If Our Knives Could Talk

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The Tops Dragonfly has become one of the most meaningful and dependable knives in my collection. Check it out here: https://www.topsknives.com/dragonfly-4-5

The first knife I ever received as a gift has a broken tip, is completely dull, slightly rusted, and opens and closes with a distinct little grind that I imagine is from sand grains having worked their way into the locking mechanism over the years. I haven’t even tried to cut anything with it in probably 10 years.

But I still have it.

The most recent knife I was given has travelled with me throughout Ontario, to Nunavut, and most recently to Nain, Nunatsiavut. It was given to me by a friend with whom I’ve spent hours hunting, hiking, trapping, laughing, and chatting.

I remarked to someone recently that the days of writing poetically and romantically about the out of doors seem to be dried up; that the style and feeling of writers like Leopold, Thoreau, Emerson, Muir, and even early 20th century outdoors writers seem to be behind us. So I don’t want this post to come across as just some self-inflated bullshit.

Having given that disclaimer, people who spend time engaged in outdoor activities will know what I mean when I say that there is a certain unmistakable charm, something both primal and artistic, in a good knife. As cliched as it might sound, many of us develop a sort of kinship with our knives that comes from the miles we travel with these tools and the degree to which we come to depend on them in what are some of our most personal and meaningful experiences. I remember the individual trips that I’ve used a particular knife on, the things that I’ve made with it and every reason I prefer one knife to the next. It is through field dressing an animal or accomplishing some task while in the woods that I come to appreciate the finer points of a knife. The knife itself becomes a character in the story of a trip, alongside our hunting partners, the animals hunted, and the landscapes we spend time in.

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There’s something about knives that sparks conversation among outdoors people. We all have our favourite designs and there is no shortage of opinion out there about the best kind of knife. And certainly, not all knives are created equal. I imagine I’m not alone in spending a good deal of time hunched over my knife case before a hunt or camping trip trying to decide how many I need and which ones are best for the jobs ahead. We spend hours discussing blade shape and length; handle design and material; fixed blade vs. folder; weight and balance; and all the other nuances that distinguish individual knives.

We pass knives back and forth to one another, examining their details, running our fingers over every part of them, holding them, as if we’re getting to know the knife’s character with the intimacy of a lover. We protect our knives, are precise about their intended uses, and strict about what – and sometimes who – are off limits to them. We can burn down entire campfires and drain pots of coffee covering nothing more than the reasons we love a knife and the stories we’ve shared with it. Indeed, get a group of outdoors people on the topic of knives, and it’s almost as if the knives themselves become the campfire or the cup of coffee, the thing around which we all gather, reminisce, and chat.

I’m not sure what it is about knives specifically that come to occupy this sense of romanticism in our lives. Perhaps it’s that knives come to be a material representation of what it means to be in the outdoors – to survive there, to understand our place in the food chain, to feel a sense of accomplishment with the interaction of an ancient tool and our own bare hands, to connect with the natural world in a way that is both primal and artistic. Our knives come to stand for our experiences in wild places. More than that, as they become covered in blood and dirt, are dulled and resharpened, and accomplish innumerable tasks, perhaps they represent ourselves on some level. As we travel through breathtaking landscapes, become bloodied and dirtied, get banged up and worn down, resharpened, and accumulate years of experience, I think we imbue in our knives some sense of romanticism that is hard to explain, but that we come to depend on to represent what it means to experience the outdoors.

Hunting Season Preparation: Three Steps to Broadhead Tuning

Tuning your bow is an important step to ensure accuracy and confidence in your equipment. Properly tuning your bow is what ensures your arrows fly consistently and hit where you aim. It can be a time consuming process that many people find endlessly frustrating, but there are some ways to make it a bit more straightforward. At the end of the day, it will make shooting much more enjoyable and it’s a critical part of being an ethical hunter.

There are a variety of methods to tune your bow for shooting with field points, such as paper tuning and walk-back tuning, and you probably covered some of these when you purchased your bow. In the months leading up to hunting season, it’s important to spend some time practicing with the broadheads you intend to use in the field. img_3044_2Broadhead companies will boast that their products fly the same as field points and loyal customers will swear that if you use a certain broadhead, it all but eliminates the need for additional tuning; however, all bow and arrow combinations function slightly differently, so it’s crucial that you test your bow with the exact broadheads you will be using in the field. Here is a quick step-by-step to get your rig ready for season opener.

