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various deer antlers

Types of Deer and How To Tell The Difference

You’re driving down the road when you see a deer in headlights… But, what kind of deer is it? After all, there’s more to deer than just antlers.

Otherwise known as Cervidae, the deer family is pretty broad. In fact, there are 43 species of deer.

But with members ranging from whitetail, elk, reindeer, red deer, and every dear deer in-between, how are you supposed to tell the difference?

Let’s explore the fundamental differences between 9 of the types of deer you’re likely to either encounter or hear about.

1. Whitetail Deer

whitetail buck in velvet
The whitetail is one of the most sought after deer by hunters in North America.

This medium-sized mammal is native to the Americas, weighing in at anywhere from under 100 lbs to over 300 lbs.

Doe (female deer) can weigh anywhere between under 100 lbs to 200 lbs.

White-tailed deer can sometimes be challenging to identify at first glance, as their coats change color seasonally. They can be found with reddish-brown coats under the summer sun, trading these in for more grayish-brown substitutes as winter closes in.

The white-tailed deer, usually referred to simply as the whitetail, earned its name thanks to the prominent white marking under its tail. (If a whitetail deer has piebaldism, it can lead to some unique and stunning markings.)

While the whitetail’s tail is primarily used to warn fellow deer when danger is near, this white marking also helps explorers and hunters distinguish the whitetail from other deer.

This particular deer is also unique in terms of body language. Whitetails are known to showcase various postures, including the “ear drop” to send other deer away, the “hard look” to show anger, the “antler threat” to display dominance, and the fighting stance to prepare for battle, so to speak.

During the breeding season, or “rut,” bucks (males) can often be found making violent antler contact, testing each other’s strength for the right to breed receptive does. This battle normally ends when one deer is too tired to continue but can also end in the death of one or both bucks.

Sometimes when fighting, bucks can get their antlers entangled with each other, unable to break apart. In these instances, bucks can even die if they cannot get separated.

Whitetail deer are a highly sought after game animal by rifle hunters as well as bowhunters.

2. Blacktail Deer

blacktail bucks in field
Blacktail deer have distinctive black tail with a white patch underneath.

Normally found across the hills of Central California and the mountainous region of Alaska, the Columbian black-tailed deer is a sub-species of the mule deer.

The blacktail is slightly smaller than most mule deer or his white-tailed cousin, though. Like white-tailed deer, blacktail also change their coat colors, from a reddish-brown in summer to a brownish-gray in winter.

Blacktail are normally easy to spot by their ears, which move independently. This particular deer’s broad tail is totally black or dark brown at the top, with a white patch underneath. This would make him easy to confuse with the white-tail, were it not for his distinctive dark brown antlers with symmetrical branching and easily-identifiable stocky bodies with long, slender legs.

Black-tailed deer weigh in at about 130 pounds, but can reach closer to 200. While blacktail males have antlers, their female counterparts do not – and male fawns start growing antlers at about 6-8 months old.

Blacktail can normally be found in forested mountains on the pacific coast, where the climate is mild and cool with plenty of rainfall. Blacktail live off a diet of acorns, fungi, lichen, nuts, berries, and shrubs

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coues deer buck
Coues deer bucks have main beams that curve forward.

3. Coues Deer

This specific kind of white-tailed deer is among the most commonly found across the South-Eastern mountains of Arizona, especially during the rainy summertime.

Coues can be found in woodlands where there is plenty of oak, chaparral, and pine.

Coues deer are known for their distinctive antlers. The coues’ mean beam curves forward, and more mature coues have 3-4 tines on each side.

When it comes to coat, the coues is normally grayish-brown with specks of “salt and pepper,” and white patches underneath. The coues’ most distinguishing trait is his long and broad tail, which is grayish-red-black on top and white underneath.

Coues deer are normally quite small, and fawns are known to stay close to their mothers for longer than other deer.

4. Mule Deer

mule deer bucks in field
Mule deer bucks have distinctive white patches on the backs of their hips and males have forked antlers.

Mule deer are commonly spotted in deserts across North and South America, flaunting large ears that first granted them their name.

The mule deer’s tail appears to have been dipped in black ink, and his antlers are forked.

You’ll also find a distinctive white patch on either hind side, which easily differentiates the mule deer from any other deer in America. The mule deer sports a grayish-brown coat, making it easier for him to adapt to his unique climate in desert areas.

