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Best Broadhead Options for Hunting Deer, Bears and Turkeys

Head Bangers: Some heads are better suited for certain types of game.

Best Broadhead Options for Hunting Deer, Bears and Turkeys

Hunting broadheads: NAP Spitfire DoubleCross (top left), turkey;  G-5 Deadmeat V2 (bottom left), black bear; Wasp Havalon HV (top right) and Rage Hypodermic (bottom right), whitetails.

Mechanical or fixed? One hundred grains, 125 grains or larger? Today’s bowhunters have a wide array of broadheads to choose from—even ones designed for hunting specific species. But what is the best way to go?

There is no easy answer, and I’m not fool enough to think the question will be put to rest here. The debate has been going on far too long, opinions are firmly set, and there are too many variables in play. However, one thing we can all agree on is that a broadhead must provide a good flight pattern, proper penetration and lots of cutting and hemorrhaging in order to kill quickly.

While there is little doubt today’s popular 100- and 125-grain mechanical and fixed heads will get the job done with proper shot placement, some heads are better suited for certain types of game. Here’s one man’s take on the subject.

Whitetails Broadheads
  • Mechanical: RAGE HYPODERMIC
  • Grains: 100
  • Number of Blades: 2
  • Cutting Diameter: 2”
  • Fixed-Blade: WASP HAVALON HV
  • Grains: 125
  • Number of Blades: 3
  • Cutting Diameter: 1 3/16”

Compared to other big-game species, deer are rather thin-skinned and not heavily boned, but a whitetail must lose approximately one-third of its blood before it dies. You accomplish that blood loss by putting an arrow where it counts and creating a large wound channel with an effective broadhead.

Mechanical broadheads have some advantages over fixed heads in this regard. With their low profile and aerodynamic design, mechanicals fly fast and true, much like field points, and typically call for very little if any sight adjustment. Sight in with a 100-grain field point and that’s where you should hit with a 100-grain mechanical head.

The biggest advantage mechanical heads provide is their large cutting diameter, which creates devastating wound channels and blood loss, resulting in easy-to-follow blood trails. For deer, 100-grain mechanical heads with cutting diameters under 2 inches are most popular. Because mechanicals of this size and weight lose little speed before contact at typical bow ranges, complete pass-through shots are often the norm, which is desired for maximum blood loss.

Because they have moving parts, mechanicals are not as durable as fixed heads and have been known to fail on occasion, especially when contacting bone. There is also the chance for incomplete opening due to loss of speed upon penetration, though with today’s high-speed vertical compounds and crossbows, a lack of speed is hardly ever an issue.

The exception might be if hunting with slower recurve or long bows. Many traditional bowhunters opt for a heavier 125-grain fixed head. Most fixed heads have a smaller cutting diameter, and while that might be considered a sacrifice, fixed heads start cutting immediately upon contact and there are no moving parts to possibly fail or slow the arrow. Most important, the heavier heads also deliver more energy and retain more forward momentum, even at slower speeds, for excellent penetration.

Black Bear Broadheads
  • Mechanical: G5 DEADMEAT V2
  • Grains: 125
  • Number of Blades: 3
  • Cutting Diameter: 1 1/2”
  • Fixed-Blade: QAD EXODUS
  • Grains: 125
  • Number of Blades: 3
  • Cutting Diameter: 1 1/4”

You’ll hear a lot of contradicting stories concerning arrowing black bears. For every bruin an archer says was easy to kill due to major blood loss, you’ll hear a tale of a bear that produced little blood and required a long, arduous tracking effort. My personal experience has been that bears are no harder to dispatch with an arrow than deer—as long as the shot placement is true. Hit bone or otherwise strike a bear poorly and it’s a different story.

I have killed bears with both mechanical and fixed broadheads with equal success, but they are not the same heads used for deer. Whatever their size, bears are heavy-boned and carry a thick mat of hair and body fat, especially late in the season after a summer and fall of heavy feeding in preparation of winter. Because pass-through shots on bears are never guaranteed, I want a broadhead that delivers deep penetration and a large wound channel for extensive internal damage and blood loss. Even if the arrow fails to travel through, the more damage inside the animal the better.

While there is little doubt 100-grain mechanical heads will kill a bear, 125-grain fixed heads generally do it better. Some speed might be sacrificed, but the extra momentum and delivered energy from the heavier heads more than compensate for it. Fixed heads also start cutting immediately upon contact and are more durable on heavy game. What I want is a large wound channel and lots of organ and tissue damage and blood loss.

Keep in mind that a bear’s heart and lungs are mostly located below and partially behind the front shoulder. Whether hunting over bait in Maine, still-hunting in the hills of West Virginia or on a spot-and-stalk in Pennsylvania, successfully arrowing a bear is a challenge. A large cutting diameter not only increases blood loss, it improves of the odds of severing something vital when shot placement is less than perfect.

Recommended


Turkey Broadheads

Turkeys can be challenging to kill with an arrow due to their small stature, perpetual motion and baseball-sized vital zone. Although turkeys are well covered with feathers, other than the wings there are few bones to worry about, so deep penetration is less important. There’s also no great need to worry about complete pass-through shots. An arrow that fails to pass through continues to cut and cause damage as the bird flops on the ground. It is more important that an arrow flies fast and true and the broadhead creates a large entrance wound.

Hunters armed with a low-draw recurve or long bow should consider a 100- or even 125-grain fixed-blade head since they shed less energy at low speed. One hundred-grain mechanical heads are the way to go with compounds and crossbows.

The large, so-called “guillotine” heads are deadly if they fly fast and true off your bow, but they are designed primarily for head and neck shots, which are always a gamble. Mechanicals with a cutting diameter of 2 inches or slightly less fly extremely well. While two-blade heads will certainly get the job done, three- and four-blade heads offer more cutting potential and are more forgiving when a shot is slightly off the mark.

Shoot Straight

All things considered, just about any of today’s mechanical and fixed broadheads—regardless of grain weight, cutting diameter and configuration—will dispatch deer, bears and wild turkeys when matched with the right arrow and bow. In many cases it simply boils down to personal preference and shot placement—all the more reason to hit the range every chance you get.




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