There are plenty of excuses out there for missing a deer or other game animals. Or worse, making a poor shot. String ducking, unseen twigs, misjudged yardage and good ol' buck fever are all popular. What you won't hear as an explanation for a whiff or a shank, because it's nearly impossible to know, is poor arrow performance.
Many of us assume that one arrow is just as good as the next, and that each arrow in a dozen will fly like its counterparts. This is not true. Even arrows that are weight- and spine-matched can fly differently. This is especially true if you don't square your arrows before putting in inserts or if you've got beat up vanes.
Or if you shoot really cheap arrows.
This reality is the best reason to put some serious thought into your archery ammo choice and there is no better time to do it than right now, with the off-season settling in.
Tipping The Scales
What arrow weight and spine you choose will be dependent on your bow setup to a large extent. If you're shooting 40 pounds of draw weight at 26 inches of draw length, you won't want the same arrows that someone who is shooting 70 pounds at 30 inches will shoot. That stated, the best bet for either setup and all of those that fall in-between is to opt for the heaviest and stiffest arrows your bow can handle.
Forget how fast your arrows are and think instead about how hard you want them to hit. For me, that answer is very hard. I sometimes shoot deer in the shoulder unintentionally, and I want my arrows to drive through as far as possible to reach the boiler room. Now, I know broadhead choice certainly factors into success in this situation, but right now we're talking arrows and a heavier arrow generally pushes farther than a lighter arrow.
Error on the side of heavy and stiff whenever you can.
Fatties Versus Skinnies
The latest rage in arrow shafts is micro-diameter. This is a good thing, and should be considered by most of us for a few reasons. The first is the reduction of surface area. This promotes better penetration, but also into the effects wind has on our point of impact.
I've practiced quite a bit in high winds and if it's blowing hard enough I'll see influence in shot distances of about 40 yards or farther. That might not be an issue for hunters who don't shoot long range, but the reason I practice for hail mary shots is because I occasionally need to put another arrow in a poorly hit animal. I want to know I can hit a deer well at 80 yards if I need to, even if I'll never shoot a healthy deer at anywhere near that distance.
Vanes work to spin an arrow because simply put, a tightly rotating arrow flies better. The most popular vanes these days are high-profile, two-inch options. They work very well provided they are fletched at three degrees of helical. Will they work straight- or off-set fletched? Yes, just not as well — especially if you're dealing with broadhead flight.
I recently tried out a four-fletched option, which expanded my worldview greatly. I'm embarrassed to say this, but I can't recall ever shooting a four-fletched arrow in my life until I was prepping for a Texas hunt with the new Valkyries from Gold Tip. Before my pre-hunt shooting I knew that they promised excellent broadhead flight, but I've been promised a lot of things when it comes to archery equipment that didn't ring true, so I decided to see what my own findings would be.
What I found was incredible broadhead flight. I've never broadhead-matched a dozen arrows of any variety and had all of them travel downrange perfectly, ever. It was the first time in my life that I didn't have a wild flyer in the group. Every arrow I matched up to my broadheads was as good as every other one, and they were all worthy of a spot in my quiver. I know what you're thinking, and no, I didn't just shoot mechanical heads. Because I was going to be dealing with whitetails and pigs, I went half and half with fixed and mechanicals. It didn't matter, they all hit exactly where my field points did out to 46, which is as many yards as I can squeeze out of my personal shooting range.
I'll still shoot with three vanes, especially on shafts I fletch myself, but I do plan on shooting four-vane options much more this summer. I really want to see how well they carry a broadhead at distances up to a football field in length.
My whole point of this is to recommend paying attention to the vanes on your arrows, because not all options and configurations work the same. If you can fletch them yourself and impart some helical, it might be best to buy bare shafts. But, if you want killer broadhead flight without the hassle of a home-fletching job, consider picking up some four-fletched shafts like the Valkyries. They are supremely accurate and designed in such a way that you won't have any issues with vane clearance on your rests or cables.
Out With The Old
Arrows are expensive, I get that. They are also one of the most important considerations we make, and arguably, as important as our bow choice (probably more important considering the level of efficiency of modern hunting bows). Spending $100 to $200 on arrows isn't an easy pill to swallow, and might not be necessary.
But, if you have arrows that have been shot a lot over a few years, you probably want to upgrade. Arrow shafts go through an incredible amount of stress with each shot, and their integrity can degrade. If you don't believe this, check out slow-motion video of arrows being shot out of a bow. The amount of oscillation they experience is eye-opening. This constant dynamic stress on the back end and the flexing they experience during each shot and impact, can have a negative, cumulative effect on performance. It can also lead to arrows that are unsafe to shoot. I've had a couple blow up on me over the years and let me tell you, that's an underwear ruining experience. I can't imagine having that happen with a bull elk or a mature whitetail at 25 yards.
Maybe 2018 is your year to refresh your arrow supply. If so, consider weight and spine, along with vane options to ensure that you have the best chance at arrow-to-arrow accuracy this summer, and more importantly, this coming fall.