fbpx
mechanical broadheads pre test

Broadheads | Selecting The Right One For Your Hunt

It wasn’t long ago that broadhead selection was a fairly simple process… There just weren’t that many options available.

Well, those days are gone. Now there are a plethora of choices due to so many different design variables.

There are broadheads with 2 blades, 3 blades and 4 blades.

Then there are single bevel edges and double bevel edges, chisel tips and cut on contact tips.

There are mechanical broadheads that deploy from the rear as well as those that deploy over the top.

There are hybrids (both fixed and mechanical in the same head), stainless steels, tool steels, aluminum, and titanium all of various grades and properties.

There are cutting diameters ranging from under one inch to over three inches and total head lengths of under one inch to over three inches and blade thicknesses of .020” to .080”.

And, of course, prices ranging from one dollar per head to one hundred dollars per head… and so much more.

Expandable or fixed blades? Keep Reading! Fixed blade AND mechanical broadheads reviews videos are also further down the page!

So, bow hunters, how in the world do you make sense of it all? All the choices out there can make even an advanced bow hunter feel like a beginner. How do you know which heads are the best choices for you?

Know Thy Broadheads

broadheads thoughts pic
Be sure that you choose a broadhead that will fly accurately at your maximum range.

While almost any head on the market today can “get the job done” with a good shot, it is still important to make sure you are using the right head for your bow and the game you are pursuing. After all the time, energy, and money you’ve invested in practice and preparation, your broadhead is where the “rubber meets the road.”

A little research and education can go a long way in making sure you are not disappointed after that hard earned shot. You will notice that I have provided some recommendations for broadheads throughout this article. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I have personally tested each of these heads and found them to be among the best.

Fundamentally, you must keep in mind what really matters in a broadhead. Regardless of the brand and the design, there are four crucial factors that really matter.

Flight

A broadhead should provide you with absolute confidence in its flight. Consider what your maximum range is and make sure you choose a head that will fly accurately at that distance—even with some wind, a racing heart rate, and shooting while a little off balance.

Always make sure your bow is very well tuned (get help from a pro shop if you’re unsure) and you have the correct arrow spine for your bow’s poundage and draw length. Also, make sure the arrow spins true when the head is installed. You can spin it on your hand or on a table to confirm there is zero wobble to it.

Furthermore, the smaller the overall profile of the broadhead, in length and width, the more forgiving it will be in flight. This is why mechanicals are often a good choice for long distance shots.

Keys: Lower profile (shorter and narrower) = Better Flight
Truer Spin = Better Flight

Edge Retention

A broadhead should be be sharp and able to hold that sharpness after impact. How sharp it feels before it hits an animal doesn’t matter nearly as much as how sharp it is after it penetrates that first inch or two of hide, bone, and tissue.

If the edge chips or bends, it will not cut and penetrate effectively. This is why blades should be thick enough, and the steel strong enough, to hold their edge well. Broadheads with higher quality Tool Steels like 41L40, S7, and A2 shine in this arena.

(One of the most durable heads I’ve ever tested in terms of edge retention is the Valkyrie broadheads. You can see my tests on this head here).

Keys: Thicker Blades = Better Edge Retention
Higher Quality Steel = Better Edge Retention

Ferrule Strength

The ferrule of a broadhead must be able to withstand great force upon impact. I have had multiple heads, both fixed and mechanical, bend or break at the ferrule upon impacting an animal. That almost always spells disaster for a hunt.

Quality materials and solid construction make a big difference. The shorter, thicker, and higher quality the material of the ferrule, the better it will stay in tact. I prefer high quality steel ferrules over titanium and aluminum for this reason.

Keys: Shorter, thicker ferrules = stronger ferrules
Higher quality steel Ferrules = Stronger Ferrules

Cut Size

A broadhead must have sufficient cut size to cause great tissue destruction while still ensuring deep penetration. With any animal I shoot at, my goal is to get as wide of a cut as possible while still providing a good likelihood of a pass through. Two holes will almost always provide a better blood trail than one hole. Given equal penetration, a wider diameter cut will slice through more tissue than a smaller diameter cut.

In the past, I used a head with a cutting diameter of one inch and always got a pass through. However, I knew I could cut more tissue and still get a pass through. So, I increased the size of the cutting diameter of my broadheads, with great results.

Likewise, I have used a broadhead with a very wide diameter cut and gotten poor penetration and no pass through. Finding that sweet spot between the two extremes is my goal.

Dead Ringer broadheads exit wound
A Dead Ringer Broadhead exit wound through three ribs and shoulder blade of a hog

Match Broadhead To Your Quarry

So, I will even change heads based on what animal I am hunting. For a smaller animals like a turkey or javelina, I use a very large cutting mechanical head, because that will cut a lot of tissue and still allow for a pass through. For a bigger animal like a wildebeest or elk, I like to use a smaller diameter cut to make sure I am getting deeper penetration.

I have also found that when it comes to blood trails, cutting diameter is more important than total cut. Allow me to explain with an example:

Diameter VS Total Cut

A four blade head with a one inch cutting diameter will have a “total cut” of two inches. Likewise, a two blade head with a two inch cutting diameter will also have a “total cut” of two inches. However, with all other things equal (penetration and shot placement) the two inch cutting diameter head will typically leave a better blood trail than the one inch cutting diameter head—even though the same amount of tissue is cut. The reason for this is that a smaller diameter cut is more likely to close up with tissue while the larger diameter cut is more likely to stretch and open up even more. I have seen this proven over and over again.

