Both longbows and recurves belong to traditional archery and are both more challenging and more fun (arguably) than compound bows to hunt with.
But the question of which between a longbow and recurve bow is better for hunting won’t go away.
For those planning to buy a hunting bow, this yields even more confusion.
And so I decided to chip in with my opinion…
Now, overall, recurves are shorter, extra maneuverable, and shoot arrows faster than longbows. This makes them more recommended for hunting.
In fact, because longbows rely on their elongated structure and stiffness for power, hunting with one is an enormous challenge unless you have requisite form and consistency.
Of course, you also need some solid practice before you’re good with a recurve but they’re on the whole more powerful and faster.
I will now proceed to run an in-depth Longbow vs Recurve Bow comparison including listing the pros and cons of hunting with each bow.
You will hopefully be able to pick the best for you by the end of the following comparison.
Longbow vs Recurve Bow (Which is a better hunter?)
Note: Since I wanted to create an extensive long bow vs recurve comparison with regards to hunting, I have broken down this post into multiple sections.
We will discuss each segment and see which bow offers the most benefits to an upcoming hunter.
Longbow vs Recurve Bow: Construction Differences
It’s important that we profile each bow.
The long bow comes first..
How is a longbow constructed?
A long bow is a tall type of bow– it can be roughly equal to your height– allowing you a significantly long draw.
Its limbs are somewhat narrow and are D-shaped/circular in the cross section.
The string of a longbow is absolutely separated from its top/bottom limbs.
Longbows trace their basic construction to our forefathers and were the first bow to be used by man.
Contemporary longbows are, however, made from various woods like yew, hickory, and lemonwood, rather than yew wood like in the medieval self bow.
Onwards now to the recurve bow..
How is a recurve bow construction different?
A recurve bow’s standout feature is the limbs that traditionally curve away from archers when unstrung.
The recurve permits a shorter frame than the rather simplistic straight limb long bow.
The shortness is a huge attraction for archers, especially those who often hunt in environments where long limbs can be clumsy, such as forest terrain.
You don’t want the trouble of a bow that repeatedly gets caught on foliage and branches when chasing a white tail.
Coming to materials, a recurve’s limbs are typically made from efficient and resilient materials such as carbon and fiberglass (on wood/carbon foam core).
The riser (central section) is again constructed from quality carbon, wood, or magnesium/aluminium alloy materials.
Then there’s the question of bow string….
Unlike the long bow (bows are separated from the bowstring), the string contacts both limbs in recurves.
A takedown recurve is preferred by some hunters because you can swap out the limbs in search of a better shot (after reaching a higher draw weight).
Even so, you might be better off with one piece recurves when starting.
These have a lighter draw and allow you to build your form gradually.
Long bow vs Recurve Bow: Performance comparison
Up next are the pros/cons of using each bow…
The case for using a long bow for hunting
The larger Longbows pack several performance advantages of its rival.
Take a look:
1. Long bows are more forgiving
The long bow’s profile is less exposed to string torque making these types of bows more forgiving when being shot.
That’s because some of the woods used in today’s long bows better withstand tension and/or compression compared to the composite materials used in recurves.
For example, hickory and bamboo stand firm against tension while lemonwood and yew handle compression sublimely.
The limbs thus resist twisting better.
In addition, the separation of strings in long bows means it experiences reduced friction and subsequently dampened vibrations.
In hunting, the noise makes animals flee so you’re likely to be more successful with a bow that shoots more quietly.
2. Long bows higher draw weights
English style longbows tend to come with higher weights than recurves for a number of reasons.
To begin with, put in mind that these bows were initially engineered as warbows and fighters desired 100+ pound draw weights.
Shooters who own them are hence pursuing that nostalgic war feel.
Secondly, these bows draw back longer -even behind your ear.
A longer draw automatically translates to increased final draw weight.
But does a higher draw weight introduce a pronounced performance gap?
Well, it depends on myriad factors- brace height, your skill, type of arrows etc.
In short, the more draw weight doesn’t necessarily boost your hunting.
As a matter of fact, some models of long bows lack raised draw weights.
3. Long bows are quicker to shoot
You take less time to prepare a long bow for a shot and that’s a good thing when you’re a novice.
This is actually a prime reason why these bows are considered beginner friendlier compared to recurve bows.
So, how is this possible?
You see, although the longbow’s limbs are thinner in width, the entire bow body is thicker and stronger than in recurves.
It’s hence more difficult for you to twist a longbow’s limbs when shooting- it can happen when you’re new- and send arrows off-target.
As a result, you don’t have to be overly considerate when taking aim making shooting these bows a simpler affair for rookies.
The case against using a longbow for hunting
Here come the negatives…
1. Longbows are cumbersome in certain environments
I had mentioned this..
Due to the longer, narrow limbs and circular cross-sections, longbows are on the whole less maneuverable.
You won’t like this if you will be hunting big game on horseback and in tight spots.
2. These bows are much slower
If shooting the best designed long bow and a recurve with the same draw length and weight, the long bow will shoot slower and less powerfully than its competitor.
