It’s the same program every fall. Early in the bow season I take an adult doe to put fresh meat on the table. Like thousands of other bow hunters I’m anxious to test my hunting skills, draw blood, and poise myself for the buck hunting that will dominate the rest of the season.
Freezer deer came my way early last fall. A fat doe, probably in her third season, stepped out of a dense stand of tag alders and provided me an opportunity too good to turn down. The range was short, the shot angle was perfect, and there was plenty of daylight left to trail a wounded animal.
With all the variables in my favor, I decided to take the doe. I drew and anchored, concentrating on the crease where the front shoulder joins the first rib. I relaxed my bow hand and tightened an index finger around the release trigger. When the pin found its mark, one final nudge of the release trigger is all it took to send an ACC shaft speeding towards the target.
I knew instantly the shot was good, but my point of focus remained on the exact spot where I aimed. The arrow impacted and passed clean through the deer. Blood was clearly visible behind the front shoulder as the animal bolted for cover.
Confident in my shot, I gathered up my gear and walked directly to the spot the animal was standing. The proof of a lung shot lay on the ground before me. My arrow was completely coated in bright red. In the tall grass blood was splattered in a path that looked as if someone colored the ground with a can of red spray paint.
I immediately started following up the trail. There’s no need to be patient and wait after a hit like this. An animal shot through both lungs is running dead. Usually they bound out of sight, then as if zapped by a lightning bolt, the animal comes to a skidding halt. It’s all over in seconds.
I followed the blood spray directly to the deer like a beagle sniffing out a rabbit track. The trailing job was textbook. Only about 60 yards from the spot I shot her the doe lay piled up.
I’ve lived this story season after season and come to the conclusion that the process of harvesting an animal with a bow and arrow starts long before the arrow is released. Assuming you’ve done your scouting, picked a good stand site, and put in your hunting time, it’s little things that take you from the moment of truth to a cleanly harvested animal.
Bow hunters are camo crazy. Ironically, when it comes to hunting arrows a shaft that’s easy to see may be more advantageous than one that’s camo clad. Dressing arrows in colorful fletching and crown dips is something I’ve been doing for years and highly recommend to all bow hunters. My hunting shafts are crown dipped in white Bohning Fletch Lac paint, then dressed with a contrasting vane color such as red or one of the many fluorescent shades.
The result is a hunting arrow that’s visible in flight even in low light. Even more important, the arrow can be seen as it strikes the animal. Knowing where an animal was hit and how much penetration resulted is the most important information a hunter needs to begin trailing a wounded animal.
If the animal is hit squarely in the lungs and there’s pass-through penetration, there’s no need to waste valuable daylight before beginning the trailing job. On the other hand, if the hit was a little too far back, forward, high, or low it would be prudent to wait and allow the animal some time to bed down and stiffen up.
Equally important, the hunter must select a broadhead-arrow combination that will penetrate well enough to provide both an entrance and exit wound. If the broadhead doesn’t punch through both sides of the animal, the resulting blood trail is likely to be weak. This is especially true if the entrance wound is high on the animal’s side, such as often occurs when hunting from treestands.
In order to maximize penetration most hunters realize they need to use a razor-sharp broadhead. The broadheads that deliver maximum penetration are those that have the least amount of surface area to cause friction. Two-blade heads such as the Bear Razorhead, Zwickey Eskimo, and Delta Snuffer are known for their penetrating ability. Unfortunately the slit-like holes left by these broadheads aren’t likely to yield an easy-to-follow blood trail.
Fixed three-blade broadheads featuring a cut-on-contact tip design are the ideal compromise. A few of the trusted broadheads that meet this requirement include the Rocky Mountain Ironhead and Titanium, Hoyt Top Cut, Satellite Titan, Wasp Hammer, and New Archery Products Thunderhead.
These fixed-blade broadheads provide plenty of penetration and tissue damage. The holes they create allow blood to flow freely, making the trailing job much easier.
Mechanical broadheads by their very design eat up precious kinetic energy during the opening process. Also, many of these broadheads feature a huge cutting diameter that further reduces their ability to penetrate deeply.
While mechanical heads can be used with great success, they should not be used by hunters pulling less than 60 pounds or those using lightly spinned arrows.
It’s a fact: broadheads influence arrow penetration. What many bow hunters don’t understand is that the stiffness of their arrow shaft should be of equal concern.
When an arrow impacts a target it flexes, wasting valuable kinetic energy and ultimately reducing broadhead penetration. The amount of flex, and relative penetration loss, is directly related to the arrow stiffness. Speaking in general terms an aluminum 2219 arrow is stiffer than a 2216 because the inner wall diameter of the shaft is .003 of an inch thicker. All conditions such as arrow speed, arrow length, broadhead weight, and sharpness being equal, a 2219 arrow will penetrate better than a 2216.
Faster is not always better. I’ve noted many times when a relatively slow moving 2317 arrow passed through a deer seemingly with energy to spare while a sizzling 2312 shaft sticks in the animal. You say this phenomenon occurs because the 2317 shaft is heavier and has more inertia. Certainly arrow weight helps to drive an arrow through an animal, but I can prove that weight isn’t the primary force at work.
Think for a minute about graphite arrows. Graphite hunting shafts are the lightest hunting arrows available, yet few bow hunters would argue that graphite arrows penetrate better than aluminum. Why? Because graphite arrows are up to five times stiffer than aluminum arrows. Graphite/aluminum composites such as the ACC fall somewhere in between in stiffness.
Using a stiff arrow shaft dramatically increases arrow penetration and can make pass-through hits the rule rather than the exception. Even hunters who aren’t pulling much weight can still get this level of penetration if they choose the right shaft.
I’d highly advise that children, women, and men who are limited to 40 pounds of peak draw weight or less use graphite or ACC shafts for hunting arrows. Hunters who can pull 60 pounds or more can get by nicely with a wide range of aluminum arrows. However, those bow hunters who wish to maximize the performance of their bow may also consider graphite or ACC shafts.
Unfortunately, when very stiff arrows are matched with high-poundage bows, erratic arrow flight sometimes becomes a problem. These problems can be solved in part by making sure the bow is tuned correctly, larger vanes or feather fletching are used, and mechanical broadheads are incorporated.
I’m personally shooting a Darton Cyclone set at 70 pounds. A 29 inch 3-71 ACC shaft chronographs at approximately 280 fps and punches bullet holes through the paper tuning test. I’ve yet to encounter a deer, black bear, or caribou that’s a match for this system.
As hunters we can’t guarantee that every animal will be broadside and every shot a perfect double lung. That’s why it pays to take stock in little things like crown dipped arrows, broadheads, and arrow shafts.