How To Determine Proper Bow Draw Weight – Ultimate Guide

If you are new to archery or looking to improve your draw, then let’s explore this topic together! 

Did you know that body weight makes a difference in your draw weight, or that drawing back is more than using arm strength? Why is draw weight resistance important? 

Draw weight resistance is important in setting your arrow off at the desired speed, for accurate target practice or to ethically hunt a specific game. You will benefit from determining your proper draw weight when you encounter challenges such as maintaining proper form, unpleasant weather, or having to draw back for longer than desired periods to maintain a full draw.

Your Arm Span

  1. Stand comfortably with your arms straight out at your sides in the shape of the letter T, palms facing forward. 
  2. With the help of a friend, have them use a string or rope to measure the distance between your right and left middle fingertips. Mark the string or rope to measure it against a tape measure. 
  3. Divide the measurement by 2.5. This is your draw length.
    • Each 1” is approximately 10 Feet Per Second (FPS)
    • This diagram is meant to be an average height to arm draw length estimate. 

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Draw Weight 

  1. Draw weight is measured in pounds. The pounds figure represents the force needed to pull a bowstring back to full draw.
  2. This is a general draw weight guide relative to the details, general physical condition, and health.
    • Large Frame Men (180+ lbs.) 65-75lbs.
    • Medium Frame Men (150-180 lbs.) 55-65lbs.
    • Large Frame Women (160+ lbs.) 45-55lbs.
    • Small Frame Men (120-150 lbs.) 45-55lbs.
    • Athletic Older Boys (130-150 lbs.) 40-50lbs.
    • Medium Frame Women (130-160 lbs.) 30-45lbs.
    • Small Frame Women (100-130 lbs.) 25-30lbs.
    • Larger Child (100-130 lbs.) 25-35lbs.
    • Small Child (70-100 lbs.) 15-25lbs.

Comfort While in Full Draw

  1. Holding back approximately 15% of the weight you are drawing back, while in full draw is recommended for a comfortable full draw holding position to properly aim.
  2. Anchor at the same area, always. Find what works best for you and stay with it! 
    • Nose to String
    • Arrow Nock to Corner of Mouth
    • Kisser Button Touching Lip
    • Knuckle to the Ear
    • Hand Against your Cheek

Muscle Groups Used  

  1. Back strength is the most important muscle group to hold a bow steady in full draw.
    • Rhomboids are the deep muscles in shoulder blades that work to pull the shoulder blades towards our spine. 
    • Levator Scapulae works with the Rhomboids. These are located on each side and pull the shoulder blades inward and upward. 
    • Trapezius is a group of rope-like muscles that control turning, tilting, the steadiness of the shoulders, and twisting of the arms.
    • Exercises such as rowing will focus on strengthening these muscles.

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     2. Latissimus Dorsi “Lats” extend from your pelvis to the middle back and attach to your arm. Strengthening your lats will improve your core stability. 

  • Exercise this area with Lat Pull Downs.

     3. Arm strength is needed for your extended arm. 

  • Deltoids consist of anterior, middle, and posterior areas. The anterior muscle raises your arm forward in the lifted position. The middle muscle lifts your arm out and to the side holding the bow arm steady and straight for full draw. The deltoid posterior muscle supports the extension of your arm moves backward when you aim your elbow behind you for full draw.      Exercises including forward shoulder lifts, lateral shoulder lifts, and backward shoulder pull.
  • Rotator Cuff muscles are the most commonly injured muscle group when participating in archery. These are located at your shoulder and arm connection.
  • Biceps and Triceps perform the bending and flexing of your elbow and shoulder when drawing back and holding steady.      Exercises include bicep curls, tricep presses, and bicep/tricep extensions. 

Making Draw Weight Legal

If you are going to hunt game with your bow, then you must develop the strength and accuracy to draw it back, meeting the state’s legal draw weight requirements. Legal draw weight varies by animal and different states have established weight minimums and even a few states have maximums. Please refer to your state’s regulations for specifics. 

Most states require a minimum draw weight of 40 pounds. Many men tend to choose to draw back 70. You may be pleasantly pleased to learn that a lighter draw weight will produce a higher arrow speed and flatter trajectory. Many women prefer drawing back 40 on average. 

This is a list of the most commonly hunted animals and their draw weights. 

  • Deer 40lbs
  • Elk 60lbs 
  • Moose 65lbs
  • Bear 40-65lbs
  • Antelope 40-65lbs 

Selecting a bow with a wide adjustable weight range will allow you to use your instrument for years to come. It is advisable to target practice several times a week to work the muscle groups needed.

Recurve Bow

Historically made of wood, the recurve bow has been modernized and manufactured in carbon or aluminum. The overall weight is light requiring strength, steadiness, and the naked eye for aim.

Smaller males between 120-150 draw weight at 30 and increase to 45 over time. Smaller framed females between 100-130 draw 25 and increase to 35. The average male of 150-180 draws 40 and increases to 55. While the average female of 130-160 is suggested to begin drawing back between 25 to 35. Larger males, over 180, typically draw between 45 and 60. Larger framed females, over 160, typically draw 30 to 45 or more depending on their overall strength. 

Compound Bow

Compound bows come in a variety of overall weights, depending on the accessories and bow material. Less skill is required, although the practice is highly recommended when intending to hunt. 

Equipped with a system of mechanics and pulleys, the compound bow allows for increased pounds of draw weight. Children between 40 and 70 may draw back 10 to 15. While larger children between 70 and 100, draw weight of 15 to 20. Smaller frames, such as women or children, between 100 and 140 draw weight of 30 to 40, may struggle to reach the minimum requirement in order to hunt. The average person of 140 to 160 draw 40 to 50, while larger frames of 160 to 190 could draw 55 to 65. If you are a physically fit, more muscular build, drawing back weight between 60 and 70 should be manageable. 


Massachusetts requires your physician to sign off medically, to hunt with a crossbow. This was my saving grace to hunting last season! Draw weight is minimal while packing a whopping FPS to your target. 

Crossbow materials impact their draw weight. Draw weight can be greatly reduced by assistive devices. A cocking crank can eliminate 94% of the draw weight. Mechanical devices, a foot device or rope pull can cut their draw weight in half!

The overall weight of the person using a crossbow does not play into a crossbow’s draw weight. Your body type and preference should guide your selection. Consider the amount of muscle, build, and strength when deciding.

What is Your Target?

Draw weight and your instrument is a personal preference when you are a target shooter. As a hunter, be sure you are drawing back at your state’s legal minimum. If a medical impairment limits your ability to draw the weight of a recurve or compound bow, then I encourage you to begin crossbow hunting. 

People Also Ask

How Much Draw Weight Does it Take to Kill a Deer?

Drawing back 40lbs will drop a deer when all other factors are met. 

Is a 70lb Bow Hard to Pull?

In short, yes! This also requires much movement to draw back.  

When Should I Increase the Draw Weight on My Bow?

You should increase your draw weight when you maintain a steadiness with your current weight and need to meet a legal minimum to hunt. 

What is the Highest Draw Weight Compound Bow?

Hoyt, PSE, and Obsession have manufactured 80lb draw weight bows. While Mathews offers a 75lb model.