It’s been said that a good arrow will fly true out of a bad bow, but a bad arrow cannot be made to fly well from even the best bow. When hunting small game it is important to have the proper arrow and head combination to get a proper flight.
Arrows must be straight, have proper stiffness, weight, and length to work with any given bow. All of these factors combined to determine the characteristics of the flight of the arrow.
For instance, pick the wrong length of arrow for your bow set up, and you could have an arrow that fishtails through the air rather than flying like a dart. Arrows are made from wood, aluminum, graphite, carbon fiber, and combinations of these materials. By far, the best-shooting and most practical arrows are made primarily from carbon-fiber, it can be used both as a core and a coating.
Shooters of traditional bows who choose to use wood are doing so for aesthetic purposes, a tradition for the sake of tradition. Several manufacturers of carbon arrows have gone so far as to make carbon arrows with a faux wood finish. This allows traditional archers to look old-timey and pure while still enjoying the performance of Space Age materials. Besides flight performance, carbon-fiber arrows are far more durable than other options. That’s an important thing to keep in mind with small game hunting, where you need arrows that can be fired again and again without breakage.
The weight and diameter of your arrows and the weight of your broadheads are crucial considerations for big game hunting, where good penetration of bone and muscle is key. For small game hunting, these details are far less important. Instead, you should feel free to use whatever arrows fly best from your particular bow, regardless of weight and flight speed.
Nowadays, most arrows are fletched with synthetic veins made of plastic-like composites. However, some traditional shooters prefer either real feathers or “fake” feathers that look like the real thing. Like wood, feathers are an aesthetic choice. Some guys just love the look and feel of a wooden arrow with real turkey feathers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But for practical purposes, you’ll have far fewer headaches when using solid synthetic veins.
Aerial shooting is a major exception to this rule. Your chances of retrieving an arrow with standard fletching that’s been fired into the air after a flushing pheasant or an incoming mallard are pretty nil. For these purposes, you want to use flu-flu arrows. A standard arrow fletched with four or more oversized veins that spiral around the shaft of the arrow. This creates increased drag that rapidly slows the arrow after a short flight of around 30 or so yards.
The rapid deceleration and short flight distance mean you can watch the arrow reach its final destination and then retrieve it easily.
Standard field points, or target points, can certainly be lethal on small game, but they are not a great choice. The odds of simply wounding the animal despite a clean pass-through are quite good with field points, and so is the risk of losing a lot of arrows after they burrow under the grass and brush. Broadheads designed for big game hunting are much more lethal, but they tend toward overkill with regards to meat loss due to excessive damage. And they are also quite expensive.
A better option is to use either Judo points or one of many variations of the popular “blunt” design. Judo points, which are made by a company called Zwickey, have small springs encircling the tip that catch on brush and grass in order to prevent the arrow from burrowing in.
Usually, a Judo point will cause the arrow to hop end over end upon impact, making retrieval very easy. While many hunters use these points strictly for “stump shooting” as a form of target practice, they are highly effective small game points. Despite the springs, they pack a wallop and will penetrate game quite well.
Blunt tips come in many designs, from simple steel spheres to fluted squares with scalloped edges to points that look like the tip of a Grandpa’s cane. Like Judo points, most blunt designs will resist the arrow’s urge to burrow under vegetation and they won’t lodge into wood, which is a very good thing for anyone who shoots at squirrels or birds up in trees.