When Thin is In: Hard-Hitting Skinny Arrows for Deer Hunting

While skinnier might be the latest rage in carbon-arrow technology, it was something hunters understood well in the days when aluminum arrows prevailed, shooting Easton’s 2018, 2117 or 2020 when increased penetration and ruggedness was paramount. For “carbon-age” bowhunters without alloy experience, some background might be in order.

Patrick Meitin with a doe he hunted and shot in Idaho with his traditional archery gear, which he enjoys and regularly hunts with. Meitin also hunts with compound bows and "skinny" arrows, which he believes have great advantages.

Patrick Meitin with a doe he hunted and shot in Idaho with his traditional archery gear, which he enjoys and regularly hunts with. Meitin also hunts with compound bows and “skinny” arrows, which he believes have great advantages.

Easton’s old system includes outside shaft diameters measured in hundredths of an inch, combined with wall thickness in the thousands of an inch. Thus, the venerable 2117 aluminum shaft includes .21-inch outside diameter (just less than a 1⁄4-inch) and .017-inch wall thickness. The smaller the first two numbers, the skinnier the shaft, the larger the second, the heavier it is. Spine or deflection ratings are created by a combination of outside shaft diameter or hoop dimension and wall thickness. The former has more structural bearing than the latter.

Therefore, in order to make carbon shafts skinnier, walls grew thicker to compensate for lost hoop strength. The skinniest carbons now accept direct-fit G/F or X/A nocks — Easton/Bohning, respectively — with .168- and .205- inch outside diameter stems. Examples include Easton’s Injexions or Deep Six FMJ, Victory VAP or Bloodsport Impact Hunter in G/F diameters; Easton Axis, Carbon Express Pile Driver PTX or Gold Tip Kaos in X/A.

In many cases special insert designs were devised to make it possible to use standard-thread points and broad- heads — Easton’s H.I.T. (Hidden Insert Technology), for instance. In the case of Easton’s Deep Six shafts, proprietary Deep Six (D6) thread/stainless steel inserts became necessary, because standard point shoulders proved too bulky to fit inside these shafts.

The results are slim yet relatively heavy shafts; say something weighing 10 to 12 gpi instead of the 8.5 to 9.5 gpi of most standard-issue .245-inch inside-diameter carbon shafts holding Super/Signature nocks (Easton/ Bohning, respectively).

THE SKINNY/HEAVY TREND
The skinny/heavy trend is partly a result of compound bows’ improving efficiency and performance, and partly bowhunters’ dawning realization that there’s more to killing cleanly with archery gear than raw speed — even if one now feeds the other. By that I mean better compound bows now give us speed to burn, while maintaining arrow trajectories/speeds considered sizzling just 10 years past.

"Skinny" arrows require hunters to use different inserts and broadheads, but have strong advantages for hunting and competition.

“Skinny” arrows require hunters to use different inserts and broadheads, but have strong advantages for hunting and competition.

Heavier, slower arrows carry more kinetic energy (more importantly, momentum) and penetrate more deeply than light arrows, all other factors remaining equal. Thicker shaft walls are also more impervious to failure after encountering heavy bone (or rocky ground after missed shots). These are arguments that have been settled even in modern archery, yet something traditional bowhunters have understood for decades.

It’s also my conviction that a skinny arrow, grain for grain, penetrates more deeply because it simply experiences less friction through a given media. I only put it in these terms because many old-school archers argue that broadheads open more than enough channel to allow unrestricted passage of even the fattest shafts. This is true, unless muscles contract after passage, or bone (such as a rib) contracts in elastic fashion after broadheads pass — both of which I believe occur, and the reason I don’t put too much stock in penetration tests performed on deceased targets.

It’s easy to argue that extreme penetration is wasted on white-tailed deer, but that’s like arguing that a bow can be too quiet. With the newest skinny carbons, an encountered shoulder blade, even a spinal column resulting from a wild string jump, isn’t as likely to stop an arrow cold. For the kinetically challenged (youth, women or aging hunters with bad joints) this is the “magic bullet” you’re seeking.

And a whitetail bow never can be too quiet. The easiest way to accomplish this is by shooting a heavier arrow that is better able to absorb more of a compound bow’s stored energy. Few whitetails are shot at more than 40 yards.

We don’t need laser-flat trajectory to kill white-tailed bucks. We need quieter bows eliciting fewer string-jumping incidents. We also need more forgiving arrows compensating for nerve-induced shot bobbles and the occasional nicked branch. A heavier arrow delivers such forgiveness, all other factors remaining equal.

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