Another way to understand this principle is to “reduce it to the ridiculous.” Which broadhead would you rather pass through your body: An eight blade head with one inch cutting diameter or a two blade head with an eight inch cutting diameter? Both will cut the same amount of tissue, but I would much rather have a one inch hole go through my body than an eight inch cut go through my body. Well, so would a deer!

Keys: Greater Tissue Cut with Pass Through = Greater Blood Trail
Greater Diameter Cut with Pass Through = Even Greater Blood Trail

So before you read any further, keep in mind the fundamental goal in selecting a head: A broadhead should fly well, not break, holds its edge, penetrate deeply, and cut a lot of tissue. Strive to find that balance between cutting as much tissue as possible and still providing a good chance at a pass through.

Now let’s examine some of the most important features of broadhead design. The more you understand about each feature, the more effectively you can decide what works best for your set up and your budget.

Materials

There are three basic types of metals used in broadheads: aluminum, titanium, and steel. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Aluminum and titanium are lighter than steel, which is why many heads tend to use them. It is easier for a head to make it to the 100gr weight if aluminum or titanium are used.

Aluminum

Aluminum is not as strong as steel. The best aluminums hardened in the best manner are still only as strong as the weaker steels. And, some aluminums are much weaker than others. The best aluminum for broadheads is 7075, which is quite a bit stronger than 6061. If you are going to consider using a head with aluminum, try to find one made of 7075. If the manufacturer doesn’t say which aluminum is being used, it is probably 6061. That doesn’t mean its “bad” but it does mean that it’s a bit “weaker.”

Titanium

Titanium is stronger than aluminum. As with aluminum, there are different grades of titanium. Just because a head is said to be made of titanium doesn’t mean it is using the top grade. Typically, if the manufacturer doesn’t state what grade it is, it is probably the weaker grade. While titanium is stronger than aluminum, it is not as strong as many steels. Both titanium and aluminum have less resistance to impact than many steels, so I prefer that a head that at least has a leading tip made of well hardened steel.

contact tip vs chisel tip broadheads post testing
Contact Tip vs Chisel Tip broadheads (post-testing)

Steel

There are many different varieties of steel and they are not all created equal. While steel tends to be stronger than titanium and aluminum, there are significant differences in the various types of steel. When it comes to broadheads, two of the most significant ratings of steel are Rockwell Hardness (the “hardness” of the steel) and Charpy V Notch Scoring (the steel’s resistance to impact).

A steel may be very hard with a high Rockwell Rating, but may be very brittle and break apart or chip easily upon impact with a hard medium. Likewise, a steel can have a lower Rockwell Rating and not break apart, but may bend too easily. Most steel broadheads use a 420 stainless steel, hardened to a level that is not too hard and not too soft. From my testing, it is obvious that some manufacturers are more successful at finding that balance than others.

There are also heads that are being made of tool steels and even very high end tool steels, such as 41L40, A2, and S7. With these premium steels, you will find a very high Rockwell hardness as well as a very high Charpy V Notch Score. Such heads will retain their structural integrity and razor edge far more effectively than typical stainless steels. They will cost a lot more money, but they are much more durable as well so they will last a long time.

Premium Tool Steels

In many of the tests I have done, I am continually impressed by how well premium tool steels keep their edge. While a typical stainless steel blade may become dull after cutting through 1/2” plywood, a head made of A2 or 41L40 or S7 will still be sticky sharp after cutting though that same board 5 times. That no doubt makes a difference in how well tissue, bones, and veins are cut. A duller head can often just bend veins over, but a head that is sharp all the way through an animal will effectively cut those veins, producing greater blood letting.

Within steel heads there are also different ways the steel can be formed. Some use MIM (Metal Injected Molding), some are welded together, and some are machined. The machined steels tend to be much stronger than the MIM steels and welded models.

Component Heads And Single Piece Heads

There are also a couple different types of construction of the broadheads themselves—component heads and single piece heads. Each has their advantages. Component heads can be made with very tight specifications, as each piece is easier to construct than an entire head. These high specs can enable them to fly extremely well. They are then held together with some sort of interlocking design and bolt. The best component heads do not use bolts that are load bearing, but rather that interlock, and then held in place by the bolts.

Single piece heads have the advantage of not being put together; they are literally one piece of steel. Thus, they tend to be more durable than component heads. But all single piece heads are not created equal. As mentioned earlier, if the head is machined out of a single block of steel it will tend to be much stronger than a head that is metal injected molded or welded.

Blade Thickness

All other things being equal, the thicker a blade is, the stronger it is. The thinner a blade is, the weaker it is. Thin blades may feel sharper out of the package, but they tend to lose that edge and bend or get nicked up more readily than thicker blades. I prefer blades that are at least .035” thick, but again, the thicker the better. When premium tool steels are used, a blade can still be relatively thin and still very strong.

Chisel Tips vs Cut on Contact Tips

Like most other broadhead topics, this one can lead to a pretty heated debate. In theory, chisel tips are more durable and cut on contact tips penetrate better. You can see this difference by pushing both a cut on contact head and a chisel tip head through a piece of cardboard. It will likely take noticeably less pressure for the cut on contact head to penetrate. However, upon impact with a hard medium like bone, the cut on contact tip is more likely to fold over than the chisel tip.

From my testing, I only prefer a cut on contact head if is either a very thick two blade head made out of premium tool steel or a three blade single piece head, where all three blades come together to form the tip. Otherwise, the cut on contact heads are too likely to fold over. There are some chisel tips that are extremely sharp on their edges, like those of the QAD Exodus, or Wasp Dart for example. Those tend to have penetration closer to a cut on contact head but the strength of a chisel tip.

