Hunting Arrow Decisions

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hunting arrow
Match your hunting arrow to the way you like to hunt.  Some will benefit from a flatter trajectory while others will do better with a quieter bow. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

It is too expensive to experiment with different bows every season, you may never find the one that is just perfect for you. But you can find your perfect arrow. Starting with the information in this guide you can experiment with a few styles until you find the perfect combination of arrow penetration, arrow speed, arrow noise and arrow accuracy for your style of hunting.

Arrow weight and arrow diameter are the two qualities that can really make a difference when selecting arrows. Of course, straightness and spine tolerance are also important, but they are only noticeable if they are absent. Focusing on arrow weight and arrow diameter, here is a road map for selecting your perfect arrows.

Arrow Weight Ranges

Your choices will come from one of three arrow shaft weight categories: light, mid-weight and heavy. A light arrow weight has a finished weight of between 5 and 6 grains for each pound of your bow’s maximum draw force. For example, a lightweight arrow for a 70-pound bow would have a finished weight (including broadhead) between 350 and 420 grains. A mid-weight arrow weighs between 6 and 8 grains per pound of draw force (420 to 560 grains for a 70-pound bow) and a heavy arrow weight is anything weighing over 8 grains per pound of draw force (over 560 grains).

Arrow Penetration vs. Arrow Speed

arrow sizes
Hunting arrows come in many sizes and weights all properly spined for your bow.  Choose the arrow size that is the correct weight to complement your hunting goals.

For years, bowhunters have been taught that there is some huge tradeoff between arrow speed and arrow penetration. There is a hunting book that compares light arrows to ping-pong balls and heavy arrows to golf balls and asked which one you could throw farther into a snowdrift. Please, enough with the misinformation. Analogies like that greatly over-state the real differences.

Sure, you may actually notice a difference when you make major weight changes, but 50 to 75 grains either way doesn’t make a lot of difference in how deeply the arrow buries in the archery target. Sometimes it’s not worth giving up arrow speed for more arrow penetration, especially if you already have plenty of energy for the game you hunt.

Today’s bows are so fast and pack so much energy that arrow penetration is rarely an issue except for women and youth archers. Some archers would rather tradeoff arrow speed versus arrow noise than arrow speed versus arrow penetration because they believe arrow noise will have more of a bearing on your eventual success than arrow penetration, but more about that later.

Let’s suppose a bowhunter shoots a 70-pound bow with a 29-inch draw length. A mid-weight arrow from this bow is roughly 10 to 12 percent faster than one that weighs 100 grains more. You will notice that. Yet it loses only 3.5 to 5% in arrow penetration energy – you won’t notice that. A light arrow is a full 20 percent faster than a heavy arrow from the same bow, but carries just 7.5 to 9% less penetration energy. Again, you probably won’t notice the loss in arrow penetration unless you are limited in some regard or when hunting really large game such as moose and elk.

For those of you keeping score at home, the arrow penetration energy goes down because the bow becomes less efficient with light arrows; a light arrow absorbs less of the bow’s full draw potential energy.

arrow weight
Smaller diameter arrows will permit you to increase penetration without the need to increase arrow weight – a great compromise for those wanting maximum penetration and a flatter trajectory. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

In other words, if you can use the extra arrow speed to flatten your arrow trajectory for bow shots that typically range longer than 25 yards; you won’t lose much energy by dropping your arrow weight into the mid-weight or even the lightweight ranges. If you are already shooting a bow over 60 pounds with aggressive cams, you probably have 10% penetration energy to spare – especially if you will be hunting smaller big game animals.

Arrow Noise vs. Arrow Speed

Since light arrows don’t soak up as much of a bow’s energy as does a heavy arrow, there will be more energy left in the bow to dissipate after a light arrow is released than a heavy arrow. That energy causes vibration that in turn creates noise. Simply put, a heavy arrow will make your bow quieter.

If whisper quiet shooting is the most important consideration, select a heavyweight arrow. However, you can gain a good compromise between arrow speed and quiet shooting with a mid-weight arrow.

Of course, there are other ways to make your bow shoot more quietly, and you need to do all of them, as well. Use all the string and limb silencing products on the market.

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