The average bowhunter shoots around 29-inches of draw length and 65 pounds of draw weight according to the major bow manufacturers. The bulk of bowhunters cut their teeth on whitetails and perhaps turkeys, but what about other big game? What are the best arrows for bowhunting big game animals that tip the scales at/or over a 1,000 lbs like a bull elk, moose, or bison? The general rule of thumb is to employ a heavy, low-diameter carbon arrow ranging from 11-12 grains per inch which is designed for subterranean penetration and brute strength, coupled with a razor sharp broadhead for bone piercing dependability.
Big Game Arrow Penetration
The four components of arrow penetration are kinetic energy, arrow anatomy, broadhead selection, and friction. All of these components work together to determine just how deep your arrow will penetrate your target. First, let’s touch up on physics and kinetic energy.
Kinetic Energy (‘KE’) is the #1 determining factor when exploring penetration. KE is the ‘energy’ in the arrow as a result of its velocity and overall weight. Naturally the faster you can push a heavier arrow the more Kinetic Energy you will generate and thus the deeper your arrow will penetrate.
According to Easton, a 400-grain arrow traveling at dinosaur speed of 170 feet-per-second has sufficient energy to harvest a fully mature deer. Easton’s recommendations for KE on specific size animals are listed below. Throughout archery history, numerous big game animals have been unassumingly harvested with less KE than advised in the chart. So given the facts, use this chart with discretion and consider it a solid starting point.
Kinetic Energy For Big Game Bow Hunting
Large Game (elk, black bear, wild boar, etc.) – 42-65 ft. lbs.
Toughest Game (Cape Buffalo, Grizzly, etc.) – 65 + ft. lbs.
Carbon or Aluminum Arrows?
Carbon shafts penetrate deeper than aluminum shafts because carbon shafts are usually lighter than an equivalently spined aluminum shaft− giving it more stiffness/weight ratio, and better vibration dampening. Because carbon arrows flex less and recover from flex faster at impact − they waste less KE and have more horsepower available for penetration. Since carbon is probably more likely to end up in your quiver, let’s showcase a few of the market’s options for big game.
The Best Big Game Arrows
CARBON EXPRESS PILEDRIVER PASS THRU EXTREME
This small diameter carbon arrow provides great penetration and knockdown power for big game bowhunting.
- Sizes: 250, 350
- 250 spine weighs 9.36 grains per inch, 350 spine weighs 10.32 grains per inch
- Ultra strong PTX half-out insert made from high carbon steel and weighs 44 grains for increased FOC and kinetic energy
- High-polish finish for a quiet draw and easy removal from target
- Straightness: ± 0.004″
- Weight sorted and matched with a tolerance of +/- 2.0 grains per pack
Easton’s Deep Six System
Deep Six is high performance component standard developed by Easton Archery. Deep Six compatible arrows are micro diameter shafts like those used by world-class target competitors that are now available with hunting components. The smaller diameter provides plenty of kinetic energy and extreme crosswind resistance which comes in handy for long range shooting. Additionally, the overbore ferrule creates a channel wider than the arrow shaft, decreasing friction for greater penetration. This system is still relatively new to the market so you will be limited on broadhead choice, but the options are growing.
FMJ DANGEROUS GAME
- Sizes: 300, 250
- High-strength N-FUSED carbon core with 7075 alloy metal jacket
- Guaranteed straightness: ± .002″
- Weight tolerance: ± 2 grains
- X Nocks – installed
- HIT Insert, chamfer stone, installation tool, HIT epoxy – included
- Deep Six compatible when using Deep Six threaded RPS inserts.
- Sizes: 300, 340, 400, 500
- Micro-diameter carbon construction
- Straightness: ± .003″
- X Nock—installed
- Deep Six compatible
- HIT Inserts – included
- Compatible with ViBrake Nocks (sold separately)
VICTORY VAP (Victory Armour Piercing)
- Sizes: 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500
- Sorted to +/- 0.5 of grain weight per dozen.
- Available in straightness tolerances of:
- +/- .001, .003, .006 Straightness/Weight Tolerance +/- .5grains
- All sizes Glue in Points 80, 100, 120 grains
There’s a great deal when considering your arrow selection for big game, it makes sense to have a little more torque for larger game and for those times when an ethical shot results in a less than perfect hit. Given today’s faster and more forgiving compounds, it might be worth your while to shoot a heavier arrow, the decision is yours to make. Invest your time educating yourself where to place that arrow on an animal, keep practicing solid mechanics, then carefully pick your arrow.