There’s never been more archery hunters, and archers have never had more options when it comes to the equipment they carry into the field. It can be difficult to decide on what kind of equipment and which brands perform the best. For instance choosing the best broadheads for deer, elk or any game for that matter is one of those things you need to get right, but can be overwhelming. Hunting outfitters produce all kinds of new products every year and try and convince you that every year you need new gear.
While it’s fun to buy new gear each and every year it certainly isn’t necessary. While the newest broadheads on the market are exciting the old standby from companies such as Muzzy and G5 are arguably the best. If you buy from these companies, there’s no need to look through catalogs or search through a dozen broadhead reviews deciding what to buy.
Buying name brand broadheads can often be the best way to ensure you’ll get a quality arrow and finding them for cheap can be easy. By far the best way to be sure you’re getting a great price is the internet. Buying online is great because you’re not limited by the brands that your local pro-shop carries and you get research for the best prices and the best suppliers quickly.
The other way to find sales is buying during gun season. In mid-November early December many outdoor retailers and online suppliers have sales on archery equipment because the season is over and they’re trying to move inventory. The advantage of this time, whether in store or online, is that you can find a lot of gear, especially arrow broadheads and other consumables for cheap.
The 5 Best Broadheads for Deer & Elk
How to pick a Broadhead
There seems to be an endless supply of broadheads on the market. Cheap new designs and “revolutionary” technology come out every year. Choosing a broadhead can be as simple as asking the guy behind the counter or carefully sifting through the best broadhead reviews online.
Broadheads are tools; the best broadhead for deer is different from the best broadhead for elk or the best broadhead for turkeys. Plain and simple match the cutting diameter and weight to the game you’re chasing and you’ll have dead animals.
Cutting diameters are usually governed by laws in the state or province you’re hunting in and is normally set around one inch with two cutting surfaces. The larger the cutting diameter the bigger the wound bit the harder it is for the arrow to penetrate thick hide and flesh.
Expandable broadheads as a rule should be left to light bodies thin skinned game where the risk of not opening on tougher hides or thicker bones. Fixed broadheads are the name of the game when bone crushing performance or drop dead reliability are needed because there’s nothing to go wrong. As a rule of thumb they’re tougher because they’re made thicker and there’s no moving parts to jam or break.
One of the biggest factors of buying broadheads is just the price of the equipment. There’s cheap bargain brand broadheads and then there’s name brand high quality broadheads:
- Name brands depend on reputation and a brand is their mark of quality
- Proprietary mechanisms and designs
- High quality materials
- Being able to buy replacement parts
- Abiding by the warranty and having to pay for shipping
Materials and Construction
Broadheads need to be tough, end of story.
A broadhead is literally the tip of a stick that flies through the air at high speed and slams into the target. The tip of the spear needs to be the strongest point and many of the bargain brand broadhead companies produce broadheads that just simply aren’t up to snuff. Broadheads should always be made of steel, preferably coated or stainless, and be thick enough and designed well to avoid having cutting surfaces shear off and break apart on impact.
The design of a broadhead should be compact as possible to reduce wind resistance but at least an inch of cutting diameter. Many local laws have differing opinions on how wide a broadhead should be so check before you buy. The design should also be easy to sharpen and be easy to get on and off the arrows. Newer designs with curved points and detailed intricate patterns are nearly impossible to sharpen and very hard to get on and off.
Broadheads made of replaceable individual pedals were commonplace years ago and can now be had for cheap but there’s a reason they’re cheap. While these broadheads may work, they don’t work well and for just a few more dollars you can have bulletproof performance from a solid re-sharpen-able broadhead.
These replaceable heads are common with people who don’t know how, or don’t like to sharpen their broadheads. The factory edge on these replaceable blades is not good enough or ethical hunting. A hand stropped edge done correctly takes time but is well worth it in the end.
If the broadhead you select is weak or isn’t sharp, it will suffer from decreased penetration either from the arrow slowing as it fights a dull blade or the head falls apart on impact and makes a mess that doesn’t penetrate to the other side.
Best Broadheads for Deer
The most popular form of archery hunting most archers will take to the deer woods in search of a mature whitetail every season. The rapid evolution that created our bows and arrows hasn’t left broadheads behind and companies like Muzzy and Rage have been at the forefront of this evolution. Whitetail specific broadheads are common and perform exceedingly well.
To understand what kind of broadhead is needed consider what kind of hunting you plan on doing. Almost exclusively whitetail deer are taken with a bow and arrow from a tree stand and the extreme shot angle presented by these conditions leans towards a fixed broadhead. Out west in search for monster muleys there is a different set of requirements, a flat shooting, super tough broadhead optimized for distance shooting is needed to reach out and reliably kill big mule deer at the ranges they’re normally taken.
Look for a low profile brand with at least one inch of cutting diameter. On lighter bodied deer found down south and parts of the west it’s OK to sacrifice weight for speed, so you can make a flatter shot the edge of your range. On the heavier bodied bruisers found in the Midwest and up north it’s imperative to have 100% confidence in your cutting edge so look for a heavy broadhead that’ll penetrate and get the job done.
Best Broadheads for Elk
Archers chasing elk in the high country know one thing best; you only get one shot. The ranges elk are hunted at are slightly longer and the penetration needed is much greater. To make matters worse elk are tough. While a mortally wounded deer will usually run into a bedding area and wait to die elk will run for miles and miles before they realize they’re dead. Shot placement on elk is that much more important. Tuning your broadheads are especially important when hunting for an elk because of how fast these encounters usually take place and a hold over or aiming adjustment is the last thing you need.