1. Purchase Practice Broadheads

Broadheads kill efficiently because they have razor sharp cutting edges and it’s important that your hunting broadheads are in perfect condition. Always purchase an additional set of your hunting broadheads for pre-season practice. Most broadheads will come with a practice broadhead for this exact purpose, but never use the ones you intend to use on your hunt.

2. Compare Broadhead and Field Point Flight

Select a distance you are comfortable and confident shooting. You don’t need to be 100 yards away for this – I recommend 20 or 30 yards. First, shoot a broadhead arrow at the target (be sure you are using a target specifically designed for broadheads). Next, shoot a field point arrow at the same spot on the target.

3. Correct Your Broadhead Flight

If your two arrows did not hit in the same spot, you are going to adjust the rest. To make the correct adjustments, “follow the field point” with your rest – move the rest in the direction of the field point arrow. Begin with the vertical adjustment until the two arrows are hitting in the same vertical position. If your arrow rest does not have vertical adjustments, you will need to adjust the nock height. In this case, you will move the nock in the opposite direction from where the field point hit. For example, if your broadhead hit above your field point, move the rest down (or adjust the nock point up).  Next, move on to the horizontal adjustments. Similarly, if your broadhead hit left of the field point, adjust the rest to the right. Continue to shoot one of each arrow until they are hitting together.


Some Extra Tips:

  • It’s important that you treat this as a tuning issue, not a sighting issue. You want your broadheads and field points hitting in the same spot, and if you just adjust your sight to correct this difference, the broadhead may hit the target, but the gap between the arrows, and therefore the tuning problem, will not be corrected.
  • When adjusting the rest, make very small adjustment, starting with only about 1/16” at a time.
  • I recommend always shooting a broadhead arrow first, followed by a field point. As your arrows move closer together, this will avoid shaving off vanes with the broadhead every time you shoot.
  • Continue to shoot at 20 yards until your arrows are hitting as close as you can get them before you move back to 30 yards or beyond.
  • A common source of debate is whether or not you should align your broadhead blades to the arrow vanes. Some will tell you this is crucial for arrow flight. I have never done this and have been able to tune my bows just fine. I won’t say that people are wrong when they suggest you do this, but I will say that there isn’t really any scientific evidence to support the need to do this. Also, what about 2 or 4 blade broadheads? People achieve perfect tuning with those as well.
  • Be patient with this process, making only small adjustments at a time. Remember that bows, arrows, and broadheads can all interact differently. I’ve seen paper tuned bows almost robin hood arrows on the first shot with a broadhead; I’ve also seen bows take a dozen adjustments before I was satisfied with the broadhead tuning. Be prepared to invest some time in this process and your hunting experience will be much better!

Introduction to Archery: Terminology, Definitions, and Specifications

I’ve posted reviews on here about both my Hoyt Charger and my Prime Rize. In those posts, I bounced around a little between straight up reflections on the equipment I use and background information on some of the terminology and specifications I was describing. Many people who were reading those posts probably wanted to skip right to the gear talk, while others could probably use a primer on the lingo, so I decided to separate the posts and create one that is just a backgrounder on the terminology you will encounter when beginning archery.

I shoot mainly compound bow. I have a longbow made by Rudder Bows, but I have to admit I don’t shoot it as much as I should. So this post mainly focuses on compound bow archery, with a slant towards bowhunting applications.

Parts of a Compound Bow 

Compound bows take the standard components of a bow and add some pieces of technology to make them more efficient at storing and releasing energy. Longbows and recurve bows have two or three main parts: a string, limbs, and a grip.


Parts of a longbow. Source: Michigan Hunter Ed Course

Compound bows have a riser (the vertical part you hold, with the grip), limbs (the pieces that attach to the riser and hold the cams), cams (the wheels at the top and bottom of the bow), a string (the part the arrow attaches to), and cables (the pieces that connect the cams to each other or to the limbs). The cams are what give compound bows the ability to shoot with much more power than the shooter actually holds – like any pulley system, they increase the efficiency of energy storage and reduce the amount of effort the user needs to put in. There are different styles of cams that all have their own advantages.

The axle-to-axle (ATA) length is the distance between the tips of the limbs, at the points where the cams attach. The brace height is the distance from the riser to the string when the bow is at rest. Bow speeds are measured in feet per second, and manufacturers use a standardized setup to compare speeds across different bows (IBO speed). The draw weight of a bow, in pounds, refers to the power a bow can transfer to an arrow and push it off the string. So a 40# (pound) bow will shoot with less power than a 70# bow. Hunting regulations will stipulate how much power a bow needs to have for particular species. For example, to hunt whitetails in Ontario, the bow needs to have about 40# of power, whereas to hunt moose, it needs 50#.

