Bowhunting Prep: How Long Can You Hold at Full Draw?

The August issue of Outdoor Life should be hitting newsstands or your mailbox any day, if it hasn't already. We're running a big bowhunting package that includes five shooting drills to get you prepared for archery season, and to write this piece I interviewed five bowhunting experts who used their experience to talk about shooting accurately in real-world hunting scenarios.

One of the most interesting takeaways I had from those conversations was the perspective of Dan Perez, CEO of Whitetail Properties, on fitness. Perez says that sitting in a stand for hours in below-freezing temperatures puts a huge strain on a hunter physically—even though you don't realize you're burning calories and energy just to stay warm.

The point here is that you probably aren’t going to be able to hold at full draw in a hunting scenario for as long as you think you can. After I got off the phone with Perez, I took out my bow and timed myself. I made 2 minutes and 19 seconds at full draw and I was shaking and sweating by the end of it. There’s no way I could have made an accurate shot on a deer after that long.

There are different mechanical factors that affect how long you can hold at full draw. Draw weight, let-off, and valley wideness all play a role. (One of Perez’s tips is to let your string rest in the valley while you’re waiting at full draw. This keeps you from over-pulling against the backwall and exerting more energy than necessary).

But physical endurance and mental strength are two major factors. So that’s what I’m practicing this summer. Perez trains like a pro athlete year-round to stay in peak physical condition. I’m not much of a gym guy, but I keep my bow in my home office and every other day I hold at full draw for as long as I can, keeping track with a stopwatch. I’m adding a couple seconds each time and shaking less every day.

Hopefully when that buck hangs up with brush covering his vitals, I’ll have the endurance to wait him out.

So, how long can you hold at full draw? How are you training this summer to improve?

Sidenote: If you do practice holding at full draw, do it with an arrow knocked. If you practice this at home, do it in the basement or an office and face toward a safe direction. You can (and should) also practice this drill at the end of your range sessions, but don't shoot the arrow. Let down and call it a day.