How to choose the perfect hunting arrow

Bow Bootcamp is a 10-part series designed to get you, your gear and your skills in top shape before the first fall season. That means gear checks, accessory adjustments, precision bow tuning, and shooting exercises to get you fully dialed in at the right time. In Part 1, we did a thorough bow check. Now it’s time to choose the perfect arrow.

After making sure your bow is in good working order in Part 1, you probably expected bow setup to be next. And that’s probably how most people would proceed. But in my experience, the next step should be choosing the arrows (and then building the arrows). Why? Because if you just grab any old shaft from the garage, it might not be exactly the same diameter as the arrow you’ll eventually shoot, and that can cause minor accuracy issues. Instead, choose your hunting arrow first and use it to set up and adjust your bow and you won’t have any problems in the end. So here’s the drill.

1. Choose the right arrowhead.

How to choose the perfect arrow for this fall's bow season
The number “400” on these Gold Tip Hunter XT arrows indicates the spine of the shaft.

The first step to getting the right arrow shaft is choosing the right shaft for you and your bow. Spine is simply the stiffness of the arrow and is labeled right on the shaft with numbers like 500, 400, 340, 350, 250, and so on. Many new archers mistake these numbers for arrow grain weight. So don’t get so confused. (We’ll talk about weight in a second.)

When looking at spine values, the lower the number, the stronger the arrow; the higher the number, the less rigid it is. For example, if you’re pulling 70 pounds and you choose an arrow with 500 spines, the energy of your bow will cause that sharp arrow to bend a ton in flight and never recover, which can create serious problems. of accuracy. It can also be dangerous. Once at an archery tournament, I saw an archer—one worn out with arrow speed—attempt to shoot a 500-back arrow from an 80-pound bow. The shaft exploded on impact because the thin carbon wall could not withstand the energy of the bow.

On the flip side of the coin, my wife pulls 45 pounds and shoots a 500 spine arrow, which is perfect for her placement. If he shot an arrow with 250 spines, the arrow would be too thick and heavy, and it would lose a ton of speed and its accuracy would suffer.

The good news is that manufacturers make it easy, as they all provide a chart on their websites. As long as you know your drawing weight and height, the chart will show you the best spine values ​​for you.

2. Select arrow shaft weight in grains per inch.

photo of hunter with deer
Author with a big money. For whitetail hunting, some archers like a heavy arrow because it is quieter. Jace Bauserman

Once you’ve decided on the right spine, the next step is to decide how heavy you want to shoot a shaft—expressed in GPI, or grains per inch. For example, if you are looking to gain arrow speed for flat shooting, you will want to use a properly rolled arrow that is relatively light or has a lower GPI value.

Easton Sonic 6.0 Arrow


My friend, Danny Farris, likes a little speed. His Easton Sonic 6.0 arrow has a spine rating of 340 and a GPI of 7.8. I’m what I refer to as a tweezer – I like speed but also want some weight behind my arrow to aid penetration. My Easton Axis 4MM Long Range has a spine of 340 but weighs 8.3 grains per inch. Other hunters, especially those after heavy-boned game like elk, or whitetail hunters looking for a heavy shaft that flies smoothly, will go with an even stronger GPI rating.

3. Decide if you want micro-diameter arrows?

The current craze is micro-diameter shafts, and I love them. That said, I love them for a specific reason—because I live out West, and my Western game shots are usually farther than the average shot from a Midwest or Eastern tree stand. Micro-diameter arrows have better ballistics and give the wind a smaller surface area to crush in flight. However, if you have whitetails and turkeys, and you’re not shooting 3-D competitions that make you extend your range beyond 60 yards, standard shafts work extremely well and save you some coin.

Easton long radius 4mm axle


4. Think about FOC and inserts.

Most arrows, whether you buy them as stock or stock shafts, will come with inserts, but manufacturers give you options here as well. For example, my Axis 4MM long-range shafts come with standard Half-Out aluminum inserts that weigh 50 grains. But I might go with a 55-grain Titanium Half-Out or a 95-grain Steel Half-Out if I wanted to increase the weight on the front of my arrows, which is known as increasing the FOC (front of center) . Technically, FOC is the percentage of your arrows total length that is between the center of the arrow and the balance point in front of the center (closer to the tip). The more forward weight, the greater the percentage and the higher the FOC. Much has been said about the desire for a high FOC because it helps stabilize the flight and increases penetration. But be careful: too much and your arrow will sink into the nose. An FOC between 10 and 15 percent is about right. And an easy thing was to fine tune the FOC is getting a slightly heavier or lighter insert.

If this is at all confusing, just call your arrow manufacturer or tell the pro you want a 10 or 15 percent FOC before you buy. They will guide you to the right choice.

5. Decide if you want standard or flared joints?

Most bowhunters go with the standard arrow pack – I usually do, and it has served me well. Other bowhunters prefer a custom nock, which for most means a flared nock. Flare shots are great, and I use them when hunting whitetail deer. You just have to understand that a flared shot will be heavier than a standard shot and you will need to adjust your bow accordingly. You never want too much weight on the back of your arrow, so if you have flight issues with flared knots, you can increase the FOC a bit (see above) or go back to standard knots.

6. Keep the choice simple.

picture of arrows
A variety of good fletching options. Jace Bauserman

As for fletching options, there are too many out there to count. You want to keep it fairly simple. If you plan to shoot a mechanical broadhead, you don’t need long, ultra-strong paddles. Instead, you want to go with a semi-rigid, low-profile blade that creates less noise but still stabilizes the flight. My pick is AAE’s Hybrid 23s. They are stable, quiet in flight and guide my arrows very well. For fixed blade broadheads, you want a little more beef. You can still go with a shorter 2- to 3-inch blade—Bohning’s Blazer is a great choice—but make sure the blade has a little more stiffness. Longer, low-profile blades are also a good option for fixed heads, as they can be a bit quieter. Take a look at the spiral too. On the plus side, adding helix makes your arrows spin faster, which improves stabilization and accuracy. On the downside, it adds drag. So for whitetail hunters who keep their shots within 40 yards, the coil makes a lot of sense. Helical also makes sense for longer distances, but in this case, you’ll want to compensate for the drag problem with lower profile blades. You can experiment without spending a lot of money on different finished arrows by getting yourself a light tool that is cheap and easy to use.

Once you’ve made all of the above decisions, it’s time to either order finished arrows or build your own, which we’ll cover in Part 3.

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