The problem with modern arrows is that they pretty much all look the same. Shafts that cost $200 a dozen are nearly indistinguishable from arrows that can cost a third. But they will work differently, just like the new arrows probably shoot your trusty old guys from five years ago.
And when it comes to arrows, performance is key. As long as your bow is properly tuned and your shooting is correct, you should have no problem grouping your broadheads with your field sights. That, unfortunately, is not always the case. Sometimes an evaluation of your archery ammunition is required to diagnose the problem and fix it. Here are five of the most common precision draw problems bowhunters face.
axes are not square
This is one of my favorites, and it just involves the front and back ends of the arrow. Whether cut at the factory, cut at a pro shop, or cut at home, it’s easy to get arrows that aren’t a perfect 90 degree angle from the shaft to the inserts. If your arrow isn’t square, your nocks or inserts won’t be either. In any case, poor arrow flight is almost guaranteed.
To fix this, buy an arrow squaring tool and a silver Sharpie. Color in the ends of your shafts with the marker and then turn the arrow on the tool until all the silver is gone. You will often see that silver is not sanded evenly, which means the shaft was not cut perfectly flush. Doing this for every arrow will ensure that each axis fires as the last one.
If you don’t want to buy a squaring tool, stop by your pro shop and ask them to take a look at it. It will be an economical way to have the peace of mind that everything is cut as it should be.
Improper pallet placement
An archery expert told me that the reason most factory arrows have straight or slightly offset shafts is because the first fletching machines were built that way, long before we understood the benefits of a helical alignment. . He said it would be a major expense for some arrow-making brands to replace old machines with new ones that could put three degrees of offset on countless dozens of shafts, so they likely won’t be replaced anytime soon. This also means that if you buy a dozen arrows that come feathered, you’re already at a slight disadvantage, depending on the brand.
According to world famous archer and mule deer hunter Randy Ulmer, this is a big deal, especially if you’re shooting micro-diameter axes.
“Thin arrows have so many advantages,” Ulmer said. “When fletched with little or no trim, they will produce a great flight with field points. But, when you screw in a wide tip, you’ll find that precision and forgiveness are being robbed. The best bet here is to take the time to learn how to fletch them yourself and use a jig that offers enough helix or offset to produce a really good broad-tip flight.”
a short palette
If fletching your own arrows isn’t appealing, consider buying arrows that offer four arrows out of the box. Hunters often discard the four blades because they are concerned about drag on the arrows, but that shouldn’t be the case. Sure, if you’re a western hunter who occasionally shoots 80-yard arrows, you might see a difference in windy situations. But if you’re a whitetailer who mostly takes shots within 30 yards, you won’t notice more drag or less speed.
What you will notice with four vanes is great arrow flight due to rear stability and faster overall flight stabilization. I’ve played a lot with four-blade arrows over the years, and what impresses me most is how often I have a veritable dozen that fly perfectly with broad tips. That rarely happens with three-feathered arrows, which almost always include a couple of wild flyers.
Here’s the truth about arrows and broadheads: You get what you pay for. It’s like buying a well-bred hunting dog. You may have success with the occasional budget pick or the used option, but there’s a much higher margin of error in quality.
When it comes to arrows, not only do better materials cost more, but it’s also more expensive to laser check straightness, consistently match backbones, and produce shafts to tighter weight tolerances. As with match-grade ammo, arrows built to the same specs will group better than arrows with looser tolerances. There are ways to go cheap at bowhunting, but your arrows (and broadheads) are no place to skimp. If your flight is consistently inconsistent, it could simply be a matter of upgrading to a higher quality dozen.
When we think of the spine or the stiffness of our arrows, we imagine flexing. Watch a slow motion video of an arrow being fired from a compound bow and you’ll see what I mean. But there’s also a dynamic backbone, involving the sudden force of the string on the back end of the arrow. This means that your arrows, with each shot, are being stressed to bend and flex. The same thing happens when your arrows hit dense targets and suddenly stop. All of this can lead to spinal degradation, which is basically impossible to diagnose with the naked eye.
It all boils down to the more you shoot your arrows, the more the structural integrity will degrade. Eventually, even though this may take several years, they won’t carry a broadhead as well as they used to. The best indicator that your arrows are breaking is if they are not clumping now like they were a few years ago. Assuming almost everything else is equal (shape, bow, string, broadheads), you can deduce the degradation of the spine in looser groupings. Good for you for wasting your ammo, though, because most hunters don’t hold arrows long enough to do so.
If that happens, take a trip to the pro shop and go through the budget section. Square your arrows and fletch, and you’ll be ready for another couple of seasons of quality flight.
Featured image via Captured Creative.