Compound bow measurements. Source: Hunter's Friend.

Compound bow measurements. Source: Hunter’s Friend.

Arrow Selection

(This section is an excerpt from a more thorough post about arrow selection.)

The first thing you need to know when selecting an arrow is what spine you need. Most choices in arrow selection come down to personal preference, but not spine. Arrow spine refers to the stiffness of an arrow, and it’s critical for the safety of your bow and for accuracy that you choose the correct arrow spine.

Imagine you drive a truck into the end of a horizontal telephone pole. Imagine  you drive the same truck into a tooth pick. Finally, imagine you drive it into a 2×4. While perhaps a little rough around the edges, this analogy is meant to explain what happens if you shoot an arrow that is too stiff or too weak for your bow. When the bowstring pushes the arrow off the end of the bow, the arrow flexes, stabilizing throughout the course of its flight. Simply put, if your bow is too weak, the arrow can`t flex enough; if your bow is too heavy, the arrow flexes too much. At worst, these situations could damage your bow, but they will certainly reduce the consistency and accuracy of your shooting. The rule is that heavier bows require stiffer arrows.

Every arrow manufacturer has a way of designating the spine of their arrows, and while the system used to measure spine stiffness is standardized, the systems used by manufacturers to represent spine is not. Easton’s system is generally the easiest to understand, because they use the direct measurement for “arrow deflection“, which is the way spine stiffness is calculated. With Easton arrows, the lower the number, the stiffer the arrow. 20151218_232210So a 70# bow might shoot a 340 spine arrow, while a 60# bow might shoot a 400 spine arrow. All arrow manufacturers will have charts (Easton, Carbon Express, Gold Tip) to help you identify the correct arrow spine based on your bow specifications (e.g. poundage, draw length, and arrow length). Be sure you understand how your specifications affect spine selection. Click here for a great resource to explain some of the finer points in arrow spine.

Is Speed Important?

Speed is one of the most hotly debated topics in archery and bowhunting, and it’s probably one that new bowhunters will encounter. I discussed the issue of speed more thoroughly in my post about arrow selection, but here are the basics: it’s an important component in the equation to calculate an arrow’s kinetic energy (KE), which is what ultimately kills animals (the other component is arrow mass). So it’s true that a faster bow will transfer more energy to an arrow and therefore increase KE; however, speed is absolutely not the most important part of choosing a bowhunting setup and ensuring your arrows are effective at killing.

No matter what, bows are shooting arrows at subsonic speeds, meaning that the sound of a bow shooting reaches an animal before the arrow every time. To put this in perspective, consider that a bow shooting an arrow at 280 fps is considered a great hunting setup. Now remember that sounds travels at 1,116 fps. In general, do I want a fast bow? Sure. Am I willing to sacrifice all the other factors that I consider when selecting a bow to get one that’s a bit faster? Not a chance.

How To Prioritize Considerations

When choosing a bow, people prioritize different things, and no one is right or wrong, so it becomes difficult to take someone’s word on why one particular bow is the best. You should choose a bow based on the optimal combination of factors for your preferences and priorities. You need to shoot a few and decide for yourself what is most important to you because there will always be trade-offs. Essentially, it comes down to what feels the best, and then identifying why it is that that bow feels best: is it the weight, the draw cycle, the balance, the release, the back wall? The combination of these and other factors will make a bow feel good for you, and the most important thing in choosing a bow is finding the right combination of specifications and features. You need to be sure of your equipment and your ability with it.

If you are interested in how my particular priorities led me to select a bow, check out my Prime Rize post.

Changing It Up: Review of the Prime Rize

I decided that I wanted to try shooting a different bow this year. I have such a curiosity and excitement with archery technology and products that I can’t help but want to try everything I can get my hands on. So far, I’ve always shot Hoyt, and they’ve been great bows, but there are so many manufacturers making great products, I thought it would be a good idea to see how another one felt.

Archery is a growing sport, and within the hunting community, I think bowhunting is also increasing in popularity. You get longer seasons as a bowhunter, a different kind of challenge, and there’s a passion among bowhunters that is just unrivalled by any other activity I’ve ever experienced. For those people getting into archery, it can be daunting trying to make heads and tails of riser designs, cam designs, accessories, arrow selection, and the technical specifications of speed, weight, axle-to-axle length, brace height, and kinetic energy.