Fixed Blade Broadheads

Many people prefer fixed blade heads over mechanical heads because they are more durable and dependable. There are no moving parts and fewer things to break. Fixed blade heads typically come in either two, three, or four blade models. Let’s briefly examine each of those:

Two Blade Heads

These are a throwback to the proven designs of Native Americans and other similar societies around the world. They are simple, durable, accurate, and penetrate well. Two blade heads can either come in Single Bevel or Double Bevel Designs.

fixed blade broadheads
Fixed blade broadheads typically come in 2, 3, and 4-blade varieties.
Single Bevel Heads

A single bevel blade simply means that the edge of a blade is only sharpened on one side. A double bevel blade means that the edge of the blade is sharpened on both sides. There are advantages to each design. Typically, the choice between a single bevel or double bevel edge only comes into play with two blade heads.

The advantage of a single bevel is that the angle of the blade creates a torsional force upon impacting a medium, causing it to rotate. If fletching is arranged helically, the arrow is already spinning. Then upon impact, a single bevel head will continue to spin inside an animal.

 This does a number of significant things. First, it creates a spiral wound channel. I typically find that the entrance hole of a single bevel head is not a slit, but rather a hole. The arrow is already spinning so much and is forced to spin more upon impact, creating a rounded entrance hole in the hide of an animal. The broadhead continues to cut tissue not only in the direction the head is pointing, but also in the direction the head is spinning—thus cutting both inwardly and spirally.

With internal organs, this can have a similar effect to spinning a fork when eating spaghetti, wrapping the noodles around the fork, then cutting them off. The twisting broadhead can twist the organs and then cut them as the head moves forward. I have seen this happen inside an animal many times and the devastation is undeniable.

Iron will broadheads through 16 gauge steel plate
Iron Will broadhead penetrating a 16 gauge steel plate

Second, a single bevel head typically breaches bone very effectively. As the tip of a head enters a bone, the head also twists and causes that bone to split apart and not just get cut. Then the arrow passes through that split in the bone. This is especially significant when hunting very large animals such as Cape Buffalo. If a broadhead cannot effectively breach that bone, penetration will suffer.

A third way the single bevel head works is that due to its twisting inside an animal, it is not likely for the arrow to back out of an animal if there is not a pass through (try pulling one out of a target and you will see what I mean). Often times, heads are sharpened on the back edges to allow the heads to continue to cut tissue in all directions inside of an animal.

Double Bevel Heads

Double bevel heads do not have this spiraling effect. However, they can often penetrate more deeply for two reasons: First, they can be sharpened to a finer edge. Secondly, they are only cutting tissue in a forward fashion and not a twisting fashion. They will not typically breach large bone as effectively as a single bevel, they will not create a spiral wound channel, and the arrow can back out of an animal more readily than a single bevel. But, they will penetrate hide and tissue more effectively.

As for which is better, it really does depend on your bow’s set up and your quarry. If you are generating lower kinetic energy and need penetration to be as deep as possible, a double bevel may be a better choice. If you have a bit more “normal” kinetic energy, or are hunting larger animals with heavier arrows, a single bevel will likely cause more damage to the animal.

From my testing, the only concern I have with two blade fixed heads is the size of the entry and exit holes. If an animal does not expire quickly, you are going to be forced to follow a blood trail. Smaller diameter cuts do not allow the degree of blood letting that larger cuts do. There may be plenty of damage inside the animal, but the blood trail may be compromised.

Recommended Single Bevel Heads: Bishop Archery (Bridgeport/Pipeline), Cutthroat Broadheads. Recommended Double Bevel Heads: German Kinetics Silver Flame, VPA, Steelforce

Three Blade Heads

There are some great strengths to using a three blade head, as evidenced by their popularity on the market. Three blade heads tend to make more of a “hole” than a slit. This makes the hole more difficult to close up and facilitates better blood letting. If the heads are a one piece construction with the correct angles, like VPAs or Bishops, you can easily sharpen two blades at a time by laying them flat on a stone and moving them back and forth, then rotating till all the blades are covered.

Recommended 3 Blade Heads: QAD Exodus, Bishop (Bridgeport/Pipeline) Holy Trinity, VPA, Muzzy Trocar

Four Blade Heads

Some heads use a four blade design. Most of those have two primary blades, followed by two smaller, “bleeder” blades. Others use four blades that are all the same size, such as Slick Tricks, Wac’ems or Wasps. From my testing, I have come to prefer a wider cut three blade head over a four blade head with smaller, equal sized blades. That fourth blade does cut more tissue, but it also impedes penetration more, and the hole is not as big as that of a wider cut three blade head.

A wider hole tends to produce a better blood trail than a smaller hole, whether it’s three blades or four. That being said, the four blade design of two larger blades and two bleeders is a very good option. They tend to be more forgiving in flight than a three blade head, all other things equal.

Whether you want a two leading blade cut on contact tip or a chisel tip is another question as well. See the earlier section discussing the pros and cons of these two designs.

Recommended 4 blade Heads: Iron Will, Trophy Taker A-TAC, Slick Trick Magnums, Magnus Black Hornet.

Mechanical Broadheads

Mechanical heads have come a long way in recent years. They have two primary advantages over fixed blade heads: Smaller surface area in flight (which allows them to be more forgiving in flight) and larger cut once the blades are deployed.

