It happens to us women time and time again. Someone close to us hands us their old bow. At first we think "Yes, free bow!" It is great and it is so thoughtful. But is it a good fit? A lot of times they don't fit us like they should. Men in general have longer draw lengths and many can pull more than us women. We take their hand-me-down bow, try to pull it back and can't, or we do shoot it and it just isn't comfortable. Or the bow is improvised to "make" it work. The end result is that we don't do well and can get discouraged.
It's not just bows handed down from men. We can get these from our female friends and sisters as well. Or buy them online. We also hear about the newest craze and buy it without trying it. We may have drilled into our heads what brand is the best and go buy that one. Any of these situations have on thing in common. They can set us up for failure and discouragement.
Whether you are getting into bowhunting or just shooting archery for fun, I can't express enough how important it is to have equipment that fits you. Not what your best friend has, not what you heard is the best one to get. Not what is the cheapest or fastest shooting. You need to find one that properly fits for you to be the best you can be. Make sure to try every single bow you can get your hands on and see what feels the best for you.
A few of the basic things to look at when trying to find your bow is to find out what your draw length and what weight you are looking for. A basic formula for figuring out a calculated draw length is to take your wingspan (fingertip to fingertip with your palms facing forward) and divide by 2.5. Make sure to stand up straight by don't overextend your arms. Remember this is just a calculated formula and your actual length may vary from this depending on anchor points, form, and comfort.
Draw weight is a very important factor in becoming a proficient archer. Bad habits, inconsistent shooting, and horrible form will be the only outcomes of choosing a draw weight that is too heavy. Shooting a draw weight that is too heavy is called over bowed. Starting archery over bowed will sabatoge your archery learning skills and set you up for discouragement. There is absolutely nothing wrong with starting light, building up experience and skill and moving heavier as you see fit. Starting lighter will not only be easier to pull, but it allows you to focus on more important things, such as form. You will be able to think about your anchor points and your body alignment, not struggling to hold the weight. And remember, if you are using your bow for hunting, you don't need to be able to draw a lot of weight if you have proper shot placement. Skill is by far more important than weight or arrow speed.
There are a few other factors to consider when fitting for a bow. We aren't going to go into depth with these today, but they are good questions to ask yourself. Are you shooting a compound or recurve? Will you be shooting fingers or release? Are you left or right eye dominate? What let-off percentage are you looking for? What nocking point system would you like? What kind of peep sight would you like to use?
Now that you know the very basic pieces of information that you need to find a proper fitting bow, please go to your local archery shops and try out everything they have to offer. There is not one bow out there that is the best for everyone. What works for you may not work for me or the next person. Always take suggestions from friends and look into them. But be honest with yourself and find what feels good and is comfortable for you. You are the one shooting and putting your time and money into it. I just can't express enough how important it is to listen to yourself about what feels the best. What is the smoothest? What is the easiest to draw back? What just feels good in your hand? Think about the weight of the bow. Is it too heavy? What feels natural? How much vibration does it have on the release of an arrow? Does it have adjustable draw length? Sometimes as you progress, you may change your draw length. These are just a few questions to ask yourself.
Also, remember, after you have decided on what bow you want and you go to your archery shop to buy it, don't let them talk you into something else. If they don't have it there in stock, let them order it for you. Don't let them sell you something else just because they have it there. You know what works for you and what you want. Stick to it!
Lastly, have fun. Whether you are going hunting or just enjoy shooting targets, archery is so much fun. Stick to it. The more you practice, the better you will be. Everybody you know that shoots archery was a beginner at one point in their lives, no matter how good they are now. Shoot on archeress' and welcome to the addiction!