Mule deer, often referred to as muleys, normally range from about 3 feet tall at the shoulders to a towering 7 feet (including antlers), weighing up to 280 pounds.

In addition to the whitetail, the mule deer is also one of the types of deer sought after by hunters.

5. Red Deer

These large land mammals (Britain’s largest, in fact) can weigh anywhere from 90 kg to 190 kg (around 100 to 225 lbs). They stand up to 1.37 meters (4-1/2 ft) tall at the shoulder, and can normally be found in wooded lowland areas.

red stag
A male red deer is called a “stag.” The stag’s antlers are branched.

But, the part of this deer’s anatomy that sets it apart from other deer so distinctly, is its noticeably large head and wide-spaced brown eyes.

A male red deer is called a stag. His antlers are perhaps his most distinctive feature – highly branched with multiple points on each.

The red deer’s antler branches increase with age at an angle. Another unmistakable trait of the red deer are its hoof prints, otherwise known as “slots.” These are often mistaken for sheep or goat’s marks.

Red deer are mostly found in forest habitats across England and Southern Scotland, and graze on grass and dwarf shrubs. They generally breed from the end of September to November.

6. Chital / Axis Deer

The Chital Deer, otherwise known as the axis deer, boasts unique characteristics that set it apart – one of which is the white spots that never go away. These speckled dots stay in place from youth through to adulthood, normally covering the entire body and spanning down the legs too. These spots make the axis deer one of the most easily recognized types of deer.

axis deer in a field
Axis deer have spots resembling those of a whitetail fawn, but they do not go away as they mature as the whitetail do.

The Chital Deer also has a rather long muzzle topped off with a dark black nose. The axis deer normally weighs anywhere from 60 pounds to 170 pounds, depending on the region and habitat.

An interesting feature of male axis deer are their antlers, which normally have six points. However, more dominant bucks are found with more than this, making them significant trophies.

The axis deer were introduced in the United States in the 1930’s. The state of Texas has the highest population of axis deer in the U.S.

The axis deer is normally found living in secondary land areas, around glades where there is plenty to eat. The axis deer’s hoof shape prevents them from walking well on rugged terrain. So, they tend to avoid these types of areas.

The axis deer tend to be more social than other types of deer.

7. Elk

This member of the deer family is found primarily in the Western United States and Southern Canada.

bull elk bugling with cow elk
The elk was nearly killed off by early U.S. settlers, but now thrive, especially in the Western United States.

The elk’s history is complex, with most being killed by Western U.S. settlers by the early 1900’s. The sole survivors were found mostly in the region just west of the Rocky Mountains.

Thankfully, reintroduction efforts were successful, and the elk can be found in many areas today – towering tall at 4-5 feet high at the shoulder. Some even reach up to 9 feet or higher, counting antler height. You can spot an Elk from a distance, with a copper brown coat. This can change to light tan during the Fall and Winter months.

Elk are also easily noticeable by their rump patch, and short light-brown tail. Elk can be found feeding on all types of plants, mostly grass. Although, elk also enjoy twigs, forbs, fir, juniper, aspen, and chokeberry. They also love shrubs, particularly during the cold winter months. Elk predators include cougars, wolves, coyotes, and bears, which often kill calves and sick adults.

8. Reindeer

This Christmas “legend” is actually a real deer. The male reindeer is unique among the rest, easily identifiable mainly by its antlers.

reindeer
Reindeer spend much of the deer grazing.

Other distinctive characteristics include his broad hooves, wide muzzle, and extra-thick brown fur.

These majestic creatures are a medium-sized member of the deer family, found across forests, mountains, and arctic tundra in Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, and Northern China. Reindeer normally travel in massive herds and live in the wild for about a decade.

More domesticated reindeer are herded by Asian Artic and European peoples.

Reindeer are herbivores, and spend most of the day grazing. During the cold winter months, Reindeer can be found grazing on moss and lichens, leaves and herbs.

9. Vampire Deer (Musk Deer)

Otherwise known as musk deer, these “vampires” are actually quite shy and prone to voluntary solitary confinement.

musk deer
The musk deer, or “vampire deer,” has long fangs, but no antlers.

