T-Bone and the Ultimate Arrow Build
In general, bow hunters are very diligent people. Most archers spend a good chunk of the summer practicing with their bows regularly and then step it up further as fall approaches. But when it comes to bow hunting gear, some people are just content with the setup they have and may not tinker with it at all. Why change something if it’s worked before? Well, Travis “T-Bone” Turner may have something else to say on the subject. There are very few people who know archery gear as well as T-Bone does. So when he takes time to discuss the ultimate arrow build and home bow setup on the “A Bone to Pick” podcast with Michael Waddell, you ought to pay attention.
Why Change Your Bow Setup?
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right? Not so fast. There are actually several reasons you should consider a bow tune-up or flat-out correction to your archery gear.
Maybe it’s been several years since you last had your bow really inspected. It’s always worked before for you, so you’d probably be tempted to leave it alone. But over time, your archery gear ages (i.e., needs replacement) and is affected by field conditions (e.g., rain, freezing temperatures, knocking against the tree). Each little exposure or incident can change something fundamentally with your bow. Trust us, you do not want to find that out when shooting at a hit-list buck.
You too will change over time. Maybe it’s getting tougher to draw your bow back all the way or you’re not as mobile as you used to be. A shoulder or back injury can really change the poundage you can comfortably handle. This is going to change how you shoot, which means your bow setup should change too.
One of the most common reasons your bow setup should change is because you’re pursuing a different animal species or going to a different location. Maybe you’ve booked the hunt of a lifetime and are chasing a dream. Different applications or methods of hunting (such as spot and stalk hunts out west) will require different archery setups compared to the average whitetail tree stand hunter. Also, true big game animals (e.g., moose, elk, bear) will need a heavier setup than a pronghorn antelope or deer.
Best Archery Setup
Ultimately, there’s no single “best” archery setup for the reasons listed above – it can change so dramatically depending on what and how you hunt. One of the biggest takeaways from the podcast episode is that regardless of what setup you have, you need to be confident with it. Confidence in your shooting style and gear is going to take you much farther than having the newest gear and no experience with it.
T-Bone mentions that the pretty standard setup for most whitetail hunts is a 28 to 30-inch draw length with a pull weight of 65 to 75 pounds. For larger animals or for shooting at further distances, upping the amount of draw weight or adjusting your arrow build is going to be important. For the average hunter, increasing your draw weight is the easiest way to bump up your arrow speed and increase the energy. But there’s a fine line with that (discussed more below). For the best performance of your bow, T-Bone recommends investing in three critical items: a quality rest, good release, and solid arrows. The rest of this post will dive into the arrow details.
Ultimate Arrow Build
Since having a quality arrow built specifically for your hunting purposes is part of having a great archery setup, let’s tap into T-Bone’s expertise some more on the subject of the ultimate arrow build. Building a hunting arrow is something he knows a lot about.
One thing discussed on the podcast is improving your arrow’s F.O.C. (an acronym for “front-of-center”). Essentially, this means the percentage of an arrow’s weight that is contained in the front half of the arrow, which shifts the arrow’s center of balance forward. As the F.O.C. increases, your arrow will be more stable in flight, but it will lose its trajectory faster. As the F.O.C. decreases, your arrow will keep to a trajectory, but it may fly more erratically. You can easily increase the F.O.C. by using heavier broadheads or inserts to bump up the weight on the forward side of the arrow. Conversely, you can decrease the F.O.C. by using lighter broadheads or heavier nocks and vanes on the rear half of the arrow. T-Bone recommends an F.O.C. goal of about 15 to 20% for the best performance and accuracy while hunting.
While most hunters are obsessed with the speed of a bow, there’s more to consider than that. In order to get the best pass-through on an animal, you also need to think about the arrow momentum. When an arrow has a higher momentum, it is more likely to keep moving through an animal. To improve the momentum, you need to increase the mass of your arrow in addition to increasing the speed, which can be done by using heavy inserts or heavier broadheads. To first test your ultimate arrow build and bow setup, T-Bone recommends shooting your bow at a bow shop with a 500-grain (or higher) arrow. If you have an arrow with an F.O.C. between 15 and 20% and you’re shooting between 255-290 feet per second (fps) with a 500-grain arrow, you should be plenty good for hunting most North American species. And even if you err a few inches in any direction, this setup should punch through the vitals easily.
Another related topic for the ultimate arrow build is your selection of a broadhead. This too will change depending on what you’re hunting and where you’re doing it. For most shots at whitetails (i.e., under 30 yards from a tree stand), fixed broadheads will do just fine. They are generally heavier than mechanicals (which will improve your F.O.C.), are very durable (to smash through a shoulder blade), and the wind doesn’t have much chance to interfere with them over short distances. They can also be important for shooting at animals with thicker hides or tougher shoulder musculature (e.g., moose, bear, etc). But when you’re shooting at longer distances (such as a pronghorn or mule deer out west), having a rear-deploying mechanical broadhead can be great. The profile isn’t steered as much by the wind as a fixed broadhead might be, which is important over long distances where the wind may push your arrow off-course by a few inches. Shooting a 3-blade system is preferred over a 2-blade mechanical, as well, because it not only offers an additional cutting surface, but it also opens an actual channel.
Keep these pointers in mind as you ponder your bow setup and the ultimate arrow build this fall. If you can adjust them both and spend enough time practicing so that you feel confident with their use, you’ll be punching a tag in no time.