“I can’t wait,” said Jarrod Meyer, trying to subdue his outward excitement. He was referring to the October 1 opener of this year’s early archery deer hunting season. For many, this is akin to a national holiday of sorts.
I encountered Meyer while he looked at a vast array of broadheads at a local outdoor store. “What kind do you think are the best?” he asked. That brought up a good question and an even lengthier response.
Want to start a spirited debate? Just ask any bowhunter what broadhead they think is best. All hunters want their tips to do three basic things, in this order. They want them to fly true, take game quickly and hold up well.
It’s amazing to think of the advancements the archery world has endured since the earliest years. In the beginning the business ends of arrows were nothing more than sharpened pieces of stone, yet lethal enough to take woolly mammoths. Now these tips are anything but simple.
When I first started bow hunting, it seemed like everyone had the same razor sharp broadheads fastened to the end of their arrows. They were produced by Fred Bear and were only one of the few manufactured commercially. It’s unfathomable to think of the number of game species they have taken.
I will never forget my first compound, a big four-wheeled contraption that weighed as much as a tree-stand. Sure, the scant amount of let-off was nice, but the earlier models were heavy, cumbersome and at times hard to tune.
Today’s modern single-cam bows are incredible. They are light, extremely accurate and astonishingly fast. Some models sport 80 percent let-off and can launch an arrow over the length of a football field in under a second. Also amazing are the new releases, bow sights and of course, broadheads.
So back to Meyer’s question, which one is the best? There is no short answer and it’s one only you will determine. Although there are literally hundreds of choices, there are basically only two styles, fixed blades, and mechanicals (sometimes called expandable.) As with anything, they all have their advantages and disadvantages. So some companies have now started marketing hybrid broadheads which marry fixed blades with the mechanical styles.
Fixed blades are simple to use and do not rob an arrow of any energy. The drawback to broadheads sporting fixed blades is their flight characteristics. Each blade acts like the wing on a fighter jet. If your arrows are not balanced and tuned perfectly or if your bow isn’t set up properly, these blades will grab air and steer them off target. This really comes into play during windy conditions or when taking longer shots.
To combat these issues companies began making mechanical styles that fly just like target points because they don’t have blades sticking out. There is no doubt they do fly better, simple aerodynamics proves that.
The drawback to mechanicals is the blades deploy with a scissor type action. Earlier models were notorious for either opening too early or not opening at all but today’s models have almost overcome that. Still, when these blades do open up when they are supposed to, it takes energy which robs the arrow of some of its penetrative power. And if these blades don’t open up in perfect unison, the arrow can skew off line as it penetrates which again reduces kinetic energy and performance.
Another consideration is tip designs which come in two basic flavors, chisel point or cut-on-contact. The chisel tip is designed to hit hard and drive through muscle and bone. Cut-on-contact broadheads are surgically sharp from stem to stern. They begin to slice as soon as they make contact. Personally I have always preferred these types.
So which broadhead is the best? My advice is to try as many types as you can. Some archery shops even provide various styles to shoot. Whichever flies best with your shooting style and equipment is the best to use because accuracy is by far the most important. If you find several types that fly well, then pick the one that punches the biggest hole.
I look at it like this. All broadheads work…and all broadheads do not work. Confidence and accuracy are the keys. As long as the tip is surgically sharp, a well-placed arrow is more important than any style point you decide to use.