For example, even with a very well tuned bow, it would be quite difficult to shoot a fixed blade head with a two inch cutting diameter and have it fly well. But with a mechanical, you can get that two inch cutting diameter in a small, great flying package.

There are two primary styles of mechanical heads based on how the blades deploy upon impact.

Over the Top Deploying

The first mechanical heads to hit the market worked this way. The blades are on hinges and folds upward toward the tip of the head. They are either held in place by friction or a rubber band.

Upon impact, the blades peel back like a banana would, opening up to their full cutting diameter. They will not open fully until after they have entered the animal, thus the entrance holes are basically the same size as the head in the closed position.

Recommended Over the Top Deploying Mechanicals: Rocket Steelhead, NAP Spitfire, Wasp Jak-Knife, Dead Ringer Trauma, Grim Reaper

Rear Deploying

mechanical broadheads
mechanical broadheads (pre-testing)

In recent years, many heads have begun using various rear deploying mechanisms. With these heads, the blades swing open from the rear and are fully deployed by the time they reach the hide of an animal. Thus the entrance holes are the same size as the fully deployed blades.

Both of these mechanisms have their loyal followings and both can work well on animals. I have successfully taken many animals with both. However, there are some observations worth noting.

With over the top mechanicals, the entrance holes are small but the internal damage is great. They do tend to penetrate more deeply than rear deploying blades, simply because they cut less tissue upon entrance. If they pass all the way through the animal, the exit hole is the full size of the fully deployed blades. But if they do not pass all the way through, you have a small entrance hole and no exit hole. That spells a big problem for blood trails.

With rear deploying mechs, the entrance hole will be great; it will be the size of the fully deployed heads. But because of that, penetration can be compromised because it has to cut through the hide with that wide cut. However, you can be confident you are going to have at least one big hole. Between these two styles, after all my testing I prefer the rear deploying mechanical broadheads by a large margin.

Recommended Rear Deploying Mechs: Rage Hypodermic and Trypan, NAP Killzone, G5 Deadmeat

Hybrid Broadheads

Several different manufacturers have come out with hybrid heads, which are a combination of both a fixed blade and a mechanical head. There is typically a smaller two blade fixed head followed by a larger cut of mechanical blades.

I have taken a number of animals with these and tested them quite a bit. They certainly have their niche. The only downside is that you will want to make sure you have enough kinetic energy to drive all those blades deeply into an animal. Again, I prefer the rear deploying mechanical blades in a hybrid head. If they are over the top deploying, you will not get a very big entrance hole and an exit hole will be fairly difficult to achieve due to the large cut.

Recommended Hybrid Heads: Bloodsport Archery Gravedigger, Muzzy Hybrid Trocar HB-Ti.

Conclusion

Selecting a broadhead can be a pretty daunting task. And it gets extra confusing when all of your buddies each have their own strong opinions based on their personal experience from the last season. But you owe it to yourself and to the animal to make the most informed decision you can about which head is best for your purposes. Hopefully, this article will help you to make a bit more sense of the options and choices available.

For specifics on other broadheads that may not be listed in this article, click on the names below:

Please also check out my YouTube Channel as well, Lusk Archery Adventures, to see more than 20 different videos of broadhead tests and over 50 hunts with those heads as well. And don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions through the channel.

John Lusk archery goat

(Learn about N1 Outdoors archery apparel and other hunting and fishing apparel designs.)

BONUS: Thoughts On Broadheads From N1 Co-Founders

Online reviews can sometimes have an agenda of pushing a particular product. We thought it would be fun to give some straight talk from the N1 Outdoors co-founders on the broadheads they have used over the years.

Below, Josh Wells, Maston Boyd and Giles Canter give their thoughts on what they like and don’t like about some of the broadheads they have experience with during their archery hunts.

N1 Outdoors co-founder, Josh Wells

I started bowhunting in 1996. I was 16 years old and began bowhunting with the broadhead recommended by a friend. It was the Muzzy 3 blade in 100 grains…

Muzzy 3-blade, 100 grain

I harvested my first archery deer, in addition to several other deer with the Muzzy 3-blades. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this one at 7.

My experience with the Muzzy 3-blade is as follows:

Pros

The Muzzy 3-blade broadheads have a simple design. They are durable and easy to assemble, as well as affordable to buy. They also create decent blood trails.

Cons

In my experience, the Muzzy 3-blade broadheads have inconsistent and unstable arrow flight. By that, I mean that they fly differently than field points and require advanced bow tuning skills.

Thunderhead 3-blade, 100 grain

After several years of using Muzzy 3-blade, I decided to change to something that was more consistent in flight. My choice was the Thunderhead 3-blade in 100 grains.

I harvested several deer with these, as well as my first turkey. On as scale of 1 to 10, I would rate these broadheads at 7.5.

My experience with the Thunderhead 3-blade is as follows:

They are very similar to the Muzzy 3-blade with the only real difference being that they are slightly more consistent and stable during flight.

Pros

These broadheads have a simple design and are affordable. They are durable, easy to assemble, and leave decent blood trails.

Cons

While the Thunderhead 3-blade broadheads have positive qualities similar to the Muzzy 3-blade, they also share some of the negatives as well. The negatives are inconsistent and unstable arrow flight. They do not fly like field points and require advanced tuning skills as well.

>> Shop For Bowhunting Apparel <<

Grim Reaper 3-blade, 100 grain

Sometime along the way, I decided to try mechanical broadheads, due to the reviews that I had been reading regarding massive blood trails, and arrow flight that was consistent with field points.

