July 29, 2022
By Steve Flores
I was locked and loaded by the time the screaming bull had come into view. The only thing left was for him to follow the script and walk the same path that the lone cow had taken only minutes before. If the 6x5 bull did that, it would be a chip shot of single-digit yards to send my arrow into his vitals.
But like most game animals, this elk couldn’t read, and he totally ignored my script. Rather than walking within spitting distance of my crouched position, the lovesick fool chose a route that took him 35 yards from the business end of my arrow. But when he paused for the briefest of moments, I was already at full draw and wasted no time dumping the string. As I watched my arrow take off through the crisp, Idaho air, I didn’t have to ponder its flight path as I had seen this broadhead perform flawlessly dozens of times before. Only this time, there wasn’t foam waiting downrange.
Start With The Right Arrow
If your goal is perfect broadhead flight, and it should be, then you’ve got to put some thought into what you’re doing. More specifically, you need to start with the right arrow for your setup. Otherwise, you’re going to have a hard time getting any reasonably constructed broadhead to fly decent.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when it comes to arrow choices is spine. Carbon, aluminum, or a mixture of both doesn’t really mean that much when it comes to broadhead flight, but correct arrow spine means everything. Arrow spine is simply a measurement of the arrow’s stiffness. The lower the number, the stiffer the arrow.
Now, if you choose an arrow that isn’t spined correctly, it will flex mid-flight and cause all sorts of inconsistencies as it travels downrange. Add a fixed-blade broadhead — which basically amounts to adding wings — to the front of this arrow, and you can see how quickly good flight can deteriorate if arrow spine isn’t where it needs to be. Luckily, arrow manufacturers provide spine charts so that bowhunters have a great place to start when choosing the correct arrow. Major factors that determine which spine is right for you are draw weight and arrow length.
Constructing The Arrow
Once the correct arrow has been selected for your setup, the next step is to ensure that the ends of the arrow are perfectly square. Doing so will ensure that your inserts and nocks sit flush against the arrow shaft. Once your insert is installed, you can take things a step further and square the end of the insert as well. The goal is to have the nock, arrow, insert, and broadhead all seated together and running along the same, perfectly straight line.
If the nock, arrow shaft, and insert are not flush and straight, it will cause your broadhead to sit at an angle. And although this is difficult to see with the naked eye, an arrow spinner will quickly reveal a “wobble” if the insert isn’t squared to the shaft and the front of the insert isn’t squared to the broadhead. Achieving such precision in your arrow-building process easily can be achieved with the help of G5’s A.S.D. Flip or Lumenok’s F.A.S.T. tool.
Without going into great detail, both of these small but effective tools square-up carbon and aluminum components in a matter of minutes with a simple twist of the wrist. As a result, arrow shafts and inserts will be square and sit flush against one another. This is the perfect scenario, no matter which broadhead you choose to take afield.
Additional Arrow Components
The final addition to consider for your arrow is the fletching. With a wide variety to choose from, it can become overwhelming to narrow things down to just one. I will be the first to tell you to experiment with different types and brands of fletching as well as the number of fletching (3 or 4) and orientation (helical or offset). All these factors can affect broadhead flight.
The most surefire way to determine which is best for you is to play around with various setups. Testing different fletching sizes (length, height), number of fletching, and their orientation will quickly reveal what works best for your preferred broadhead/arrow setup. Personally, I’ve never had issues with any arrows I’ve fletched with three Bohning Blazer Vanes. But again, what works for me might not be the best choice for you.
If you want to ensure that your newly constructed arrows have the best environment to promote laser-like flight perfection, there is one proven way to do it — walk-back tuning.
Walk-back tuning is simply a method for ensuring that your bow’s centershot is set correctly. It is done using arrows shot at a constant aiming point, using one pin, from varying distances. It may sound complicated, but it’s actually a very simple procedure. Here’s how it’s done.
Step 1: The first step to walk-back tuning is preparing your target. Start by making a “T” with some blue painter’s tape — splitting your target down the middle.