The reason behind this is that longbows simply won’t store energy as efficiently as recurves.
And while the hindered arrow speed may not save a grossly mis-estimated shot range, it will certainly help you when you are off-mark by just a few yards.
There is a lot of physics that explains the energy inefficiencies and since I don’t want us to convert this into a fully-fledged physics class, allow me to leave it there.
3. Steeper learning curve
Despite some opposing assertions in various forums, learning a ‘serious’ long bow is more involving.
Don’t get me wrong..
The bow is easier and relatively simplistic (I said so above) and all that.
Nevertheless, if you dream of venturing into hunting all game types and harbor a burning ambition to become successful, it’s going to take you longer to perfect longbow handling and shooting.
This is primarily because this is a traditionalistic bow (not very mechanized) and relies, first and foremost, on the shooter’s artistry.
The case for using a recurve bow for hunting
I know you’re by now aware of why recurves are favored for hunting. This section explains these reasons in detail.
1. More power and speed
By exploiting their sprightly curved setup, recurves are more productive in storing and releasing kinetic energy.
Under the circumstances, some recurves can clock insane speeds- even over 250 fps.
In comparison, the fastest English longbow I have come across was shooting 177 fps.
2. Recurve construction allows tweaks
Another factor going for the recurve bow is on making tweaks to the bow.
At the start of the article, I talked about takedown recurves.
Now, in case you forgot, these are bows which can be disassembled and there are hunters I know who can’t touch any other bow.
I know you’re wondering what’s so special about them …
Well, the biggest news about them is that you can install stronger limbs in the future as your draw weight and form improves.
3. Super mobile
The disassembly also means that you can pack recurves in diminutive bow cases making this category of bows easier to transport.
Alongside this, recurves are shorter and more lightweight further improving their portability.
Where recurves fail in hunting
Truth be told, there’s nothing like a perfect weapon so our recurve bow has some features that I would rather were not there.
Consider the following:
1. Recurves are noisier
Recurved limbs over-stress the bow’s materials resulting in noisier shots.
The closer string contact (with the bow limbs) also makes it louder from the increased friction.
As I had highlighted previously, errant noises are a sure way of scaring game.
I would propose that you use string silencers to quieten your recurve bow- if you’re leaning towards recurves.
In addition, properly tuned recurves are much quieter.
2. Recurves immensely struggle in long-range shooting
Extreme recurves can be unstoppable but they still can’t hack long-distance shooting.
This is blamed on what we saw earlier- the bow’s shortened and lightweight nature.
And so your accuracy diminishes as you ramp up the distance.
For most, the lethal range is about 30-60 yards meaning you’re no longer assured of a kill beyond there.
A word on longevity
Away from the performances, you may want to know about which bow can serve you for longer..
By and large, wooden bows are more easily broke or dented by abuse. That tells the whole story about your average long bow.
They’re also quickly wrecked if left unstrung for too long.
In contrast, you can keep recurve bows made of contemporary materials like fiberglass, carbon, and wood laminations strung for much longer without losing shape.
The only concern is the risk of injury to your pets, visitors, or kids (especially) if they accidentally stumble on your strung bow.
A word on entertainment
I’m glad when my arrows land where I have aimed and that pushes me to recurves.
But I can’t deny that shooting a classic longbow can be really thrilling- you will be grinning from ear to ear with each shot.
You see, a longbow is the most natural bow so it triggers a rush of happy memories.
What to know about the recommended hunting draw weight
If you select to use either bow for hunting, be sure to go for a bow with 45 lbs. minimum draw weight.
Having said that, prey will give in to varying draw weights.
For instance, you can easily harvest a whitetail deer with a 40-lbs bow.
You will, nonetheless, need to draw better than 40 lbs if you’re after larger game.
To put this in a better context for you, bears, elks, and such animals require 50 lbs. going up regardless of the bow type.
At least we now a major similarity to speak about!
Are longbows more accurate than Recurves?
If we are talking of shooting a recurve and a long bow with equal draw weights, conditions, same arrows, and all else being equal, the recurve shoots more precisely overall.
Needless to say, I am assuming that you have developed proper form when doing this test.
Other comparisons: Longbows vs Recurve bow
Here we shall be very random.
- Hand shock: Sadly, the longbow construction can generate terrible hand shock. Some shooters claim it is so bad it gives them a throbbing headache.
- Beauty: In my opinion, recurves are cuter. I find the curves on models made of exotic hardwood utterly sexy.
- Grip: I find the grip on certain recurves (particularly the high-end ones) pleasurable to hold in my hands. I haven’t encountered a longbow that feels this good.
Our longbow vs recurves comparison has sought to answer the question of which bow is greater for hunting.
In summary, we have seen that recurves are shorter, more versatile, extra maneuverable, and shoot arrows with tremendous power vis-à-vis longbows.
Personally, I find them more advantageous to hunt with.
But since a weapon is pretty much a personal decision, I have expounded on the extraordinary differences between the two bows and the effect on their performances.
Go back to the comparison and try to make an informed decision..