I posted about my previous Hoyt Charger setup and some basics about why I chose the accessories I did for that setup, so here is a review of my new bow and some reflection on how and why I made the decision this time around.

I just purchased the brand new 2016 Prime Rize. rize_black_with_damper-web In terms of specs, the Rize has a redesigned PCXL parallel cam system, the brand new 82X aluminum riser, it’s 33″ axle-to-axle (ATA), 6.75″ brace height, weighs 4.3 pounds, shoots an IBO speed of 335 feet per second (fps), and my bow has a peak draw weight of 70 pounds.

Ok, so for those who don’t necessarily know what all of this means, head over to my Introduction to Archery post for some background on the terminology.

To set up how I came to choose the Prime Rize, these are the main factors I consider when choosing a bow, in order of importance to me:
1. Balance/stability (at full draw and on release)
2. Consistency/tuning
3. Back wall
4. Release
5. Sound
6. Draw cycle
7. Speed

Some of these overlap, and some I would probably rate equally important. Generally speaking, I’m looking for a bow that I feel confident shooting every single time. It needs to sit in my hand like it belongs there – before, during, and after the shot.


When I put all those considerations together, I decided on the Prime Rize. Prime’s parallel cam system is supposed to make their bows extremely efficient and reliable to tune.


Prime’s parallel cam system.

 The limb stops are designed to give a super solid back wall (for people familiar with Elite bows, this is about what a Prime feels like). The aluminum they use for the risers are designed to give an extremely stiff riser, providing both stability and silence on release.

So let’s go through my list of priorities and see how the Rize is looking so far. I’ll jump around my list a bit because it makes more sense to go in order of shot sequence.

Let’s start with the long list of pros…

My first few shots felt amazing. Drawing this bow at 70 pounds felt more like others I’ve drawn at 60 pounds. With the limb stops, it sits at that back wall like there is literally a wall behind my back arm. Some people will cringe at this thought, but I’m really liking it. If I want to hold the bow drawn for any length of time, I want to be able to really squeeze my shoulder blades back and hold the bow there without any movement – I don’t want it to feel spongy or like it’s pulling forward. Other bows will use cable stops, which use the cables to hold the cams at full draw rather than the limbs. This just gives a different feel when holding the bow at full draw, and it really comes down to personal preference.

A note on draw cycle that will certainly be at the top of other people’s lists: I’m not too concerned with having the smoothest drawing bow. When I draw a bow, I’m pulling back a string that will shoot a projectile close to 300 fps with 70 pounds of force. I don’t mind feeling that. I mean, comfort is always nice, but I just personally don’t mind more aggressive cams that I need to power through a bit to get drawn (don’t confuse this with being physically incapable of drawing the bow, which is just a recipe for injury and damaged equipment). As long as I am physically strong enough to get the bow drawn while still holding the pin on target, I’m happy. This would be the difference, for example, between a Hoyt turbo cam, that is very aggressive, and the famous Mathews solo cams, that are well known for their smooth draws.

On release, there’s so little movement, it’s unbelievable. I never felt like the bow was jumping at all; it is completely dead in hand – also making it extremely quiet (the other people in the shop even commented on this). This feeling is a hard one to describe, but anyone who has done some shooting knows the difference between a bow that jumps and one that just seems to slide from full draw to the shot. The Rize sits in my hand really comfortably, and settles right in at full draw.


The ghost grip is super thin but also textured.

 Prime’s “ghost grip” is essentially just a super thin, low profile grip that is slightly textured, but no rubber or wood. I’m used to Hoyt’s rubber and wood grips, so this was a bit different for me, but I am enjoying it. One thing I noticed is that if there was any moisture on my hand (sweat, rain, etc.), it did make the grip feel a bit less secure in my hand; however, in terms of feeling the bow sitting right in my hand, I am really enjoying the thin grip.

I can’t fully comment on tuning yet because I just haven’t put enough shots through the bow to see how the strings and cables will settle in and how the bow will maintain tuning. Consistency/tuning are extremely important to me. I need to know that I can trust my bow to be shooting exactly the same with every shot. This way, I know that any inconsistencies and errors are mine. I have personally found that Hoyt bows can be a bit time consuming and a little tricky to tune. Don’t get me wrong, they are incredible bows and perform very well; but I have found they need a lot of attention to get the arrows shooting just perfect through paper and with broadheads. So I want a bow that I am confident will stay in tune and will be shooting the same in the field as it was in the shop.

