LET'S CLEAR SOMETHING UP
When it comes to drawing a bow, compound bows and recurves/longbows differ. Traditional bows can be drawn back at nearly any length or distance. On the other hand, compound bows are made to only draw back to a certain length, and then stop. This stopping point is considered the bow's draw length. The bow should draw back to the needed length of the shooter. If your body size requires a bow with a draw length setting of 27.5", then your draw length is 27.5".
MAKE SURE YOU'RE AT FULL DRAW BEFORE SHOOTING
Unlike recurves and longbows, compound bows are specifically designed to be shot from the full-draw position only (which of course relies on the shooter to know his or her draw length). If the bow you're shooting is set at 27.5", then you should be pulling back the full 27.5" before shooting. You don't shoot when you're only partly drawn. You only shoot after the bow reaches full draw. It's important to note that draw lengths differ from person to person. Sound a little confusing? It's okay - it's a lot easier to grasp when you're actually feeling the bow at full draw. You draw the bow back until it stops; you aim, and then shoot. Not to bad, huh?
don't overdraw your bow
The vast majority of compound bows have solid mechanical stops, meaning that without reworking the mechanical setup of the bow, you can't draw back further than what the bow was intended to sit at. For example, if you have a bow's draw length set at 27.5", you won't be pulling it back to 28" (without modification). You should never try to forcibly draw a bow past it's set draw length. You'll know when you've hit the mechanical stop when your bow can't be pulled back anymore. Be sure to draw your bow in a slow, controlled manner, and when you feel your bow stop, and the weight let off significantly, you're good to go. Today, most compound bows have you holding less than 20 lbs. when at full draw - with a lot of bows being a lot lighter than that! So if you're still having trouble at full draw, you're straining yourself - and the bow - trying to forcibly draw the bow back farther can it's intended to go. So take a chill pill and relax.
adjust the bow to you
From shooter to shooter, bow draw lengths vary; taller shooters commonly need a larger draw length, and shorter shooters need shorter draw lengths. Lucky for you, a bow's draw length can be adjusted by a professional, and in a lot of cases, by the shooter! The draw length of a bow is limited though. Some bows have a shorter window of draw lengths. One bow might be able to shoot from 23.5" to 27", while another may be able to 23.5" to 30.5". Each bow has a set window, so you must pick a bow that can adjust to fit you correctly. Luckily, there's a plethora of bows and draw length ranges, so you should be able to find a bow that suits you perfectly.
HOW TO CHECK YOUR DRAW LENGTH
Don't know your draw length? Looking to figure it out? Well, you've come to the right place. Good for you. Start by measuring your arm span in inches. Stand up, and open your arms wide, with your palms facing forward. Don't try to stretch your arm span. Stand naturally while measuring, and ask someone to help you. Measure your arm span (in inches) tip to tip (middle finger to middle finger), and divide that number by 2.5. Generally, this will find the draw length you need for your specific body size. A lot of people shooting compound bows have their bows set too far, which leads to bad shooting form. Your bow shoots at it's best when it's at the correct draw length. Having the correct draw length will make your more accurate, and will lessen your chances of getting a hard slap on your forearm. This will overall help you become a better shooter, which is what you want, right? Take this as you will, but we promise it's best that if you're in doubt, you should pick a draw length that is a little less instead of a little more.
DID YOU KNOW?
Guess what? If you're a person with average proportions, your arm span and height will fall right around each other (in inches). As you might have guessed, there's a correlation between a person's height and draw length. Generally the taller you are, the longer your draw length will be. It's the opposite if you're shorter. There are exceptions - gangly people, for example, tend to not have the same proportions as most other people do. In this case, said person would want to use the formula discussed in the paragraph above for the most reliable measurement. Regardless, if you're not sure, these charts below should help you get an idea as to where your draw length might lay.
SHORT draw length shooters: LONG DRAW LENGTH SHOOTERS:
WELL, THAT'S HALF OF IT
If you're new to archery, don't get too into all of the details. You want to enjoy yourself. Your best bet is to stick with averages, and pick a draw length that's close to other people that are built like you. If you really want to get it right, it's always best to have professional help. But for the majority of people, you're fine. Lucky for everyone, changing your draw length isn't a big hassel. You shouldn't bog down your mind with all of the minor details. You'll get the hang of things the more you experiment and shoot.
You should pick a draw weight that is comfortable, and suits you well for your purpose. If you're trying out archery just for fun, you don't need to have an ultra high draw weight. A bow with a draw weight that's too high for you will just make things worse. You won't shoot as good, and you won't be having as much fun. We like to think that you should pick a draw weight that requires you to use about 3/4ths of your maximum strength. You want to be able to shoot your bow ten to fifteen times, accurately, without feeling any fatigue. If you're only able to draw the bow back a few times before needing a break, then the poundage is too high for you. Understandably you want your bow shooting at the highest level of performance, and you want as much speed, power, and kinetic energy flying out of it, so you shouldn't choose a draw weight that's too light for you either. So what do you do? You find a happy median between performance and comfort - which for most people is using about 75% of your strength to draw back your bow.
THINK YOU'RE TOUGH?
Well congratulations! You probably are. Think you're tough enough to pull 70lbs on a bow? 80lbs? Think you're so tough that you can draw an 80lb bow with your feet? Bowhunters tend to be tough people, and some just can't resist picking out big boy bows with ultra, mega heavy draw weight. If you're comfortable shooting such a bow, then kudos to you. But to the other people out there who aren't comfortably drawing their bow, but keep their draw weight at soaring numbers, you're making a mistake. Just because you can draw the bow doesn't mean you should be shooting it. We don't care how tough you think you are - if you're drawing so much weight that your knees are quivering and your eyes are crossing, you're doing things wrong. Even if you can beat your old pop's in arm wrestling and you can bench eight bajillion pounds, that doesn't mean you possess the upper body and back strength to pull an 80 pound heavyweight bow comfortably. Unless you've shot tons and tons of arrows every week for months, been training for a heavyweight bow, or you're a super saiyan, don't shoot a heavyweight bow. It'd probably just ruin your fun.
BUT I WANT THE EXTRA SPEED!
Hold up there, Sonic. Drawing more weight doesn't mean you'll get a huge increase in speed. Actually, after the 60lb peak, the speed difference starts to become minute. Ever hear of the law of diminishing return? Industry standards require at least five grains of arrow mass per pound of draw weight. For example, a 70lb peak bow requires a 350 grain arrow, and an 80lb peak bow requires a 400 grain arrow. Of course, the heavier bow will create more kinetic energy, but the speed will be just about the same. The required increased mass in the arrows are made to offset the possible speed increases when drawing heavy weight.
ARE YOU HUNTING DANGEROUS GAME?
This is where heavy weight bows will help. Animals such as elephants, hippos, rhinos, buffalo, etc., call for such bows. Dangerous game animals are tough, so they call for a tough bow. On the other hand, the vast majority of North American animals, especially the more common ones (that are hunted), such as whitetail deer, just simply don't require the extra kinetic energy - it's overkill. Unless you have a reason to shoot a heavyweight bow, aside from showing off to your friends, then we recommend that you stick with the normal range of draw weights.