I’m gonna be honest, I never put too much thought into arrows when I first started bowhunting. I just snagged up what the pro shop recommended and called it good.
The more time I spent behind the bow, though, the more I realized how important hunting arrow selection was. It’s another rabbit hole and a quite daunting one at that. That can make picking the right arrow for you not so straightforward. And the right arrow plays a huge part in bowhunting.
In light of that, we’ve put together our take on what arrows need to be on your radar for the upcoming 2023 fall hunting season.
Below is a list of my favorite arrows for a range of applications and budgets. This selection is evolving so be sure to check for updates, as new arrows will be added as they’re tested. At the end of our list, be sure to check out the comparison chart and buyer’s guide.
The Best Hunting Arrows of 2023
- Best Overall Hunting Arrow: VAP TKO
- Best Budget Hunting Arrow: Gold Tip Hunter
- Best Arrow for Deer Hunting: Easton Long Range
- Best Arrow for Elk Hunting: Day Six
- Best Traditional Arrow: Black Eagle
Hunting Arrow Comparison Chart
Why You Should Trust Us
Bowhunting often reminds us that good gear is extremely important. Quality arrows can be the difference between success and an unfilled tag. We’ve used dozens of different arrows, and only the best earn our full trust.
Whether we’re hiking above treeline looking for mule deer, slinking down into the bottom of a canyon to call for black bears, or just simply spending time behind the bow at the range — arrows matter. Our lead tester Josh Kirchner has been bowhunting for ten years. Needless to say, he’s spent an incalculable amount of time fiddling with arrows to find out what works and what doesn’t.
When coming up with this list, Kirchner considered his own experience and that of those around him. He also examined market demand at a variety of price points.
At the end of the day, as bowhunters, we need ultimate confidence in our arrows. This list will cater to a wide range of hunters and cover every situation in the mountains, prairies, and hardwoods.
Buying Guide: How to Choose a Hunting Arrow
The hunting arrows listed above are wide in variety. There’s a little something for everyone. One of the major differences between some of these arrows is the arrow weight. Arrow shafts are measured in GPI (grains per inch). And some arrows have a higher GPI than others. This leads me to one of the most highly debated topics in bowhunting.
Should you use a heavy arrow or a light arrow?
We’re gonna suss that out to provide the tools you need for picking the right arrow weight for you and your hunting style.
Heavy Hunting Arrows Equal Momentum
In recent years, there’s a push for using heavier arrows for hunting. When I say heavy, I’m referring to arrows that weigh in around 500+ grains. There is a great argument for using a heavier arrow.
Weight equals more momentum, which is basically the force an arrow will retain going through an animal. More momentum means more pass-throughs and fewer chances of arrow flight being altered too much from ribs etc. This is not to be confused with kinetic energy, which is the amount of energy an arrow has on impact.
Heavier arrows are also more wind-resistant than lighter arrows. And along with that, they absorb more energy on the shot, which translates into a quieter system.
The Downside of Heavy Arrows
While there are no doubt benefits to using a heavier arrow, there are also some drawbacks. The first is that heavier arrows are just slower. This gives arrow flight a much steeper trajectory. So, there is much less room for error when it comes to judging yardage.
This could spell trouble when that elk is a few yards farther than what you thought. For the multi-pin sight users, that also means larger gaps between pins, which makes pin gapping (aiming between pins for odd yardages) much more finicky. The result is less precision accuracy when pin gapping.
Light Hunting Arrows Equal Speed
On the flip side of things, slimming down arrow weight is becoming shinier by the day. Less arrow weight means more arrow speed, which translates into a flatter trajectory. So, it isn’t as critical to be pinpoint accurate with yardage estimates.
In hunting situations, this can be the difference between notching a tag and following a fruitless blood trail. Along with that, you’ll also be able to stretch the tape on your sight much farther. Even if one doesn’t plan on shooting an animal at a great distance, practicing far shots hones shooting skills and makes shorter shots seem even shorter.
And when those shots land at odd yardages, therein lies another benefit, particularly for multi-pin sight users. Your pin gapping will be much tighter in the sight housing, which means precision will increase when doing something like aiming between the 30 and 40 pins for a 35-yard shot.
Cons of Lightweight Hunting Arrows
Less arrow weight does come at a cost, though. The first is giving up that momentum that we talked about. Lighter arrows don’t retain as much energy through an animal as heavier ones do. This could result in fewer pass-through shots and a higher likelihood that an arrow is thrown off course by, say a bone.
And on that note, a lighter arrow also doesn’t buck the wind as well. This is a potentially problematic situation in windy hunting conditions.
Then there is the shot. The moment of truth. When that arrow releases, it won’t nearly be as quiet as a heavier setup.
Lastly, durability seems to drop off the lighter an arrow is. So, if you miss or hit a bone, the chances of your arrow still being intact is slim.
Middle of the Road: A Hunting Arrow That’s Just Right
While you hold the wheel in terms of what arrow weight you’ll end up shooting, our opinion is this. Shoot a quality midweight type of arrow in relation to your setup overall.
I say this because a heavy/light arrow for one person might be a real heavy/light arrow for another based on their draw weight, draw length, etc.
By doing so, you’ll avoid many of the cons that come from the extremes on each end. It’s a best-of-all-worlds solution. There is one more thing, though, that is the most important to keep in mind.
Arrow Flight Is Everything
To cut to the chase, good arrow flight is way more critical than trying to shoot a heavy arrow or a light arrow.
There’s nothing wrong with having somewhat of a goal arrow weight in mind, but in the end, you need to shoot the arrow that is flying the best out of your setup. If your goal is 500 grains, but a 450-grain arrow is shooting lights out for you, it’d probably be wise to eat the 50 grains and go for accuracy and consistency.