Bowhunting & Broadheads: Watch em' Drop!
By Dustin Vaughn Warncke, Mac & Prowler Pro-Staff
Disclaimer: Some of the images in this article may be considered graphic in
nature but are used only for informational and educational purposes.
There are more broadheads on the market today than ever before. I often compare the many different kinds available to shopping for Bar-B-Que sauce at the grocery store. It’s overwhelming. Much like guns and bows and other hunting equipment, everyone seems to have their favorite or one that has been the most effective in their hunting experience. I am no different and recently did a tech tip segment on one of my favorite brands, Grim Reaper Broadheads. I also recently filmed a hog hunt, taking two hogs with Grim Reapers, which can be found on our website under Bow Tales and Hog Tales (www.macandprowler.com) and did a product segment about Grim Reapers as well. Before I go much further, I must disclose that recently made Pro-Staff with Grim Reaper as well, so I am a bit biased in this department. What I wanted to cover in this article though are some things I like about some different options in broadheads available today and what might most likely be the best fit for your bow set-up.
Fixed Blade vs. Mechanical Broadheads
This is an old argument since Mechanical/Expandable Broadheads hit the market many years ago. Numerous veteran bowhunters that I have talked with over the years grew up shooting Fixed Blade heads long before the newer Mechanical heads entered the market do not trust them. I compare the debate to the same pros and cons of revolvers versus semi-automatic pistols in the handgun realm. Revolvers are an older technology, limit the amount of ammo you can hold, but are usually reliable and fail proof under most conditions. Semi-auto pistols, on the other hand, usually have more magazine capacity, caliber selections, and versatility, but also more moving parts and the potential to jam because of the cycling of the weapon. Both sides of the argument have good points as do the differences between fixed and mechanical broadheads. Traditionally, most mechanical heads will fly better than fixed blade but there are many Fixed Blades heads on the market which are very accurate these days now as well such as the G5 Montec or the Grim Reaper Hades. A good rule of thumb has always been to practice using your broadheads just before season in the case that you need to fine tune your accuracy with broadheads in the place of regular field points. This is mainly the case with shooting Fixed Blade heads. Most Mechanicals like Grim Reaper, Rage, Spitfire, etc. fly exactly the same as your field tips, so long as you are shooting the same respective grain weight. So changing field points for broadheads is unnecessary with most mechanicals, which is a nice benefit and time saver. Many manufactures now include practice heads, build just for target practice before the hunt but I don’t see the need for them. I imagine it makes hunters feel better about their accuracy, which is fine, and also allows them to practice at the range using the “real deal” without tearing up the expensive heads during target practice until its show time.
Mechanicals obviously have moving parts than Fixed Blade heads. The argument has been that there is less to go wrong in a Fixed Blade head versus a Mechanical. Many are concern at the moment of truth with the blades of a Mechanical head not deploying from the front to the back, as with a standard Mechanical head, or sliding open from the front to back, such as in the case of the Rage heads and rear- deployment/Slip-Cam technology. Many strides have been made by broadhead companies over the years to make Mechanicals as reliable as Fixed Blades but one can always argue the point that there is less that can potentially go wrong with Fixed Blade heads. One limitation with fixed blade heads is that you can only get so much overall cut radius size without sacrificing accuracy. Usually, the longer the cut radius, the less accurate the broadhead and I have shot many with dismal accuracy in my past as a bowhunter. Mechanical heads on the market today can range from 1-3/8” to 2-1/2” cut radius, depending on manufacture, because of the blades being closed in flight and deploying from the kinetic energy of entering the animal.
All things considered, I will tell you that I favor broadheads that do not use O-Rings or small rubber bands to keep the Mechanical Heads closed in pre-deployment mode. I once had a 3-Blade traditional mechanical broadhead with an O-Ring that didn’t open on a deer. Not just that but the O-Ring stayed in place after the shot! It was like shooting a deer with a field point. Thank goodness we recovered the deer but I swore off that brand after that. I had another situation with a hog I took an angled shot on with an O-Ring captive 2-Blade Mechanical head and only had one of the two blades deploy on impact during a hog hunt. Now, please do not get upset if I am talking about your favorite brand of head that used O-Rings. I usually never disparage a product manufacture in a setting like this article so I will not mention the brand of these two heads. Your mileage may vary. This is just my experience.
