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Maximizing Hunting Success with the Right Arrows: The Different Types and Their Features

hunting arrows

Canada is a hunter’s paradise, with hunting season for small game, deer, moose, and waterfowl open from mid-September to December, and bear season in the fall. Different provinces have their own set regulations in terms of licences or permits and what can and cannot be hunted. A general rule is that no wildlife in reverses, protected habitats, and national parks can be hunted, as well as endangered species, such as polar bears. The good news for bowhunters based in Ontario is that the province has an archery season where only archery equipment is permitted in the hunting of deer.

Read more: Maximizing Hunting Success with the Right Arrows: The Different Types and Their Features

While most bowhunters will know their way around the different types of bows, it’s arrows that are the main source of confusion. The wide range of hunting arrows means you’ll be buying different sets for the wildlife you’re hunting, the type of hunting you do, and whether the arrow suits the bow. Arrows must also be of the right weight and length, built of durable materials, and in designs that offer the most accuracy.

The Anatomy of Arrows

hunting arrows
Source: gohunt.com

All arrows consist of several distinct parts:


The shaft is the elongated part of the arrow. It can be made of different materials, each with different properties. Shaft stiffness is possibly the most important as it determines the rate of bending when the arrow is released and needs to match the bow for the highest accuracy.


This is the series of plastic or feather vanes at the end of the shaft. The fletching and vanes rotate the arrow in flight much like a bullet and help guide the arrow through the air. Generally, arrows have three or four vanes, with an ‘index’ or ‘cock’ vane being in a different colour compared to the rest.


These refer to the points of the arrow. They come in a wide variety of designs and sizes, but for big game hunting such as deer, you’ll be looking mostly at sharp broadheads with more ‘grain’ or weight and bigger sizes.


The slotted tip at the end of the arrow, usually made of plastic and which snaps onto the bowstring is the nock.

How to Choose the Right Arrow

hunting arrow
Source: bowhuntingmag.com

Arrows differ in the spine, or bendability when released, their length, diameter, and weight, how straight they are, and the materials they’re made of. It’s getting these variables right for the type of hunting you’re doing is what the whole fuss is about. But above all, hunting arrows need to be accurate and have the same consistency with every shot; be durable without breaking in mid-flight or when piercing flesh, and be carefully selected for the game you’re hunting.

Arrow Spine

Arrows don’t shoot out of bows in a straight line but bend left to right several times along the shaft before straightening out. This is called ‘spine’ and is completely natural. Different arrows have different spine rates and this affects how accurate and effective they are. Stiffer arrows with moderate spine are preferred in most cases and to maintain consistency in your shots it is recommended to stick to a particular type of arrow and from the same brand.

Lengths, Diameters, and Weight

While spine is a more technical aspect that you’ll master the more you shoot, lengths and diameters are more straightforward. Arrow lengths are based on your draw length (or the deepest part of the bow grip to the nock) and an additional 1.5 to 2 inches. Most archery shops have draw-length tools, so you can decide on the exact arrow length that’s right for you. If you get arrows that are too long, shops can have them professionally cut to the right size.

Diameters are important too, as different types of archery – target and hunting – mean arrows in different thicknesses. Target archers are better off with thicker arrows, whereas hunters prefer thinner arrows. These pick up less wind disturbance on their way to the target, so are generally more accurate. Being thinner also lets them be more effective, and penetrate the game you’re hunting.

The weight of the arrow is measured in ‘grains’ or grains per inch (GPI). Thicker and longer arrows will be heavier as well as those that are made of heavier materials, like wood as compared to lighter carbon arrows. Arrow weights, like diameters, will usually be based on the type of archery you do and the type of bow you use. A rule of thumb is that the arrow should correspond to your draw poundage or the amount of force you need to put on the bowstring for a full draw. Hunters usually go with arrows that are a bit heavier ( between 8 and 10 grains per inch) to sustain the kinetic energy in the draw with the arrow on its way to the target.

Arrow Materials

Lastly, decide on materials. Wood is the cheapest choice, but not as durable as other materials, and there’s more variation among arrows in weight and how straight they are. This means that they’re not suited to official target competitions or serious hunting tasks.

Aluminium arrows are good all-purpose variants suited to most types of archery and are quite durable too, albeit slightly more expensive than wood arrows. Carbon arrows are those preferred by hunters, as they’re stiffer and can be had in thinner diameters but fall between wood and aluminium arrows in terms of durability and the likelihood of splintering. They’re more expensive too. Lastly, target archers and hunters alike can choose hybrid aluminium/carbon arrows that perform the best in all scenarios. These are the arrows you’ll see in serious competition levels, like the Olympic Games and the Archery World Cup.

So, Which Arrows Work Best for Hunting?

different types of arrows
Source: deeranddeerhunting.com

To sum up, if you’re just getting into bowhunting, choose arrows of the right length, those that are a bit thinner (around 5mm), have a decent heft to them with the included arrow tip, and are preferably made of carbon. Once you get a few shots in, you can experiment with spine, and go with heavier or longer arrows and hybrid materials for the best results. All that remains is choosing the right arrowhead.

By Anthony Hendriks

The life of the party, Anthony is always up for spending some time with family and friends, when not blogging of course! Ever since a child, his love for books of mystery, race cars and travelling keeps on growing so it's difficult for him to single out that one all-time favourite hobby. If there's one thing he hates, though, it's having pictures taken but you already guessed that from his choice of plant photo for the blog.