longbow shooters and tight-cover bowhunters, and tabs more popular with target shooters or those bowhunting more open country where longer shots and more precision are part of the game.          

6 Tips for Traditional Archery Success

6 Tips for Traditional Archery Success NUMBER 1. Traditional Shooting Form

I’ve often heard shooters claiming your draw length becomes shorter while shooting traditional bows. This is nonsense, your body dynamics and dimensions don’t change just because you change equipment. Your draw length is your draw length, and besides, shortening it sacrifices delivered energy, flattened trajectory, and penetration potential while bowhunting.

Another annoying trait are traditional shooters using their equipment choice to excuse sloppy shooting. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. If you are to shoot a traditional bow well, especially well enough to have any business shooting at live animals, you will need to sharpen your shooting form even further. There are no crutches in traditional archery—no sights, no peeps, no let-off that can make up for lackluster shooting form. The tip of your arrow (peripherally or using conscious gap shooting) is your front sight, a precise anchor point your rear sight. Everything must remain as consistent as the atomic clock to shoot consistency. The smallest variations to form, draw length or anchor point will throw shots off conspicuously.

6 Tips for Traditional Archery Success – This includes everything from the way you grip the bow, where you anchor, how consistent your draw length proves, how you lock your bow arm, to how you hunch your shoulders. The best results come only through long-established shooting form fundamentals developed well before compounds appeared—adopting a consistent regimen and adhering to it religiously. If you are a two-style shooter, traditional shooting will definitely sharpen your compound shooting by fine tuning your overall shooting form. 

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