Hunting Arrow Setup and Tips

The purpose of the hunting arrow is to kill therefore always use the same safety habits during handling as you would use with a loaded pistol and straight razor at the same time, I say pistol because their safe handling requires more focus than rifles and straight razor because the broadheads should be that sharp. Arrows can not only hurt your intended game but present a lot of risk of personal injury to yourself also as possible with the hand gun. Arrows punctures can not only put out an eye but if for some accidental reason the blades can cause cuts which can cause permanent damage to ligaments and even death by bleeding. 

This said, no matter what kind of arrow shaft, nock, fletching and broad head you use when hunting keep the blades razor sharp. Before choosing hunting arrow points remember this fact. I used to spend hours sharpening old style fixed blade points, back before replaceable blade broadheads became available.

Most people think that the reason for keeping blades razor sharp is that dull blades will push away blood vessels. This may have a little merit but the real reason for razor sharp blades has to do with superior bleeding from the tissue that is cut. When a rough cut is made there is more damage to more nerves not only from the ragged cut but also from bruising also. When the signal reaches the brain a return signal to the  nerves involved tells the capillaries to contract which reduces the blood flow to the open ends of the capillaries. At the same time the signal calls for the release of clotting agents. This is the principal involved during amputation of a limb where there is very little blood loss.

The signal level of trauma to the brain is reduced by a smooth narrow cut resulting in less capillary contraction. In fact a cleanly sheared nerve does not react as quickly due to less disturbance. Fewer capillaries contract and less clotting hormone released. I have read of at least two cases where an arrow through the heart and one embedded in another deer's lung had so little bleeding and so much early clotting that they both survived for over two years before they were killed in other ways.

Point is, either learn to sharpen broad points to a shaving edge (test them then re-strop) or use replaceable blades. There are a lot of good replaceable blade broad heads but I, having come out of the medical device industry, tend to go with the points having a three chisel trocar shape similar to the devices used by doctors for smooth easy penetration when making  minimally invasive access holes on the body. They have a chisel pyramid shape which is tough enough to penetrate bone. Remember these edges when performing maintenance, if the edges get nicked or dulled re-sharpen and polish before replacing the blades. The obviously best design would be one where the blades line up with the trocar edges. I notice that some manufacturers add a coating of Teflon to their points. If the points have to be honed due to nicks or dullness the Teflon will be removed. I just spray all my hunting arrow surfaces with a Teflon spray lubricant available at my local hardware store.

Hunting Arrow Shafts:

Your choice here are wood shafts, metal shaft, fiberglass and carbon fiber. If hunting with a compound bow of high peak weight the wooden arrow, usually cedar, is out of the question as they are not consistently strong enough for high draw weights. Cedar arrows also warp over time under humid conditions.

Aluminum shaft hunting arrows when new are consistently precise come in any spine (discussed below) stiffness required to match your bow weight, nock, broadhead and vane weight. Make a few bad ricocheting shots off of trees or even the ground or accidentally lay something heavy on them and you will need a straighter or have them straightened.

Carbon epoxy hunting  arrow shafts are the newest technology, they are lighter weight and smaller in diameter for the same stiffness as aluminum. They are lighter in weight and not bendable. For about five years of their early life they had consistency problems in the attributes of wall thickness, stiffness, strength and straightness. Recently the carbon arrow technology has improved such that manufacturers can achieve straightness tolerances of 0.006" (this is a necessary minimum specification do not forget the number). One nice feature about carbon arrows is they are either shoot able or broken. You can muss the fletching, knocks and broadheads but you can only break carbon shafts.

People talk about an arrow's "spine" to know exactly what the are talking about one must understand the "three spines".

The first spine referred to and referenced in the specification literature is the "static spine" and refers to the deflection (bending displacement) of the arrow when placed between two support points and loaded with a force or weight placed at a point in the middle between the supports.