What I can say is that I felt pretty confident shooting it right out of the box. Prime cycles their bows 100 times and then retunes them before they leave the factory, so much of the stretching in the strings and cables should already be done. The parallel cam system is intended to eliminate the issue of cam lean (when the cams are canted to one side as a result of different tension on the cables), so I’ll have to see how that goes after I get a hundred arrows or so out of the bow, and update then.


Another shot of the parallel cam and the split string that comes together to the main string.

 Binary cam bows can sometimes be a bit notorious for addressing cam lean issues, so this will be a big test for the parallel cam system.

The other aspect to tuning that I worry about is cam timing (ensuring the cams are moving together and in sync). I contacted Prime right away and asked them to send me any instructions they have on addressing cam timing, and they replied with these materials within hours. The adjustments seem to be really straight-forward, and the cams have markings on them that can be used to ensure they are in the same position at rest. This means that you can measure cam timing with the bow at rest, which is great. What I can say is that I installed the rest and nock point based on the manufacture specifications, and it took one small rest adjustment to get the bow shooting bullet holes through paper. So in terms of paper tuning, it was great.

If I have to identify a con…

One thing I will say is that I hope I never have to let the bow down from full draw. I had to do this twice while setting the bow up, and it was very uncomfortable. The flip side of a really nice back wall is that you almost have to push the string forward to let it down, and when those cams roll over, it’s very uncomfortable on the shoulder. Having said that, I can probably count on my fingers and toes the number of times I’ve actually let a bow down without shooting, so I don’t expect this to be a big issue.

And a con that has become a pro…

One of my initial hesitations with moving to Prime was the weight of the bows. When I first shot a Prime a couple years ago, I noticed immediately how heavy it was, and it really turned me off. They have definitely addressed this in the last couple years. The Rize is certainly a manageable weight, even after I installed my stabilizer and other accessories. It also just feels like a really solid piece of equipment. There’s a more qualitative impression you get when you pick up a bow about its durability, and the Rize sure seems like a workhorse.

A note on speed…

Speed is one of the most hotly debated topics in archery and bowhunting. I’ve discussed the issue of speed in another post about arrow selection, so I’m not going to go into it in detail here, but I will give the specs on what I’m getting for speed. When I shot a couple arrows through a chronograph, I was getting an average speed of 289 fps with my Easton Axis arrows. My arrows are in a 340 spine, weighing 9.5 gpi, so at 28.5″ long they come in at 414 grains total weight. This gives me 77 foot pounds of KE out of the Rize, a number I’m definitely happy with.


All in all, I think it’s a great bow so far. I need to do a lot more shooting and of course get it into the field for some hunting, but I’m happy with it. I would definitely encourage everyone to check these bows out and give them a try. At the end of the day, choose your bow based on what feels right. Don’t buy a bow you don’t think you will be confident with in the field. Read through some other reviews (here’s another great review of the Rize as well) and see what people like about their equipment. There are many variables and considerations, so it’s important to get some bows in your hands and see what is most important to you and then decide which bow suits your preferences the best.

Questions about this bow or setup? Feedback or suggestions about this review? Leave them in the comments section and I’ll definitely address them!

Arrow Selection: Some Considerations and Choices

When it comes to nerding out about archery gear and archery science, I’m guilty as charged. One of the most important considerations in putting together a bowhunting rig (and a topic that stimulates a lot of conversation) is arrow selection. Everything comes into play in choosing an arrow: what are you hunting? What kind of bow are you shooting? How much speed do you want? How much kinetic energy do you need? The answers to these questions all depend on your priorities and your hunting situation.


Foreward: What is Really at the Heart of the Speed vs. Power Issue?

The debate around arrow selection often revolves around one main question: to be fast or not to be fast? Or more specifically, do you want a fast arrow or a powerful arrow? Most of the rest of your decisions come from your answer to this question. I imagine that archers have been engaged in this conversation for thousands of years, at one point having lively debates into the night over the type of wood to use for their arrows. Arrow weight is the single most important characteristic that determines the results you are going to get for speed and power.

Generally speaking, I think the race for the fastest arrow is a bit moot. However, manufacturers need an easy way to assign some kind of value to their bows, and people are drawn to fast things. It’s easy to want a bow that shoots at 370 feet per second (fps) over one that shoots at 280 fps.

