Like most topics related to archery, arrow length can be more subjective to one's preferences rather than a one size fits all answer. There are many factors to consider when deciding what hunting arrow length is correct for your archery setup. However, pending your performance goals and what you value more there are some general rules of thumb to follow when deciphering the correct arrow length for your bow.
Let's dive in to explore the general rules of thumb and subjective nature of selecting the correct arrow length for your hunting setup.
Why Arrow Length Matters
Arrow length is important because it affects the way the bows interacts with the arrow, the dynamic spine of the arrow shaft, the spine of the arrow shaft, and thus how the arrow travels through the air. If the arrow is too short or too long for your bow, it can cause a number of issues including inconsistent shots, poor accuracy, and decreased overall performance and/or flight characteristics of the hunting arrow.
An arrow that is too short or long for your bow will also decrease the accuracy of the spine you have chosen for the specific hunting arrow. When comparing apples to apples, a short arrow shaft will have less deflection while a longer arrow will have more deflection. From the start when considering an arrow to purchase you really do need to understand what is going to impact the static spine of the arrow shaft. Those items being draw length, draw weight, point weight, and the power stroke of your bow.
Most importantly, each hunting arrow in your quiver should be the same length. Not only is this a safety precaution but it will also help with arrow to arrow consistency. For example a hunter with a 29" draw length is able to shoot a 28" or longer arrow but the 28" arrow will have different flight characteristics compared to a 29.5" arrow.
Determine Your Draw Length
At the very basic level, before deciding how long your hunting arrows should be, you need to confirm your draw length of the specific bow you are shooting. Your draw length is simply the measurement between the grip of the bow and the nock point when at full draw. Surprisingly, a lot of archery hunters don't know where they fall. While draw length can be specific to the bow you are shooting there is a "general" way to get a rough idea of what your draw length should be...Again, this isn't exact but more of an approximation to get you close.
A common method to determine draw length is to measure the distance from the tip of your middle finger on one hand to the tip of your middle finger on the other hand, while holding your arms straight out to your sides like a "T". Divide this measurement by 2.5, and round to the nearest half-inch to get your approximate draw length. This gets you a starting point until you can get into your pro shop and actually get your bow setup and tailored to your body.
If you're new to archery or even if you have limited bow tuning knowledge it's always best to visit your local pro shop. I previously mentioned, your draw length may be specific to the bow you're shooting....meaning it may vary .25" - .5" pending the bow. Your local bow technician ca make those finite adjustments to get your draw length dialed in to be exactly what you need. Also, many times your bow will list the factory specifications on the inside of the limbs. This should include the draw length spec at time of production. If you've bought a used bow, just be cautious as the previous owner may have different cam mods or have the bow setup outside of those listed specifications.
Now that you have your draw length dialed in, you can move to selecting the right arrow length for your hunting setup. There are a few things to keep in mind here.
Shorter arrows will tend to have better flight characteristics
A veteran archer or bow tech can do wonders and many times can make a multitude of arrows fly great. Because you've found this article through search, I'm guessing you're not a vet. That's ok. You don't know what you don't know.
Generally speaking, shorter arrows will have better flight characteristics when shot out of the correct setup. Shorter arrows will recover faster. Shorter arrows will have less oscillation thus a smaller cross wind signature, meaning less wind drift. Shorter arrows will have less deflection, meaning they are stronger.
Again, assuming we are comparing apples to apples shorter is better. However, remember we're talking about an inch or less in difference. If you need to shoot a 29" arrow don't attempt to shoot something 27.5" just because shorter is generally better. Shoot what performs best.
What type of broadheads you plan to shoot
This is where arrow length becomes subject. Many hunters who are using large fixed blade broadheads want there point to be in front of the bow's riser. There's two reasons for this.
1. Having the broadhead in front of your grip hand increases the safety, ensuring the broadhead will not come in contact with your fingers in the moment of truth.
2. Having the broadhead in front of your riser eliminates an broadhead and shelf contact that be cause disastrous results.
Many folks shooting smaller fixed blade broadheads and/or some type of expandable favor shorter arrow lengths where the broadhead sits above the shelf or above their grip hand. This mainly comes from the added benefits of flight characteristics of a slightly shorter arrow.
To each their own here.
Front Node placement
This topic gets relatively complex quick. Most non competitive archers have no clue what a "node" even is so let's start there. Every arrow has two nodes, which is a location on the arrow shaft where all vibration and forces move through. There is a front node and rear node. While many things impact the actual location of the two nodes of the arrow, having consistency of the front node placement directly on of your rest at time of launch offers some benefits. This ensures zero unwanted interference between your arrow shaft and rest regardless of style. Proper front node placement also delivers optimized energy transfer from your bow to your arrow. For a more indepth look at arrow nodes, check out the article, "Arrow Nodes Explained".
While you can tinker and play with different lengths to ultimately find what performs the best for you, you are losing both valuable time and money doing so. For this exact reason, Exodus has created an self help custom arrow builder with a proprietary algorithm used patented components and technologies to generate the ideal hunting arrow for you exact setup. What we've found is that proper front node placement can achieve with a total arrow length .5" shorter than your draw length the vast majority of time, IF a CTI is installed. This also creates proper broadhead placement for most people, excluding those with giant fixed blade broadheads. If you're one for tinkering by all means test away but if you're one who wants to focus more on harvesting big whitetails use the our builder and spend your time honing your passion and craft.
Author: Chad Sylvester, Exodus Co-Founder/Owner