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The Great Debate: Speed vs. Kinetic Energy

by Steve Flores 31. July 2011 16:10
Steve Flores

Generally speaking, if you can’t hit what you are aiming at it really doesn’t matter how fast your arrow is traveling or how much of a punch it is carrying.  I was reminded of this fact while prepping for the fast approaching whitetail season. 

Opening day is fast approaching. Have you given any thought to your ammo and how it can affect your hunt? If not, you should.

Perched in my practice stand, I took aim at the second furthest target which was about 25 yards away. Slowly squeezing the release trigger I was pleased when my arrow “12 ringed” the bedded doe. Moving on to the next target in line, a standing buck some 30 yards away, I took aim, squeezed, and watched as my arrow nearly dropped out of the kill zone. Immediately, I began replaying my shot sequence trying to figure out what I had done wrong.

When preping for "real-world" shooting scenrio's, make sure your practice sessions resemble "real-world" shooting scenrio's; if they don't you're wasting your time.

Suddenly, I realized that I had forgotten to dial-in the correct yardage on my single pin, moveable sight. As it turned out, it was still set for the previous 25 yard shot. Irritated with my carelessness, I found comfort knowing that, had that been a real world hunting situation, I still would have made a lethal hit. Naturally, this event got me thinking about arrows, grain scales, and the all-important fact that you must first hit what you are aiming at…..otherwise everything else becomes irrelevant. 

 Single pin, moveable sights are great, unless of course you forget to dial them in to the correct yardage. Such mistakes are made for a forgiving bow/arrow setup.

My first thought surrounded my recent decision to switch arrows. My new selection was a touch lighter (25 grains to be exact) than the heavier shafts I decided to retire. Yeah, they are carrying a little less foot-pounds of energy, but they make up for it in other areas. For instance, my yardage-dial oversight was similar to misjudging the yardage by only 5 yards in the field. And even though it was off the intented mark, it still was a killing shot. Had I been shooting the heavier shaft, I would have essentially wounded the whitetail standing downrange or completely missed it. My hope would be to miss it completely but who knows what the outcome would have been. My point is, when it comes to bowhunting whitetails, a super-heavy shaft isn’t really necessary, and in all actuality, could hurt your chances for success. Sure, when elk or grizzly are the target, every spare foot-pound of energy could make a difference, but whitetails hardly measure up to such quarry; even big bodied mid-western bucks. 

This black bear was no match for a low poundage setup and a mid-weight arrow. My wife made easy work of this bruin with one well placed shot.

Even more, when you consider the kinetic energy formula, speed is squared….velocity (squared) x arrow weight / 450, 240 = kinetic energy. If you plug-in some of your own numbers you will quickly see that the payoff in added foot pounds of energy is marginal between a heavy shaft and a mid-weight shaft. However, the difference in arrow speed, range estimation errors, and your ability to hit what you are aiming at are greatly affected. An incorrect guess in yardage, by 5 yards or more, could spell disaster. You should also consider that the further the shot, the more likely a mis-judgement is going to result in a complete miss.

Tough game demands more kinetic energy. Whitetails....not as much as one might think. Consider your quarry and select your arrows accordingly.

This fall, when the stakes are high and the pressure is on, I know what type of arrow I will be shooting. My arrow of choice will work for me, not against me. My arrow of choice will make me look like a better shot than I really aim. I can live with that.
Missed opportunities…that’s a different story.

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