What Is The Minimum Draw Weight For Deer Hunting?

Deers are not small animals. If you are hunting them, you are going to need to make sure that you have the right equipment to effectively take them down. If you don’t, you will likely only injure the deer. Not only does this mean that you won’t get your kill, but it is also incredibly inhumane.

To be a successful archer, you need to think about several factors when it comes to deer hunting. But one of the most important is the draw weight of your bow. If this isn’t heavy enough, there isn’t going to be enough force to propel your arrow powerfully enough to kill the deer.

In this article, we are going to be exploring what the minimum draw weight for deer should be as well as giving you some handy tips.

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What Is Draw Weight?

The draw weight of a bow refers to the weight of pulling the bowstring back to full draw. You might sometimes hear this being called poundage, but they are one of the same thing.

If you are drawing a bow with a poundage of 50lbs, this would be akin to picking up an object weighing 50lbs. For this reason, the weight of a bow that you could handle may be vastly different from the weight of a bow that I could handle.

Everyone has different levels of strength and so it is vital that you choose a draw weight that you are comfortable able to manage draw after draw. But we will look at this in a little more detail later on.

There are many things that would impact the draw weight of a bow. But one of the biggest influencing factors is how stiff the limbs are. The more flexible the bow’s limbs, the lower the draw weight. This is because, as you draw the bow, flexible limbs will move more easily, meaning that there is less resistance.

If you are planning to go out and hunt deer, you will need a minimum draw weight; but what happens if this is too heavy for you? If this is the case, you are not alone. But the good news is that by using a compound bow, you will typically be able to shoot something with a much greater draw weight.

The reason for this is all down to the fact that these bows have what is known as let off.

What About Let Off?

Let off is a feature of all compound bows. The compound bow is a relatively new invention, having only been properly designed in the 1960s. Rather than being a simple pull-back design like more conventional bows, compound bows work a system of cams and strings.

This design has a huge advantage for archers since it will hold a lot of the draw weight so that you don’t have to.

The let off of a compound bow is usually given as a percentage. For example, if you are using a compound bow with a draw weight of 50lbs and a let off of 50%, the bow would take 25lbs of the weight. This means that you would only need to handle the remaining 25lbs.

Why Does Choosing The Right Draw Weight Matter?

When you buy a bow, one of the first things that any good archery shop assistant will do is talk to you about the draw weight. This is important for several reasons.

Primarily, as an archer, you need to be able to handle your equipment comfortably. If you are using a bow with a draw weight that is too high, you won’t be able to use the bow as effectively.

While you might feel comfortable drawing the bow once in an archery shop, things can feel vastly different when you’re out in the field. What a lot of people don’t realize is that many archery injuries stem from the archer using a bow that is too big for them.

There’s no shame in admitting when the draw weight is too heavy. Not only will this make the whole archery experience a lot easier for you, but it will also mean that you can take a much more accurate shot.

One of the main things to keep in mind when hunting deer is that you want to hit the deer in the vitals to take it down as quickly as possible. If you struggle with the weight of your bow, you might misfire, hit another part of the deer, and merely injure it. This isn’t good.

There is a common misconception among new archers that using a higher draw weight will increase the speed of the arrow. Yes, a higher draw weight will cause the arrow to fly faster; but only if you can handle it.

Shooting a bow with a higher draw weight than you can handle may increase the speed, but with your accuracy out, this won’t make a difference to the end result. You’ll get a much more precise and successful shot by lowering the draw weight.

Furthermore, you should keep in mind that many bowhunters choose heavier arrows. These do not have anywhere near as much speed as lighter arrows yet still make an effective kill. The skill of taking down a deer doesn’t lie as much in the draw weight itself, but rather your ability to handle it.

Can I Kill A Deer With A Low Draw Weight?

If you have had to take a considerably lower draw weight than you expected, you may be concerned that you won’t be able to hunt deer with as much success as you would have liked.

One thing that you should keep in mind is that while draw weight will influence the success of a kill, this isn’t the only factor that will.

When you are shooting a bow with a lower poundage, there are other things that you must consider. The higher draw weights will allow for deeper penetration of the arrow and will do a good job at hitting the vitals. However, lower draw weights can achieve just as much success provided that you hit the animal in just the right place.

Before you start shooting with a lower weight bow, make sure that you keep the following things in the front of your mind.


When shooting further away from a target, the arrow has to cover a greater distance. However, when you are closer, not only will the arrow lose less speed thanks to being closer, but it will also be easier to aim for your target. This is simply because the deer will appear much bigger than if you were further away.

For this reason, if you are shooting a lower poundage bow, we would advise getting as close to your target as possible.

Weight Of The Arrow

As we discussed earlier, many bowhunters will use a heavier arrow for better penetration. If you are using a bow with a smaller draw weight, a heavier arrow can complement your setup well.