These gentle, nocturnal creatures differ from other cervids, due to their lack of antlers and facial glands. They earned their name through their distinctive sharp vampire-like “fangs.” The over-sized canine teeth are impossible to miss.

vampire deer skull
Vampire deer skulls are instantly noticeable due to their fanged teeth.

While their name and long fangs might scare you off, this unique Asian deer is actually harmless. You’ll normally find him in mountainous regions, like the Himalayas or Siberia.

Take note of his over-sized ears, exceptionally short tail, and lack of antlers. Traits like these make the vampire deer one of the easiest kinds to spot. His coat is grayish-brown, and his hair long and brittle.

deer jumping fence

Torn Britches, Fence Posts and Deer Intel: Scouting Fence Lines

By Jerald Kopp

I consider myself a 365 hunter. That means, among other things, that I do a lot of scouting during the off-season. This goes for familiar and new hunting properties alike and it’s always paid dividends. In my mind, it matters.

Shortly after the whitetail season, I carefully seek new buck bedding areas and check known ones. Likewise, I look for new trails. Sure, there are those known heavy paths that deer traditionally travel on properties. However, it’s always common for new ones to surface. It’s the new ones that need learning on an ongoing basis.

property fence line
When it comes to deer hunting, fence lines do far more than simply mark property boundaries. They could hold valuable insight into deer travel patterns.

You don’t need deer sign to shoot a buck? I disagree. Sure, you can study aerial property views and hunting apps, but there is no substitute for putting your eyeballs on the hard facts.

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Remote Control

Whether a 20-acre micro-property or a ten thousand-acre hunting mecca, the reflex action is often to seek and study heavy timber, thick creek basins, and ag field-hugging woodlots. And often these places are in the thick of things. That is, in the middle of the ranch and in hard to reach places.

This is, where the mature bucks are. These have to be the honey holes, right? There is certainly a mystique about these remote deer havens.

Though hunters differ in how much they are willing to pressure these areas, most will walk them; or at least areas adjacent to them. It’s in these sections where trails, rub lines, scrapes and bedding areas are discovered or confirmed.

Optimal Setups Determined

Finding these heavily visited and traveled areas leads to deer stand location strategies. Most of us already know this. It’s no shocker that we often see old rotted boards within and atop old trees next to heavy game trails.

Whitetails, especially bucks, tend to follow the path of least resistance. And, unless you hunt an extremely large property, free-range deer commonly cross food sources, draws, and fence lines. The latter seemingly is often ignored. So…

Don’t Ignore Fence Lines

It seems that we often fail to see the elephant in the room – or in the case of deer scouting, the worn dirt found through property boundaries. Whether because we think we already know all the crossings or it just doesn’t cross our minds, it’s too valuable a piece of intel to overlook. These days, on regular and known grounds, I annually walk the fence lines for travel sign.

Whitetails create new routes all the time and, for that matter, can disregard old ones. The latter can happen for a variety of reasons such as new hunter pressure. In fact, I recently walked the boundaries of my latest property (in June) and found two new trails; and one of them lead directly to a bedding area not 150-yards from one of my tree stands.

Score.

It’s for this reason that it’s a great idea to follow through by following such trails as far as you can (or they remain noticeable). Similarly, you can often reverse things and follow interior trails to fence line crossings.

deer trail near fence line
Don’t ignore scouting fence lines on your hunting property for deer travel sign. These fence lines often provide a funnel where deer move along as well as cross to get to and from food sources and bedding areas.

Finally, once the fence line funnel has been identified, set up 200-300 yards away, watch, and verify. Physically witnessing early morning and late evening deer movement through these paths is bowhunter gold.

The only step left at this point is to find a logical location closer to the action. In fact, the early season is a great time to cash in on fence line paths. During this stage, some whitetails are still in their more predictable patterns. There are also still some bachelor groups around.

Why Did the Buck Cross the Fence?

I can’t think of a punchline, so here goes…

There are various reasons why fence line recon is valuable. Obviously, if there are food and nutrient sources across properties, deer will regularly traverse accordingly. This is common in free-range areas.

Did you ever notice that you see a lot of rubs and scrapes along fence lines? I have. The fact is that even in more open country, fence lines have structure. Trees and other brush typically grow there. Birds drop seeds there and so on.

It’s sweet edge structure.

Maybe the real question is, other than seeking what’s on the other side, why do whitetails like fence lines?

