Dear Coach Ruis,
Right now, I draw to what I believe is full draw. However, when I get tired, my draw length shortens a tiny bit to something more comfortable. As a result, my crawl changes by half a stitch. Should my draw length be the same regardless of how tired I am? Additionally, should I slightly shorten my draw length so that it starts out the same as when I’m tired?
To be able to find your full draw position, it is generally created very close to your maximum extension, that is the end of your range of motion with all other aspects of your shot in good order. This is embodied in the “clicker check” in which you pull through your clicker without shooting and, while maintaining good form and your normal anchor position you expand as far you can. The arrow tip should not get past the clicker more than one quarter inch. Being this close to the end of your range of motion allows you to find your full draw position by feel (that uncomfortably tight feeling in your back). If you are shooting short of that position, you may be more comfortable but your draw will be more variable and will be even shorter (and more variable) when you tire. This is why recurve, especially Barebow Recurve is such a demanding discipline. You must be fit enough to not tire away from the full draw position that you can find. (Compound bows, on the other hand, have draw lengths built into them.) To ensure this your practice must be more demanding than competition. If a competitive round requires 30 quality shots, your practice rounds should involved 45-60 quality shots. In days past the “normal” time in which to shoot a FITA Round (144 arrows) was a single day. Consequently in order to be able to shoot that round without tiring, people shot 200-400 arrows a day in practice as preparation. (Not every day, but often enough.)
As Aristotle told Alexander, “There is no royal road to geometry,” the same is true for recurve disciplines. In many of the very old sources, much attention was placed upon building strength, so that very high draw weight bows could be used, and in those descriptions they assumed that the reader understood that these would be at high volume, so this has been known for quite some time. Today, with modern equipment, the emphasis is not so much on building up to very high draw weights but high shot volumes must still be incorporated into practice.
It is a common mistake, though, for relatively new archers, in their enthusiasm, to shoot high volumes in practice before they have, as I say, “found their shot.” In essence, the high volume practice burns into the archer’s mind their “current” shot, a shot that in all likelihood will end up different, so they commit the mistake of “practicing doing it wrong.” You must be sure that the shot you have is the shot you want before you incorporate high volume practice. Since you are still working on your shot, you are not “there” yet. The focus has to be on getting it right before getting it down.