September 15, 2021
It happened to me once. I was disgusted and sick about it, but it was a great lesson. The buck was making his way through an oak mott on a beeline for my stand. At 35 yards, the site of another buck caught his attention, and he began to wander off course. I grunted. He stopped. The shot broke clean, and the arrow flew harmlessly under his chest. Later, back at camp, I took three practice shots at the exact yardage I'd missed the buck at with the mechanical broadhead I was using. Yep, all three shots were low.
I’d made a rookie mistake. I read the “field-point accurate” garb on the broadhead’s package and left it at that. Could you do me a favor and never do that, please? Here’s what you need to do to make sure your broadheads will hit the mark on opening day and throughout the season.
Some say arrow spinners are obsolete, but I don't see it this way. They are an inexpensive tool that should be in every arrow-testers arsenal. After threading your broadhead into your shaft’s insert, place the arrow on the spinner and give it a twirl. Spin the same arrow multiple times. Watch for any wobble in the nock and broadhead end. A shifty shaft that jumps and skips is never a good thing. If the arrow doesn't spin true, inspect the broadhead for damage. If no apparent damage is detected, make sure you assembled it correctly. If you're confident you got it right, swap the head out with another and spin the shaft again. If the wobble is eliminated, the broadhead you removed was faulty. If the wobble remains, check the arrow for damage. Sometimes — mainly if the arrow uses an aluminum outsert system — the outsert can get bent and cause the arrow not to spin true. Before moving on with your broadhead testing, ensure that every arrow fitted with a broadhead passes the spin test.
After spin-testing each broadhead, set them on a quality digital scale that measures weight in grains. Weigh each broadhead to see how close each head is to the manufacturer’s noted grain weight.
When shooting fixed-blade heads, take the time to orient each blade of the broadhead with your vane alignment. This is easily accomplished by screwing a broadhead into an insert, adding glue, and then twisting that insert to line up the broadhead's blades with the vanes on the shaft.
Is It Sharp?
There’s nothing worse than a dull broadhead, and sadly, not all broadheads are created equal in the sharpness department. If a broadhead isn’t sharp, I have no use for it — and you shouldn’t either! You put too much into your hunt and have too much respect for the animals you chase to thread junk into your arrow.
Take one of your broadheads and carefully press the blade into your thumbnail. Does it slip and slide, or does it hold steady? A sharp head will grab the nail and hold. Next, I like the good old paper test. Take a piece of paper and see if the broadhead, using an even stroke, will slice the paper like butter. If your head passes these two tests, it’s plenty sharp enough to pound through hide and flesh.
Two weeks before the season starts, whatever that season may be, I shoot nothing but broadheads. It doesn’t matter if I’m slinging carbon tipped with mechanical- or fixed-blade heads, I set up three arrows with my chosen broadhead and go to work. The curmudgeon amongst us will note this is a waste of time and money. It’s not. I promise. Spend the $50 and purchase three heads that you will use only for practice. Heck, you’ve already ruined one doing the sharpness test. Nothing builds shooting confidence like shooting arrow after arrow tipped with the exact head you plan to hunt with. Also, don’t limit your testing to 20 and 30 yards. Shoot broadheads at the furthest distance you will take a shot at, and if you want to build maximum shooting confidence, shoot them further.
In addition to proving their accuracy, you’re going to discover whether your broadhead is hushed in flight or produces a fair amount of noise. I’m not a fan of noise, especially when hunting whitetails. If you feel your broadhead is too loud, I recommend setting up a video camera with a shotgun microphone and sending broadhead-tipped arrows past it. Go back and listen to each shot. If you’re worried about sound, make a switch.
I’m not going to go on a rant about dependability, but here’s the nuts and bolts. I only shoot mechanical heads into game once. As long as that head holds up and does its job, I don’t care what the ferrule and blades look like after. The key with mechanical heads is that they show no signs of wear and tear or produce any blade failure during testing. If they do, find another mechanical.
If you’re shooting a one-piece fixed blade head and the ferrule and blades are all one, durability becomes a tad more important. I know many fixed-blade fanatics who like to resharpen heads after use and keep killing animals with them. If you’re in this camp, shoot one of your test heads through ¼-inch plywood or a deer scapula you have lying around. Give them a good work over and see how they hold up. You can do the same with fixed-blade heads that have a replaceable-blade system. With these heads, don’t put too much emphasis on the blades, but rather the ferrule. You’re going to toss the spent blades anyway.
If shooting fixed-blade broadheads, I recommend not shooting groups. This is where things can get a little pricy. Not only does shooting fixed-blade groups up your chances of arrow damage, but slamming a fixed head into the back of another damages both broadheads, and just like that, you’ll be down to a single practice head.
The final test of any broadhead is how the head performs in the bowhunting woods. There are heads on the market I’m not a fan of, but buddies rave about them. Why? Those heads have worked well for them, and they have confidence in them. If you find a broadhead you kill with consistently, stick with it.