Deer are naturally edge creatures, hence, preferring edge cover. This is, for example, common in parts of Texas where structure is a logical threshold from which to hit crops or the next brushy section. It’s deemed a safe transition area.

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The Property Line Maestro

Among other things, this all means that, as hunters, we can capitalize on existing cross-property travel patterns.

But what If no natural fence line funnels exist? Simple, create one.

Here we have a chance to do a little behavior modification. Specifically, use the mini woodlots and strips of cover along property boundaries to lead deer to routes favorable to us as hunters. For example, direct them toward grain field edges, small openings, or even open country.

Do some selective brush cutting along the fence. Better yet, lower the fence itself by loosening the top wire and attach it to the next lower one. Cable ties or pieces of wire work well for this. Remember, the path of least resistance. Utilizing these methods may be what it takes to get deer making tracks where you want them to go.

The Blind Has to Go Here

We know it when we see it. You know, the pocket of brush just inside of a shadowy oak canopy or a natural spot within a clump of cedars. Plus, in smaller woodlots such as these, there are often few choices for blind placement.

For bowhunters, in particular, this allows us to lead whitetails within range of where we want to sit. Also, note that this tactic is particularly effective during early season when some deer (even some bachelor groups) are in their more predictable summer patterns.

Hunting Etiquette and Backpedaling

A couple of qualifiers; First off, this article was written primarily with bowhunting in mind. Secondly, I don’t condone baiting property lines (even where legal). In such states, I don’t even condone placing game feeders within sight of the fence.

At least in my case, scouting and modifying edge structure takes place on cross-fencing within properties, as well as true property boundaries. For the latter, tread lightly and with courtesy.

I can’t define the parameters around property boundary hunting etiquette. There a lot of different ideas out there. In Texas, I was always told that it was bad hunting manners to place a blind within 100 yards of the fence. Admittedly, the vast majority of these hunters were gun hunters.

Obviously, hunting property boundaries is a volatile topic – and for good reason. Hunters have an age-old tradition of preserving acceptable behavior in the woods, and I’m not suggesting anyone should violate it. This tactic has little to do with hunting fence lines. However, it has everything to do with scouting, as well as modifying and capitalizing on whitetail travel patterns.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of torn jeans and shirts at the hands of barb-wire fences and the brush around them. As a whitetail hunter, I think it’s been well worth it. If you haven’t already done so, walk the perimeter and develop a plan of action. It just may pay big dividends this deer season.

jerald kopp of first light hunting journal
Jerald Kopp, of 1st Light Hunting Journal and Empowerment Outfitters
sevr 1.5 and 1.7 inch broadheads

Sevr Broadheads Review | What You Need To Know

-By John Lusk

In this broadhead review, I tested two new broadheads from the same manufacturer; The Sevr 1.5 and 1.7-inch broadheads.

Sevr Broadhead Offerings

Sevr originally came out with a broadhead that had a 2.1” cutting diameter. It was a great head with fantastic flight and it was tough. But, the penetration is about what you would expect from a 2.1” broadhead and it was a bit lacking in kinetic energy for my purposes.  

For a deer, or even for smaller game like turkey, if your number one goal is a big hole, the 2.1” Sevr is going to deliver. But to round out their lineup, they’ve come up with two additional offerings.

sevr broadheads 15. and 1.7 inch diagram
The 1.5-inch and 1.7-inch Sevr broadheads look the same in shape, but with some subtle differences in head and ferrule composition.

Sevr 1.7-inch Broadhead

To compliment their original broadhead, Sever introduced a 1.7” head. It has a stainless steel tip and it has got a good grade aluminum ferrule. It has rear deploying blades that lock in place, which I love.

The 1.7” cutting diameter provides decent penetration and is a good all-around broadhead offering for pretty much any kind of game.

Sevr 1.5-inch Broadhead

Sevr also introduced the 1.5-inch head. The 1.5-inch operates just like the 2.1-inch with a few design differences.

On the 1.7-inch head, the tip is not quite as big as the 1.5-inch head and also has a smaller ferrule.  The 1.7-inch head only comes in a 100-grain and is a little cheaper, while the 1.5-inch head comes in a 100-grain as well as a 125-grain.

