Learning archery is an intense process to follow if it’s for tournament competitions and wildlife hunting. But you may wonder about the difference between bows for competitions like the Olympics and hunting.
The size is the most obvious difference between an Olympic recurve bow and a hunting bow. Olympic recurve risers are 23-27 inches long, and hunting recurve risers typically have a riser of 15-17 inches.
Other differences are purpose, design, price, rules, speed, distance, draw weight, length, and weight.
The recurve bow is the only type of bow used in the Olympics. On the other hand, hunting bows can be a recurve, compound, or crossbow.
Olympic bows focus on consistency to put an arrow in the same place and time repeatedly. You shoot at targets to get the highest score possible, beating your opponents.
On the other hand, hunting bows need to put an arrow in a hunting zone quickly and quietly. Unlike Olympic bows, you may only need to shoot a few arrows until you harvest game animals.
Olympic bows also have clickers, which click when the arrow is pulled to a full draw. Hunting bows seldomly have clickers because it’s not practical to use them in the hunting zone.
Olympic bows often have bright and shinier designs, and their brand logos are more apparent. Bow makers created such to achieve a sporty look. The sight is adjustable for Olympic bows.
Hunting bows are more compact and made of wood. Some bows have dark or camouflaged patterns.
Using a target bow in your hunt isn’t a practical choice. You’ll be in the field during your hunt, and you can’t use bows with long stabilizers. Using colorful or shiny ones isn’t practical because animals, like coyotes, can distinguish bright colors right away.
Olympic archers need a longer bow with an open string angle. A sharper string angle of a hunting bow is more challenging to shoot a clean release because the string can squeeze the drawing fingers.
An Olympic recurve bow can cost as much as $800-$2,000, which is suitable for advanced archers. On the other hand, you can find hunting bows that cost over $1,000-$1,800. But you can also find quality hunting and recurve bows below $500.
Distance and speed
Manufacturers designed Olympic bows to fire at a consistent 160-230 feet. They are more accurate as you go beyond hunting distances.
With hunting, you don’t need to fire arrows at more than 100 feet. A hunting bow needs to release these faster to minimize missed shots caused by wildlife moving before the arrows get to them.
Olympic recurve bows can fire arrows at speeds of over 120 miles per hour. On the other hand, hunting bows, like crossbows and compounds, can propel an arrow at 245 miles per hour.
A faster arrow means a flatter trajectory, and they pass through smaller holes through trees without deflection at a certain distance. It creates more kinetic energy, which means it has a higher capability to penetrate the animal.
Olympics bows are longer than hunting bows and have longer stabilizers, which help the bow steady. These can be as tall as 64-70, which can be the same height or longer than the archer.
On the other hand, hunting bows are smaller at 50-64 inches because it’s easier to handle in the woods on the ground or at a treestand.
Weight and Draw Weight
Hunting bows have heavier draw weights at 40-60 pounds. Each state or jurisdiction has limits for draw weights. Olympic bows have average draw weights of 30-50 pounds for both male and female competitors.
The lightness of a hunting bow is a disadvantage at an Olympic competition because it has less stability. Olympic bows have to have a tighter grip at longer distances.
A bowhunter doesn’t need long-distance precision, and an Olympic archer doesn’t have to worry about the size of the bow.
Rules and Regulations
The Olympics have a qualification phase where each archery shoots 72 hours. The total score determines the seedings in the elimination rounds, where there are three arrows per set and four arrows for the mixed team event. The team event has six arrows per set.
Archers take turns firing an arrow, and each archer has 20 seconds to shoot per arrow.
The first archer or team to total six points is the winner in a match while the losers are eliminated. This format continues until the gold medal match, where the last two archers compete for the gold medal. The two semifinal losers will compete for the bronze medal.
On the other hand, hunting laws and regulations vary by country, state, or jurisdiction to protect the people, property, and resources. Regulations are also made for ethical hunting, fair competition, and wildlife population management.
Commissions and boards pass regulations following a public hearing – this allows hunters to provide their insights and address issues before the enactment of the rules and regulations.
Jurisdictions need bowhunters to apply for hunting licenses, tags, and permits. Some places also require bowhunting education and have specific seasons for bowhunting.
What draw weights do Olympic archers use?
Archery debuted in the Olympics in 1900 and contested in 1904, 1908, and 1920. It took a 52-year absence before returning in 1972 until today. Eighty-four nations have competed in the sport in 16 Olympiads.
Today, it has showcased the most competitive recurve archers.
Olympic archers draw an average of 45-50 pounds for men and 40-48 pounds for women. They prefer to shoot whatever draw weight they can control without getting their body sore in the next few days.
Although Olympic archers don’t draw as much weight as compound archers, they can hold 2-5 times more weight at full draw than most compound archers.
Compound archers can hold 60-70 lbs using a mechanical release that’s either held in their hand or strapped to their wrist.
However, Olympic archers shoot as nearly as 100 arrows between scoring and practice during competition days. They can take 4,000 lbs of cumulative draw weight under the pressure of the competition.
