No time of year likely to ignite the fires in a hunter’s heart the way the beginning of bow season does. Most of us have spent months planning and scouting just to be ready when dawn breaks on opening day. That time is almost here. We have the best bows, the best arrows, and of course the best broadheads for deer destruction that are available!
Of course, if you haven’t selected your weapon of choice for this year, its time! No more waiting. Opening day is just around the corner and you need to be ready. No matter if you are after fixed blade broadheads or mechanical broadheads, we have something for you!
What Makes a Broadhead Good for Deer
Contrary to what most archery companies want you to believe, deer are pretty forgiving as long as you can get a good hit. They may run but if you have gotten into both lungs and preferably out the other side, they won’t run very far. Most modern compound and crossbows are easily capable of this feat. As long as its not a huge buck, a good hit with a 55lb recurve will likely do the job.
Actually, as an occasional recurve hunter, I prefer to use the same broadheads for elk and deer. I know if I can land a kill on a big bull elk, a whitetail has no hope. I use the same broadheads for hogs as well.
This is not to say that all hunting arrow heads are the same. You obviously need to consider the size of the game you are hunting. Deer are smack dab in the middle of common game sizes and I have effectively taken them with the same broadheads I use for coyote as well as the larger broadheads. The only time I use other options is for turkey and small game.
What I want most out of a broadhead is good penetration. Sure, a good wound diameter is important but not as important to me as getting deep into both lungs. Blood loss will surely drop a dear but not as fast is not being able to breath.
The whole idea of a broadhead is to have a point on your arrow larger than the arrow shaft. As long as you do this, the deer will bleed. If you get a clean shot through both lungs, the deer will bleed both internally and externally. Blood loss won’t be an issue.
As morbid as it seems to some, this is the most ethical way to bring down a deer. As hunters, we are currently not under a lot of pressure from the bleeding-heart types out there but if we don’t watch, the modern culture could start a war on hunting that would be hard to win. The last thing we want is more restriction on a pass time that should be handed down to our kids.
So, the most important aspect of bowhunting deer is to be able to place an arrow exactly where you want it and be confident that you can do so at a variety of angles and ranges. The second most important aspect to bowhunting deer is to have a bow and broadhead that can put an arrow into both lungs at a minimum and preferably all the way though and out the other side.
Whether you want to use mechanical or fixed broadheads is purely up to you as long as you pick one that is sharp and well suited to the task. You can be sure that if a broadhead made this list, it will not only do the job, but do the job much better than the majority of competitors.
If you are looking for broadheads for crossbow, the same still applies.
Deer Broadhead Considerations
Given the above section, you should have a good idea about what is important when selecting a broadhead. You will have to consider your equipment, comfort level, and personal taste into the equation. To help with that, lets break down what features a broadhead may have that could sway your decision.
We briefly covered fixed and mechanical broadheads above to give a more thorough exploration, we will dig in a little deeper.
A fixed blade broadhead has blades that are always exposed and ready to cut. They are in a fixed position. These broadheads can be a little more difficult to tune to your bow because they weight is positioned differently than it would be on a field point. However, they have no moving parts to fail or cause other issues.
Mechanical broadheads have some form of locking mechanism that keeps the blades retained partially or completely inside the core of the broadhead. This keeps the blade edges safe and out of the way but it also makes the arrow fly more like a field point.
They are easier to tune, can have a larger cutting diameter, and are generally more accurate but they have points of failure and can even deploy from hitting weeds or just from the pressure of release. Should that happen, your arrow may veer off suddenly.
There are also chisel tips and cut-on-contact tips. You will find both tip types on mechanical and fixed blade broadheads. Chisel tips are more effective at getting past bones while a cut-on-contact will usually penetrate better. It’s a give and take as to which one you prefer. I am a fan of heavier, thicker cut-on-contact points that are a perfect mid-ground between the two.
