What Are The Different Types Of Bows?

Bows come in many different shapes and sizes, but there are only 3 basic types of archery and hunting bow. There are traditional/primitive often called stick bows (longbows and recurve bows), compound bows and crossbows.

You will need to check with the officials in your area to determine when you use different types of bows and where each type is allowed to be used.

Each bow type has its own pros and cons. Mostly it depends on you whether each type will be a good fit for you. Say if you want the most challenging of bow hunts you will go with a stick bow. If you have a physical disability that would keep you from drawing a bow then you should try out a crossbow. Then there are the compound bows these are stick bows with a whole lotta technology is thrown in.



Most bow manufacturers have many quality products in different price ranges from which to choose. Nearly every bow hunter will tell you that the brand he/she uses is the best and the other bows are overrated. Most of the time it is the brand of the bow that they first felt comfortable shooting. That is some of the passion that archery and bow hunting brings out in people.

So check out the different types of bows, and see which one will become your passion. Then head to the woods to really feel the passion of bow hunting.

What are compound bows

Compound bows are probably the most popular and used bows for bow hunting. They are designed to make you a better bowhunter. This is done by the technology used in making the bows. They have a cam system so that when you pull the string back to full draw you do not have to hold the full draw weight of the bow. This is known as the let-off of the bow.

Most manufacturers these days offer bows that the let-off can be adjusted from 65% to 85%. This means that if you have a draw weight of 70 pounds when you get the bow to full draw you will only be holding 10-25 pounds. That is quite beneficial when you have drawn on a game animal and you have to wait for it to get into your shooting lane or worse wait for the darn thing to quit looking in your direction.

The riser of the bow is the area where you grip the bow and where your arrow rests. The distance between the riser and the string when not drawn is the brace height. A bow with a higher brace height will be a more forgiving bow because the arrow is not on the string as long in relation to the arrow rest. With a higher brace height you will give up a little arrow speed, but speed is not the most important factor when bow hunting. 

The limbs of a compound bow are where the cams are located. They also are where the energy is stored to propel the arrow. When you draw the string back to full draw it “bends” the limbs. When the limbs are bent they naturally want to go back to where they started. Releasing the string allows the limbs to travel back to their starting point, at a very high rate of speed.

Top level bows today are being made more and more with parallel or past parallel limb design. This causes the limbs to act against each other when the string is released thus reducing vibration and noise when you shoot your bow. A quiet bow is a good bow.

All compound bow manufacturers have different types of cam designs. Some have single cam systems, others have two cam systems and still, others have a hybrid system that takes the best of each. They all do pretty much the same thing. They aid in drawing the bow and take care of the let-off. Compound bows can be fitted with all sorts of accessories and doodads to help you shoot better and faster.

What are crossbows

The crossbows of today are basically compound bows mounted sideways on a gun stock. That is a bit oversimplified, but not off the mark. Crossbow hunting is more like gun hunting than bowhunting in many aspects. You cock the bow once you get to your hunting area, and do not have to draw the string back when the animal comes into your shooting lane, just aim and shoot.

Since it has a stock and barrel set up you aim it much as you would a duck hunting shotgun or rifle. Most have a cam and cable system like compound bows. When you draw the bowstring back you lock it into the full draw position. They have a toe loop on the front end to help you draw.

As the string is locked into the full draw position, energy is stored in the limbs just as a compound bow is at full draw. When the trigger is pulled the string is released and the stored energy is used to propel the string and thus the bolt forward.

Crossbows use bolts instead of arrows. Bolts have the same components as arrows, with slight differences to the nock and shaft due to the added energy of the bow. Since it generally has a much higher draw weight than a compound bow. The bolts are shorter and thicker than arrows, and the nocks are shaped differently since they do not grip the string like an arrow. Both bolts and arrows use fletchings/vanes and tips.

To draw a crossbow, put the toe loop on the ground and put your foot in it. Grab the string with each hand on either side of the stock. Pull the string up towards you until it locks into place. Then wait for your chosen game to enter your shooting lanes. You do not have to use one hand to draw the string back as the animal comes into the view. Therefore, it can have a significantly higher draw weight than a compound bow.

The fact that you pre-draw makes crossbows an attractive option for those bow hunters. That is young or have physical limitations that prevent them from drawing a bow as they need to shoot.

I have also known several older bow hunters that no longer had the strength necessary to draw a hold a compound bow that has switched and continue to have success and still enjoy bow hunting.