But let’s back up. There are a couple other important considerations besides speed, so let’s look at the science and see how this need for speed plays out.

I’m going to focus on three main points for this discussion:

Act 1: Ensure you have the correct spine.
Act 2: In the bowhunting world, weight kills.
Act 3: I think there is a specific, but important, difference between seeking seeking a fast arrow and seeking a fast bow.

Of course, there are many things to think about when choosing arrows, but I think these 3 points will give you a good start when first tackling arrow selection. You will need to spend time doing plenty of research, doing some calculations, and figuring out what works best with your bow. I hope reading this article is one part of that research.

Act One: Arrow Spine

The first thing you need to know when selecting an arrow is what spine you need. Most choices in arrow selection come down to personal preference, but not spine. Arrow spine refers to the stiffness of an arrow, and it’s critical for the safety of your bow and for accuracy that you choose the correct arrow spine.

Imagine you drive a truck into the end of a horizontal telephone pole. Imagine  you drive the same truck into a tooth pick. Finally, imagine you drive it into a 2×4. While perhaps a little rough around the edges, this analogy is meant to explain what happens if you shoot an arrow that is too stiff or too weak for your bow. When the bowstring pushes the arrow off the end of the bow, the arrow flexes, stabilizing throughout the course of its flight. Simply put, if your bow is too weak, the arrow can`t flex enough; if your bow is too heavy, the arrow flexes too much. At worst, these situations could damage your bow, but they will certainly reduce the consistency and accuracy of your shooting. The rule is that heavier bows require stiffer arrows.

Every arrow manufacturer has a way of designating the spine of their arrows, and while the system used to measure spine stiffness is standardized, the systems used by manufacturers to represent spine is not. Easton’s system is generally the easiest to understand, because they use the direct measurement for “arrow deflection“, which is the way spine stiffness is calculated. With Easton arrows, the lower the number, the stiffer the arrow. 20151218_232210So a 70# bow might shoot a 340 spine arrow, while a 60# bow might shoot a 400 spine arrow. All arrow manufacturers will have charts (Easton, Carbon Express, Gold Tip) to help you identify the correct arrow spine based on your bow specifications (e.g. poundage, draw length, and arrow length). Be sure you understand how your specifications affect spine selection. Click here for a great resource to explain some of the finer points in arrow spine.

Act Two: The Science Part

Here’s the science in bowhunting: arrows kill by haemorrhaging, doing internal damage by cutting. Ideally, you want both an entrance wound and an exit wound. Therefore, an arrow’s ability to kill depends on effective and powerful penetration. The ability of an arrow to penetrate depends on kinetic energy (KE) and momentum. Kinetic energy is the energy an object possesses as it moves. Momentum is the relationship between speed and mass of an object. We could get into the differences between KE and momentum, but this is meant to be an introduction to the topic, so for simplicity, I’ll use KE to refer to the ability of an arrow to penetrate effectively.

Imagine that you have two cups. Fill them both half full with water. The first cup is speed; the second cup is the arrow weight. You can pour water from one cup to the other, gaining more speed and reducing weight, or vice versa, but there’s a trade off either way. Together, the interaction of the water in the two cups determines your KE.

As a rule, light arrows travel faster than heavier ones. Think of the difference between throwing a golf ball and a bowling ball. We will all be able to throw the golf ball faster. Speed is great in getting an arrow to the animal quickly, but as soon as the arrow touches the animal’s hide, it stops. At this point, the energy required to penetrate is stored in the arrow as KE, meaning that you need to optimize the amount of KE in the arrow. In the equation to calculate KE, the speed of an arrow has less influence over its killing power than the mass of that arrow. Therefore, the heavier an arrow is, the more KE it will have, and the more penetrating power it will have at the animal. I would rather be hit with a golf ball than a bowling ball, because even though the bowling ball is going slower, it is more powerful.

Some people will say that the faster the arrow is, the less time the animal has to react to it and jump the string. That’s true; however, sounds travels at 1,116 fps. The fastest bow in the world is still pushing an arrow slower than the speed of sound, meaning that the sound of the bow shooting will reach the animal long before the arrow. In other words, no matter what, the arrow can never be fast enough. So again, the real focus is on the ability of that arrow to kill the animal efficiently and effectively when it does reach its target.

