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Many archers begin with a compound bow, which uses a system of pulleys and levers to bend the limbs of the bow. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Linda Breazeale)

Enjoy the outdoors through archery

By Mr. Jacob Lee Dykes
MSU Extension Service

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Many hunters share my favorite recreational activity: bow hunting white-tailed deer.

I am a fan of every benefit offered by archery, which can have a lasting impact on your life. My journey started when I got a youth model compound bow around the age of 12.

Mr. Jacob Dykes
Jacob Dykes

Getting into archery is very simple, but there are a few things to consider. First, you need to know a little bit about the different styles of bows and what they offer. There are three main types of bows: compound, recurve and longbow.

A compound bow is a modern version that uses a system of pulleys and levers to bend the limbs of the bow. This system enables the bow to be much faster and easier to hold at full draw. Many people begin with a compound bow because its modernization allows for quick learning. Compound bows usually have sights, while traditional bows do not.

The more traditional versions are the recurve bow (limbs of the bow curve away from the shooter) and the longbow (traditional half-moon shape). These bows are primitive stick-and-string bows you learn to shoot instinctively through repetition. The main difference between a recurve and longbow is their shape. Traditional bows can do anything a compound can do, but they require much more practice.

Archery enthusiasts have three types of bows to consider -- compound, recurved and longbow. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Linda Breazeale)Archery enthusiasts have three types of bows to consider -- compound, recurved and longbow. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Linda Breazeale)

Any of the three bows can be used for hunting, bow fishing, archery competitions or shooting in the backyard. Choosing which bow you want to begin with is a personal preference, but I recommend a cheap compound bow to learn the basics of archery.

When it comes time to purchase a compound bow, proper fit is important. Know your draw length (length needed to draw the string to the correct anchor point). A simple way to calculate your draw length is to measure your arm span (fingertip to fingertip) and divide by 2.5. However, it is best to have an archery professional fit you with a bow.

Know what draw weight you can handle. This information will allow you to comfortably and correctly draw the bow. Both draw length and weight need to be right for you to ensure a proper shooting technique. In most cases, compound bows have an adjustable draw weight, so you can increase the weight as your body adjusts to shooting.

Traditional bows work a little bit differently. A single bow can accommodate people of many different draw lengths, but the draw weight is not adjustable.

Once you have selected a bow, it is time to get arrows. They must fit your bow. The important factors to remember when selecting arrows are length, weight and spine (stiffness). Typically, I shoot an arrow that is an inch longer than my draw length. I select my weight and spine using the arrow selection chart for the brand of arrows I plan on buying. You must also take into consideration the weight of the broadhead or field point you will be using. Speak to a professional when you first get into archery to ensure that you are getting the right arrows and tips.

If you are interested in getting into archery, go to an outdoors shop and ask professionals for guidance. Archery is a great way to get people of all ages involved in the outdoors and learn important values, especially discipline and patience. There is something special about connecting with your primitive side. It is an activity the whole family can enjoy, so get outside and give archery a shot.

Extension Outdoors logoEditor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Released: January 20, 2017
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