The broadhead that I chose was the Grim Reaper 3-blade in 100 grains with a 1-3/8” cutting diameter. This is the only mechanical broadhead that I’ve ever used.

I was pleased with the results that I got from these heads. But, I eventually made my way back to fixed blades due to a lack of confidence in the mechanical heads functioning properly 100% of the time. However, I harvested more than 10 deer with these broadheads over several hunting seasons.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this head at 8.5. My experience with the Grim Reaper broadheads is as follows:

Pros

I found that the Grim Reaper broadheads had arrow flight consistent with field points. I also found them to be durable, with blades that were easily replaceable. As advertised, I experienced massive blood trails. They were one of the more affordable mechanical heads, with each package containing a practice point.

Cons

The Grim Reaper broadheads require attention to detail during assembly in order to make sure blades engage properly on impact. This can decrease hunters’ confidence in knowing that it’s possible that the blades won’t engage properly. (I will note that this never actually happened to me, but I’ve heard several other bow hunters say that it did in fact happen to them.

Magnus 2-blade, 100 grain

Eventually, I decided to go back to fixed blade broadheads. When I did my choice was influenced by the simple fact that shot placement is the most important factor in determining an archer’s successful recovery of an animal.

So, I was determined to find the most accurate broadhead available. I settled on the Magnus 2-blade in 100 grains.

I harvested more than 10 deer with these heads over several seasons. My major reason for changing away from this

broadhead was because of consistently poor blood trails.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this head at 6. My experience with the Magnus 2-blade broadheads is as follows:

Pros

The Magnus 2-blade broadheads are super accurate, flying very similar to field points (although tuning is key in this area). They also had very good penetration, were easy to sharpen, and were the most affordable broadheads I’ve ever used.

Cons:

These heads were not very durable (the tips tended to bend easily). They also produced very bad blood trails (several deer I harvested left no blood trail at all).

Ramcat 3-blade, 100 grain

The next broadheads that I used were the Ramcat 3-blade in 100 grains. These heads were recommended by a friend that kills a lot of nice deer. I wasn’t crazy about the design of the blades (the screws loosen on impact for two-way cutting), but I decided to give them a shot.

I harvested three deer with these before I decided they weren’t for me. While they are very good broadheads from what I can tell, I couldn’t get past the blades loosening on impact (and sometimes in my quiver).

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate these at 8. My experience with these heads is as follows:

Pros

They were very accurate, flying very similar to field points. They’re durable, with the blades possessing two-side cutting action. They are affordable and for fixed blade broadheads, produce decent blood trails.

Cons

The blades on these heads tend to loosen in the quiver.

Magnus Stinger Buzzcut

The last broadhead that I’ve used (which is the broadhead that I currently use and don’t plan on changing) is the Magnus Stinger Buzzcut in 100 grains.

I’ve used these broadheads now for about five seasons. I’ve harvested more than 10 deer with them.

I am equally satisfied with the Magnus Corporation’s customer service as I am with this broadhead. The Stinger Buzzcuts are on the high end of pricing for fixed blades, but the cost is offset by Magnus’ lifetime warranty, which I have firsthand experience with. I received a package of new heads this past season at no cost when they replaced heads that had either chips, or were slightly bent due to contact with bone.

magnus stinger buzzcut broadhead
Magnus Stinger Buzzcut Broadhead

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this broadhead at 9. My experience is as follows:

Pros

These heads are super accurate, flying very similar to field points. They get very good penetration, are easy to sharpen, and produce good blood trails for a fixed blade broadhead.

Cons

So far, I have found none. The only reason that I didn’t give this broadhead a rating of 10 is because I haven’t used every broadhead out there, and couldn’t be certain that it’s the best one on the market. I just know it’s the best broadhead that I’ve ever used.

N1 Outdoors co-founder, Maston Boyd

I have tried several broadheads over the years and am always willing to try something new to compare with my experiences with other models.

Swhacker broadheads, 2-blade, 100 grain

I have found that Swhackers fly true. I have had many a bowhunt with great experiences and performance from these.

G5 Montec, 3-blade, 100 grain

In my opinion these are good, all-around broadheads for bowhunting. My only complaint would be that they don’t leave the biggest hole.

Magnus 2-blade, 100 grain

Like Josh, I too have used the Magnus 2-blade in 100 grain. I experienced good flight and feel that they are a good blade for pass-through shots. However, there is not always a lot of blood, which can obviously be problematic in tracking the animal.

>> Shop For Archery T-shirts <<

Muzzy 3-blade, 100 grain

I never got great flight patterns with the Muzzy 3-blade. Plain and simple.

Wasp 3-blade, 100 grain

I experienced the same problems of flight pattern with these that I did with the Muzzy 3-blade.

Thunderhead 3-blade, 125 grain

I experienced good flight as well as good performance on game with these broadheads.

Tshuttle 3-blade, 100 grain

Good flight and good blood. ‘Nuff said.

Rage 3-blade, 100 grain

The 3-blade Rage broadheads, in my experience, provided good flight. However, they were inconsistent on game and left me hoping that I didn’t hit bone.

Grim Reaper 3-blade, 100 grain

I only shot one deer with these. No pass through and no deer. Need I say more? Mechanical madness!

N1 Outdoors co-founder, Giles Canter

I killed my first archery deer in 2000. Over the years I have not been one to chase the latest, greatest, or most heavily advertised broadhead or archery equipment.

Simply put, I like to know what to expect in the field. When you’ve done the work to be sure your shooting process is accurate, the last thing you want is to shoot a new broadhead for the first time is when there is meat on the line.

