A buddy from twitter posed a question to me last night that I thought was worth discussing in more than 140 characters. So, I present you the first ever (and quite possibly the last ever) Sole Adventure Q&A.
Randy asked this…
What is the minimum draw [weight] you would suggest for deer at 35 yards max?
First off, I will be the first to admit that I am no expert. Secondly, this question opens a huge “can of worms”. No matter where you search for answers, you are likely to find widely varying opinions. The responses that Randy has received thus far includes everything from 35lbs – 55lbs being an acceptable draw weight. Everyone seems to have an opinion, but no one seems to have a definitive answer – for good reason.
Draw weight is just one of many variables that we have to consider when we talk about having enough “power” to ethically and effectively harvest a big game animal, such as a deer. Yes, draw weight it a crucial factor, but we also have to keep in mind the shooter’s draw length, the arrows total weight, and as Randy mentioned, the distance that we are considering.
The interesting thing about the wide variety of responses that Randy has received, is that I agree with all of them to a certain extent. I think that 35-40lbs can be used to effectively harvest a whitetail deer, but I would like to see the effective range for such a draw weight be limited to 20 (and possibly) 25 yards. Since Randy asked specifically about taking a deer out to 35 yards, I also agree with the upper end of those who responded and said 50-55lbs is required. When we attempt to increase our distance while bowhunting, a myriad of elements begin to take a toll on our effectiveness – the greater the distance, the more velocity that our arrow loses, which has several drawbacks: a decrease in “power”, a rapid increase in downward trajectory of the arrow (accurately judging distance becomes critical and difficult), and the arrow is more susceptible to being steered by the wind.
I have mentioned “power” a couple of times now, but what we are really talking about is kinetic energy – that is, “the energy of an object, which that object possesses because of motion.” So, when we talk about increasing our draw weight, we are talking about increasing the rate of motion (speed), and therefore our kinetic energy. However, speed isn’t the only factor to kinetic energy, we also must account for the object’s mass – in this case our arrow weight.
Look at those who hunt via traditional archery methods – speeds are much slower, but total arrow weights are often much higher. If you are interested in calculating the kinetic energy of your bow and arrow setup, I highly recommend using this calculator from BackcountryBowhunting.com. On the note of kinetic energy, it is a somewhat general consensus that the minimum amount of kinetic energy for whitetail deer is 40-45 ft/lbs.
It should also be noted that we can theorize and speculate all we want, but many states do have laws outlining the minimum draw weight that can be legally used for hunting big game. Most states have regulations in the 40-45lb range, however some allow as low as a 35lb draw.
In conclusion, my opinion is this: I like to see the minimum draw weight for hunting deer to be at least 40lbs, with a limited range of 20-25 yards. If you are interested in increasing your effective distance, you should seriously consider increasing your draw weight to the 50+lb range. That said, you are far better off limiting yourself in distance, than you are shooting a bow that is weighted too heavily for you to shoot comfortably and accurately.
What do you think Randy’s minimum draw weight should be for deer-sized game at 35 yards?