Mike, my new bowhunter, like all new hunters was captured by the “killing end” of the arrow shaft…the broadhead. “Wow”, he said, “Will that go all the way through the deer?” Mike is shooting 60 pounds and yes it will likely go all the way through, we call that a pass-through, in bowhunter jargon. A broadhead has to do a number of things well to be a good choice. Here is the list.
First it needs to fly straight. That is why I’m a mechanical guy. I have done as much or more testing of mechanicals as anyone in the industry and I can tell you that mechanicals are the choice if accuracy is high on your list. Winged broadheads are busy trying to defeat the aerodynamic facts concerning wings as they fishtail toward a target. Put a wing on the front of a shaft and that wing will try to steer your arrow…period. You can defeat the aerodynamic characteristics with a lot of drag in the rear, i.e. feathers, but why put wings up there in the first place. Mechanicals open after hitting the target and you get the best of both worlds. Plus a mechanical can carry and deploy a bigger blade if it is not going to mess up the trip between the bow and the buck. The argument is simple but old habits die slowly. I still have some friends that shoot aluminum shafts.
Mike was enthralled with the mechanical design. He noticed the engineering immediately and asked if they were strong. I explained that many of them are incredibly strong and have all the integrity of a fixed blade due to the composition of the steel, angle of the blades and the attachment to the ferrule. We screwed on a practice collar and shot a few. To his amazement they indeed shot just like his field points. I explained that we are looking for the maximum linear cut available as the linear cut is how a broadhead kills. It is the hemorrhaging that kills and that means the broadhead needs to cut the tissue as it passes by. That includes the rubbery arteries and veins.
After a few confidence shots with the mechanical Mike was set.
With bow, arrows, broadheads and shooting form addressed we were getting closer to the ‘go’ button. The part of the trip between a beginning and arriving is called the journey. Don’t underestimate the value of the journey. I recently climbed a mountain in Alaska and the climb was just as valuable as the summit. Don’t forget that fact when you’re growing a bowhunter.
We also discussed shot placement and authentic practice so we were ready for the recovery phase of the hunt. This is the most under discussed and maybe the most important. I have done a lot of writing and video work on this topic and I’m still learning. Here is what you need to teach your new bowhunter.
The shot placement is everything. Encourage the new bowhunter to wait for the PERFECT SHOT and not a “pretty good” one. If he is successful in recovering the first deer he shoots this effort will probably stick and he will become a passionate bowhunter… like you. If he wounds and looses a few deer he will probably quit, so take your time and encourage a perfect shot.
Let’s cover this topic with a list of bullet points concerning deer recovery.
- First concentrate on watching the deer immediately after the arrow makes contact. Focus on details. Did you actually see the point of impact? What was the angle of the deer? Was the arrow in the zone or too high, far back or too low?
- What did the deer do upon impact? High kick….often a sign of a heart/lung hit. Did he hump up? Often a sign of a guy hit.
- Where did the deer come from before the shot? Regardless of where he ran afterwards, deer often return to the area where they were most recently safe. I find many dead deer on the trail they arrived on.
- Where did he go after the hit? Where did you last see him? Mark the tree he passed in your mind and take a compass bearing.
- Now listen! I have often heard a deer crash and burn in a different direction from where he left. Hearing him go down is a huge win.
- From the tree…use your binoculars and see if you can see the arrow it will soon become important.
- Sit and chill out. I personally reflect on the hunt and thank God for the opportunity to participate in the great circle of life and death.
- After a wait of 30 minutes descend the tree and go find your arrow. Stay attached to that tree while you are descending.
- Look at the area of the shot impact. Look for hair. If it white….a low hit. Is it brown a body hit.
- Find the arrow. If it is laying flat on the ground at the site of impact it probably passed through and lost all of its kinetic energy….a good sign.
- If the arrow is buried deep in the ground it may not have passed through a lot of tissue…maybe a low hit.
- Examine the arrow for blood. Is the arrow bright red…a good sign. Is the blood real dark…a sign of un-oxygenated blood…maybe a liver hit.
- Is it greasy? Maybe the arrow passed through a lot of fat and shows little blood…a brisket hit or maybe high on the back.
- If it smells like bile it probably passed through the stomach of the deer.
- If it smells like Ca-Ca you shot him in the guts! Now… what do you do for each of the arrow scenarios? Get a copy of the NBEF’s shot placement guide and read up on this topic. www.NBEF.org
- If you saw deep red blood on the arrow and you believe the arrow was a perfect hit with a high kick, the shot probably passed through the boiler room and the deer is dead, having taken his last breath this side of freezer wrap, just prior to the arrow hitting him. Double check for brown hair at the impact site…this is also good, especially of you heard him crash. Follow the blood trail to the deer and take pictures.
- If the hit causes you to believe that it was not in the front half of the deer or maybe penetration was poor, give the deer time. Even a gut shot deer will usually lay down and die if you don’t chase him. Don’t be afraid to let a deer lay for a few hours or overnight. If it’s not raining you can follow him up in the morning.
- Mark the blood trail as you move along it. If you lose the blood trail go back to the last spot and slowly walk concentric circles out toward the direction of travel.
- Many deer run an erratic course just before they tip over…the dizzy stage. So don’t forget to look to the left and right of a trail if you lose it.
- Follow up a deer with 2-3 people only. A brigade of hunters walking around will do you less good than harm.
Enjoy the journey because not all hunts will end with a freezer full of meat. Remember any deer taken with a bow is a major trophy so don’t worry about the Buckmania that is promoted on TV. Most of that is phony.