I like to know the positives, as well as the limitations, of the broadheads and archery gear that I use, so that I know what to expect when the moment of truth comes. Because of this, I tend to stick with things for awhile unless I have a good reason to change. If it ain’t broke…

With that being said, I have used a handful of broadheads over the years and here are my thoughts…

Thunderhead 3-blade, 125 grain

These are near and dear to me since I took my first archery deer with a Thunderhead 3-blade. They give good flight and performance. A simple and solid broadhead, in my opinion.

Muzzy 3-blade, 100 grain

I used the Muzzy 3-blade for several seasons and killed many deer with them. But, I eventually set them aside because I didn’t feel like the groupings and arrow flight at all consistent with field points shot with the same setup. Call me picky, but I wasn’t crazy about the angled, overlapping blade assembly either.

Muzzy MX-3, 100 grain

I like the Muzzy MX-3 broadheads. They have pretty tough blades that can be sharpened or replaced. I have used the same blades for multiple kills on more than a few occasions. In my opinion these fly a little truer than the Muzzy 3-blade, but still don’t group great.

Grim Reaper 3-blade, 100 grain

I tried these heads (2-inch cut) for a couple hunting seasons at the recommendation of a friend whose initials are Josh Wells! While I killed several deer and experienced some devastatingly bloody trails with them, I also experienced some deflections as well. These left me feeling, well, grim!

I also once shot a turkey center-breast with the Grim Reaper that flew off with my arrow hanging out of it. This left me feeling grim again! I don’t like feeling grim, so I retired from using Grim Reapers.

G5 Striker

I started using the G5 Strikers by accident. My wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I am usually incapable of thinking of gift ideas that aren’t hunting related. So, I said, “how ’bout some Swhacker broadheads?”

When I opened my Christmas gifts that year, there was a brand new pack of… Striker broadheads! She said, “those are the right ones aren’t they?” I said, “well, I was looking for Swhackers, but these look great!”

I have actually thoroughly enjoyed using the G5 Strikers. They have proven to be very accurate for me and I have taken several deer with them. The only downside is that they don’t always leave the best blood trail.

Swhacker broadheads, 100 grain

Well, I did finally get my Swhackers (2-inch cut) that I referenced above! I have been as pleased with them as much as I have the Strikers. Arrow flight is great and pretty much like a field point. In my experience, they have left devastating wound channels and great blood trails.

The only thing I haven’t liked so far is that the blades can, especially with more than one use, begin to rattle somewhat during the draw. I am particular about being as silent as possible during a bow hunt. Because of this, I would view this as a negative. However, you have to buy new ones some time, I suppose!

Also be sure to check out our N1 whitetail deer hunting tips.

>> Shop N1 Apparel <<

deer anatomy buck at attention

Whitetail Deer Anatomy | What Every Hunter Should Know

Hunting is not only fun, it’s fulfilling to be able to provide meat for your family and loved ones. However, taking the animal should not be the only goal. A hunter should always make every effort to kill the animal with a single shot, one that results in as quick a demise as possible.

So, how can you know where to shoot a deer so that you can accomplish this? Well, a hunter needs to be well-versed in deer anatomy, so that the animal can be taken with as little suffering as possible.

Where you shoot a whitetail could be the difference between a clean, ethical kill and a wounded, suffering animal.

Where To Shoot A Deer

The definition of what an “ethical shot” is when hunting deer has been an oft debated topic. Whatever your definition may be, a shot that presents the opportunity for the quickest and most humane (and legal) kill should be utilized.

It’s easy for excitement to give way to poor shot selection when hunting. Unfortunately, this often leads to the wounding of an animal, resulting in unnecessary suffering.

where should you shoot a deerr
Taking into account the position of the deer in this photo, where would you shoot this whitetail? And, which would be the best shot to take?

So, where is the kill zone on a deer? The following are locations of a deer’s anatomy, that if properly executed, will result in an effective kill.

The Heart Shot

Simply put, a heart shot on a deer is lethal. However, while it will result in the death of a whitetail, it does not necessarily always provide the best blood trails. When the heart is hit, the flow of blood decreases and may result in less of a blood trail than you were hoping for.

bullet or broadhead that penetrates the heart often pierces the lungs as well, which is beneficial to ensuring a quick recovery of the animal.

When taking a heart shot, it’s good to be sure that the caliber of bullet you are using is sufficient to penetrate the shoulder blade and ensure a clean kill. The downside to a larger bullet is it can result in a larger amount of unusable meat upon processing.

The Lung Shot

The lungs provide a large target for rifle hunters and bowhunters alike. While a bullet can enter the lungs of a deer and exit, shooting its lungs with a broadhead will make it difficult for the deer to breathe. Usually, that difficulty breathing will keep it from being able to run too far after the shot. Sometimes, however, simply clipping a lung or not having a complete pass-through shot can result in poor blood trails, making the deer more difficult to track.

A lung shot with a bow is often as effective as a heart shot. Just aim for the middle of the lung area. A well-placed lung shot will cause the deer to suffocate to death. However, a lung-shot attempt that hits too far back may only pierce the liver, which can result in a much slower death and more difficult to track animal.

deer vitals chart
A deer’s vitals include the heart, lungs, stomach, liver and intestines. But where is the best place to shoot a whitetail? Read on!

The Neck Shot

You can drop a deer with one shot if the spinal cord is severed. A neck shot that severs the arteries in the large arteries in the neck can be particularly bloody and lethal. But, while a lethal neck shot causes little damage to the meat of the animal, if the spine is not severed, it could be difficult to recover and it may even survive.

