Archery season is just over a month away here in the “Southern Zone” of New York. If you are getting the deer hunting itch, go set out some trail cameras or move a stand so the deer have time to get used to it before October 1. While you are at it, you might start thinking about any archery gear upgrades you think would be useful.
While an entire new bow is a great thought, it may not always be in the best interest of your wallet (if it is, go for it!). However, changing what arrows you are shooting could be something worth looking into. Even if you do buy a new bow, you should also consider what arrows you will shoot.
In the evolution of modern archery, wooden arrow shafts were first replaced by aluminum shafts. These shafts could be produced with machinery that made them have similar characteristics without a lot of variation. This meant it would be easier to produce a batch of a dozen arrows that weighed roughly the same and have the same spine, or flexibility, rather than looking for the right wood to produce the same thing. Aluminum arrows also could have thicker walls on the shaft so the arrow could handle the force of higher draw weight bows.
Aluminum arrows are heavy, which often means slower arrow speeds. Heavier arrows produce more kinetic energy than lighter arrows at the same speed, which results in greater penetration. When bowhunting, penetration is the goal as the hunter wants the broadhead to penetrate as much as it can in the target animal. One of the major downsides to aluminum shaft arrows is that the shaft can bend if hit by another arrow or if it impacts a dense object such as a tree or animal bone. Once the shaft is bent, it is useless. Aluminum arrows are still available today but in a limited number of options compared to the past.
Aluminum arrows were pushed off the top spot by carbon arrow shafts. Carbon fibers are rolled into tubes that make up the arrow shafts. The result is a lightweight arrow that shoots faster than aluminum and does not bend or dent if it hits something it should not. The carbon shafts are skinnier than the aluminum shafts that would be the comparable spine.
So, when thinking of penetration, the skinnier carbon shaft can make up for the loss of kinetic energy due to lighter weight because a smaller diameter arrow penetrates farther than a larger diameter arrow. Think of hammering nails, a smaller nail drives in farther than a fatter nail with a similar amount of effort put into swinging the hammer. Carbon arrows can start to crack and splinter if they get hit by other arrow points, so it is important to inspect them before using them each time. Woven carbon arrows resist this better than rolled carbon arrows.
The latest in arrow technology combines some of the good things of aluminum and carbon arrows to create an arrow that is the best of both worlds. A carbon arrow that is coated in aluminum with a small diameter gives great penetration from both the small diameter plus the added weight the aluminum over the carbon shaft.
However, these are still prone to bent shafts. Another company has released an arrow that has layers of stainless steel within the carbon fibers to give strength and weight to the arrow. The stainless steel is less likely to bend than aluminum so the arrow can resist bending.
Other factors to consider when looking for arrows include your draw length, draw weight, the broadhead you plan to shoot, and your target species. Knowing your draw length and weight will allow you to decide what spine strength your arrows will need to have to give you the best performance. If you choose an arrow spine that is too weak, your arrow will bend excessively during flight and give you poor results. Some mechanical broadheads require a lot of energy to open when they impact the target so shooting some arrows may not be best suited for this (or the broadhead may not be suited for your setup).
Knowing what animal you want to hunt can change what arrow you want. Small, think-skinned game can be harvested with almost any arrow because penetration is easy to achieve. However large game species with thick hides can slow arrows down quick and result in mere flesh wounds instead of harvests. These are things to remember and consider when shopping for arrows. Do not be afraid to ask questions at a bow shop to get better insight on what your options are before making your choice. Arrows can cost upwards of $20 a piece, so do your homework and make an educated decision so ensure you get the best possible results.