August 22 • 12:35 PM

Picking the perfect arrow

The flight of the arrow is most important to connecting with a trophy

August 01, 2011
There I was standing behind the counter at the archery shop looking at all the arrow choices. There are so many new choices and with the speed of technology today I didn't want to buy yesterday's arrows. Picking the right arrow to match your hunting style is just as important as picking the right bow.

Today there are more quality arrows available than ever before. When walking into an archery shop, you will see rows and rows of arrows each very different. With so many choices how can you select the right arrow for you? That is a great question that so many hunters struggle with. The flight of your arrows is what stands between you and a trophy animal. Few people know what makes a smooth flying accurate arrow. When asking hunters about arrow weight, spine, spine tolerance, weight forward, their head quickly begins to spin.

The Archery Manufacturer's Organization has set forth a minimum arrow weight of 6 grains per inch (gpi) for each pound of your bow's draw weight. Following is a good example for a 60 lbs bow (60 lbs x 6 grains = 360 grains.) Typically competition shooters will shoot an extremely light arrow. This allows them to shoot farther distances with a flatter trajectory. On the contrary hunters often want a heavier arrow.

Heavier arrows most often provide more kinetic energy and better penetration. Another benefit is the arrow absorbs the bows energy delivering that punch downrange force. In the Michigan woods we are most often limited to close range archery, 30 yards is a stretch. Combine these distances with today's bows pushing arrow speeds over 300 feet per second (fps) and I do not worry about arrow arch because of heavier arrow weight. In my world, I prefer arrows in the 8-10 gpi range.

Quality arrows recover quicker in flight and are more forgiving which means more downrange accuracy. Author photos
Matching your arrow spine to your bow is another critical aspect of arrow selection. Spine is the stiffness of your arrow. The force of the string when accelerating the arrow causes the arrow to flex. This happens so fast the naked eye cannot see the arrow flexing while accelerating off the bow. An inaccurate spine will cause inconsistency in accuracy and tuning. The spine needs to be just right, too little and it will bend too much during acceleration which can be dangerous.

The right spine will help the arrow recover quickly when it comes out of the bow. Professional archery shops will help you pick the right spine for your bow. Each bow is different because they have different cams causing them to accelerate differently.

Looking at all the choices you have to think, arrows are arrows, right? No! There are both high-end and low grade arrows. The straightness, which is how much it deviates as you turn the arrow around, is another important decision point. Straightness is measured in thousandth of an inch. This is rated at +/- .001 inch. What this means is that each arrow can be slightly different by a thousandth. That doesn't seem like much but it does make a difference in accuracy downrange. And who wouldn't want a more accurate shooting arrow.

Arrows that fall into the +/- .005 and .006 straightness can lead to some problematic tuning. This only becomes worse at extended ranges. This also becomes more and more important with longer arrows, especially when an arrow is over 29 inches. It is common to see tolerances from .006 to .001 in arrows. The smaller tolerances are often better quality and will fly more consistently.

Far too often straightness gets too much press. Another more important decision for accuracy is spine tolerance. Spine tolerance is how much arrow stiffness changes in a dozen arrows. Those with poor tolerance flex differently coming out of the bow. These differences mean tuning headaches. The smaller tolerance often means higher prices that are worth every dollar spent. When looking at arrows always ask about the spine tolerance. If the shop does not know the tolerances then ask them to call the manufacturer to get the information. An informed decision will make for a better shooting experience.

It is not often that you hear about the finishing touches. After throwing dozens of different arrows there is a difference between a nicely finished arrow and a rough shaft. A smooth shaft draws quietly on all rest surfaces. This is a benefit at breath taking closeness.

In the past several years I have struggled with what type of fletching works best. Since I have been bowhunting for over 25 years I have used 4 inch vanes, sweet flying feathers all the way to high profile 2 inch vanes. There is nothing like the forgiving whistle of a feather flying through the air, I love them. But a couple years ago I made the switch to a two inch high profile vane and found them to be remarkably accurate.

The higher profile 2" vane has offered me better flight under the worst conditions. Rain, snow, and blistering cold does not affect my flight. I cannot say the same for feathers. These vanes offer the ability to stabilize your arrows even at great distances. For hunting situations I prefer 2" high profile vanes. A feather offers great stability but will slow your arrow a couple fps. This is a much debated topic and will continue to be debated into the future.

Once you have a new set of arrows in hand it is important to pick the right broadhead weight. Adding 10-15 % weight forward will give the arrow better flight and more accuracy. The weight forward concept provides the accuracy needed for longer distances.

So many times I have heard hunters discuss the choices between 100 or 125 grain broadhead. Which one is right? Check to see if you have enough weight forward before selecting. Two dollar bills weigh about 30 grains. That does not sound like much but can help improve downrange accuracy.

There is an excessive amount of choices today which is why it is important to be educated before stepping into the store. At minimum you need to know what is important. Picking out arrows is an important choice; it is what stands between you and the trophy of a lifetime. As hunters we spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on equipment and hunts each year. But many of us cringe at spending top dollar on arrows.

The flight of the arrow is most important to connecting with a trophy. Understanding that quality arrows recover quicker in flight and are more forgiving goes a long way. They shoot more consistently at both long and close range shots. It is important for hunters to make informed quality decisions when selecting arrows.

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