When you draw a competition recurve bow, you need to pull about 40 pounds of force, and an arrow shot can travel at speeds of over 120 miles per hour.
How do Olympic archers train?
Olympic archers embrace a strict 3-4 year training cycle to obtain peak physical condition. They focus on an intensive program, including archery workout routines, where they shoot 200-300 arrows per day.
Training will span across shooting at long and short distances, gym work, and cross-training. When they’re at home, they are training on bow repetitions and reversals.
Archery training can cost as much as $25,000 every year. Costs range from shooting range fees ($10 an hour) and coaching fees ($40-$100 per hour). Regional competitions can cost $3,000 per trip.
Archers ensure they are their fittest because the sport requires a stable frame to launch arrows multiple times. They incorporate cross-training that improves their strength and endurance, like swimming, weight lifting, and yoga.
Weight lifting strengthens your muscles and increases your stability. Yoga helps your posture and increases self-awareness, and swimming improves your overall muscle tone and increases muscle endurance.
A trusted coach will help you improve your consistency and make necessary adjustments. They play a lesser role in the archery competition itself, but they guide you through their technical expertise in the sport. They have in-depth knowledge of fundamentals, mechanics, and work performance.
You can also apply self-teaching through books and videos and speaking with fellow archers. Self-help also teaches you self-discipline, which applies to any aspect of your life.
Sleep isn’t for the weak
Archers don’t skip proper sleep as it is the most cost-effective recovery technique. During the sleep cycle, your body works to regenerate and repair muscle tissue.
If you don’t have enough rest, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol. Lack of sleep disrupts the natural production of human growth hormones (HGH), which is an essential hormone for energy production and muscle growth.
Not having enough sleep alters both your physical and mental states alongside performance. That means it causes poor judgment, reaction time, and injuries.
Nutrition is everything too
Olympic archers don’t just eat whatever they want because nutrition is another important aspect to be in their most-conditioned form.
They make sure that they have the right amount of carbs, protein, and fat. They have nutritionists who carefully plan their meals and chefs who prepare the food.
An effective recovery nutrition plan needs to have lean protein to get your body to repair itself after strenuous workouts. You need it to refuel yourself to stay ready for the next training session.
Shooting Training and Recovery
When you shoot in competition or training, each has a purpose.
When competing, it tests the effectiveness of your training. When training, you address a specific issue and work your way around it.
Archers have a workout routine multiple times a week with active recovery on rest days. By repeating the same shot creates muscle memory, which builds confidence to aim accurately.
While the muscles repair on a day off, they engage in non-strenuous activities, like biking, swimming, and walking.
How much do the bows cost that archers use in the Olympics?
Modern Olympic bows have advanced technology that helps you maximize precision amidst their light weight, and a recurve bow of that quality can cost as much as $800-2,000.
High-end bows have little wood as manufacturers make them out of aluminum and carbon fiber, both of which are strong and light-weight. That technology allows archers to put a lot of pressure on the bows and pull back the string without breaking these.
Top-level bows have stabilizers, a stick that serves as weights for archers to hold their bows steady while aiming. Stabilizers absorb vibrations as the archer releases the string.
Olympic archers use ultra-lightweight carbon arrows for shooting outdoors. The official distance for Olympic archery is 70 meters (230 feet). Indoor competitions have a target distance of 18 meters (60 feet) – archers often use aluminum arrows amidst their heaviness compared to carbon counterparts.
The Easton X10s is the golden standard for Olympic arrows as this the arrow of choice since the 1996 Games in Atlanta. These carbon-fiber arrows have a thin-wall aluminum core as these provide finger release forgiveness and correct frequency for modern recurve bows.
Arrows have plastic feathers called vanes, which are waterproof and lighter than genuine feathers. Vanes encourage arrows to rotate in the air, which allows faster and more stabilized flight.
Do you need to buy the most advanced archery bows?
If you’re just starting to get into archery, you don’t have to buy high-end bows. Great starter bows cost around $150-$300. Intermediate archers can invest in $500-$700 bows.
You have to work around the budget. As you get better at archery, you’ll see a variety of quality gear online. Brand new or used archery equipment is available online, and you just have to choose the ones that suit your taste and budget.
You can check for any upgrades online like eBay, Craiglist, and Amazon. You can also go to your local archery club for any items up for sale.
There’s no rush in choosing a bow
Instead of jumping into buying advanced bows, invest in taking archery lessons to get you started. Rates depend on each state and club. You can head to archery shops or visit their websites to check for pricing.
A disadvantage of rushing into buying is outgrowing your first set of limbs. Once you upskill, you will outgrow your bow because you get better at getting a heavier draw weight.
Choose a bow, depending on what type of archery you’re going to practice. If you want to try target archery, use a recurve bow with stabilizers and clickers. If you want to hunt, choose a smaller and more compact bow.
Also, consider the suitable length and draw weight for you and check how those factors affect the equipment.
Everything can be overwhelming, but you can ask your fellow archers or experts who can help you weigh in things to match your preference.