In 2015 I left the gym with a fresh, sharp pain in my right shoulder. In typical guy fashion, I mostly ignored him, until I couldn’t anymore. With the fall archery seasons just weeks away, I needed to clear the pain, as I remembered it every time I shot my bow.
The diagnosis was a partial tear in my supraspinatus muscle, which meant it was time to take a break. This cut into my gym time, but also meant I couldn’t participate in summer workouts. Knowing I had to make every preseason shot count, I reduced my bow from 70 pounds to 58. I took off for a few weeks, then only shot enough to be sure of my headflight wide and my ability to shoot well at typical whitetail ranges.
The first test came on Wisconsin’s season opener when two bucks flew past my booth. Everything went well on the shot and the recovery, which was a relief. The following weekend at my home in Minnesota, a three-year-old eight-pointer made the mistake of walking stiff-legged into one of my shooting lanes after a few contact grunts.
The whole season made me realize how much I loved shooting a low power bow in the field. No matter how contorted I was while standing, I could shoot smoothly, hold full draw for long periods without fatigue, and aim easily. This summer injury suffered during some shoulder rehearsals changed my bowhunting game for the better.
A more enjoyable shooting experience
Tyler Pearce works in the outdoor industry and is one of the most dedicated archery enthusiasts I have ever met. He keeps track of the number of arrows he sends each year, and normally that number is in the five-digit range. Although he lives in Colorado and primarily focuses on the Western game, he also learned the importance of reducing draw weight.
“I’m a high-volume shooter,” Pearce said, “which puts a lot of wear and tear on your joints. and I feel so much better on my shoulders.
Even with elk as his primary target each season, Pearce can easily get passes on the bulls at ranges of 40 and 50 yards. It also has a draw length of 29 inches, which certainly helps, and is something to consider before you bust out the Allen key and back out your limb bolts.
“You have to consider the weight of the arrow and the length of the draw,” Pearce said. “But most people could easily lose five or 10 pounds and have a much more enjoyable shooting experience without sacrificing anything significant downline.”
All this is relevant for the individual shooter, of course. If you’re only pulling 48 pounds to begin with and your draw length is 26 inches, you have to consider how much energy you’re giving up. That may be a bridge too far for Western game and, honestly, Whitetail sized critters. If you’re shooting 70 pounds and not practicing much, you might enjoy a nicer shot by moving your bow back a few turns.
How low can you go?
There are many youth/beginner bow designs that offer a weight range from too light for a chipmunk to pass over a moose. Outside of this category, most modern bows are advertised as having a 10-pound draw weight range. This is more than enough if you want to preserve your shoulders and take more pleasure in photographing.
It’s also important to note that if you’re going to play with your rig, do it now. Even a few pounds reduction will slightly alter your point of impact. It might not be obvious at 20 yards, for example, but it will be crystal clear at 40 yards.
Of course, not everyone needs to lose a bit of weight. If you’re a consistent shooter and your bow is comfortable, that extra weight will only help you put two holes in every animal you shoot. This advice is best followed by people who are beginning to think long and hard about their path to retirement, or anyone who just doesn’t devote a lot of time to practice.
Age-related and repetitive-use injuries often go hand in hand. If that’s not a problem, but a lazy attitude to pre-season training is, think about when it will catch up with you. That won’t be the case when you send a dozen arrows a week before the season opener. It’ll be when you’re at full draw for half a minute with a buck in late October, weeks after your last real workout. Then, if fatigue sets in and your muscles can’t cope with the task, the encounter is likely to go south.
The reduced draw weight is a small but welcome hedge against this reality.