2-Blade vs. 3- or 4- Blade Broadheads
Obviously, the most traditional broadheads are 2-Blade fixed broadheads, harkening back to the Native American days and arrowheads. Today, Magnus, First Cut, Steel Force, and many others are producing wonderful 2-Blade Fixed heads that are well balanced and fly well. 3- and 4-Blade broadheads are my favorite choice for hunting though and this is simply because they leave a bigger exit hole. In working around a hunting ranch for several years, I have seen more than a few hogs and other animals who have healed up from a marginal 2-Blade broadhead pass-through if it was not a sure-fatal hit. A 3- or 4-Blade head usually producing a larger, wider exit hole and an animal is far less likely to recover from the larger resulting exit wound. That being said, I have used 2-Blade heads in the past with success and I know many others who have, but I try to stack the odds in my favor where I can. Bowhunting is a tough game as most of us know and I want every advantage I can get. Regardless, it’s all up to personal preference. You are getting ready to see what mine is and why next. But before I get there I will mention that a general rule of thumb is to use 100 grain, or even lighter grain weight if that is what your bow setup is tuned for, in a compound bow and 125 grain in a crossbow setup. Many manufactures make “Crossbow rated” mechanical heads now which are guaranteed not to open in flight out of many of the fast crossbows on the market like one of our M&P favorites, the Barnet Ghost 400.
Many broadheads of different designs sell replacement blade/rebuild kits which allow one to use the same ferrule (core body) multiple times and just change the blades and/or other vital parts out. I have had great success with doing multiple rebuilds on my Grim Reaper heads for instance, saving the cost of having to purchase broadheads each time you shoot one. I am from the school that the blades need to be replaced on a broadhead after an animal is shot with one without exception. It is not worth taking the chance of losing and animal because your equipment is not in proper working order or you wanted to save some money and shoot the same broadhead again without replacing the blades. This is especially crucial in the world of Mechanical heads. Leave nothing to chance and make sure everything is in like-new working order before screwing a rebuilt head back on your arrow and placing it back in your quiver for your next hunt. There are not a lot of second chances in bowhunting if your equipment fails.
Watch Em’ Drop
For years I hunted with many different broadheads and never had a favorite out of all of them. A while back, I lost two deer in a row, one with a fixed 4-Blade head on a Whitetail Doe and two weeks later with a rather popular 3-Blade Mechanical head. Both were crossbow shots in a greenbelt area close to suburban life, Deer City USA if you will, but both deer ran into surrounding heavy brush never to be seen again. I was devastated and almost swore off bowhunting after these two hunt set-backs. If you have been bowhunting any length of time, you know the feeling of not recovering your game after what you thought was a good shot. Some hunters I talk to just chalk an experience like that up to “it happens” and move down the road. I take it personally though and care deeply about the animals I pursue. I was talking to Jake Davis one afternoon, who serves as one of our hunting guides at DB Hunting Ranch. In idle conversation he said, “Why don’t you just try Grim Reapers. They don’t run far after a good hit with those.” I had seen the commercials with the “Watch Em’ Drop” slogan, featuring animals seemingly falling over a few seconds after the shot, but doubted this could be true. I mean, come on, we have all been on tracking jobs, some rather long and unfruitful, in the bowhunting realm and I could not see how a simple broadhead could work that well.
The next season, I hit the woods hard and loaded down with nothing but Grim Reapers for my archery set up. I elected for the 1-3/4” Razortips and have since added expander cups for a 2” cut radius out of my Barnett C5 Wildcat crossbow for this setup. In my compound setup I usually use a 100 grain Whitetail Special which is the 1-3/4 cut radius with an expander cup already built in at the bottom, for a 2” cut radius. Now, I only shoot both of these sizes, which are at the upper end of the spectrum of Grim Reaper heads, because I shoot a long 30” draw length and 62 pound draw weight in my compound bow. My crossbow shoots fast enough to get a pass-through shot but not too fast to where the blades open prematurely in flight so the “crossbow rated” version of the broadheads are not necessary, allowing me to shoot a longer cut radius . The main thing we want to consider in cut radius size with mechanicals is pass-through. If you shoot a lighter draw weight or shorter draw length in your compound bow, consider a smaller diameter cut radius for the best pass-through efficiency.