Hunting the Traditional Bow Part One: Watch those Limbs

Imagine you’ve decided to give the whole “trad” thing a spin – maybe not forever, but at least for a little while. You aren’t sure if it’s your thing, but love the way the string feels in your hands and watching the arch of the arrow in flight. You appreciate the simplicity of it all – being gadget free – and find you are bringing the stick to the range more than your brand new iEVISORATOR5000XZ.




You’re learning more about the weapon than you ever thought possible. There is an electricity within to which you are drawn. A connection to it you can’t quite place. Something primal. Something you had never experienced before. A life buried deep within the wood. When it is in your hands, it is an extension of you. You don’t want to put it down.

You tell your friends and they think you’re crazy, but you don’t care. You decide that if it looks and feels good then it has to be good. So, you keep at it. Your education starts. You learn more about brace height, the benefits of a heavy arrow, and how to file sharpen a two-blade. You are shooting more efficiently now. You can place a quiver full of arrows within a paper plate at 20 yards and are confident you can connect on an animal at the same distance.

Suddenly, you want to hunt with your new companion, but are hesitant with the season approaching. You wonder how the change in gear will impact the way you hunt. A million questions fill your head. Questions you don’t know the answers to and are too embarrassed to ask.

Fear not grasshopper! I will attempt to answer these questions for you with the hopes you’ll hit the woods as confident as you were with your compound. To begin, lets identify the challenges of the bow itself. I’ve narrowed them down to three:

  • Length
  • Weight
  • Capability

We’ll start with length.

Watch your limbs. A lot can go wrong in a situation like this.
Watch your limbs. A lot can go wrong in a situation like this.

LengthWhile there are exceptions, most traditional bows fall between 58-70”. There are bowyers producing bows as short as 48”, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an archer that enjoys shooting anything that short year-round due to discomfort, and it is important to practice with the bow you intend to hunt with. Most compounds are well below 48”, so you will have to account for the added limb length when shooting from a blind, stand, or when navigating through brush. Traditional bowhunters are always aware of their upper and lower limb. Interference of either will affect the shot and can even ruin your bow.

Checking for limb clearance is crucial in any situation. If hunting from a blind (natural or manmade) it is important to leave space directly in front and to the sides of your bow as well. The limbs of a traditional bow are responsible for transferring energy to the arrow and must move to do so. You must give them the necessary room to perform. Trad guys are picky about stands and blinds for this reason and often construct natural blinds with brush behind rather than in front to break up their outline and allow for a shot.

Canting the bow offers a solution, but not without obstacles of its on. Many traditional archers shoot with a cant – some of them as extreme as three o’clock. This allows them to shoot from tight quarters where vertical space is limited, but it also opens them up to horizontal interference. Have I confused you yet?

Let’s say you have a pile of brush in front of you – an old turkey blind perhaps. It’s concealed, it’s cozy, and it is precisely where you want to be, but it is also impossible to shoot from without banging your lower limb against the ground and sending you into a Hulk-like rage. You have two options at this point: 1) standing to shoot, 2) canting your bow. Option one is out of the question. Traditional bowhunting is a proximity sport and any animal worth killing isn’t going to let you stand up and say hello before shooting them. Canting is the better option. It will help you clear your lower limb and make the shot possible. Canting can also prevent your from striking the platform or climbing bar when hunting from a tree stand.

Whether in a tree, on the ground, or on your feet you will need to cant your bow to some degree at some point to avoid obstacles. When doing so, checking your limbs is paramount and will be as automatic as breathing with time and practice. Be patient…you’ll get it.

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding the weight of traditional bows and what is needed to sufficiently kill game. I’ll be discussing this in detail next month and it will be one you don’t want to miss. It could save you a missed opportunity at a buck, or a torn rotator cuff. Stay tuned and as always, please feel free to comment below. I will answer any questions promptly.




11 thoughts on “Hunting the Traditional Bow Part One: Watch those Limbs”

  1. Great Part I Nick. You know I’ve been tempted to take the longbow in the woods and I’m definitely in the state you described, I’ve practiced some and feel pretty good but making that leap to taking it after an animal is a big one. The challenges as you mention go way beyond accuracy with a trad bow, getting used to a 6 foot long bow is way different than a 34″ compound. Looking forward to the next posts!

  2. Thanks Will! All it takes is a little practice. It becomes as easy as walking straight. You won’t think about it after a few weeks of doing it. Sure, once in awhile we all make mistakes under pressure and nock a limb or something, but that is more about nerves. The more you have the bow in the woods…the more natural everything becomes.

  3. I’m a die-hard compound guy – as you know – but the “switch” to trad is inevitable. Not that it’ll be an easy transition, but information like this is going to make it a heck of a lot easier.

    What about the combination bow length and draw length, and the string angle that it produces. Is that relevant a relevant point, like it is on the compound side of things?

    1. That is an excellent question Mark, and you would be an excellent addition to the fold. For one thing, we don’t shoot with a release. You can get away with a 46″ riser if you shoot a release because there isn’t pinch period. It really depends on your draw length. I have a 29″ draw length and the shortest I will go is 62″. I actually prefer bows in the 64″-68″ range. It goes down from there, but preference is HUGE. I now plenty of guys with 27-28″ draws that prefer a real long bow. Type of bow also factors in. Recurves run shorter and draw smoother than most longbows at shorter lengths. They also stack less. Some of today’s hybrid longbows, on the other hand, are designed to be draw smooth at shorter lengths to make the easier to use with blinds. It depends on the bow, the design, and the draw of the person shooting. Pinch is pinch however…its geometry. The shorter the bow, the steeper the string angle, the harder on the fingers. I hope that helps!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *