Everything you need to know about arrows for deer hunting.
In a world where we spend hours researching compound bows to feel confident about spending serious cash on premium price tags, it seems foolish to leave arrows as an afterthought.
Yet, so many of us simply buy something off the shelf based on others’ advice and/or experiences with what cash we have left over. We shoot them through paper and take that as gospel to never think of again until we have some type of problem.
In reality, the arrow you decide to shoot should be very specific to your compound bow setup, your shooting style, and your demands as a whitetail hunter.
And you should go well beyond paper tuning to understand how your arrow reacts down range. Let’s take a look at the critical factors when purchasing arrows.
The hot trend is .166 micro diameter arrow shafts, but the tried and trusted fail safe is .246 standard size hunting shafts. The claim to fame with micro diameter arrows is they perform better in crosswinds and have better penetration.
Both come from the logical thinking around the arrow shafts having less surface area. When you are only comparing shaft both claims make total sense. When you add a slave to each end of the arrow, one being the broadhead and the other your fletching configuration, things get pretty complicated and not so black and white.
Another downfall to micro diameter shafts is the availability of quality components. While there are plenty of options out there for .166″ and .204″ shafts, the options for quality components are lagging far behind. This is a major point many overlook when going the down the micro diameter arrow road.
With archery being so closely tied to confidence, shoot what you’ve had success with in the past or what you makes you the most confident archery hunter. If you’re a newbie just getting started buy a couple different half dozen shaft sizes to tinker with. First hand knowledge and experience will always be king.
Right out of the gate, selecting the correct static spine can make or break your whitetail arrow’s performance and flight characteristics. Luckily, nearly all arrow manufacturers offer some type of spine chart to use as a reference tool. Unfortunately, most spine charts are extremely basic and only reference elementary data inputs such as point weight, draw length and draw weight.
There are several other variables to take into consideration beyond the basics.
- Let-Off – Your compound bow let-off directly relates to the powerstroke and work applied from your bow to your arrow. A general rule of thumb is the higher the let-off the more deflection you will see in your arrow which will impact the arrow’s flight characteristics. If you’re in between on a spine chart and shoot 85% or 90% let-off, stay on the stiff side.
- IBO Speeds – Again, relating to the powerstroke of your compound bow and work applied to your arrow, the IBO speed rating of your setup will alter the amount of deflection in your hunting arrow. While most spine charts are inclusive of 90% of compound bows with charts including IBO speeds between 315-340 FPS, what happens if your compound IBO speed is outside of that velocity? Another general rule is you can add 10lbs of draw weight for IBO speeds over 350 FPS (which doesn’t happen often) and subtract 10lbs of draw weight for IBO speeds under 300 FPS. If you find yourself just outside the 315-340 FPS range use a 5lb adjustment.
- Total Arrow Length – While most recommendations of total arrow length are similar to your draw length if you are a hunter planning to shoot large fixed-blade broadheads you may want to extend your carbon to carbon length to place the broadhead in front of your hand. We’ve seen some gruesome accidents floating around the internet. If you feel the need to extend your arrow length be sure you consider this in association with the static spine chart.
MAKE SURE YOUR SHAFTS ARE SPINE INDEXED
Spine indexing or building the arrow around its first dynamic spine is nothing new. Think of this as the dynamic spine/bend (spine in motion) vs static spine (spine at rest). You’re arrow is only perfectly straight at rest, any other time when the arrow is in flight it’s is flexing and bending from different forces. It seems silly that people are not building arrows around their flight characteristics.
The first dynamic bend or dynamic spine of an arrow is the amount of deflection it experiences as it is released from the bow and where that flex occurs on the shaft. This is determined by the combination of your compound bow’s powerstroke, let-off, point weight/length, and IBO speed rating in comparison to the arrow’s static spine rating.
