Yes, you can absolutely shoot a compound bow using just your fingers, but being able to do so depends on your strength and the draw weight of the compound bow in question.
What is draw weight? Draw weight, measured in pounds (lbs), is the amount of force it takes to pull the bowstring back before it reaches the let-off stage. Once this stage is reached, the bowstring requires far less force to hold in place, aiding accuracy and preventing finger fatigue.
If the draw weight is too much, even if you’re strong enough to draw the bowstring, it can still be quite painful, so shooting with your fingers in this instance isn’t sustainable.
Using three fingers can alleviate the pain ever so slightly, but we’d recommend using an archery glove. Here’s one of our all-time favorites:
Failing that, you may want to consider a compound bow with a lighter draw weight.
Here are some general guidelines you can use.
- Small Child (40-70lbs) = 10-15lbs Draw Weight.
- Bigger Child (70-100lbs) = 15-20lbs Draw Weight.
- Light Women and Large-Framed Children (100-140lbs) = 30-40lbs Draw Weight.
- Larger-Framed Women and Youth Boys (140-160lbs) = 40-50lbs Draw Weight.
- Strong Women and The Majority of Men (160-190lbs) = 55-65lbs Draw Weight.
- Very Strong and Large Women and Men (190lbs+) = 60-70lbs Draw Weight.
You should never try to push yourself to the next draw weight because the bowstring will take so much effort and focus to pull, your accuracy will take a massive hit, and you’ll fatigue faster.
Pros and Cons
So, now you know that you can shoot a compound bow with your fingers, the question you have to ask yourself becomes, Should you shoot a compound bow with your fingers.
Many archers prefer the feel of shooting a compound bow without any help, but there are some inherent downsides to dodging that release aid.
Firstly, getting the release just right without catching the string is tricky to get down. Even with a light draw weight compound bow, a messy release that pinches your finger is going to hurt like hell.
If you’re determined to get good using just your digits, before going in bare-handed, we recommend using this Hide & Drink, Rustic Leather Right Handed Archery Finger Tab.
The uncomfortable truth for those that favor the fingers is that release aids are far more accurate, especially over long distances.
The reason for this enhanced performance is that there is only ever a single point of contact on the bow string, meaning when you pull that release trigger, there’s literally nothing for the string to catch on.
A release also prevents fatigue which is a huge reason for inconsistency in your shooting.
The same contact point argument applies to the power of your shot. With three or even two points of contact, the force with which the bowstring fires the arrow is reduced. When there’s that single point of contact, and the string is only curved directly behind the arrow, it makes for a faster shot.
Another reason to give up on the au naturale approach to compound bow archery is that all the oils on your fingers can drastically shorten the service life of your bowstring. They’ll set you back anywhere between $60-$200, so unless you’re made of money, you’ll want them to last as long as possible.
If you’d like to give a support aid a try, we recommend this SHENG-RUI Archery Release Aids Compound Bow Trigger.
Now let’s focus on the benefits of shooting compound bows with your fingers.
One of the biggest arguments for shooting with your fingers is the feel of the shot. There’s just something about cradling that string with your own appendages that feels incredibly satisfying. It may hurt a little from time to time, but it’s tactile, and you feel like a warrior of old.
Another feather in the finger cap is that you don’t have to waste time hooking up a release. You simply grab hold and pull. This is an extremely handy (pun definitely intended) aspect of using your fingers, and it pays off in time sensitive situations during a hunt.
Granted, fingers aren’t perfect, but using a release, there’s always a chance of mechanical failure.
If you’re still dead set on only using your fingers, here are a few pointers to help you master this tricky technique.
- Don’t Twist the Bowstring – This can derail your arrow.
- Don’t Use Your Fingertips – Hook the string deeper into your finger to prevent slipping and reduce fatigue.
- Fingers Close to the Arrow – For optimal comfort and release, keep your fingers as close to the arrow as possible without touching it.
- Use Two Fingers if You Can – One above and one below reduces contact points and improves accuracy.