Placement Of The Shot

There is potentially nothing more important than getting your shot in exactly the right place. If you want a successful kill, you must hit the deer in its vital organs. This means the heart and lungs.

Regardless of your bow’s draw weight, hitting the deer anywhere other than this will not cause a significant blood trail to kill it quickly. The only thing that you will likely achieve is maiming the animal. Yes, it may die over time, but this is not humane nor will you be going home with your prize.

Choose The Right Broadhead

Broadheads are one of the most effective types of arrows for bowhunting and are used by most archers hunting deer.

If you want to make sure that your lower poundage bow will still yield as good results as an 80lb bow, then you must choose the right broadhead. Fixed-blade broadheads are one of the best options.

Laws On The Minimum Draw Weight For Deer

There are regulations that archers need to adhere to when bowhunting. However, depending on your location, these may vary.

In the USA, the typical minimum draw weight for deer is 40lbs although there are some states where this is different. The only way to determine this is to check with your state before hunting.

40lbs is typically the lowest weight that you could use to effectively kill a deer. That being said, there are skilled archers that could shoot a 35lbs bow and still be successful. The lowest legal draw weights in the USA are in Pennsylvania and South Dakota who both require a minimum of 30lbs.

Conversely, in North Dakota, hunters are required to have a bow with a poundage of at least 50lbs for hunting deer. If you live in Wisconsin, you will need to have a minimum draw weight of 100lbs! It isn’t difficult to see how much variation there is depending on your locality.

That being said, there are some states that do not have any regulations that stipulate a minimum or maximum draw weight for deer hunting. These states include;

  • New York
  • Mississippi.
  • Kentucky
  • Kansas
  • Arizona
  • Alaska
  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Iowa
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia
  • South Carolina
  • California
  • Missouri

You should also consider that there is a maximum draw weight in many locations around the USA. The highest maximum is 200lbs and this is permitted in the state of Pennsylvania. So, while they also have the lowest draw weight restriction, they are also the most versatile state.

One of the most common questions is whether a bow as low as 20lbs could take down a deer. Unfortunately, the truth is that when you begin to get down into these very low weight categories, the bow wouldn’t have the power to propel the arrow effectively enough to kill a deer.

Aside from hunting deer, there are other legal minimum draw weights if you want to hunt other animals.

  • When hunting moose, the draw weight should be no less than 65lbs
  • When hunting antelope, the draw weight should be no lower than 40 – 65lbs but this will depend on the size of the animal.
  • When hunting bears, the draw weight should be no less than 40 – 65lbs but again, this will depend on the size of the animal.
  • When hunting elk, the draw weight should be no lower than 40lbs

How Do I Determine My Draw Weight?

We have talked about the importance of finding the correct draw weight and we must reiterate this point. Having a draw weight that is too high will only end in disaster. If you want to effectively and efficiently kill deer, you must find the proper poundage.

When you first go shopping for a bow, you should be given the option to try out different draw weights. The professional in the archery shop will offer you a selection of bows to try out.

However, a mistake that many people make is trying out a bow in the archery shop and finding it easy to draw then immediately committing to that bow.

Imagine that you have a 70lbs weight on the floor in front of you. Lifting it once may not require too much effort. However, if you then have to lift it over and over again, you might quickly become fatigued.

The same is true for a bow. This means that you should try the bow several times to ensure that you can handle the weight.

One of the best things to do is to try to hold the bow at full draw for at least thirty seconds. If you can manage this without shaking or feeling strained, then you can feel confident that the bow will be suitable.

Alternatively, you could attempt to draw the bow thirty times in a row. If you are able to do this, then the bow should work well for you. However, if you notice that you become tired before the thirty draws have been completed, you will need a lower poundage.

On a compound bow, the weight can be altered. But it is important to keep in mind that this is only within around a 10lb range. For example, if you have a 60lb bow, you might be able to adjust the weight between 50lbs and 60lbs. You certainly wouldn’t be able to change it to anything significantly different.

Altering your draw weight is simply a matter of making the limbs either tighter or looser. This is done by turning the limb bolts and as a general rule, turning the bolt once will alter the weight by around 2lbs.


Hunting deer requires just the right setup, especially if you intend on being successful. And we would guess that most archers want success!

One of the things that you should consider when hunting deer is the bow’s draw weight. This is the amount of force required to pull the bow back and in most places, there is a legal limit of the minimum draw weight for deer.

Across the United States, the average minimum is anywhere between 30 and 50lbs although this will vary by state. Before hunting, we would always advise checking the state laws.

It is also imperative that you select a draw weight that is comfortable for you. Failing to do this could mean that your shots are not as accurate and you don’t make a kill as easily.

About Brad Harris