There are a few ways to spine index your arrow shafts, most require an indexing tool. The concept revolves around finding the weak portion of the arrow shaft’s spine and aligning that with both your cock vane and nock so that the first dynamic bend is up when the arrow is sitting on your rest. Finding the weak or spine in compression is crucial because arrow shafts will have multiple “strong” spines but only one weak leaving the side in compression the only measurable consistency. Building each arrow around the dynamic bend ensure each arrow is reacting the same exact way when shot for more consistent arrow to arrow flight characteristics….leading to better performance.
TOTAL ARROW WEIGHT
Now we get into all the hype, buzz, and never-ending debating. What is better, heavy and slow or light and fast? Honestly, for bowhunting whitetails, you’re probably best off being Switzerland and being in the middle.
When we get into the total arrow weight discussion, it generally revolves around having the correct kinetic energy and momentum. A general guideline is that you need at least 40-50 foot-pounds of kinetic energy to take down a whitetail. When talking about the needed momentum to pass through a whitetail .35 slug feet per second will do the job. When you get beyond these measurable metrics you WILL sacrifice something. KE favors speed, so if you ramp up your KE through increased velocity you will need to sacrifice mass. Momentum favors mass, so if you ramp up your momentum you will sacrifice velocity. This is why a happy medium or playing Switzerland wins not extremes.
Also, your total arrow weight directly impacts your flight trajectory. In the whitetail world, the vast majority of shots come at distances less than 30 yards. If you’re a bowhunter able and willing to take further shots on whitetails then arrow trajectory becomes a bigger deal.
While the arrow shaft and build is critical to performance, the business end of your hunting arrow usually gets all the glory or blame. Lack of blood – it’s the broadhead. Great blood – it’s the broadhead. No penetration – it’s the broadhead. Great penetration – it’s the broadhead. You get the idea and we are all guilty of pointing the finger at some point in our bowhunting evolution.
Broadhead selection seems to be a personal decision, after all, confidence is the key to archery hunting success. While broadhead selection deserves its dedicated article, below are some key points to keep in mind.
- Fixed blade flight is directly tied to your bow being tuned
- If you’re choosing mechanicals or hybrids make sure you have enough kinetic energy
- Be sure you are spined correctly for your desired broadhead weight
- Buy something dependable with a rugged design and sharp blades
Any well-designed, sharp well placed broadhead on the correct arrow build will do the job. Don’t overcomplicate this.
VANES AND NOCKS
Understand the basic function of your arrows fletchings…That is to stabilize the arrow in flight to hide flaws and/or allow the arrow to come into equilibrium faster. Allowing the arrow to recover or come into equilibrium at a faster rate allows your arrow to be more efficient downrange.
Most configurations and vane types do this by the introduction of friction or drag. Firenock’s Areovane II claims to do this through lift not drag. There’s a bit of science behind the theory so to keep it simple, think of airplane wings. While there are other benefits to the Areovane II introducing less friction factors into the efficiency of your arrow.
Proper nock fit is arguably the most important component on the back end of your arrow. It’s the only component transferring the work from your compound bow directly into your arrow shaft. With that said, it’s also the most overlooked component. Have a nock that fits too tight on your center serving and you’ll likely experience nock pinch, which creates a world of issues in the moment of truth.
Have a nock that fits too loose and you run the risk of your arrow falling off but you’re guaranteed to have a less efficient transfer of work from your bow. The last thing you want is your bow string rattling around in the throat of your nock. Know your center serving size and throat size of your nock for a perfect fit…It’s relatively simple.
Lighted nocks have almost become the standard and for good reason. The ability to retrieve your arrow post shot is so crucial in a successful track job. Your blood-stained arrow should be the storyteller of your shot placement.
Having a lighted nock during low light pays dividends. If you choose not to shoot lighted nocks, I strongly suggest solid white as it easily shows up best in camera footage and is fairly visible.
With so many custom-built arrow options out there these days keep these topics top of mind before spending your hard-earned cash. Many of these topics were driving forces behind the launch of tailor-built hunting arrows from Exodus. Stay tuned for future articles on each of these topics in detail. As always, feel free to shoot us an email with any questions or comments. Until next time…educate, buy, and tinker. Shoot what flies and hunt with confidence.