Step 2: The second step is to sight-in your bow at 20 yards. Use the intersecting point of the “T” as your aiming point. Make sure your arrow is hitting dead center of the intersecting tape lines before moving on to the next step.
Step 3: The third step is to use the same aiming point and the same 20-yard sight pin, and to shoot the remaining arrows at incrementally longer yardages. For example, your first arrow (used as your aiming point) is shot from 20 yards. The remaining arrows can be shot from 30, 40, and maybe 50 yards, but you still aim with your 20-yard pin. Obviously, your impact point will fall lower with each shot.
Step 4: The fourth step is to analyze your arrow pattern. If your arrows fall to the right of the vertical centerline (like mine did), then you must move your rest to the left to bring your arrows closer to the centerline. Conversely, if your arrows are falling left of the centerline, you would move your arrow rest to the right.
Step 5: The final step is to adjust your arrow rest (left or right) and return to your 20-yard starting point. Repeat the walk-back tuning process until all of your arrows land in the vertical tape line.
The first time I tried walk-back tuning, I made the mistake of moving my arrow rest too much at one time. Believe me when I say it takes very little arrow-rest movement to influence your arrow’s flight path. Minute, incremental adjustments are the best path to quick success.
The beauty of this method is that it can be used for fieldpoints, fixed-blade heads, and even mechanicals. With a little time and effort, you will have your arrows flying like cruise missiles no matter what is on the business end of them — making your confidence soar. And we all know confidence is key!
Whether you’re new to bowhunting or a seasoned veteran, you’ll quickly realize that there are more than enough broadhead options from which to choose. And, while any broadhead that strikes the sweet spot of a game animal will do the job, there are certain characteristics that will influence arrow flight in a good way or bad way.
The two things I consider when choosing a broadhead are manufacturer reputation and cutting diameter. I like to start with a company that has been in the game a while and understands the importance of tight tolerances in the construction of their broadhead.
As for cutting diameter, I could write an entirely different article on this subject and what it means when your broadhead impacts flesh. But that’s not the reason I brought this up. Think about mechanical broadheads for a minute. There is a reason they fly like bullets: Mechanical heads don’t have large blade surfaces exposed to the air during flight.
Such is not the case with fixed-blade heads. Those blades act as wings and can easily guide your arrow in directions you hadn’t intended. That’s why it is so important to build your own arrows to ensure everything is flush and in a straight line from nock end to broadhead point.
Therefore, when choosing a fixed-blade broadhead, I like conservative cutting diameters. For me, this usually falls into the range of around 1 1/8 to 1 3/16 inches. Broadheads with those cutting diameters have flown excellent out of my setups out to 100 yards. And, while I don’t advocate shooting game animals at that distance, I routinely practice that far out to improve my shooting and test the limits of my broadhead-tipped arrows.
Speaking of shooting range, it’s important to understand that shooting a whitetail at 20 yards and a bull elk or antelope at 60 yards and beyond, is an entirely different thing. Broadhead specs won’t affect you nearly as much at close range. In other words: The farther the distance to your target, the greater the chance for poor arrow flight to show its ugly face, whether it be in the form of a strong crosswind or a poorly constructed arrow.
Conversely, most up-close whitetail shots don’t allow enough time for things to go wrong. If you’ve built your arrow using the aforementioned steps, you will be in good shape, even if you decide to go with a broadhead with a wider cut.
While you can go over and over broadhead specs, number of blades, cutting diameters, and overall design, none of that really matters if you’re shooting the wrong arrow with less than square ends, and/or your rest and bow are out of tune. Those are the components that will give you perfect flight results with a wide variety of broadheads. Neglecting them will come back to haunt you — usually in the form of a botched shot. And that’s the last thing any ethical bowhunter wants to happen.
Steve Flores is a dedicated bowhunter who enjoys pursuing whitetails near his home in the mountains of southern WV. He also enjoys chasing elk in Idaho.