By Eric Davis
Sun Outdoor Columnist
Now is the time of year to start thinking about the upcoming archery season. There is plenty of time to do your research and put in the time on the practice range to get dialed in before October 1.
One piece of equipment that is very important when determining the success of a harvest is the broadhead on the front of an arrow. It is up to the archer to be able to pick the right placement but using the wrong broadhead can result in wounded animals that are not recovered. Here are some things to consider when deciding what broadhead to use.
Expandable broadheads are by far the most popular type of broadhead when looking at product sales at retail stores. There are a few reasons why they sell so well. First, almost every hunting show on television uses them. So, anyone watching those shows sees them promoted by the show hosts and in advertisements throughout the show. This creates the idea that the hosts are successful using that broadhead, so I need to use that to be successful. Second, expandable broadheads are marketed to fly like field tips.
When using fixed blade broadheads, the profile of the head is much larger than the small round field tip most people practice with, so they tend to fly differently that field tips in bows that aren’t “perfectly tuned”. Since expandable broadheads are compact like a field tip but expand upon impact with the animal, they fly more like field tips. This means it takes less work (and time) on the shooter’s side to get things tuned in perfectly when shooting broadheads. Before running out and buying expandable broadheads, there are some considerations.
All expandable broadheads require energy to open. The amount of energy needed may vary based on design, but they all need some. The energy needed to open comes from the kinetic energy of the arrow as is impacts the animal. Essentially, the broadhead makes the arrow slow down or lose momentum as soon as it impacts to open the blades of the broadhead. So, to make sure the broadhead is going to perform as it should, you need to make sure your setup is producing enough kinetic energy. If you know your total arrow weight and the actual speed of your bow shooting your setup (it will almost never be the speed the bow company says) you can plug those numbers into a momentum calculator online. Based on the previous sentence, you know that there are two factors when determining momentum, mass and speed. A lighter arrow may increase the arrow speed but it might not make up for the loss of mass compared to a heavier, slower arrow. Therefore, in the case of expandable broadheads, faster is not always better. Low draw weights produce low arrow speed so archers shooting less than 50 pounds of draw weight should be extremely careful choosing expandable broadheads and do more research as some companies do make expandable broadheads designed for low energy setups.
Fixed blade broadheads, as mentioned already, have a very different profile than field tips which tends to make them fly differently. This difference makes it so archers might have to adjust their sight, rest, or both when they switch over to using the broadheads ahead of the season. It is better to tweak your setup so that your broadheads fly exactly like field tips instead of making a change specifically for hunting then switching back for target shooting. This can be done by the bareshaft tuning method. I can write a more detailed description of how this method is performed but the principle is that if you can get an arrow with no fletchings to fly perfectly straight off your bow, no matter what head you put on the arrow it will still fly straight. The larger profile in flight can be an issue for extremely fast shooting bows, especially crossbows, as the arrow could potentially plane or “knuckle” like a knuckleball thrown in baseball. Fixed blades however don’t require energy to open as they are always in the ready position. This makes them a great choice for low energy setups such as young archers or people shooting traditional archery equipment.
Since they don’t slow down as much on impact, fixed blade broadheads lead to better penetration and have a higher rate of completely passing through the animal. While both expandable and fixed blade broadheads can have replacement blades, it is easier to take apart a fixed blade than is it an expandable.
No matter what type of broadhead you choose to use, your ability to put the broadhead where it needs to hit to be a lethal shot is important. A poorly placed shot is no good, no matter what broadhead you use. If you think what I use is important (which it shouldn’t be), I shoot fixed blades with my compound bow and expandables with my crossbow.