by Dan Schmidt, D&DH Editor
Any well-placed broadhead will quickly and efficiently kill a deer and secure prime venison. However, not all broadheads are created equal. Your job in finding the best head for your setup involves finding a broadhead that offers outstanding penetration and cutting ability, indestructible construction and incredible flight characteristics. It might sound like a tall order to fill, but it really isn’t in today’s market. It requires some hands-on research, however, because every hunter has slightly different needs and tastes.
Technology has certainly pushed broadheads to new levels, but serious hunters cannot overlook traditional designs when shopping for the right head for their setup. Cut-on-contact heads are popular with elk hunters because the blades create massive tissue damage. However, beware that traditional heads can be tricky to shoot, especially if you use a high-speed bow. Wind planning is the No. 1 problem bow-hunters encounter when using these broadheads. However, it’s worth it to see if your bow can shoot these heads, because they’re awfully deadly. The top choices include those heads from Zwickey, Magnus, G-5 and Steelforce.
For whitetails, it is hard to beat the new expandables. They have been improved so much that, as my buddy says, “it would be foolish not to hunt with them.”
My favorite broadhead right now is the new X-Treme from Rage. This thing is not only built well, it is scapel-sharp and cuts holes so big that anything in its path is an instant away from certain death.
Shooting the X-Treme tipped on a Carbon Express Maxima Hunter from my Mathews Heli-M, I put down two whitetails in September with wounds that can only be described as “beyond scary.” The company advertises the product as producing 2.3-inch wounds, I honestly believe the blades flex and create lager holes than that. I tried measuring them on the buck and doe I shot, and came up with almost 2.5 inches. Either way, that is one big hole. Better yet, I achieved complete pass-throughs, and I’m only shooting 54 pounds of draw weight. The key there is the kinetics produced by the Mathews Heli-M and the sharpness of the broadhead.
I will admit that when Rage broadheads first came out, I was a big skeptic. The main reason: dull blades. Those early heads I shot were shockingly dull. The result was poor performance on deer. I killed and recovered all of the deer I shot back then, but not all of them dropped quickly. When you skin a buck and notice a lot of bloodshot meat around the entry wound, you know that your broadhead isn’t cutting the way it should. Simply, it’s dull.
These new X-Tremes are quite the opposite. Wounds were so precise and clean that both deer bled out quickly and there was no bloodshot meat whatsoever.
It’s important to know that many broadheads made overseas (all brands) aren’t razor sharp right out of the package. Invest in one of those small, hand-held sharpeners and sharpen your broadheads before each hunt. Blades become dull by pushing them in and out of a quiver, and they can also lose their edge merely from oxidation. The best test for sharpness is to wind a rubber band in a circle around your thumb and forefinger. You should be able to cut three rubber strands by barely touching them with the edge of the broadhead’s blades. Another test is to shave hair off the back of your arm. By all means, be careful when doing these tests!
A lot of guys think that sharpening a new broadhead will remove the “factory finish.” All I know is that the rubber band test doesn’t lie. If the band doesn’t snap immediately, I don’t want to hunt with that broadhead. I have used these little sharpeners to get the blades in working order.
Mechanical broadheads became the rage in the archery industry in the mid-1990s when two things – 3-D archery and high-speed bows – became more popular. Hunters realized they could shoot farther and more accurately with broadheads that flew more like field points. The logic was sound, but many hunters, myself included, stubbornly stuck with their tried-and-true heavy arrow/broadhead combinations. With today’s craze of being bigger, better and faster, it’s difficult not to adapt to the new wave of bowhunting. In other words, if your bow is a Cadillac, you had better feed it premium.
A final note: Remember that it is easy to zing broadheads through stationary objects – cinder blocks, steel cans, cardboard – under controlled circumstances and proclaim one better than another. Although insights from such tests are valuable, they don’t come close to simulating what happens when blade meets living bone. When in doubt, do your own field-testing and pick out the broadhead that works best for the deer you hunt.