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Myths and Truths in Archery Hunting

By Bob Peck for Whitetail Times

Okay archery hunters, let’s shake things up. Let’s investigate some old myths that need to be exploded and let’s examine my truths, which could very well be yours.


I promise not to get too technical here. The spine rating of an arrow is simply a measurement of its stiffness. There’s static spine and dynamic spine.

Static spine is how an arrow reacts when an 880-gram (1.94 lbs.) weight is suspended from the center of the arrow. The arrow must be 29″ in length and supported by two points, which are 28″ apart. The number of inches the arrow deflects or bends x1000, due to the weight, is the spine size or measurement of an arrow.

Dynamic spine is how the arrow reacts from the stored energy of a bow as it is shot. There are way too many factors that determine the way an arrow is going to react when shot out of the bow, as such there are nearly unlimited variables in determining dynamic spine. In other words, for you archery geeks out there, forgeddabout dynamic spine.

Easton, the world’s largest manufacturer of arrows has this to say about selecting the correct spine:
“If you do not have the correct arrow spine for your bow set up, you are going to get erratic arrow flight and poor shooting groups. Having the proper arrow spine is key to optimizing the grouping of your arrows and for the best possible accuracy. Shooting an arrow that is not stiff enough, or a group of arrows that vary in stiffness, will cause you to be less accurate. An under-spined arrow will veer right, while an arrow that is too stiff will favor slightly left.”

Um. Er. Ah. Sort of. I start with safety first. A loosely spined arrow in a heavy poundage bow (70+ lbs.) is asking for trouble. It’s not like the arrow will buckle when fired, but it could. Why mess around with disaster? Extreme slow-motion footage I’ve seen shows an under-spined arrow “porpoise-ing” up and down and wagging left and right during its flight path.

None of that is necessarily a safety concern as much as it is a total waste of energy down range, not to mention it forces the archer to tune to a defect in arrow spine. It’s far better and easier to just use the famous Easton arrow selection chart. It’s the gold standard when it comes to picking the best hunting arrow. The #1 mistake made by you is guessing the poundage of your bow. Don’t. Measure the poundage because A) over time and use, poundage changes; B) 90% of the time what we believe is the correct poundage number isn’t correct.

Last season with a new string/cable set my 10-year-old Bowtech Guardian was measured at exactly 62 lbs. This year getting ready for bow season when I checked poundage I somehow lost 5 lbs. That might not sound like a lot but according to the Easton chart that was enough of a loss to make my current arrows over-spined (i.e. too stiff). It’s a simple matter to proportionately crank in the limb bolts to get back to 62 lbs. and check the tuning.

Arrow Myth:

Lighter is faster and faster is better.

Please! Would you rather miss the target at a high rate of speed or hit the mark at a slower FPS (feet per second)? Exactly. The whole point when bowhunting is to hit where you aim. I use the heaviest arrow and could care less how fast or slow the arrow is moving. Why? Most bow shots are 20 yards. I want the heaviest arrow to absorb and preserve the payload of kinetic energy downrange so that when contact is made the results are devastating.

If the shot is on an antelope at say 70 yards it’s a whole different story. The animal will most definitely jump the string on a relatively slow-moving arrow and at that distance the arrow will quickly scrub kinetic energy as it travels the distance, resulting in a terminal velocity unsuitable for an ethical kill. This is not the normal deer hunting scenario.

Mechanical Broadhead Myth:

Mechanical broadheads rob the arrow of kinetic energy when they deploy the blades.

No one has ever actually measured exactly how much energy it takes to deploy the blades as this would be an impossible task based on a ton of variables starting with bow poundage, arrow spine, bow geometry, etc. not to mention the measuring device hasn’t yet been invented.

Having said that, I am going to admit this is technically not a myth. In the nanosecond it takes for the blades to deploy there must be some scintilla of energy loss, but to what effect? All mechanicals deploy their blades upon contact with hide and skin, so the design of exactly how the blades fan out becomes more important than the teeny amount of unmeasured energy “lost.”

Fixed blade broadheads in my opinion (and yes, we’re all entitled to our opinions) don’t require any kinetic energy to deploy their fixed blades but, just like mechanicals, when the fixed blade makes contact with hide or skin 50% of the kinetic energy carried by the arrow is transferred to the target. So which one is “better”? Wrong question. It’s better to ask “What am I willing to accept as a trade-off?”

