One of the fun things about my job is fielding questions from fellow bowhunters.
You can achieve field-point accuracy with fixed-blade broadheads, but it takes a lot of tuning. But as long as you can shoot solid groups with your hunting heads, it's OK to simply adjust your sight pins to account for the difference.
One of the fun things about my job is fielding questions from fellow bowhunters. Although I receive a wide variety of queries, there are definitely certain topics that come up over and over again. Here are my answers to the 10 most frequently asked questions:
1. Get Rid of the Peep?
Q: This past season, my peep sight cost me a buck when I couldn't see my pins clearly. What other options do I have?
A: It is best to use a peep sight. Peep sights force you to reach a consistent anchor, even when the shot angle is awkward. If you are having trouble with visibility, use a very large diameter peep. There are some on the market up to 5„16-inch diameter. You can center the round sight guard in the large peep opening. The other option is to use a riser-mounted rear reference point (such as the Hindsight) that helps properly align your pins on target.
2. Pendulum Sights
Q: I have trouble judging distance from treestands and am considering a pendulum sight. Can you tell me if and how they work?
A: They definitely work. Pendulum sights have a pivoting crosshair or pin with a counter-weight on the other end to keep the pin stationary relative to the ground, regardless of bow angle. The aiming point pivots up or down in the sight window as the shot distance changes. Some pendulums have adjustments for arrow speed, and this increases their maximum effective range. Most are accurate from roughly 5-30 yards. If possible, test one before buying it to make sure it isn't too loud.
3. Margin for Error
Q: I missed a deer last season because I misjudged the distance. How much more margin for error will I gain with a faster arrow?
A: You need to shoot 260 fps, or faster, in order to make a hit at the bottom of the kill zone of a deer-sized animal at 30 yards when you think it is at 25 yards. Many bowhunters say they can shoot from zero to 30 yards with their 20-yard pin. That is very doubtful, since their arrows would have to be traveling at 350 fps. If you want to use a single pin, I recommend sighting it in for 25 yards. That will give you kill-zone accuracy from 15-30 yards when shooting 260 fps. It goes from roughly 10-32 yards when you increase arrow speed to 290 fps.
4. How Much Helical?
Q: How much helical angle should I use with my fletching?
A: With aggressive helical offset, your arrow will spin faster and be more stable in flight. The maximum angle you should put on your fletching depends on the diameter of your arrows. With too much offset, the bases of your fletching won't make complete contact with the shaft. Small diameter arrows generally permit a maximum offset from 5-8 degrees. Some fletchings, such as New Archery Products' QuikSpins, do best with only a small amount of helical offset. So, read the instructions before gluing.
5. Beating Target Panic
Q: I've had a lot of trouble with target panic. What is the best way to get rid of it?
A: You have to learn to trigger the shot by surprise. You can do this with an index-finger release, but you may need to break bad habits first by using a back-tension release. They have no trigger and fire as your handle pivots in response to your efforts to pull through the shot. Because you can't anticipate the moment of release, you won't be able to ruin it by flinching. Several companies make back tension-releases, including Scott, Stanislawski, Carter and T.R.U. Ball. Another option is to purchase a special spring trigger for select deluxe Scott releases to help you make this transition using an index-triggered release.
6. Shooting Straight Down
Q: I passed up a buck last season that passed directly under my stand. Could I have taken the straight down shot?
A: This is a very tough shot angle. The spine is a tempting target, but it is too small for practical consideration. A heart shot is also possible from this angle, but the target is also very small, and if you miss, you are likely to hit only one lung -- not good. A one-lung hit is the worst possible hit, since the deer likely will die but it will take a few days, making it very hard to recover.
You could have waited until the deer was 10 yards past the tree and then aimed far enough back that you hit the liver and angled into the lung cavity. This hit will result in a quick kill, even if you don't catch both lungs.
7. String Jumpers
Q: What is the best way to handle string jumpers?
A: Veteran guides in the South report that about 50 percent of all bucks drop at the sound of the shot, and about 90 percent of all does. Numbers like these make for tough decisions when aiming at bucks. The numbers are about half that in the North, but it still results in unpredictable shooting.
Deer don't have time to react on shots of 15 yards and less. On shots past 15 yards, read the deer's body language. If it is relaxed, aim for the top of the heart on all shots. This offers the largest margin for error, since a given percentage of these animals will drop. If the animal is obviously nervous, consider aiming for low heart on 20-yard shots, and as much as three or five inches under its chest on 30-yard shots. It is hard to make yourself aim off the animal, but you will either make a clean kill or miss completely (both are acceptable outcomes in this situation).
8. Hitting the Same Spot
Q: I can't get my broadhead hunting arrows to hit in the same place as my field point practice arrows. What is the secret?
A: First, you must tune your bow. When you shoot through paper, you should get only a small hole the size of your shaft with cuts made by the fletchings. The shaft should not tear the paper. There is not enough room to talk about tuning in detail here, so go online and search for paper-tuning tips on the web. I'll cover it again soon in this column as well.
Second, be sure your arrow's inserts line up perfectly with your arrow shafts to prevent your broadheads from planing off line. I spin them in the palm of my hand. If I feel vibration, I swap out a few broadheads. And if that doesn'
t fix it, I set that arrow aside to use only with practice points.
Small adjustments to the rest may be required in the end to bring the broadhead and field point groups together. If the broadheads are shooting above your practice arrows, move the rest very slightly down, for example. While the goal of getting broadheads to group with field points is a worthy one, it isn't totally necessary. A small group size is the main goal.
9. Shooting Light Arrows
Q: When I shoot a faster arrow, how much penetration do I give up?
A: When comparing the speed advantage of light arrows to the resulting losses in bow efficiency (which means less penetration energy), the following applies: Starting with a mid-weight arrow, on average, a reduction of 40-50 grains of weight yields a loss in penetration energy of approximately 2-4 percent (depending on the bow). As long as you don't get carried away by going to an arrow that's too light (a good minimum is 5 ½-6 grains per pound of draw weight), you don't give up too much energy to pick up a noticeable increase in speed.
10. Trailing in the Rain
Q: When it rains, should you follow a blood trail right away or wait until the rain stops?
A: If you make a marginal hit right before or during a rain shower, don't be tempted to follow the animal immediately. Unless it is a clean hit to the vitals, your odds of recovery increase when you leave the animal alone. It will bed down close by, and even though the blood trail will be washed away, finding the deer is much easier. If you push it from its first bed by trailing right away, you give it a burst of adrenaline that will cause it to run for hundreds of yards and possibly cause you to lose the animal.