I’m a bow hunter who wants his cake and fully intends to eat it! Compromise isn’t an option when it comes to my hunting equipment. Hunting with a stick and string has too many elements that can’t be controlled to worry about things that should take care of themselves.
Broadheads are a prime example. In my early years of bow hunting, I experienced satisfactory service from most of the broadheads I used. My bow pushed a XX75/2317 arrow approximately 200 feet per second.
At the time, 200 fps was considered fast and I was a happy camper. A few years ago when I traded in my old bow for a machined-riser, graphite-limb speedster, I started enjoying arrow speeds over 250 fps! I was elated about the new-found speed and shooting accuracy until I tried to sight in with broadheads. Immediately my groups started suffering from erratic broadhead flight.
It seems I’m not alone. Most of the archery buffs I talk with have experienced minor or in some cases major problems getting a broadhead to shoot straight from their high-speed compound bows. In desperation, I tried different brands and sizes of broadheads, but each suffered from the same planing effect caused by the fixed blades punching through the air.
I settled on two-blade broadheads because they gave me the best shooting accuracy. For several seasons I shot and killed my share of bucks with two-blade heads. I might still be using these tried-and-true hunting points if it weren’t for a reoccurring problem that disturbed me.
The two-blade heads zeroed in on their mark, but they passed through the animal leaving two small, slit-like wounds and a blood trail that was a challenge at best to follow. Even with a perfect double-lung hit, I often had trouble following the blood trail.
In total frustration I decided to try the new open-on-impact broadheads during daily practice sessions last summer. After shooting foam targets and enjoying flawless blade operation and excellent shooting accuracy, I made up my mind to try one of these heads on a live animal. A September caribou hunt in Labrador turned out to be the ideal testing site.
My moment of truth came on the fifth day of the hunt. I began my day at sunrise perched on top a ridge where I could watch for caribou moving through the spruce trees below.
When a bull stepped into an opening 200 yards away, I knew even without lifting my binoculars that I wanted him. Using a combat-style crawl I made my way downhill towards the animal.
When the gap closed to 20 yards, I got onto my knees and went to full draw using a spruce tree for cover. Without warning the bull trotted past me and stepped out into the open, catching me by surprise in the process. I was offered a perfect broadside shot, but my bow and body were pointed in the wrong direction.
When I pivoted my body to make the shot, the bull saw movement and bounded another 20 yards further before stopping to see what had spooked him. At 40 yards is was now or never. Already at full draw, I only had to move my bow a few inches to line up the bull. I put the pin near the top of the animal’s chest and squeezed the release trigger.
The arrow with an 80-grain Rocket Mini-Blaster XL broadhead impacted the bull squarely in the boiler room and penetrated to the nock. I saw a mist of red spray out behind the animal when the arrow struck home and knew immediately that the open-on-impact broadhead had done its job.
The bull wheeled around and ran straight down hill disappearing into the spruce and willow thicket. The blood trail was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I walked directly to the spot where my bull piled up without having to stop and look for blood once!
Last October I took two buck whitetails, one the best animal of my bow hunting career, using open-on-impact heads. The broadheads performed flawlessly, providing excellent accuracy, good penetration, and a whopping blood trail.
As a result of my testing I can recommend several brands of open-on-impact style broadheads. The Rocket, produced by Rocket Arrowhead Corp., has the widest selection of blade configurations and sizes. Available in three- or four-blade versions, the blades fold into the broadhead ferrule and are held in place with a small rubber band. The rubber band slides down the arrow shaft on impact, allowing the blades to open with a fail-safe lever motion. The Rocket blades are .027-inch thick and cut a massive 1 3/4-inch hole.
Vortex broadheads feature two blades that are held in place with a rubber “O” ring. The Vortex operates using the same lever principle as the Rocket, but this broadhead delivers a enormous 2 3/4 inch wound channel! Available in 75-, 100-, and 125-grain models this broadhead is quality built with .030-inch thickness spring steel blades.
Game Tracker recently introduced their Stiletto broadhead. Similar in design to the Vortex, this head features blades that are .031-inch thick and comes in 80-, 100-, and 125-grain sizes. The 80- and 100-grain version features a two-inch cutting diameter and the 125-grain a whopping 2 3/4 inch cutting width. The Game Tracker Stiletto is also available as a glue-on version for hunters who use carbon arrows.
Rocky Mountain recently introduced a two-blade open-on-impact head that allows the blade to fold down when it impacts bone such as a rib, then reopen after the head passes by. Known as the Gator this unique free-floating blade style head is typical of the major advancements being made in the open-on-impact broadhead market. The Gator is currently only available in the 100-grain size.
I feel open-on-impact heads are an excellent option for those who shoot the new generation of super-fast compound bows. At the high arrow speeds these bows deliver, open-on-impact heads provide better accuracy than traditional broadheads and more than adequate penetration.
Open-on-impact broadheads typically feature larger blade sizes than most fixed-blade heads. As a result, open-on-impact heads don’t penetrate as well as premium fixed-blade heads.
The loss of penetration doesn’t normally effect hunters who shoot super-fast bows. Those of us who shoot slower bows should be advised to stay with a premium fixed-blade broadhead. Recurve shooters, women, and young shooters are better off with the greater penetration offered by traditional broadheads.
Compound bow shooters who suffer from broadhead flight problems and the growing number of archery hunters who are choosing super-fast bows should explore the options of open-on-impact broadheads. These new products may indeed be a way to have your cake and eat it too.