It is good to have more than one arrow in the quiver. This is an old saying that applies to all aspects of our lives. Of course, it works for hunting as well. However, when it comes to bowhunting, it is even more important to have high-quality hunting arrows. Even the most expensive, state-of-the-art bow won’t provide enough accuracy if you buy poor quality arrows.
And this is a common beginner mistake. With so many options and the lack of experience, it can be a daunting mission to choose the best hunting arrows. So, let’s see what it takes to find not only great but also suitable arrows for hunting with a compound bow.
Before I start, let me warn you: bowhunting is addictive. While all types of hunting have their charms, there’s something special about bowhunting. It is an athletic endeavor and you need a high level of efficiency to make an ethical bow shot. Rangefinders are helpful, but it’s still challenging to get close enough to take a shot.
The story of bowhunting is about pursuing perfection. You will always have more stories about those who got away. But, the successes will be sweeter than those achieved with muzzleloaders with scopes or with rifles. You’ll learn valuable lessons throughout your journey. From respect for nature to patience and dedication.
I could keep on like this, but you don’t need to read about it; you should experience it. So, I’ll get back to my topic and share some tips on how to choose best hunting arrows.
What to Consider When Buying Hunting Arrows for Compound Bow
Choosing arrows is a never-ending quest for bowhunters. I could probably write a short book about it. The best choice depends a lot on your shooting style and technique, and it takes some experience to find a perfect match.
So, I’ll share some basic tips to help you get started and avoid unnecessary mistakes. Modern technologies and design improvements have made the choice a bit simpler and easier.
Type of Shaft
Shafts are typically made of wood, aluminum, and carbon. Wooden arrows are traditional and beautiful, but they are not suitable for compound bows. There’s a long list of wooden arrow’s shortcomings, but they still have their place in traditional archery.
Aluminum arrow shafts used to be the top choice of archers for decades. Today, most archers prefer carbon shafts. Aluminum shafts still offer some advantages, though. They have more spine choices and precise weight and spine specs. They are also a little bit heavier than carbon arrows.
Carbon arrow shafts are lightweight and they hold tighter tolerances. As a result, you get increased speed and improved accuracy while smaller diameter provides better penetration.
This is simple but important. Take your draw length and add between a half and one inch. This is the perfect arrow length. If it’s shorter, it’s unsafe. Longer arrows have more weight and spine, so the speed and accuracy decrease.
However, a little longer arrows are okay for beginners. So, it’s not a big deal if the arrow is a little bit too long, but it should never be shorter, not for a bit!
Arrow weight depends on the weight of your bow and the purpose. Typically, hunters prefer slightly heavier arrows while target archers use a bit lighter arrows. But, we are speaking about nuances and it should always relate to bow poundage.
To simplify it, target archers commonly use arrows with a weight of 5 to 6 grain per pound of draw weight while hunter’s arrows weigh between 6 and 8 grain per pound.
Even though we say “straight as an arrow”, arrows start flexing and bending as soon as they are fired. It is normal and it is called “spine”. There’s a lot of complicated physics behind this motion and trying to understand it can be overwhelming. Don’t overthink it and take one step at a time.
So, you should make sure that all of your arrows have the same spine. Finding the right balance between “stiff” and “weak” spine takes practice and experience. A little bit stiffer is better than a little bit weaker. As a rule of thumb, the longer the arrow, the stiffer it should be. Also, as the draw weight increases arrows need to be stiffer.
This is another important feature. Hunters typically use thinner arrows as they are less affected by wind and allow better penetration. However, there’s always a trade-off. Thinner usually means lighter – and lighter arrows don’t penetrate as well as heavier ones.
A lot of arrows come with tips included, so you don’t have to worry about it from the very beginning. However, as your skill improves, you’ll probably want to experiment with different tips on a given arrow. Hunters commonly use heavier tips for better penetration.
Tips for Hunters
Now, you know what to consider but how to make a decision? There’s a series of trade-offs that make it difficult to make the final choice. So, let’s delve into it a little bit. Just remember, the best hunting arrow is the one that works best for you.
Heavier vs. lighter arrows. Hunters like heavier arrows because of better penetration. However, lighter arrows are faster and more accurate. So, this is our first trade-off. You should still incline to heavier arrows but just a little bit.
Thinner vs. thicker arrows. Thicker arrows are generally heavier. But, they are slower and the wind will affect them more than thin ones. Ideally, you would want a thin arrow that is heavy enough.
Heavier vs lighter tips. Heavier tips allow better penetration. But, if it’s too heavy, your arrow will wiggle like a snake and you can say goodbye to accuracy.
Pre-made vs. shaft-only arrows. Some arrows come pre-fletched, pre-nocked, with tips installed. Others are so-called “shaft only”. This is no brainer, though. If you’re a beginner and you don’t have a mentor or experienced friend, go for pre-made arrows. As your skills and understanding of bow-and-arrow improve, you’ll be able to configure your arrows on your own.
Be careful with carbon arrows. Carbon arrows offer many advantages, but they aren’t as durable as aluminum ones. I still recommend carbon arrows for beginners, but it’s important to check them out after shooting. When they break, they tend to shatter, so you can get hurt if you’re not careful.
Bowhunting with a compound bow is an ever-learning skill. Trying to figure it out at once is overwhelming and impossible. Even the basics can be confusing. Sometimes it seems as if each and every choice comes with both upsides and downsides.
Still, it’s not a reason to be afraid. Try to keep things simple and don’t over-analyze. General guidelines are easy to understand and the rest will come with the experience. It will all make sense sooner than you think. And it comes with tremendous joy and thrills of bowhunting. So, it’s necessary to learn some basic theory, but it’s much better to get out there and gain some amazing experience.