Mechanicals in general are more aerodynamically stable but manufacturers focus on the size of the wound channel, which means by design the blades are not as stout as a fixed blade and prone to traveling in odd ways and bending/breaking when obstructions like bone are encountered. Fixed blades are often aerodynamically challenged and require significant practice to understand/predict how they will fly. If you just mount a set of fixed blades on your arrows without practicing with them you are literally flying them blind. On the other hand, fixed blades more easily smash obstructions like bone.

An image of old arrowheads; the type of blade you use is a personal choice

The original broadheads prove that big game animals don’t care what projectile or bow type is used to take them down. Mechanical vs. fixed blade is a personal choice coming with tradeoffs for both. Photo courtesy of James St. John

Bow Myth:

Hoyt is better than Mathews. Mathews is better than Bowtech. Bowtech is better than Bear. Bear is better than Hoyt. PSE is better than any of these manufacturers.

Give me a break! This is the Ford vs. Chevy argument in bow form. The fact of the matter, coming from a veteran of 20+ years in the hunting industry (me), is there isn’t a bow manufacturer in 2020 making a truly crappy bow or a bow incapable of lasting many, many seasons. Most important is the fact that any bow being sold today in the hands of a skilled archer can kill a deer. My friend and mentor Bob Foulkrod once proved this point on camera by hunting and killing a doe with an off-the-shelf kid bow set at 40 lbs.

With bow manufacturers it’s a marketing war cloaked in mostly inconsequential technical differences, massive hyperbole, and some noticeable technology advances mixed in. Sorting out the nuances that matter to you and matching those nuances with a fixed budget is the challenge. As I’ve said many times over the years, the manufacturers’ job is to convince you that what you’re currently hunting with is inadequate and old school. Bigger, better, faster, cutting edge, latest and greatest … Yeah, sure. There’s nothing wrong with latest and greatest if you can afford it, but for the rest of us my best advice is ignore the hype and practice with what you have.

Crossbow Myth:

Crossbow hunters are not “real” archers.

I almost didn’t include this myth because it demonstrates ignorance the second it leaves the mouth of any of my bowhunting brothers and sisters. Besides being ill-informed and divisive, it’s like comparing apples to oranges. Some people like apples. Some people like oranges. They’re both fruit but to each his or her own.

There are archers who like to snap draw with their recurves, archers who can’t live without the compound bow let-off that allows them to hold the draw, and still there are archers who like the stored kinetic energy holding the bowstring with a trigger sear. Does the animal give a hoot about the broadhead, arrow, or mechanism that launched the arrow? Nope. So why do you care if someone is hunting with a crossbow or a compound or a recurve?

One is not lesser to the other. Like apples and oranges are fruits, all of the aforementioned are archers. Get over your bias if you have one. If we are to survive as a group it will be from inclusion, not exclusion and divisiveness.

Safety Harness Myth:

You don’t need to wear one because you’ve never fallen out of a tree stand and you’re only up 12′.

If you’ve always wanted a spinal cord injury, wondered what life would be like in a wheelchair, or prefer your death be in the woods when the time comes, then keep deluding yourself that a fall from a ladder stand or a hang on is survivable. It may be survivable but at what cost and with what quality of life?

But wait, you say you’ve haven’t fallen yet and you’re super-duper careful. According to Glen Mayhew, president of the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation (TSSA), there were approximately 3,000 tree stand-related accidents in 2018 that resulted in injuries. That number blows my mind. I think of all the wives, husbands and children affected by those 3,000 hunters. Do you really want to be a member of that “3,000 Club”? I’m pretty sure you don’t.

Three safety harness rules to remember:

1. Wear one.
2. Stay connected on your way up and your way down.
3. Research and practice how to recover from a fall when/if that happens.

Three safety harness rules to remember 1. Wear one 2. Stay connected on your way up and your way down 3. Research and practice how to recover from a fall when/if that happens. Photo courtesy of Sportsmen for Tomorrow

Three safety harness rules to remember 1. Wear one 2. Stay connected on your way up and your way down 3. Research and practice how to recover from a fall when/if that happens. Photo courtesy of Sportsmen for Tomorrow

From me, to you, to your family … enjoy your time in the deer woods, practice your shot over and over, think things through. Most importantly, be a good steward of the land!

Bob Peck, a staff writer for Whitetail Times, has been an accomplished bowhunter for over 45 years and is an acknowledged expert in teaching survival skills.

©Virginia Deer Hunters Association. For attribution information and reprint rights, contact Denny Quaiff, Executive Director, VDHA.

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  • August 4, 2021