In the world of archery hunting, we all know the long list of uncontrollable variables. Your equipment shouldn't be one of them. A frequent trend is for bowhunters to go spend serious money on a new bow setup but continue to shoot the same old arrows. Sometime it works out, sometimes it doesn't. Don't leave your hunting arrow performance as a variable. Make your hunting arrow performance a constant. Educate yourself, buy with confidence and shoot with confidence....That is the formula for a better archery hunting experience.
The challenge arises when bowhunters are blasted with marketing around new products, the latest and greatest, triggering our minds into thinking something new will make us better or more efficient or increase our odds of a successful hunt. Arrows certainly fall into that category.
Competition breeds innovation and success. Inside the arrow product category there is a never ending list of quality manufacturers, hunting arrow shafts, and build options. I also say that cringing, knowing how different companies market their products. There is certainly plenty of smoke and mirror scenarios here.
So how can we be certain, we are buying the best possible hunting arrow? Here are some things to consider
Arrow straightness is a prime example of smoke and mirrors. So many manufacturers sort arrow shafts post production and then market each straightness categories as separate products with different price points. The straighter the shaft, the higher the price. There's nothing wrong with paying a premium for tighter tolerances but there is something wrong with manufacturers not being transparent.
For a very long time I would always buy hunting arrows with the best straightness tolerances thinking I really was getting a better quality product. You can't expect to shoot perfect if your arrow shaft is perfect, right? Well, there's a few problems with mindset.
- When is your arrow actually straight? Only at rest. Instead of straightness we should be focused on flight characteristics like recovery time. How long does it take for that particular arrow to come into equilibrium and fly efficiently?
- We are not "Hooter Shooters". In reality, there are only a handful of archers in the world that can execute a shot consistently enough to see the performance difference between an arrow shaft with a .001" straightness vs a .006" straightness.
Keep arrow straightness top of mind when looking at different hunting arrow options. It will likely save you some money without any performance differences and remember straightness tolerances is the same as a square build spin tested.
GET YOUR SPINE RIGHT
This is the very first step to have a great hunting arrow. If you get this wrong you'll be in a world of frustration as you begin to actually shoot.
Static spine is just a measure amount of deflection in the hunting arrow shaft. For a full in-depth breakdown check out this article. All manufacturers should have a static spine selection chart for reference. To be accurate you will need to know your point weight, draw length or arrow length, and draw weight at a minimum.
Some other factors here are your bow's let off and cam design. The more aggressive the cam system is and the higher the let off percentage, the harsher the power stroke will be. This leads to a more drastic transfer of energy. If you're in between spines, your bow's power stroke is something you should absolutely take into consideration. Unfortunately, some spine charts won't do this for you.
Getting your spine wrong will end up leading to poor broadhead flight and arrow tuning problems. If you want to err on the side of caution being slightly over spined is always better then being under spined.
KNOW THE COMPONENTS AND BUILDS
Buying hunting arrows is so much more than the actual shaft. It's the front end components, it's the vane and configuration, it's the nock, and the broadhead. Land on the right combination with a quality build and you have great results. Land on the wrong combination and you will likely have great frustrations.
The process and combinations of variables can get quite complicated so when you find something that works stick with it. If you're still in search of that component combination, tinker and experiment until you find it. Below are some points to fast track that process...
- Know your nocking point diameter - Knowing this number you can ensure you choose the correct nock for proper nock fit.
- Know your point weight, including and extreme inserts/outserts - This is something that people lose sight of...They often think about the 150 grain broadhead but forget about the 100 grain outsert added to increase front weight. This WILL throw off your static spine. A good rule of thumb here is more weight up front increase deflection in the shaft. The same goes for adding length. The opposite is true for dropping weight and/or length.
- Know your bow setup - Understanding the EXACT draw weight, draw length, and let off will help you be more accurate when selecting the correct static spine.
- Understand your broadhead flight characteristics - This one is tough as it has other variables, but relates to your vane configuration. You do not want your broadhead battling your vane configuration for flight control. It's one or the other. High FOC guys will lean toward the broadhead pulling the arrow, most other's look for traditional builds where the vane configuration does the "steering". The point here is that you'll need to tinker...all assuming your bow is properly tuned and all else is good.
- Make sure ALL of your arrows are built off the dynamic spine of the shaft - This will dramatically increase the performance consistency arrow to arrow because each arrow will react in a very similar manner when shot from your bow.
- Make sure you have a square build and tight tolerances - This is something that is not a variable. Arrow to arrow build tolerances should be consistent and square. If not, you don't really know what exact the arrow is doing out of your bow.
Like I mentioned there are alot of variables and different combinations which make it somewhat challenging so take control of what you can...knowing your setup and the build process.
THE GAME YOU SEEK
This seems like common sense but yet again it's not all black and white. You need to know what you are hunting, how much KE and Momentum are needed from your hunting arrow, and also know the style you hunt. For instance, a guy who only hunts whitetails from elevated positions, not taking shots over 25 yards does not have the same hunting arrow requirements of a hunter chasing elk from the ground!
The starting point here is knowing what it takes to get two holes with a well placed shot...That is the goal. We need to look at KE and Momentum here. Have enough of each to accomplish that goal in relation to what you are hunting and how you plan to hunt. More on that here.
After you get the KE and Momentum right, you need to decide if trajectory is a priority OR if added energy for "what ifs" are more important. Unfortunately, if you go to the extremes you can have both. For example a 380 grain arrow out of a 65lb setup is going to have great trajectory characteristics but no "what if" energy. You can go the total opposite with a 800 grain arrow with all the "what if" energy in the world but misjudge your yardage and you might as well be off a mile. Don't overcomplicate things....Have enough KE and Momentum and get to the mark as fast/flat as possible.
At the end of the day a moderate weighted arrow, something in the mid 480s out of a 70lb bow with a 30" draw length has enough KE and Momentum for anything in North America.
THINGS TO AVOID
Don't fall for the cool factor. Yes, color coordinating your arrows, bowstring, and other accessories look cool but looking cool isn't the goal. Harvest photos are a lot cooler than those range day photos. I think we can all agree to that. Here are a few things to avoid or at least second guess.
- Skip the wraps - Wraps offer zero performance benefits.
- Forget the arrow branding - Marketing teams often want something with flashy colors and sexy eye appeal. Don't fall for it. Maximize the white surface area to help identify shot locations when your hunting arrow is covered in blood.
- Second think color coordinations - If the component or arrow has performance benefits your after and you can get it in the color your heart desires....awesome. If not, skip it.
- Avoid shiny components - We spend a lot of effort and money to get close to game. Don't blow it by having some 3 inch long shiny object on the end of your arrow.
THE PERFECT HUNTING ARROW SETUP
I've said this over and over again. The "perfect" hunting arrow is one that you have 100% confidence in and can shoot consistent. I hope that these few tips help you get that point as fast as possible and find success in the field.
Author: Chad Sylvester, Exodus Outdoor Gear Co-Founder/Owner
Featured Image: Sam Ubl - Chase Nation