Sevr 1.5-inch and 1.7-inch heads | The details…

Firstly, just as the name implies, the 1.5-inch head has a 1.5-inch cutting diameter. Also, the ferrule and tip on the 1.5-inch head are titanium, as opposed to the stainless steel tip and aluminum ferrule of its 2.1-inch predecessor.

The blades of the 1.5-inch head are stainless steel and lock into place just like the 2.1-inch head.

The 1.5-inch head is designed for big-bodied, heavy-skinned animals. It is also better for longer distance shots, due to the smaller cutting diameter.

Although the cut is 1.5” wide, the chiseled tip itself is approximately 5/16-inch wide. So, with the 1.5-inch width cut in one direction and the 5/16-inch wide tip cut in the other direction, you get a total of a little over 1-3/4 inches of cut with a 1-1/2-inch hole.  

Pricing

Sevr has a direct-to consumer approach, so you can only order them from their website. You can purchase them by the eaches, but you can get a better deal if you buy higher quantities.

At the time of this article’s publishing, the 1.7-heads are $11.99 each. The 1.5-inch head is $13.99. The 1.5 is more expensive due to the titanium head.  

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Blades and cutting features

I love the way the Sevrs work. They have two small “wings” that are exposed during flight. When they come in contact with an animal, they actually “pre-stretch” the hide (skin) as the blades deploy. In theory, since the blades are rear-deploying, not only do you get a 4-cut entry, but you get a bigger cut.  

The heads of the Sevrs also lock into place. So, unlike a lot of mechanical heads that can close down if there’s not a certain amount of pressure, these heads lock in place and they stay that way in the animal.

Because they lock in place, they will not give a smaller cut than they do at their full deployment. The blades will go back into pre-deployment position when removing from the animal, but will still lock back down in deployment position.

If you’ve ever shot a broadhead into a deer or other animal and hit bone, it typically deflects off course. But, the great thing about the Sevrs is that the will rotate to one side if they come they come into contact with bone or a hard medium like a rib. The blade will simply fall to the side that encounters the bone, allowing the other blade to continue cutting and still keeps the broadhead on track.

This feature helps increase the chances of getting a good exit and getting better penetration of lungs and other vitals when the head encounters bone. And, because the blades stay locked even as they rotate, they just “dance” around the bone.

sevr blade rotation
Sevr blades will rotate when coming in contact with bone or other hard surfaces, which helps prevent bending and breaking of blades and keeps heads on course.

Another nice feature to the Sevr broadheads is that when there is heavy pressure on the blades – the type of pressure that might bend or break both blades – they compressed ever so slightly to absorb some of that impact. Because of this feature, they difficult to break.

Blade Thickness

The 1.7-inch heads have a blade thickness of 0.035-inch thick. The 1.5-inch heads have blades that are 0.032-inch thick. Both heads have all the same features, locking in place and pivoting around bone, staying on track.

I was excited that they came out with a 1.7 and came out with a 1.5 because the 2.1-inch was just a little bit much for me to be able to be confident that I would be able to get a pass-through on an animal.

Although I knew I would get a big hole, I needed to be confident that I would get pass throughs. And, when hunting large animals like elk or bear, I want to be sure I get deep penetration.  

Blade angle and overall cut

Another thing I like about the 1.5-inch head versus the original 2.1-inch head is that the blade angle is much less. So, penetration is not only better because of a smaller cutting area, but it’s also better because of the smaller angle.

The same with the 1.7-inch head. While it has a slightly larger cutting angle than the 1.5, it is still less than the 2.1. So, the 1.7 also gets better penetration, not only because of the angle, but because of the smaller diameter cut.  

Now, you might think, “Oh, 1.5 or 1.7 inches is kind of small.” But, there are not many fixed heads that have a 1.5-inch cut. They might have a combined 2-inch cut, with 1-inch one way and 1-inch the other way. But, what I have found with broadheads on game animals is that the wider a cut, the more effective bloodletting you will get.

On three and four-blade broadheads, although you may get more total tissue cut, you get a smaller cutting diameter. And, smaller holes tend to get plugged up easier with organs blood and tissue, resulting in less effective blood trails.

But, when you get a wider cut, even like a 1.5-inch, the hide and wound tend to stretch open as the animal moves, producing better bloodletting. Of course, with the 1.7, you would get even more. With the 2.1-inch head, you’re going to get a lot of bloodletting, but you are going to compromise penetration to do so.  