Another "spine" discussed is the "dynamic spine" which refers to how much the hunting arrow - or any arrow - bends when shot from a bow. This bending happens when the string is turned loose by the hunter and puts a load pressure on the end of the arrow as the limbs relax.. The mass of the arrow along with its components plus the friction of the rest resists the effort of the string to move it. Now, if the components were installed perfectly symmetrical and straight and  the shaft were perfectly straight and mass distributed perfectly along its length and around its girth and if the string force direction was perfectly straight to the axis of the total arrow mass the arrow would not bend in the least during the process of launching.

Arrow oscillation in flight

The world of archery is not perfect however and due to the way a bow is constructed and the way it is held and the way the string loads it, all arrows of optimum weight and construction bend. Furthermore, for some bow set ups to have any accuracy at all it has to bend. The reason it has to bend is that for the fletching to clear the bow riser components the fletching end ideally bends away as it passes. It will bend back the other way in route and will actually oscillate until internal and external air friction absorbs the induced energy. This oscillation inducement is sometimes referred to as the archers paradox. Paradox is caused by the vector (direction) of the string force when the string is released, more paradox is induced by finger or glove shooting than when using a release aid. A carbon arrow recovers from this oscillation quicker than other arrow shaft materials. I.e. is more quickly lines up directly behind the point. Carbon arrows being lighter are faster thus resulting in deeper penetration and being smaller in diameter carbon arrows are less affected by cross winds.

Another factor involved in this equation is the arrow length which is determined by the archers draw and arrow rest set-up. Arrow manufacturers publish data tables for matching spine to the bow draw length and weight. Use them or get a professional to help you select the arrow for your unique set of conditions.

Arrow Dynamics


Hunting Arrow Fletching

The most popular fletching shape in the US is the Parabolic. It has a lower profile shape and provides quiet, fast and accurate results when combined with lighter weight broadheads. The Shield shape (long slant from one end to the other) is a higher profile which has increased stability due to it's higher drag coefficient. The Banana shape provides even more feather height for hunting arrows tipped with larger / heavier broadheads. Standard lengths of fletching or vanes is three to five inches. Heavier arrows need the longer five inch fletching. In any case use enough feather or vane to stabilize the hunting arrow, so the broadhead does not guide the arrow.

If there is a archery shop close by the beginner should discuss fletching and types with the pro there. If there so no pro nearby and you plan to build your own arrows or fix damaged fletching buy a fletching jig. Become a pro yourself and study the properties of different fletching materials, shape, length and height and its effect on the hunting arrow setup you plan to use. 

Here is a detailed hunting arrow feather fletching guide.

Flex-Fletch Products makes plastic vanes .

No matter which type of fletching you choose, before shooting wrap a few wraps of thread around the base of the fletching on the front and seal the thread with clear fingernail polish. To do this the fletching or vane might need to be notched a little to make room.

The reason for this addition is to make the vanes last longer and prevent a possible cut from a loosened fletching. Broadheads:

Spinning blades can have an effect on arrow dynamics, maybe not as much as the fletching but some. Have your broad heads installed and balanced by an expert. An non-concentric i.e. un-aligned broad head can cause the arrow to pitch or yaw. Three or four blades should be more stable. Remember the more flat surface area the greater the risk for erratic flight. No one would use a hunting arrow with only two vane fletching. For that same reason I do not use a two edged broad head or a four blade with one big blade and small wings. While spinning the more blades the less effect on dynamics but the more blades the heavier the point. I figure three vanes and three equal size blades are optimum.  Some people believe hollowed out blades should  create more turbulence while spinning than smaller solid fins.

Nock and fletching installation are other items I would leave to the experts with their specialty jigs. Knocks like broadheads determine the flight characteristics of a hunting arrow  There are nocks available which are molded with a twist to their slot to induce a spin to assist the fletching. I have not tried these yet but plan to soon. The manufacturers literature clam's four times the rate of spin as induced by a five inch conventional fletching.

On fletching, another decision, natural or plastic is the question. water does a number on natural feathers but for target shooting indoors I prefer them. For hunting I shoot plastic because it is quiter than natural feathers. Plastic is a great fit for hunting but for storage or carrying around they must not sit pressed against anything for long periods of time because they will take a warped set. Store them in their box rather than leaving them in a bow or shoulder quiver.