To calculate the KE of your arrow, here is the equation:

m = mass. The mass of modern arrows are described in grains per inch (gpi). Most arrows will have the gpi marked right on the shaft. To calculate total arrow mass, take the length of your arrow in inches and multiply that by the gpi weight of the arrow, and then add everything else on the arrow: vanes, nock, insert, arrow head.
v = velocity. You will need to shoot your arrow through a chronograph. There are calculations you can do to estimate your arrow speed using bow poundage, draw length, and arrow weight, but to be absolutely accurate, you need to use a chronograph.

Here’s an example using my old bow and arrow setup. I was shooting an arrow that weighed 9.0 gpi, was 28.5″ long, and had a total arrow mass of about 400 grains. I put it through a chronograph at 282 fps. So if we plug in those numbers, here’s what I was shooting for KE:

KE=71 foot pounds

Here’s a handy resource for some other useful calculations.

So if KE kills animals, the next question is, how much KE do I need?

We don’t really know precisely how much KE is needed to kill every animal. Every bowhunting situation is different, but generally speaking, larger animals require more KE. Easton provides an estimated range of recommended KE for animals of different sizes:

Small game (rabbits, groundhog, etc.): 25 ft. lbs.
Medium game (deer, antelope, etc.): 25-41 ft. lbs.
Large game (elk, black bear, etc.): 41-65 ft. lbs.
Toughest game (buffalo, grizzly bear, etc.): >65 ft. lbs.

So that gives you an idea of what you should aim for depending on your hunting scenario. My position is that there is no such thing as “overkill”; you can’t have too much power. The more the merrier.

Check out this video comparing penetration between two different bow and arrow combinations.

It is worth spending some time doing the calculations, checking the numbers on different arrows, and thinking about what you will be hunting and what you need. Think about how much poundage you can handle in your bow and what kind of arrow weight you need to get the KE needed for quick kills. This brings me to my third point.

Act Three: The Real Need for Speed…Bow Poundage

Having said all that about arrow speed, I would bet that deep down, we all still want a fast arrow. Plus, there is some scientific basis for this: recall that velocity is a factor in KE, so it is important to have speed.

The IBO speed rating on a bow is determined using a 70# bow with a 30″ draw length and a 350 grain arrow. By hunting standards, 350 grains is on the lighter end of the spectrum. So what can the IBO rating tell you about what you can expect from the bow once you start shooting your hunting arrow? Well, since IBO ratings are standardized, it gives you some indication about the efficiency and power of the bow itself. A bow shooting IBO speeds of 350 fps is still going to be faster than one shooting 320 fps, even at lower hunting arrow speeds.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that the IBO rating should be your most important consideration when choosing a bow. On the contrary, it’s one of the last things I look at. My point is that if you want to get more speed out of your arrow, I would suggest you focus on increasing the power of your bow, rather than decreasing the weight of your arrow. So you can look for a bow with a higher IBO rating, more aggressive cams, and increase the poundage. I was in this exact situation with my Hoyt Charger. I was already shooting a heavy arrow, so if I wanted to get more KE, it had to be from increasing speed. So I worked the poundage on my bow up to its max of 60#. My new bow, a Prime Rize, is in 70#. This is specifically because I want more KE, but I also want to maintain some good speeds.

Afterward: Where To Start

Ok, so where should you start if you’re picking out arrows for your brand new bow? Or, if you want a more efficient hunting arrow?

First, do some research on different arrow manufacturers. Read some reviews, talk to pro shops, and do plenty of other research. Use the selection charts to determine which arrows fit your bow specifications. Look at the arrow weights. Determine your budget (I didn’t go into this, but basically, spend as much as you are able on arrows…generally, the more expensive they are, the more consistent and precise they are). IMG_3044 If possible, try shooting a few of them through a chronograph and do some calculations to compare the KE you’re getting out of each arrow. There are some other factors and calculations you will want to think about to maximize the efficiency of your bowhunting arrow as well (e.g. arrow length, F.O.C., broadhead weight, etc.). As with anything to do with archery, don’t discount your own intuition about which arrow feels most comfortable shooting, but certainly be confident in the numbers you are getting from your tests and trust those.

This is the fun part. Enjoy the shooting!

Choosing a bow and arrow setup: my current gear

Who doesn’t like to nerd out once in a while (generally, at least once a day) about gear?

While by no means an expert, I’ve tried a few different combinations of bows, sights, rests, stabilizers, releases, and arrows over the years, and I can at least comment on what I use now and why I like it. If you are new to archery and bowhunting, check out my Introduction to Archery post for some background information on some of the terminology you will encounter.

