Tuning Your Broadheads

By Steve Peters

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A tuned broadhead will make all the difference for having a successful hunt. 

I came dressed for the occasion, but the late-October breeze was unseasonably warm, making for a less-than-comfortable vigil.  Although it didn't feel like good bowhunting weather, deer seemed to be everywhere.  I had been on stand since just before daybreak and enjoyed a steady flow of deer activity throughout the day, despite the overly warm temperatures.  However, my sights were set on a mature whitetail buck.  The small 8-pointers, forkhorns and does were definitely tempting, but I was determined to hold out for a good deer.       

As the sun began its decent across the western horizon more deer made their way toward my stand site.  While keeping both eyes fixed on the surrounding terrain, I strained my ears to pinpoint their exact route of travel.  Within minutes a small group of does replete with hearty appetites and generous amounts of energy gathered on the hillside oak flat.

I was in perfect position as the wind continued to disperse my scent away from the immediate area.  Doe after doe filed past, offering numerous shot opportunities, but it was the second to last animal in the group that interested me.  A dandy 10-point typical with a broken left brow tine had slipped past my sensory detectors and joined the parade.  The last member of this whitetail train was a small, basket rack 8-pointer, following closely behind the bigger buck.  

It was only a matter of time.  If the bucks chose the same course as the does, I would have an unobstructed shot at 12 yards.  As the 10-pointer moved past my stand, the smaller buck came dangerously close to my tree, preventing any chance for a shot.  I knew that even the slightest movement would cause the 1 1/2 year-old deer to spook and could possibly ruin the chance of arrowing the big buck.  So I waited.

Several minutes passed as I watched for an opening.  Afraid to move, I held my position and prayed that the small buck would continue on.  As if on cue, the little deer started down the gentle-sloping hillside and made his way to the picked cornfield below.  I would get my shot.  

During the predator-prey standoff with the youngster, the big buck had moved out to 23 yards and was now facing directly away from me.  I drew back my bow the instant I saw him shift his body weight to the right.  I held my point of aim on a small tuft of hair just behind the brute's shoulder blade soon after he turned broadside. As my line of sight came into focus, I relaxed my hand and let the string fall from my fingers. 

I watched the spinning arrow rocket towards the buck's rib cage.  The aluminum dart struck home with a loud "thwack" as the shaft buried up to its fletching.  The buck wouldn't go far.  

Many factors contributed to my success that day.  As an example, I had been in my stand for over 10 straight hours, took the necessary precautions to control my scent, and paid particular attention to the wind direction.  In addition, I had honed my shooting skills throughout the previous summer and made certain that my equipment was in proper working order.  

There are many variables that can influence our success as hunting archers.  The weather and wind direction can change without warning.  The deer you are hunting may be preoccupied in another section of property, or the fickle graces of Lady Luck may decide that it is just not your day to score.  Of all the aspects that come into play, keeping one's equipment in tune -- in this case, our broadheads -- is one factor that can be totally controlled.  Let's take a look at some ways to increase the efficiency of our equipment.      

A bow, an arrow and a broadhead share a synergistic relationship. Synergy means that the total effect of a group of components is greater than the sum of their individual effects.  As an example, each component has a certain individual "operational value," but by working in conjunction, the system as a whole will achieve greater results than what the individual effects could generate separately.  That's why tuning your equipment is so important.  If one of the components of your setup is not properly matched, it could throw off the entire system.  Remember: Before trying to tune your broadheads, make certain that your bow and arrows properly match and that your bow is set up correctly.  

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Following a few steps when tuning your broadheads will result in increased accuracy. 

In my opinion, tuning your fixed- or replaceable-blade broadheads requires a three-step process.  I will list each step separately and what I do to keep my broadheads in perfect tune.  

First, I attach a broadhead to one of my arrows with medium to tight pressure. Then, I spin-check it.  By that I mean I rotate the arrow between my fingers on a flat surface with the tip of the broadhead acting as the apex of a spinning top. (You can also use one of the many commercial spin-checking devises on the market).  If there is any noticeable "wobble" 1 to 2 inches above the insert of the arrow, the broadhead/arrow combination will not fly straight.  In essence, it will "wobble" in flight. 

As amazing as it sounds, some brand-new broadheads (inside the same package) will not line up with certain brand-new arrows.  Generally, only one broadhead out of three will line up perfectly with a certain arrow. You have to experiment with each broadhead to find out which arrow it fits best. Perhaps this is because not all inserts are perfectly aligned -- tolerance levels fluctuate during mass production. 

Second, I line up each blade of my three-blade broadheads with each (in my case) feather. In other words, when you look down the shaft from nock to tip, each feather (or vane) should line up exactly with each blade of the broadhead. If you can't line up each blade by simply twisting the broadhead tighter, you will have to heat up your inserts with a flame until you are able to freely move the broadhead. Once it's in line, allow time for the inserts to cool. On two- and four-blade models, you can either set the blades so that they ride horizontal or vertical to your sight picture.  The arrows will fly straight either way.   

Third, (and this is very excessive, but adds to my confidence) I place the arrow/broadhead combination on a flat surface and make sure that there are two feathers/vanes lying exactly flat and two blades lying exactly flat. If there is any slight variance, I adjust the broadhead so there is no visible difference.

Another method of tuning broadheads involves the precise calculations of a mathematician.  Determining the Front of Center, or F.O.C., will reveal the aerodynamic properties of your arrows.  Although there are exceptions, it is widely known and accepted that a forward balance weight of between 7 and 10 percent accompany the most aerodynamic arrows.

To determine the F.O.C. of your arrows, you must first measure the shaft from the tip of the broadhead to the end of the nock. Take this measurement and divide it by 2 to discover the arrow's center point (i.e. a 34 5/8-inch measurement -- the length of my arrows -- divided by 2 equals 17 5/16 inches).  Be sure to mark this measurement with a felt tip pen.  

Next, determine the balance point of the shaft, and mark its location.  Divide the distance between the two marks by the overall length of the arrow and multiply by 100. (In this case the distance between the two marks of my 34 5/8-inch arrow equals 3 inches.  Take 3 and divide it by 34 5/8 or 34.625 times 100, and it will equal a F.O.C. measurement of 8.66 percent). The general rule of thumb dictates that when the F.O.C. is above 10 percent, you should use a lighter broadhead; when it's below 7 percent, you should use a heavier broadhead.

In conclusion, I personally shoot a stout arrow to help alleviate problems with wind plane while shooting broadheads.  I currently shoot 2317s out of my 78-pound bow.  I feel that a heavier arrow will act as a better broadhead stabilizer than a lighter arrow.  On the other hand, you will lose some speed shooting these types of arrows, but I feel the benefits outweigh the loss in speed.  Accuracy is a lot more important to me than a faster shaft and the probability of inconsistent arrow flight.  

Taking the time to determine your arrow's F.O.C. and properly aligning your broadheads can make a big difference.  It could also make your setup more forgiving and produce better results.  Try it for yourself.  You may be surprised with the results.  

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