The Perfect Hunting Arrow - Part 1

The Perfect Hunting Arrow - Part 1

If you're serious about bowhunting, you need to be very thorough in choosing, building and maintaining your arrows. I'm extremely fussy about my hunting arrows, because I usually only get a few shots a year at big game, and when I do I want to be confident of two things: First, that the arrow hits where I aim it, and second, that it arrives there with plenty of energy to get the job done.

the perfect hunting arrow

I've chosen my current hunting arrow based on a lot of years of tournament competition and many more years of bowhunting experience. In my opinion, there are several qualities needed in a hunting arrow. I'll list these characteristics and discuss them one by one. As you will see, many are interrelated.

Straightness


This is the one attribute of an arrow that most profoundly affects accuracy/grouping. The straighter the arrows, the more consistently they'll shoot and the better they'll group. You can determine the straightness of a certain model of arrow by looking at the technical specs on the manufacturer's website.


Straightness is typically measured in thousandths of an inch, with the typical deviation in straightness ranging from as much as +/-.006-inch to as little as +/-.001-inch. Generally speaking, the straighter the arrow, the more expensive it will be. Buy the straightest arrows you can afford.


Stealth

Most big-game animals don't see color very well, if they see it at all. However, they can see things that shine in the sunlight, and they can quickly differentiate light colored things against a dark background. So, with that in mind, make sure your arrows don't glint in the sun, and don't use light-colored fletching such as white or yellow.

If you need to use brightly colored fletching for some special reason — so your arrows are visible on camera or if you just like to see your arrow in flight — cover the fletching with a camouflage sleeve while in your quiver.



"If you're serious about bowhunting, you need to be very thorough in choosing, building and maintaining your arrows."



It's also important for your arrow to be quiet in flight, because deer, antelope and the occasional elk will "jump the string" (unfortunately, I know this from a lot of personal experience). So, avoid feathers unless you use traditional gear, because they are noisy in flight and noisy in your quiver. For the same reason, use the smallest fletching and the smallest broadhead that will get the job done well.

The smaller these turbulence-creating arrow accessories are, the quieter the arrow will be in flight. Also, don't use broadheads that rattle in the quiver. Lastly, use a heavy arrow. Using a heavy arrow will do more to silence your bow than anything else.

Fletching

You need to use large enough fletching to get the arrow spinning quickly and provide enough drag to control the broadhead. An arrow needs more wind resistance on the back end than on the front; its center of pressure needs to be well back from the center of the shaft.

When it comes to controlling the broadhead, more fletching is better. However, the longer and taller your fletching is, the more surface area it will have and the more your arrow will drift in the wind. It will also lose speed more quickly and make more noise in flight. So, you have to balance broadhead control with these other factors.

the perfect hunting arrow tips

Using a very streamlined broadhead with little turbulence-producing structure (less wing) will allow you to use much smaller fletching. The less turbulence you create on the front of the arrow, the less steering you need on the back of the arrow.

I've found that if I use short vanes with maximum offset, I reduce the surface area of the fletching while still getting the control of a larger vane applied with less offset. Applying the vanes with a helical clamp seems to help as well.

Diameter

In all the testing I've seen, small-diameter arrows penetrate better than larger-diameter arrows of the same weight. Though the stiffness of a carbon shaft may play some role in penetration, diameter appears to be the greatest reason that small-diameter shafts do so well in these tests. A smaller surface area reduces resistance as the shaft slips into the target. So, use the smallest diameter arrows you can get away with.

Because small-diameter arrows have less surface area, they drift less in the wind. They are also quieter in flight and they require less fletching and less energy (compared to a larger-diameter shaft) to get them spinning.

Smaller-diameter arrows also maintain better downrange speed. Arrows slow down as they move because of friction with the air. The greater the surface area of an arrow, the quicker it slows down. At 40 yards, small-diameter arrows lose much less speed than a larger-diameter arrow.

I know from experience that the difference between large-diameter and small-diameter arrows grows even wider beyond 40 yards. It is not a huge difference, but bowhunting is a tough game, and I'll take every advantage I can get.

In The Perfect Hunting Arrow - Part 2 we'll consider additional elements that make for the perfect hunting arrow.

Recommended for You

Sit, stand or lean - this is what you'll need! Treestands & Blinds

Where Do I Put My Feet When Tree Saddle Hunting?

Greg Staggs

Sit, stand or lean - this is what you'll need!

A new generation of highly mobile bowhunters is embracing the lightweight comfort and versatility of tree saddles. Here's everything you need to know to get started in tree saddle hunting. How-To

BOWHUNTING's Guide to Tree Saddle Hunting

Greg Staggs - May 15, 2019

A new generation of highly mobile bowhunters is embracing the lightweight comfort and...

Is your bow setup a bit noisy? Try these tips to silence it. Bow Accessories

6 Ways to Make Your Bow Quieter

Darron McDougal

Is your bow setup a bit noisy? Try these tips to silence it.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

First Look: Mathews Vertix Bow

First Look: Mathews Vertix Bow

"Petersen's Bowhunting" editor Christian Berg and Mathews design engineer Mark Hayes talk the smooth, quiet and fast shooting qualities of the new flagship Vertix bow from the Wisconsin bowmaker.

Bill Winke

Bill Winke's Top Five Bow Shooting Tips

Petersen's Bowhunting Field Editor Bill Winke give us his top five bow shooting tips

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Check out our picks for the best new bow sights from the 2019 ATA Show! ATA Show

Best New Bow Sights for 2019

Tony J. Peterson - January 10, 2019

Check out our picks for the best new bow sights from the 2019 ATA Show!

We Rank 16 Top Models on Sharpness, Accuracy, Penetration & More


It's that time of year when Arrows & Broadheads

2017 Fixed-Blade Broadhead Test

Jon E. Silks - December 12, 2017

We Rank 16 Top Models on Sharpness, Accuracy, Penetration & More It's that time of year...

Going from field tips to broadheads requires arrow tuning on a higher plane.

 Good broadhead flight How-To

4 Steps to Perfect Broadhead Flight

Bowhunting Online Staff

Going from field tips to broadheads requires arrow tuning on a higher plane. Good...

See More Stories

More Bow Accessories

Check out our roundup of the best new release aids from the 2019 ATA Show! ATA Show

New Archery Release Aids for 2019

Colton Bailey - January 11, 2019

Check out our roundup of the best new release aids from the 2019 ATA Show!

As crossbow hunters become more serious about the pursuit, they often upgrade their accessories. Bow Accessories

4 Innovative New Crossbow Accessories

Bob Humphrey - October 16, 2019

As crossbow hunters become more serious about the pursuit, they often upgrade their...

Switch up your release to prevent shot anticipation. How-To

2 Tips for Perfect Shot Timing

Levi Morgan

Switch up your release to prevent shot anticipation.

See More Bow Accessories

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.