Making the Switch to Traditional Archery

Just about everybody reaches a point in some aspect of their life when the need for a new challenge arises. In hunting, and more specifically archery hunting, that’s making the switch from modern compound bows to the traditional gear that was once the norm for killing animals in times of peace and men in war. Trad bows, as they’re regularly called, have been swept up in the spinning current of “what’s old is new again.” And sometimes the only way out is to give in.

“Killing big game animals with a compound used to be a big deal,” said CJ Davis, a traditional archery advocate and president of Montana Decoy. “Technology has helped us forward and lessened the challenge.”

It’s human nature to separate self from pack. But these evolutions don’t typically take place overnight. Especially in an arena so rife with technical complications from building a longbow or recurve and learning to shoot it accurately.

These stick and string bows are going to shorten your kill range considerably. Stand placement, wind and scent control become paramount. As does patience and nerve and the need to become the most accurate bow shooter in the county. Chances are you’re one of just a tiny fraternity going after game the way Native Americans once did.

Since this is the beginner’s guide to becoming a traditional archery hunter, let’s belly up to pre-acquisition - if you’re merely thinking about making the switch, but have not yet committed, this article is for you. We’re going to answer some questions to make the transition smooth.

Make a Friend

Find an individual with the knowledge and capacity to help you get started, such as someone who specializes in traditional archery gear. “My first response every time someone asks me about switching to traditional archery is, ‘Call Tom Clum at Rocky Mountain Specialty Gear in Denver,’” said Trevon Stoltzfus of Outback Outdoors. “Tom has been shooting traditional archery for more than 40 years and really knows his stuff.” Whomever you find that can be your jumping point, lay any and all concerns on the table and take notes of the responses you receive.

Find a Bow

Proper gear leads to the enjoyment of shooting, which leads to a committed regiment that. And with the development of good form, that can only end up as accuracy. Don’t get a bow with too high of a poundage. Without let off, as we’re used to in compounds, the time you’re able to hold back diminishes considerably. If you think 50 pounds will suffice, go with 40. Just try it. If that extra 10 pounds makes a positive difference, then go back up.

“The number one mistake I see people make with a recurve is ‘overbowing,’” said Trevon. “That’s why it’s so important to get a bow in your hands and shoot to see what’s comfortable before making the purchase.”

Get Some Arrows

Next on the list is arrows. When it comes to matching the bow with the arrow, carbon, with its higher spine tolerance, solves a lot of problems. Start with a full-length shaft and continue to cut it down until you find what fits. Sure, you could become an absolute purist and shoot wooden arrows, but they require a lot of dedication from the way they’re to built to how they’re stored. For hunters in the Southeast especially, humidity can cause problems and make wooden arrows an expensive habit.

Match a Broadhead

Play with various broadheads until there is a perfect marriage that results in good arrow flight. The 150-grain Sharpshooter Traditional from Wasp Archery is a great weight for this kind of setup. It’s super easy to adjust and replace the blades. This latter point of which is important to CJ on a personal level. “There’s not a time I go into the woods and don’t shoot at something,” he said. “Whether it’s a squirrel or just a dirt clod as I’m walking in, I just love shooting these bows.”

What you would gain in trajectory with a lighter broadhead is not worth what you’ll lose in penetration. While the disadvantage of heavy arrows is more arch in flight, that’s also the challenge in making the switch: getting closer to your quarry. However, the modern longbows and recurves now get about 200 feet per second, so it’s not like you’re throwing a spear.


Practice makes perfect. Your tee-ball coach spoke those words onto deaf ears. Weeks before a music recital the teacher told you it’s the only way to not get embarrassed. One hundred times a day for 60 straight muggy summer mornings dropping back to throw the same fade route to the back of the endzone and so on.

“Shoot as much as possible and shoot as much as possible,” are two of the top three pieces of advice from Casey Crawley of Culpepper Outdoors in Evans, Georgia, who is a long-time traditional bowhunter. “Shooting this type of bow really boils down to instinct,” he added.

<img alt="When making the switch to traditional archery, a consistent practice regiment is paramount to accuracy." data-cke-saved-src="/uploads/blog/archery-2756048_1920.jpg" src="/uploads/blog/archery-2756048_1920.jpg" "="">When making the switch to traditional archery, a consistent practice regiment is paramount to accuracy.

“It’s kind of like throwing a baseball,” said Trevon. “Every time, I’m going to pick a spot and try to hit it. If I miss, then I’m already making that adjustment in my head.”

Another top piece of advice from Trevon is to practice on targets for 365 days before taking your new setup into the woods. “I would tell anyone to practice for a year before taking it to the woods. That’s the only way to learn your limits.”

If you find your max yardage to be 20, be prepared to let a buck walk at 25. Because when hunting season rolls around, it’s accuracy that’s going to keep your recovery record squeaky clean.


Modern recurves are making the changeover easier for several reasons: availability, accessibility and price. There are a lot of good entry-level bows that won’t break the bank. And who knows, you might have to buy two or three over the course of several seasons before finding the exact fit.

Just remember, taller guys need longer bows; weight, grip and length are important to match your body type, as your preferred style (the way you shoot). Play with the various grips - split finger, three unders, walking the string, etc. - until you find what is natural and instinctual.

“Don’t take for granted the fact you’re shooting a simpler setup,” said Casey, making his third most important point. “There’s still tuning involved, so it’s just as important to make sure that your arrow length, arrow spine and point weight are well suited for your setup. This is the only way to achieve perfect arrow flight and accuracy.”