My bow setup and arrow selection.

My bow setup and arrow setup.

Currently, here’s how my setup looks:

Bow: 2013 Hoyt Charger
Sight: Trophy Ridge React-One
Rest: Trophy Taker Smackdown Pro
Stabilizer: Beestinger Sport Hunter Xtreme 
Release: Scott Samurai
Arrows: Easton Axis 400
Strings: Custom from Kevin Nugent
Broadheads: Muzzy MX-3

A couple notes on this configuration and how I got here.

I used to shoot a 3-pin sight, and I was hearing a lot about single pin sights and how much people liked them (less light interference, less distraction in the sight housing, personal preference for horizontal or vertical sight pins, etc.). When I heard about Trophy Ridge’s React sights, I was just intrigued. The React-One is their single pin version of their React sights. The deal is that you sight in at 20 yards, and then any other distance from 30-100. Once you have two distances dialed, the sight does the rest and automatically sights in from 20-100 yards. I just thought this was cool and wanted to try it. I haven’t looked back from the single pin sight. I love it. I found that I prefer a vertical pin to a horizontal one. Even though I won’t be using any sight markers past 30 yards for whitetail hunting, it’s great to be able to practice at longer distances, and this sight makes that really easy. It’s also fully metal and tool-less, which means things can be adjusted quickly and easily.

One thing I really like about the Trophy Taker rest is its full metal construction. The thing is a workhorse; everything about it is super tight, smooth, and durable. The full capture housing is great, and the actual fork of the rest goes from wall to wall of the full capture housing, meaning that no matter where your arrow is when you draw the bow, the rest will pick it up. The actual rest is covered in a great felt piece, and the housing is rubber, so it’s quiet!

The only real drawback of the React-One sight for me is that it weighs close to a pound, and most of this weight is on one side of the bow. I found I was having a bit of wobble at full draw, so I wanted to try a longer stabilizer to bring some more weight out front, and it worked like a charm. My groups instantly improved. Even though shooting an 8.5″ stabilizer at 7.18 oz added overall weight to the bow, the problem was never holding the physical weight of the bow up, so it helped. I would have probably benefitted even more from putting the stabilizer on a slight offset to the opposite side as the sight, but I didn’t get that this time around. In any case, I’m really pleased with how much steadier I feel now.

The Scott release is pretty straight-forward: adjustable nylon strap, dual caliper. My only requirement here was that I upgrade to a release with a buckle. I was tired of climbing into a treestand and realizing I had to rip that velcro strap open; I felt like I might as well get on a megaphone and announce myself to the entire forest. Having said that, I learned the value in investing in a quality release. I used to go by the mindset that a release just needed to release the string, and beyond that, it didn’t matter too much. I noticed an instant positive difference in the trigger sensitivity in this release.

I’m going to save a discussion about arrow selection for another post, because I love to talk about arrows, and I don’t think they get enough of their own attention – it’s far too often just narrowed down to concerns over how fast the arrows go. But basically, I wanted a good hunting arrow – one with some weight.

I posted in some archery forums asking for recommendations on strings, and the answer was overwhelmingly to get strings from Kevin Nugent, from right here in Ontario. My note here is pretty simple: great guy, great products. I recommend him to everyone now.

We could go on forever about broadhead selection. My choice is simply because when I started bowhunting, someone recommended Muzzy, and I’ve stuck with them. I recognize there are plenty of great ones out there, and I’ll get around to trying more as I get more opportunities to hunt.

So anyway, there’s my setup in a nutshell. Most of the changes I’ve made over the years have been out of simple curiosity and a desire for exploration. I just like trying new things to see what works for me and what feels good. I think that’s the most important thing when choosing equipment. Look around and do research. Read everything you can find about different gear options and ask people what they like and don’t like, and why. Just remember that everyone has their own opinion and there isn’t a right and wrong answer for your own setup, you need to find out what works for you. This current configuration has brought it all together for me, and I feel totally confident with all the pieces that make it up. I’m excited every single time I open my case to take it out, and I enjoy every single shot I take. At some point I’m sure I’ll switch something out for a new piece, but I’m not in any rush right now!

Of course…those new Xpedition Xcentric bows look pretty cool…

As an update to this post, I purchased the new Prime Rize in January 2016, and you can check out my thoughts on this bow here.

Full draw.