So, with the new Sevr lineup, you have something for everyone. But, what I really wanted to see was… how do they fly? They are really the same heads, so I just tested the 1.5-inch.  

Sevr flight

sevr broadhead in target
The Sevrs fly just like a field point, providing great accuracy, even at long distances.

When it comes to target shooting the Sevr heads, there is a feature that helps them stand out. Each head comes with a small set screw, so that when you shoot, the head stays in a closed position. Because the blades do not deploy, they don’t touch the target at all. It’s very nice on your target and on the head itself.

So, in essence it makes the actual broadhead a practice head, and is easy to pull out of the target. Just be sure that when you hunt, you have removed the set screw, or the blades will not deploy.

Penetration and durability testing

For my penetration and durability tests, I shot the Sevr heads through 1-2-inch layers of MDF, with a foam mat in the front. I also shot them at a 45-degree angle on the MDF. After those tests, I shot them into a steel plate.

For testing, I shot the Bowtech SR6, set at 72 pounds, on the comfort setting. The arrows I used with the heads are the Bishop Mammoth FOC King, bsecause they are the most durable arrows made. These tests really put the arrows through the ringer and yet they don’t get damaged, as they are incredibly resilient.

MDF Board Penetration Test

I shot the 1.5-inch, 125-grain head and the 1.7-inch, 100-grain head into the MDF. Both broadheads penetrated all the way through the first board and then stopped into the second board.

In the back of the second layer of MDF, the 1.7-inch bulged out a little bit. The 1.5-inch bulged out quite a bit more.

On the entrance hole, both deployed upon impact even with the soft pad over the first board and the cuts are exactly as advertised.

The 1.5-inch head opened up to 1.5 inches. And the 1.7-inch head opened up to 1.7 inches exactly.

45-degree angle shot into MDF

I set up two MDF boards at a 45-degree angle and shot both the 1.5 and 1.7-inch heads into it.   

Both heads penetrated precisely straight through. There was no sliding off the 45-degree angle board at all. And, the penetration was great for both of them. You see the top one was the 1.5-inch, the bottom the 1.7.

entrance holes of 1.5 and 1.7 inch sevr broadheads
Both the 1.5 and 1.7-inch Sevr heads created their respective sized entrance holes in the foam pad and MDF board.
penetration test of 1.5 and 1.7 inch sevr broadheads
Both heads penetrated into the second layer of MDF board.
1.5 and 1.7 sevrs penetrating 45-degree angled mdf
The 1.5-inch Sevr penetrated slightly better through 45-degree angled MDF board.

Steel Plate Penetration Test

Because these heads held up so well in the MDF testing, I also shot them into a steel plate to evaluate what would happen.  

I honestly wasn’t expecting them to hold up that well after all those other MDF board shots. But, they went through the steel plate and then through the second board.

You can see that the 1.5-inch at the top, blew all the way through it. And you can see the tip of the 1.7-inch, 100-grain, sticking at the bottom.

Here are the heads after going through the initial two layers of MDF and then another layer of MDF and an angle, and then a layer of steel plate and then another MDF, half inch MDF. All of them were half inch MDFs. And they both held up extremely well.

On the 1.5-inch, there was zero damage to the tip. The blades took very little damage, incurring only one nick. (The nick at the bottom is part of the design that holds the rubber bands in place.)

As for the 1.7-inch, they too held up really well, receiving small nicks both blades from the steel plate test.

Overall, the Sevr heads held up really well, including the blades, tips and ferrules.  

sevr steel plate penetration
Both the 1.5 and the 1.7-inch Sevr heads penetrated the steel plate and the first layer of MDF.

Conclusion

When I first heard the Sevr broadheads were hitting the market, I had a lot of hope that they penetrate well and hold up well with the changes made to the new models. These heads have exceeded my expectations.

In terms of flight, I knew they would fly extremely well. And, they fly as good as any mechanical head I’ve ever tested. They are like a field point in flight, flying right up there with the very best.

In terms of penetration, they were excellent, maintain outstanding durability as they were shot into 4 total layers of ½-inch MDF, a steel plate and foam mat.

So the Sevr 1.5 and 1.7-inch are really a good heads for bowhunters to consider for various animals.

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