Bow Bootcamp is a 10-part series designed to get you, your gear, and your skills in shape ahead of the first fall seasons. That means equipment checks, accessory adjustments, bow fine-tuning, and shooting practice to get you hooked up just in time. In Part 1, we did a thorough arc check. Now is the time to choose the perfect arrow.
After making sure your bow is in good working order in Part 1, you probably expected bow setup to be the next step. And that’s probably how most people would do it. But in my experience, the next step should be selecting the arrows (and then building the arrows). Why? Because if you just take any old shaft from the garage, it may not be exactly the same diameter as the arrow you will eventually be hunting with, and this may cause slight accuracy issues. Instead, choose your hunting arrow first and use it to set up and tune your bow, and you’ll have no problem down the line. So here’s the exercise.
1. Choose the right arrow.
The first step to getting the right arrow shaft is choosing the right spine for you and your bow. The spine is simply the stiffness of the arrow, and it’s labeled right on the shaft with numbers like 500, 400, 340, 350, 250, etc. Many new archers confuse these numbers with arrow grain weight. So don’t get me wrong. (We’ll talk about weight in a second.)
When looking at spine values, the smaller the number, the steeper the arrow; the larger the number, the less rigid it is. For example, if you shoot 70 pounds and select an arrow with 500 thorns, your bow energy will cause that whipped arrow to deflect a ton in flight, and it will never recover, which can create serious accuracy issues. It can also be dangerous. Once, at an archery tournament, I saw an archer – consumed by the speed of the arrow – attempt to shoot a 500 spine arrow with an 80 pound bow. The shaft exploded on impact because the thin carbon wall could not withstand the energy of the arc.
On the other hand, my wife pulls 45 pounds and shoots a 500 spine arrow, which is perfect for her setup. If she fired an arrow with 250 spines, the arrow would be way too thick and heavy, and she would lose a ton of speed, and her accuracy would suffer.
The good news is that the manufacturers make it easy because they all provide a dashboard on their websites. As long as you know your draw weight and length, the chart will tell you the best spine values for you.
2. Select the arrow weight in grains per inch.
Once you’ve decided on the appropriate spine, the next step is to decide how much weight of a shaft you want to pull, expressed in GPI, or grains per inch. For example, if you are looking to gain arrow speed for flat shooting, you will want to go for a properly spinned arrow that is relatively light or has a lower GPI value.
Arrow Easton Sonic 6.0
My buddy, Danny Farris, likes a bit of speed. His Easton Sonic 6.0 arrow has a spine rating of 340 and a GPI of 7.8. I’m what I call a tweener – I like speed but also want some weight behind my arrow to help with penetration. My Easton Axis 4MM Long Range has a 340 spine but weighs 8.3 grains per inch. Other hunters, especially those hunting heavy-boned game like elk, or whitetail hunters looking for a heavy handle that flies quietly, will go with an even beefier GPI rating.
3. Decide if you want micro-diameter arrows?
The current craze for micro-diameter rods, and I love them. That said, I like them for a specific reason – because I live in the west and my shots on western game are usually farther away than the average shot from a midwestern or eastern tree stand. Micro-diameter arrows have better ballistics and give the wind a smaller surface to press against in flight. However, if you’re looking for white tails and turkeys and aren’t shooting 3D competitions that require you to extend your range past 60 yards, the standard shafts work remarkably well and save you money. silver.
Easton long reach 4mm axle
4. Think FOC and inserts.
Most arrows, whether you buy them as raw shafts or fletched from the factory, will come with inserts, but manufacturers give you options here as well. For example, my Axis 4MM Long Range shafts come with standard aluminum Half-Out inserts that weigh 50 grains. But I could opt for a 55 grain titanium Half-Out or a 95 grain steel Half-Out if I wanted to increase the amount of weight on the front of my arrows, which is known to increase FOC (before of the Center) . Technically, FOC is the percentage of your arrows’ total length that falls between the center of the arrow and the balance point in front of center (closer to the tip). The more weight in the front, the higher the percentage and the higher the FOC. There is a lot of talk about wanting a high FOC because it helps stabilize flight and adds penetration. But beware: too much and your arrow will nose dive. A FOC between 10 and 15% is about right. And it was easy to fine-tune the FOC by getting a bit heavier or lighter insert.
If this confuses you, just call your arrow maker or tell them you want 10 or 15% FOC before you buy. They will guide you to the right choice.
5. Decide if you want standard or lighted nocks?
Most bowhunters go with the standard nock with their arrow set – I usually do, and it has served me well. Other bowhunters prefer a custom nock, which for the most part means a lighted nock. The lighted nocks are great and I use them for hunting whitetail deer. You just need to understand that a lighted nock will be heavier than a standard nock, and you will need to adjust your bow accordingly. You never want too much weight on the back of your arrow, so if you’re having trouble flying with lighted nocks, you can increase the FOC slightly (see above) or go back to standard nocks.
6. Keep tail selection simple.
When it comes to tail options, there are too many to count. You want it to be quite simple. If you plan to shoot with a mechanical broad tip, you don’t need long, ultra-stiff vanes. Instead, you want to go for a semi-rigid, low-profile paddle that creates less noise but still stabilizes the flight. My choice fell on the Hybrid 23 from AAE. They are resistant, quiet in flight and guide my arrows very well. For wide fixed blade tips, you want a bit more beef. You can always go for 2-3 inches shorter fletching – Bohning’s Blazer is a great choice – but make sure the paddle has a bit more stiffness. Longer, low profile vanes are also a good option for fixed heads, as they can be a bit quieter. Also take a look at the helical. On the plus side, the addition of helical makes your arrows spin faster, which improves stabilization and accuracy. On the minus side, it adds drag. So for whitetail hunters who keep their shots within 40 yards, the helix makes a lot of sense. Helical also makes sense for longer spans, but in this case you will want to compensate for the drag issue with lower profile vanes. You can experiment without spending a lot of money on different finished arrows by getting a fletching jig, which is inexpensive and easy to use.
Once you’ve made all of the decisions above, it’s time to order finished arrows or create your own, which we’ll cover in Part 3.