While a neck shot can be a risky shot with a gun, it’s simply a very poor shot to take if you’re a bowhunter.

The Brain Shot

If it is well executed, a brain shot will drop a deer immediately. When you put a bullet through the brain, it will disrupt the life functions of the deer and it will lose consciousness immediately. This shot results in no loss of meat, but is a very difficult shot to make, due to the small target area. If the shot is not accurate, it can result in unnecessary suffering of the deer and you may not be able to recover the animal.

Deer Anatomy | The Rest Of The Story

While we’ve covered various parts of a whitetail’s anatomy that can be aimed for during a hunt to result in a kill, it’s also good to be well-versed in the rest of a deer’s anatomy, so you can become a more well-rounded and knowledgeable hunter.

Wait, a deer has how many stomachs? Well, just one… sort of. Read on…

deer anatomy deer eating grass
A deer has four different chambers of the stomach, each with a different role in food digestion.

The Whitetail Digestive System

All deer species have a four-chamber stomach. The four chambers are called the rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum. Deer are able to consume large amounts of food in a relatively short period of time. That food is swallowed and passed to the first stomach, which is known as the rumen.

The digestive bacteria in the rumen begins to break down the cellulose found in the plant life that the deer has consumed. However, the rumen cannot completely break down and absorb all the necessary nutrients, so the deer will regurgitate the food later and chew it again. This is often referred to as the deer “chewing its cud.” This allows the deer to further break down the food, so it can absorb the nutrients it needs.

Once the food is chewed the second time, it moves to the reticulum, which serves as a strainer of sorts. Foods that are more difficult to digest will remain in the rumen and reticulum chambers for a longer period of time. This can cause a “roadblock” of sorts and can lead to malnutrition and sometimes even death, all while having a “full stomach.”

After a period of about 16 hours, the food will pass from the reticulum to the omasum. In the omasum, the water from the food is absorbed. The food then passes to the abomasum, which produces acid that further breaks down the food that the deer has eaten.

After leaving the abomasum, the remaining food particles and liquid are passed to the deer’s intestines, where it will eventually exit the body as feces and urine. Whitetail typically defacate an average of 13 times per day.

Legs

whitetail buck tarsal gland diagram
A whitetail buck has tarsal glands on the inside of its hind legs.

It’s sometimes hard to believe how a whitetail’s skinny legs can produce so much speed and power.

While whitetail cannot maintain top speed for long distances, they can run up to 40 miles per hour in short bursts.

With the use of their hooves, they are able to make sharp turns and pivots, even at high speeds. Their hind legs provide the power for their speed and jumping ability. In fact, deer are also good swimmers.

Whitetail bucks have tarsal glands on the inside of their hind legs. These glands secrete a musky scent unique to that individual deer. The buck will urinate on the glands and leave the scent in areas that it paws out on the ground, called scrapes.

Other male and female deer visit these scrapes to check scent. During the breeding season, or “rut”, bucks will scent check scrapes to identify what female does may be in the area or what intruder buck might be in his territory.

Not all hunters are after antlers, but it’s certainly a nice bonus when you are able to harvest a trophy. So how fast can those antlers actually grow? Read on…

Antlers

Male deer have antlers on top of their head as part of their anatomy. Although rare, it is also possible for a doe to grow antlers occasionally. A whitetail’s antlers are actually live tissue that are composed of bone. A deer’s antlers hold the distinction of having the fastest growing tissue of all animals.

deer anatomy velvet antlers
A whitetail’s antlers can grow at an average of up to 2 inches per week!

Whitetails begin growing their antlers in the Spring and they can grow at an average rate of up to two inches per week! During development, the antlers are covered with a spongy tissue called velvet. The velvet contains blood vessels that generate growth of the antlers.

Antler growth typically stops in late Summer to early Fall. Once growth stops, the deer will remove the velvet from their antlers by rubbing them on the bases of trees. After the breeding season ends, bucks will shed their antlers. Shed times can vary in different parts of the country, but typically take place between January and March.

Whitetail Ears And Hearing

A deer has hearing that is far superior to human hearing. This serves a whitetail well in identifying danger in the form of humans and other predators. Muscles attached to the whitetail’s ears allow it to rotate them and hear in multiple directions without having to move its head. This helps it to determine which direction the sound or is coming from and possibly even how far away the sound is. This part of a deer’s anatomy plays a critical role in its survival.

Eyesight… “All Around” Vision

You may have heard the saying that someone has “eyes in the back of their head.” A deer of course does not have those, but because its eyes’ location on the sides of its head, it does in fact, have a 310-degree field of vision. Almost as good as eyes in the back of the head!

Although it is hard for deer to focus on one object, their excellent vision helps them see clearly in the night-time hours.

Smell

A whitetail’s excellent sense of smell is one of its best defense mechanisms. A deer will lick its nose to make it moist. This allows it to “capture” odor particles that are carried by the wind and that stick to the deer’s nose. This not only helps a deer identify danger, but also plays a huge part in the breeding process.

Both male and female deer leave scent behind via urine and various scent glands. Among other things, a whitetail’s incredible sense of smell allows a buck to know when a doe is ready to breed, or when an intruder buck is in the area.

Conclusion

It’s very important to not only be familiar with deer anatomy as a hunter, it’s just as important to know what your limitations are with the weapon you are hunting with. Is the weapon going to be effective in producing a clean kill? Is your skill level such that you can safely and accurately make an ethical shot?  Practice. Practice. And practice!