I have typically found lighter broadheads to be more than adequate for deer but what it comes down to kinetic energy transfer. A heavy broadhead with stiff, heavy arrow is the most effective but if fired out of the wrong bow, it will fly sloppy and loose a lot of energy before it get to the target. Match your broadhead weight to your bow!
If you are using a crossbow, a heavier broadhead will generally be required to use it safely. Otherwise there is no need for any broadhead over 125 grains and a 100 grain broadhead will often be sufficient.
Number of Blades
Sometimes this can border on ridiculous. Most mechanical broadheads are 2 blade and many fixed blades are the same. I prefer a 3 blade broadhead. The triangular patterned wound seems to bleed more and practically ensures at least some crosscutting of muscle fibers.
There is nothing wrong with opting for a 4 blade broadhead but realize that for every blade you add, the thinner and weaker the blades will be.
If you are hunting turkey, go for the biggest you can get. For deer, its like number of blades. You are quickly getting into the range of ridiculous. I prefer a broadhead in the range 1 1/8” but there is nothing wrong with a little larger if it shoots well.
Many mechanical broadheads will only have two blades that are a large cutting diameter. Up to two inches. For a two blade broadhead, there may be some need for larger blades. At 2” you stand a good chance at hitting bone but that is a risk you take with any broadhead.
There are a lot of options on all aspects of a broadhead. We have tried to consider them all.
85 - 125gr
1 - 1 1/8"
100 - 125gr
1 G5 Montec
For hunters, the Montec broadhead is one you can’t hide from and for deer, it’s one you often don’t run from. From trial and error, this is my personal favorite broadhead for deer and elk but I have used if for coyote and hog. I plan on trying bear with it in the near future. It is simply the most lethal in every situation I have used it and while it may not be the most accurate broadhead on the market, you will never know the difference.
The G5 Montec cutting diameter is the lowest on this list, especially if you opt for the 85 grain which I commonly use with recurve bows. Don’t let this fool you. This thing cuts deep and will blast through a deer. Even though it is a cut on contact broadhead, the point will take on bone like the best chisel tip.
If you want a one broadhead solution, this is it!
2 Rage Bowhunting Xtreme
Rage are probably the most popular broadheads on the market and have been making waves for a few years now. The variety of game taken with these broadheads is frankly astounding and are currently one of the most popular mechanical broadheads for elk. If they take down those beasts, a whitetail stands little chance.
Rage makes a variety of broadheads that are sought after among bowhunters and everyone seems to have their favorite. I prefer the Xtreme for its cut on contact point. The cutting diameter is a little ridiculous but that plays in its favor. It is still a deep penetrating broadhead that will drop deer all day long.
This is among the most accurate mechanical broadheads and is surprisingly easy to shoot but the same could be said for most Rage Broadheads. Depending on what you hunt, get a Rage broadhead for elk and let it do double duty for deer.
3 Quality Archery Designs Exodus
The QAD Exodus is a novel broadhead. One that I somewhat doubted at first with its flimsy looking blades but I have to say it’s a shocker, to both me and the deer. This is a killerbroadhead for deer and never doubt that. I think this would make a solid broadhead for a lot of game but I haven’t had the opportunity to test that theory.
The Exodus has a solid cutting diameter mixed with a chisel point but despite that, this thing leaves a wound unlike any other. It will blow through muscle and bone with ease. If you can get over the short, awkward looks this is a great broadhead and one I look forward to trying again soon.
4 New Archery Products Killzone
For our second mechanical offering, the NAP Killzone is like a step-brother of the Rage Xtreme. The quality is superb and like Rage, there are a lot of models to choose from in the NAP lineup but I tend to prefer the Killzone over most others.
This broadhead is sleek, simple, and accurate. The blades deploy easily and cut a wide, deep hole. It may not be the best penetrator but a good shot should get you a kill every time. Nap does a great job with design and the chisel tip of this particular broadhead is a bone-breaker. Match this with a good arrow and will fly straight and hit hard.
