By Eric Patton, ToxoPhilites
The only thing worse than having the wrong tool is not realizing you have the wrong tool until it’s too late. You will learn this the first time you put an arrow through a turkey and he flies off with it and you never see either of them again. This makes choosing the right crossbow broadhead an important concern.
There are a number of points to consider before you rush out to the store or head over to Amazon looking for the best crossbow broadheads. Not least of which is the setup of your bow and what you plan on hunting. If you are serious about bringing home game, the following criteria should govern your decision.
Most crossbows can handle almost all mechanical broadheads without issue. The nature of mechanical broadheads makes them work much like a field point. The only exception to this are those mechanicals that have small, cut-on-contact blades at the tip. Those should work as long as they don’t touch the flight groove.
Some Crossbows are simply too powerful or too weak for a mechanical broadhead to work. Check with the broadhead manufacture for the pressure ratings. Firing a mechanical broadhead out of an ill-suited bow can make it not deploy correctly or become wildly inaccurate.
Fixed blades are more forgiving on release pressure but will require longer bolts that extend past the risers. Some crossbows handle these broadheads better than others. Specifically, models with reversed limbs can have some issues. Try before you buy is the best bet, but often impossible.
Bows are used for hunting many animals. Deer and turkey are the most common but elk, bear, rabbit, hog, pronghorn, and mountain goat can also be taken with a bow. Some even use them for fox, coyote, squirrel, and even small birds.
This is more common with standard bows but within the realm of crossbow hunting if we get the power of the bow right. You will also need the correct broadhead.
As a general guideline, mammals under 20 pounds should be hunted with a small game point. Birds under 10 pounds should be hunted with a birding point. For the rest, it’s a little more complicated.
For general rules:
- Animals with heavier bones and dense muscle like elk and bear are best hunted with heavy, fixed blade broadheads
- Small animals like deer, mountain goat, and coyote can be effectively killed with either type
- Turkey need a lot of blood loss quickly to keep them from flying and should be hunted with large blade mechanical broadheads
None of this is set in stone. Many elk have been killed with mechanical broadheads. Some turkey hunters use heavy broadheads with fixed blades.
Most broadheads weigh between 100 and 125 grains but can weigh as little as 75 or as much as 150 grains. Most people will do fine with the mid-range broadheads. Heavier and lighter broadheads are more of a gimmick than anything else.
I am not aware of any crossbow that would benefit from a broadhead weight of less than 100 grains. There are a few very powerful crossbows that can use 150-grain broadheads but there is little incentive to do so.
The best bet with most crossbows is to match a heavy aluminum blot with a 125-grain broadhead. You may have to tweak your bow a little to get these broadheads flying true. Once done, these are usually more accurate with better range and still hit hard.
Leading Edge Considerations
The leading edge, or point, of the broadhead, may come in two different varieties. Some are cut on contact with small blades at the nose or blades that extend all the way to the nose of the broadhead. Chisel point broadheads have a strong point almost like a field tip that can more easily break bone.
For game with thick bone, bear, and elk, chisel points tend to be preferred. Their ability to break bone and still penetrate does an outstanding job.
For most other game, one is as good as the other. I do like a cut on contact for Turkey as they usually cause a lot more blood loss up front. For animals larger than turkey, the blood loss isn’t significant enough to do a lot of good.
Number Of Blades
I would consider the most common blade count to be 2 to 4. There are a few companies that make broadheads with more than 4 blades. The benefit of more blades is the crosscut that prevents a wound from sealing.
Most broadheads will do the same job with any amount of blades. The main difference is the size of the wound channel. Turkey are notorious for shrugging off hits from 2 blade fixed broadheads.
For fixed broadheads, I prefer three blades that can be aligned with the fletching for better flight. They are also a great compromise between blade strength and weight.
Mechanical broadheads almost always use two blades. These are the most function for a two blade broadhead. Those with more blades can have flight issues.
For killing power, I am not sure there is much of a difference.
Most people stress more than they should about broadhead selection. It is far more important to match your broadhead to your bolt and bow than to what you are hunting. Turkey may be the one exception. They are tough bastards.
Deer can be effectively hunted with most broadheads. The broadhead you choose may affect your ability to hit a deer but probably not to kill one.
Eric grew up hunting, fishing, and roaming the hills of the Easter U.S. and has dedicated himself to becoming a well-rounded outdoorsman. Anytime there is an opportunity for a little fishing or a morning spent hunting, you will find him in the woods. In his off time, he teaches a variety of outdoor skills including land navigation and basic survival. Recently a Search and Rescue member, he has begun learning the ancient art of human tracking in a variety of terrains.