Bowhunting Basics II: Terminal Tackle
In the first installment of Bowhunting Basics, I discussed choosing a bow. With that part of the journey behind you, you'll obviously need additional gear to make your bowhunting ambitions more streamlined and successful.
Buy Quality Arrows: One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is to buy the best arrows you can possibly afford. Arrows are the vehicles that deliver killing broadheads to the target. Cheap arrows come at the price of overall accuracy. The best are straighter, more closely matched in both spine and weight, and more consistently spined on a 360-degree axis. Expect to pay upward of $100 a dozen for top-grade arrows. Carbon shafts are more durable than ever, so unless lost, investing in a new dozen shafts should provide years of service. And always consult a spine, or deflection, chart or ask for assistance from a pro-shop employee in selecting the right arrow. Spine indicates how much an arrow flexes as energy is applied after releasing the string, and an arrow that is too stiff or not stiff enough will not provide top-drawer accuracy.
How to Choose a Broadhead: Broadhead selection can prove a more confusing choice for the beginner. The best advice is to defer to a pro-shop expert, relating what type of game you wish to pursue and the draw weight and draw length you wield. The two basic categories are fixed-blade and mechanical designs. In general terms, fixed-blade heads can prove more difficult to tune (coax into straight flight closely mirroring bladeless practice/field tips), while mechanical designs, which fly toward targets with blades closed, opening only on impact, can sacrifice some degree of penetration, especially at lower draw weights. Mechanical designs are becoming more efficient all of the time (though are not legal in every state, so this has a bearing in choice), though many modern fixed-blade heads now offer similar accuracy. A good rule of thumb is the bigger the game, the more you should lean toward an efficient fixed-blade (or cutting-tip) head.
Fingers or Release Aid: To shoot you must also choose how you will release the string - using fingers or a release aid. There's absolutely nothing wrong with shooting with just your fingers, though it has fallen out of favor and you'll usually need a longer overall bow to make it work - short bows result in finger pinch and prove difficult to shoot well with fingers. Most bowhunters today use a release, a caliper or spur, clipped directly to the string serving under the arrow, or hooked to a string or D-loop with its head connected to a wrist strap via an extension shank. An index trigger, much like a firearm trigger, is depressed to cut the shot away. Use what's most comfortable to you.
Some archers find they'll also need an arm guard, a rectangle of leather or other stiff material, strapped to the forearm holding the bow, and used to eliminate painful string slap and string-serving wear. Many archers find this step unnecessary.
In Part III, I'll discuss modern archery accessories and how they make your start into the bowhunting voyage easier.