Hunting Arrow Decisions

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arrow shaft
Arrows can help you to be a more efficient hunter.  By matching the arrow shaft weight to the requirements of the hunt, you improve your odds for getting enough penetration, shooting through gaps in the brush and tagging more game. Hunter shown wearing Mathews Lost Camo.

Arrows for Whitetails

In many whitetail areas, the cover is too thick to permit deer shots much past 25 yards. Sure, you can cut the shoot lanes, but that doesn’t guarantee a good shot. In addition, most deer hunters set up tree stands with 20-yard shots as their goal. Further, many never practice past 20 yards and are ill equipped to shoot farther in the field. On shots of this length, arrow speed will make almost no difference in the outcome of your hunt. You may as well go with a heavy load, enjoy the quieter bow and an arrow with maximum arrow penetration.

However, if you hunt along the edges of fields, or hang your tree stands in fence lines, you will have the potential for longer shots and that brings in the need for greater arrow speed. That’s where a mid-weight arrow is most beneficial.

To sum it up, under most deer hunting conditions, a mid-weight to heavy arrow weighing 7 to 9 grains per pound is a fine choice producing arrow speeds in the 220 to 250 fps range. If the shot distance may exceed 25 yards, then a mid-weight, 6 to 7 grains per pound, arrow pushing a medium sized broadhead is the best choice.

arrow weight
Arrow weight affects both penetration and noise of the shot.  It also affects the arrow’s trajectory.  Matching the weight of your arrows to your hunting situation will improve your hunting success.

Arrows for Big Wide-Open Hunting

In open settings, where shots approaching and exceeding 40 yards are much more common, an arrow capable of producing good speed has obvious advantages. Now we're talking about wide-open whitetails, high country mule deer, bog-walking caribou, crag-loving goats and rams or prairie pronghorns. None of these animals requires great arrow penetration for a clean ground-level kill, but due to the country they inhabit, they rarely offer a close shot placement.

Some bowhunters snicker at the need for arrow speed. Either they know something others don't, such as the exact range of every shot they take, or they've never hunted these open places. As long as you are going to all the time and expense to plan and carry out a trip into big country (quite possibly the trip of a lifetime), it makes sense to carry the right arrow for the job.

Arrow speeds of 270 to 320 fps are realistic for the open country bowhunter with today’s super fast bows. To attain these arrow speeds you’ll need a lightweight arrow – something weighing around 5 1/2 grains per pound of draw force.

arrow penetration
Elk require more arrow penetration than deer and for that reason, elk hunters favor slightly heavier arrows that soak up more of the bow’s energy and transfer it to the animal on impact.

Arrows for Large Big Game

Many elk and moose are shot at close range in thick, dark timber. In these black holes, speed is of little consequence. However, you can't count on only close shots – there are too many open ridges and parks where longer shots are commonly presented. But, by the same token, you have to also consider the size of the beast. Elk and moose are big – some exceeding 1,000 pounds. Thus the dilemma, your arrow must pack plenty of punch but you still need to keep arrow speed up for those longer shots.

Typically, elk hunters and moose hunters will crank their limb bolts in a turn or two to increase their draw weight. This produces a built-in penetration advantage and a faster arrow. Therefore, a bowhunter with a 70 to 75-pound bow can still get good speed from an arrow on the light end of the heavyweight scale or the heavy end of the mid-weight scale. For example, an arrow weighing 8 grains per pound shot from a 70-pound bow will still produce around 250 to 260 fps from an aggressive bow – a good compromise rig for these big animals.

Another good option here is to use small diameter arrows that will also improve arrow penetration without requiring more arrow weight to achieve the goal.

If you are serious about doing everything possible to increase your odds for making a clean kill, the arrows your carry when elk hunting a big bull in the aspen parks of a Colorado mountainside will be different from the ones you carry when hunting open country antelope in the creeks of Nebraska. Match your arrows to the animals and your hunting style and you’ll improve your odds for a successful season.



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