5 Muzzy Phantom
This, my friends, is the most accurate fixed blade broadhead in my collection. Muzzy has been around forever and they have it all figured out. The only reason that it doesn’t top this list is the comparatively weaker blade design and slightly less bleeding than the other options.
Even with those negatives, this is a solid, stone-cold killer. I would say these and their predecessors have brought down more deer than all of the other broadheads on this list combined. I started out with a broadhead like this, minus the small bleeder blades and took many deer in my teenage years.
There are times that I just like to throw one of these on a lighter carbon shaft and grab the old recurve to hit the woods and stalk. I don’t take a lot of deer that way but it feels right. If you want to do it the right way, from a stand – it works for that too.
Bowhunting Tips for Deer
- If you are after a trophy buck, you need to find him first. Use trail cameras extensively in your hunting areas. Start early and be persistent. You best bet is to find a deer that moves in daylight and is less wary than usual. Early in the season, you can manage this but as it gets toward late season your odds will decrease.
- Deer seem to prize acorns over all other food when they start to fall. Make this a part of your hunting strategy. Keep an eye on oak trees and when the acorns start to drop, put you stand in a place overlooking this favorite food.
- Most kill shots on deer happen at 30 yards or less. Pushing past 40 becomes difficult for most hunters to make a clean, ethical shot, especially under pressure. To offset this, practice at ranges longer than 40 yards. Try 60 yards and suddenly those 40-yard shots seem much easier.
- When deer season gets here, the hunters get antsy and can waste a shot on a smaller deer than what they would like. If you are after bigger deer, realize they are wiser and will often not head toward food sources until the younger bucks have gone through.
- Stick to your stand later in the mornings, especially through October. I often won’t leave my stand until after noon. There is a period of activity most hunters don’t expect towards mid-day.
- Any time we are bowhunting, knowing the range is critical and often misjudged. This is especially to those hunting in tree stands where the angles can be really tricky. Get a rangefinder and get one that has angle measurements. There are some truly great options out there with modern rangefinders.
- Get your scents right. In early season, a doe scent will not be effective at all. Reserve those for the rut and use a buck scent instead. I have found buck scents to be effective all the way though the end of rut when no scent is all that appealing.
- Learn how to read a blood trail. Pink blood is often a good sign of a lung hit and you likely won’t have far to track. Dark red blood usually means you hit too far back, possibly a liver hit. Watery blood is synonymous with a stomach hit which is bad news for you and the deer, it may take days to die.
- When scouting and during the early season don’t push too far into your hunting area. If you scare deer off their bedding area, they may leave for good. You can’t hunt deer if there are no deer to hunt.
- Take the time to tune your bow. When you have it tuned, start over again and make sure its as accurate as you can possibly make it.
- There is an adage that “Faster is Better” but only as long as its accurate for you and your broadheads. Accuracy first, power second. The fastest, most deep penetrating arrow still won’t kill if you make a bad shot.
- Be ready for every shot. This means shooting in the rain, cold, low-light, high angles, far shots, partially concealed deer. The worst feeling in the world is to miss a deer at a distance you know you can nail at the archery range.
- Know your hunting laws and regulations. Make sure you check them every season. Some areas may have changed laws recently due to some communicable diseases.
- Be aware of broadhead regulations for you state. You can find a list of ever states broadhead regulations here.
There are many ways to deer hunt, a lot of different equipment, bows, arrows, and broadheads to choose from. Some people will spend thousands on the best gear you can get. None of this matters if you aren’t in the woods when and where the deer are. Sure, having the best is great but you have to do your part.
There is an art and science to hunting deer. The science is in deer behavior and the only teacher for that is the deer themselves. The art is in the bow and its use. You can lock it down to science and still miss. You need to learn all your equipment but especially your bow, arrows, and broadheads.
Once you do that, you can worry about the rest. If this is your first year in the woods or maybe one of a very few, reading everything you can is a good start but don’t neglect getting out in the woods and scouting. Make extra time to practice with your bow. Remember even the best broadheads for deer that you can lay your hands on won’t help if you can’t make a solid hit.