There’s no shortage of crazy things that can happen on a bow hunt. The stories I know personally of hunters who have encountered the wildly unexpected in the field could fill volumes, and I know just about every hunter with a few seasons under their belt has their own collection of tales where it all went sideways and they couldn’t believe what was happening.
Because of hunting’s tendency to mess with the hunter just for fun, being prepared for just about anything is a huge part of the hunter’s job. And when it comes to bowhunting, one of the areas we may overlook a bit is how many arrows we carry with us into the field.
It seems on paper like we would only need one arrow, right? Buck comes by or you sneak into range, send the arrow, dead deer, hunt over.
But I don’t know a single hunter who heads into the field with just one arrow in their quiver. We all know there are a number of scenarios where you may need to tap into multiple arrows over the course of a hunt, and so we come prepared for that with a quiver full. But here’s the big question: how many arrows do you actually need?
Does a Quiver Affect Your Accuracy?
For decades a debate has raged within bowhunting forums about how much (if at all) a quiver attached to your bow affects your accuracy. Fortunately, scientific studies have been conducted utilizing mechanical shooters to eliminate any human error and quivers of all capacities have been tested. The results…yes, bow-attached quivers do affect your accuracy.
But, the effects are so remarkably miniscule that they could hardly be considered enough for a bowhunter to worry about. We’re talking about fractions of an inch at 40 yards…most archers (if we get really honest with ourselves) wouldn’t even be able to tell if that was the quiver or shooter error. Heck, most of us would consider ½ inch off dead center at 40 yards a pretty good shot!
Now, the bigger impact of a quiver attached to your bow is how it feels to you as the shooter. Obviously, strapping a bunch of arrows to the side of your riser is going to change the balance of the bow and how it feels in your hand at full draw. If you’ve ever shot your bow with a quiver and then took it off and shot without it, you’ll notice that in most cases the bow just feels better without the quiver.
It’s lighter and it almost wants to keep itself balanced without you having to fight to keep that bubble dead center. Because of that, many treestand or blind hunters choose to remove the quiver from the bow and hang it in the tree within reach if they happen to need a follow-up shot.
So, if you’re a hunter who hunts without the quiver attached to the bow, the amount of arrows you choose to carry is all about other factors that we’ll discuss in a moment. If you hunt with the quiver attached to your bow at all times, then you’ll have to consider all those factors and how much extra weight you want added to your bow.
Whatever you choose, you need to sight in and practice shooting with your bow in the exact setup you’d be hunting with. So, if you plan to hunt with a quiver of seven arrows mounted to your bow, leave that quiver full and practice with extra arrows so you can train your muscle memory to keep that bow level with all that weight pulling on the side of the riser.
Hunting Style Dictates What You Need
Whether the quiver is on your bow, your hip, or mounted to the tree beside you, the number of arrows you keep in it will depend on a number of factors. Do you do most of your hunting near the truck where at the end of each day (or sit) you’re returning to basecamp, or do you do a lot of multi-day backcountry excursions?
The former will potentially require fewer arrows since if something happens and you send a couple, you can resupply the quiver easily before you head out again. The latter requires that you have enough arrows with you to keep the hunt going since extra arrows are potentially miles of rugged terrain away from where you’re hunting.
Also, whether or not you’re hunting multiple species or have multiple tags while you’re out there will affect how many arrows you choose to carry. Out West in the Fall, a lot of guys carry an arrow or two loaded with judo tips or some other small game thumper.
This gives you the chance to brighten the mood around camp with some fresh grouse meat, or even to occasionally send an arrow at a stump or other inanimate target during the hunt to make sure you (and your bow) are still perfectly dialed.
It’s a great strategy to keep things interesting out there, but you have to plan around those arrows that now can’t be used on whatever big game you’re out there hunting.
Bottom Line: How Many Arrows?
This is tough to answer in a blanket statement since there are so many different types and styles of hunting out there. Standard quiver capacities these days range from 4-7 arrows, and which one is right for you will depend on a number of factors.
I would say that unless you’re using different bows for different hunts, I’d dial everything in for the toughest hunt I have planned, and then just make that my setup for everything else that year even if it ends up being a little overkill in some situations.
For example, a weeklong backcountry hunt for mule deer in the West will have me carrying six arrows. That may seem like a lot, but I’ll be six miles or more from my truck, and I could see a very real scenario where I miss a buck, he gives me a follow up shot, I miss that one, and then I still have some hunt left.
I’d probably then find a stump to shoot and make sure it wasn’t an issue with the bow, and it’s very possible that stump could eat my arrow. Now I’ve got three arrows left, and that is the absolute bare minimum I’d want to have on me for a second opportunity at a buck.
The first shot, a possible follow-up shot, and then heaven forbid the need to finish him off if he’s wounded. That may all seem very hypothetical (and it is), but it’s well within the bounds of what could actually happen out there.
Now, with that in mind, I’m going to dial in my bow with a full six arrow quiver mounted to the side, and that’s what I’m going to carry on every hunt this season (even hunts where I’m based out of a cabin and could easily resupply a smaller quiver on any given day).
I’m not saying that six is the magic number that everyone should carry, but I’m simply trying to paint a picture of how to think through the question for yourself. I have a good hunting buddy that always rocks a seven arrow quiver for, in his words, “when things get a little Western.”
If you’re more of an Eastern whitetail from the tree kind of hunter, perhaps you’d prefer the weight savings and bow balance offered by a smaller five or even four arrow quiver.
It’s certainly much more comfortable to shoot a bow with fewer arrows hanging off the side, but if you’re in an area where you have multiple tags and it’s possible you could take multiple shots in a single day…well, you may just want to keep a couple extra arrows on hand.
Wrapping it Up
At the end of the day, you should carry the number of arrows that make you feel comfortable and prepared. If the quiver isn’t going to be attached to your bow, it truly doesn’t matter for your shooting experience. If you’ll be hunting with the quiver on your bow, I would carry the minimum number of arrows that allows me to still feel confident that I have enough.
Lighter is better when it comes to shooting, but shaving a few grains off the side of the bow by risking not having enough arrows to keep the hunt going isn’t worth it in my opinion. Few of us will ever empty our full quiver on a hunt, but it’s always wise in the unpredictable world of hunting to hope for the best but plan for the worst.