Each year, as bowhunters switch over from shooting their practice tips to broadheads, I see many of come into our archery shop in total states of panic.
Even though they have been practicing all summer and their bow was sighted in, their hunting arrows are shooting to a totally different point of impact — or, worse yet, won’t group at all.
In a game of inches, it doesn’t take much of a difference to result in a missed or wounded animal.
Every bowhunter owes it to himself, as well as the game they pursue, to ensure their broadhead-tipped arrows are sighted in before heading to the field.
Here are some reasons why broadheads react differently than practice tips when fired from a bow, and what you can do to minimize or eliminate this problem with your setup.
There are two primary reasons why hunting and practice tips fly differently.
First, the aerodynamic properties of many broadheads and practice tips are drastically different. The exposed blades of fixed-blade broadheads act as planning surfaces, similar to a control surface on an aircraft.
So any time the arrow wobbles and causes the blades of a broadhead to encounter the airflow more, the arrow responds by changing direction. As arrow speed increases, this effect is greater and less wobble is required to cause more variation in arrow flight because at higher arrow speeds the air pressure on the blades is exponentially higher.
Today’s faster bows and crossbows make this even more likely.
So if your bow isn’t properly tuned and your arrow isn’t flying straight, your broadheads won’t shoot properly.
Mechanical broadheads minimize this problem by reducing or eliminating the exposed blade surface, and this is why they are so popular today.
Another reason broadhead-tipped arrows fly differently is that broadheads typically are longer than equally weighted practice tips, causing them to stick farther out from the center of the arrow.
This changes the arrow’s balance point or FOC (front of center) ratio. This is a measurement of what percentage of an arrow’s total weight is forward of the center point of that arrow.
For this reason, you will notice that many broadhead manufacturers are producing shorter-ferruled broadheads with steeper blade angles.
Adding lighted nocks or arrow wraps to the back of your arrow will also affect FOC, as well as the total arrow weight and stiffness, so be sure to have these on your practice broadhead arrows when you check your sight-in.
Because of their different aerodynamic properties, broadheads also respond to shooter input more.
That means any flaws in your form or flinches at the shot will be exaggerated.
Typically broadheads will not group as tightly as field points do for these reasons.
Even so, I do not recommend shooting more than one broadhead at a time into a target. Because most broadheads have a diameter of at least 1 1/8 inches and your fletching also stands out from the shaft, your group doesn’t have to be spectacular to result in a damaged arrow.
Sharp broadheads are a must in bow hunting, and nothing less than perfect will do here. Just one shot into a target with a broadhead makes it unethical to hunt with unless you replace the blades or re-sharpen them.
I designate one broadhead arrow as my practice hunting arrow, keeping it separate from my hunting arrows.
In my opinion, there are three keys to good broadhead flight.
First and foremost, your bow must be properly paper tuned. By shooting through paper and achieving a perfect hole, you ensure your arrow is leaving the bow flying straight.
This prevents broadhead planing.
Secondly, your arrows should be fletched with helical or offset fletching, causing the arrow to spin or rotate faster. Any projectile — be it a bullet, a football or an arrow — is more stable and flies better when it is spinning on its axis.
At the same time spinning helps prevent directional planning.
Thirdly, ensure your hunting tips are spin balanced and not wobbling. Lots of shooters worry about aligning their broadhead blades with the vanes, but I don’t feel that to be necessary.
What is critical, is that the broadheads are aligned with the center of your arrow shafts. A misaligned broadhead will cause your arrow to wobble in flight, and this can cause horrible accuracy.
This can be detected by spinning your arrow on the tip of the broadhead.
Or the easier and safer way is to use an arrow spinner.
Eliminate any broadheads or arrows that won’t spin balanced from your quiver immediately.
With a few simple steps and some minor setup changes, most broadhead flight issues can be easily resolved.
Understanding the forces at work during your arrows flight will help you to make these corrections.
A quality archery pro shop will be glad to help you, and can save lots of time and frustration.
Don’t let an avoidable mistake cost you your trophy this season.