I recently took the opportunity to peruse the women's discussion just out of latent curiosity and happened to notice a discussion on the minimum bow requirements for taking elk. I was sorely tempted to enter this discussion, being the inveterate big mouth that I am, but in deference to the ladies I decided to demur. I did this because some of the answers the lady who started the thread was getting have already been posted many times to male forums. I suspect the ladies giving these answers might be repeating what they've heard or read in male discussions. Therefore, I hope some of them will be so kind as to repeat this one too.
In many states the minimum draw weight specified for taking elk is the same as for deer, 40 pounds or so. However, some people have asserted, based evidently on kinetic energy calculations, that this lower limit is too low.
From a traditionalist's perspective such an assertion should be taken with a good deal of skepticism if for no other reason than that native people have harvested elk and even bison, who are a good deal bigger than elk, with bows in the 40-45 pound range. Apparently they did this out of pure ignorance of kinetic energy requirements because they didn't read the right books or magazine articles.
I've been especially critical of kinetic energy analyses in the past because they're frequently raised during typically volatile discussions of pistol cartridge stopping power. In most cases these analyses might reveal a rather weak statistical corrolation but not much else. That they have been subsequently raised in bowhunting discussions is therefore somewhat unfortunate.
I once harvested a bull elk with a 50 pound recurve at around 15 yards, not an amazing feat really, but one I mention because it involves what I regard as details pertinent to the discussion. The most pertinent detail in my view is that I hesitated to take the shot.
The bull was in a classic full profile position making the shot easy enough but a complication arose because there were two cows behind him. I therefore waited for the cows to get clear before taking the shot. Fortunately, the bull remained still and I successfully arrowed him. What's especially pertinent though is the arrow did go completely through his chest cavity. I found it at a location on the other side which left no doubt that my concerns about wounding the cows was entirely merited.
Now if a 50 pound bow can do this, I have little doubt a 40 pound bow could too although the overpenetration might not be as spectacular. There should be absolutely no doubt the 40 pounder would penetrate enough to harvest the bull.
Kinetic energy concerns seem to have been raised during the introduction of compounds when archers frequently used lighter arrows, because they thought they could. This in turn gave them flatter trajectories but apparently at the same time caused some concern about penetration. Kinetic energy savants quickly weighed into the discussions asserting that the lighter arrows had quite enough penetration to do the job as well if not better than the heavier, but slower, traditional arrows.
And there's been disputes going back and forth ever since. I suspect the consensus now is that light arrows aren't especially effective and are most definitely hard on the bow because much of it's energy is transmitted to the limbs not the arrow and it tends to get a good deal noisier as a result.
However that might be, I don't think the discussions have advanced the sport in the least, but rather have imposed another needless complication on something that ought, in principle at least, to be rather simple.
If one doesn't try to drill an elk lengthwise or punch through its shoulder blade, kinetic energy levels or bow poundage should be of little concern provided the poundage reaches the minimum legal requirement. What should be of concern is getting within practical range, waiting for an acceptable shot angle or setting up one, and shooting arrows of sufficient weight with razor sharp broadheads.
I don't think a woman or man for that matter should have to clutter up her or his brain with kinetic energy calculations or doubts regarding the appropriateness of the bow draw weight. There's more than enough to concentrate on without all that and it's of dubious value anyway so why bother with it?