If you pair knowledge of deer anatomy with skill and patience, success is on the horizon!

(For more information, you can also check out our whitetail hunting tips. You can also learn about piebald deer.)

deer hoof print next to mans hand

Deer Hooves… More Than Meets The Eye

deer hoof print and dew claw
Deer front hoof and dew claws

As a hunter, it’s always nice to see deer tracks. At least you know you have deer in the area. But deer hooves do much more than just leave a “deer was here” signature in the dirt.

Hooves make just about everything a deer does possible and easier. Much like human finger nails, deer hooves are composed of keratin. They consist of two divided, or cloven, elongated toes. Each hoof has two dew claws that are located above and behind it. Other mammals with cloven hooves include antelopes and gazelles as well as sheep, goats, hogs and cattle.

A deer’s dew claws typically will not show as part of its track, unless the deer is travelling through mud or snow. In these conditions, the dew claws give the deer’s foot a larger and wider platform with which to move about.

Hooves are one of the most important parts of deer’s body and are useful for many purposes. So, let’s take a look at 5 ways in which deer use their hooves.

Running And Jumping

Deer obviously run and jump using their legs. But, while powerful hind leg muscles account for much of a deer’s ability to run and jump, hooves play a vital role as well. A deer’s front cloven hoof helps it to turn sharply and push off when jumping. So, whether deer are running up to 40 miles per hour to evade predators, chasing during the rut, or jumping in excess of eight feet in the air, they couldn’t do it without their hooves.

A deer’s hooves are cloven, or split, and are made up of keratin, much like human fingernails.

The keratin in deer hooves is sheeted and runs in all directions. This results in hooves that are stronger, harder and more crack resistant than bone, making them durable enough to support the animal’s weight, even when it is running or jumping with force.

When deer run, the toenails on the front of the hooves allow it to reduce the area of the foot that touches the ground, resulting in a longer stride that allows it to cover more ground.

Hoof Stamping (Stomping)

If you’re a hunter, you have probably experienced the ‘ole “foot stomp.” It usually goes something like this… You’re watching from a tree stand or a permanent blind when a deer sees your shape or movement, or gets wind of your scent. It senses the danger and stops abruptly, curls up a front leg and starts stamping its hoof.

Deer do this to either confirm the apparent danger or become comfortable that there is actually no threat. Sometimes the deer will flee, but hopefully for the hunter, the animal will eventually settle down and continue browsing or travelling in a manner that allows an ethical shot.

Defense

It’s not uncommon, especially in suburban areas, for people to mistake deer for defenseless animals. But don’t let their majestic appearance and graceful movements fool you. In addition to hunters, deer have other natural predators. These can include coyotes, wolves, bobcats, and sometimes even bears and alligators.

Deer hoof track in snow are very easy to track.

When a predator threatens or attacks, a deer can either run or fight. Bucks often use their antlers to defend themselves, but just like does, can rise up on their hind legs, using their hooves to strike predators. They can also kick from behind, using the hind legs and hooves, if necessary.

Deer Scraping

For hunters, the rut is a magical time of year. It’s that time when many hunters dream about that deer of a lifetime walking into view. Bucks are rubbing trees, using licking branches, and making “scrapes.”

Get the Licking Branch Buck Tee

In addition to hooves giving a buck the ability to chase does back and forth at high speeds, they also play a key part in the deer scraping activities. Bucks and does alike will visit and use scrapes, but during the rut, bucks scrape more aggressively and will use the scrapes to announce their presence in the area as well as to tell other bucks to stay out of it.

Bucks will make “scrape lines” along travel routes and as they move through their territory. These can show up along field edges, fence lines and between feeding and bedding areas.

deer stomping foof
Deer will stomp their hooves to try and cause movement from perceived danger.

Bucks will paw and clear (scrape) an area to be free of leaves and debris. They will urinate in the scrape to leave their scent, effectively marking their territory. In addition, they will lick and chew overhanging branches, leaving forehead scent as well. Does will also visit and use these scrapes, allowing bucks, upon a revisiting of the scrape, to know if a doe is ready to be bred.

Interdigital Scent

Deer have interdigital scent glands in between the two hooves on each leg and one of the most important glands the animals have. Deer use the scent dispersed from these glands to track one another.

The interdigital glands are small, sparsely-haired sac located between the hooves on each foot. The sacs contain a yellowish material called sebum. The scent is left in a deer’s track every time it takes a step.

fawn hoof print next to human finger
The size of a fawn hoof print compared to human thumb

Whitetail Deer Hooves Vs. Mule Deer Hooves

Whitetail deer and mule deer have many discernable differences in appearance and movement. Both have different antler structure. Mule deer utilize a bouncing gait, known as a pronk or stot, whereas the whitetail do not.

While whitetails and muleys may have their differences, hoof structure and tracks are nearly impossible to differentiate. Both whitetail and mule deer have two hooves that form and upside-down heart-shape on the ground with the rounded bottom. The side of the hooves are convex, while the tips of its hooves are located towards the inside of the track. The outside of the toe is usually slightly larger than the inside toe while the hind feet are smaller than the front feet.
Without other non-hoof signs, distinguishing between whitetail deer and mule deer is nearly impossible.

Hunt The Deer Tracks?

Hopefully, we’ve been able to provide you with a useful overview of how deer use their hooves. Here’s one final thought… those deer tracks you find will only tell you where the deer have been. Here’s to hoping you find out where they end! Happy hunting!

Check out our Hunting And Fishing Shirts

Cart