Despite all this elk aren’t tanks. A well-built arrow placed in the right spot will drop elk dead. Arrows outfitted for elk hunting rarely, if ever, have expandable broadheads. Most elk guides refuse expandable broadheads for hunting elk in their camp. Expandable broadheads are not designed to be tough enough to make a double pass through a big boned animal like a mature bull elk.
The best broadheads for elk hunting are fixed, at least 1¼ inches in diameter and as heavy as an archer feels comfortable with. Always use a three bladed broadhead when chasing elk, this will make a three dimensional wound and make it much more difficult for hide or dirt to plug the hole and keep the blood trails visible.
Best Broadheads for Turkey
Shooting turkeys with a bow is becoming more common. Drawing back on a turkey is extremely difficult because of their keen eyesight. When turkey hunting you’ll have several sets of eyes looking at you and several sets of ears listening for your string to snap. Letting an arrow fly on a turkey is harder than it sounds, but putting the arrow in the right place is an interesting debate in the turkey woods.
More so than other game animals turkeys are hard to bring down with an arrow because they fly. It sounds dumb but there aren’t any blood trails in the sky and gut shot turkeys can fly considerable distances only to crash in heavy brush and become coyote food.
A decision needs to be made about where to shoot and there’s two main options; use your regular deer set up and aim low and for the breast pinning the wings to the body and piercing the vitals or, get a custom turkey set up with broadheads made with long cutting arms designed for you to aim for the neck and cut the turkey’s head off.
The body shot has been the most common in the past few years but as more turkeys are lost the head shot with a “guillotine” style broadhead is becoming more normal. It’s an all or nothing proposition, whether the turkey is decapitated and drops dead or the bird escapes unharmed for you to hunt another day.
Best Broadheads for Hog
Hogs are tough. No doubt about it, taking a hog with a bow and arrow can be a difficult proposition. Just like any other animal, hit it in the right spot and you’ll have dinner. The difficult part of the hog is the fact the whole hog is covered in a thick layer of fat and tough hide. Hogs cover themselves in mud to cool off and have tough hides from constantly rubbing up against trees. All these facts combine to make a great way to plug an arrow hole even with a double pass through a hog can run for miles with a plugged blood hole and only bleeding a few drops.
Much like with elk, a tough fixed broadhead works best. Never attempt to hunt hogs with a double edged broadhead. Always opt for at least three cutting surfaces to make a three dimensional wound that is harder to close. This will help keep blood trails nice and short.
Fixed vs Mechanical Broadheads
There is a hot debate always raging in the hunting world on Fixed vs. Expandable Broadheads. Some people fall into the camp that simple is best and any moving parts on an object already moving very fast brings way too many variables open for chance. Whole states have banned expandable broadheads for reasons stating everything from a lack of penetration, to a lack of sturdy construction and presenting all sorts of data saying expandable broad heads are not only unreliable but down right unethical.
The main advantage of expandable broadheads is how flat they can fly, their streamlined shape means they fly more like a missile and less like a lawn dart after they’re shot from a bow or crossbow. They also experience less wind drift and a slightly faster speed.
Fixed broadheads will always be more reliable. The main concern with mechanical broadheads is sharpening and reassembly. Broadheads must be sharpened every time you shoot them at game. Shooting an unsharpened broadhead, or a factory edge, is just like shooting an unsighted rifle. The responsible hunter always seeks to make sure the game they take goes down quickly and cleanly.
Having to disassemble the mechanical broadheads to sharpen means you can’t test them and be sure they’ll open up. Not knowing that it will work 100% of the time is concerning for some people because if the broad head doesn’t open up your deer or elk isn’t going down and all you’re doing is torturing animals.
It’s safe to assume the mechanical vs. fixed broadhead debate is somewhere in the middle. Newer designs of broadheads such as Rage Broadheads have made reliable expansion and cut on contact performance a reality in the deer woods for archers using expandable broad heads.
Younger hunters, or people using bows with less kinetic energy are cautioned against using expandable broadheads of any type because it requires a good bit of energy to open up the cutting surface of the broadhead. When in doubt opt for a sturdy fixed broadhead and practice, practice, practice.
Best Mechanical Broadheads
Hands down the most reliable mechanical broad heads on the market are Rage broadheads. They come in several different models and all are great quality. While they can be a bit expensive they’re well worth it. Mechanical broadheads can suffer from breaking and shearing off of the blades when they get shot through an animal, limiting the penetration and wounding.
Rage Broadheads are more sturdy and pioneered a design that closes the gap between mechanical and fixed broadheads. These broadheads offer a huge cutting diameter and cut on contact performance while requiring less energy for opening with their “slip cam” design. Opening requires a rubber O-ring which can be bought for pretty cheap as well as replacement blades. The shape of the blades makes it incredibly easy to sharpen and assembly to get these blades ready to shoot is easy enough to be done without cutting your fingers off.
One of the coolest thing about the Rage broadheads is that each package comes with 3 sharpened broadheads for taking game and one practice head for dialing in your sight pre-season or checking distance right before you climb into your stand. This is great because the Rage broadhead has such a small cross section and is so slim that it can be a bit of a shock for long time fixed head users who made the switch.
Rage Three Blade Broadhead
Rage designers also addressed one of the biggest short comings of expandable broadheads, they added a third blade. Three bladed expandable broad heads were once hard to find and the ones that were available were often unreliable and hard to sharpen, but the rage broadhead designers fixed this. The third blade is important because a wound made by a two blade can be held closed by a fleeing animal and leave a faint, if at all, blood trail that can be hard to follow.
Rage three bladed broadheads are a great solution They added the third blade while keeping the best aspects of reliable expansion and huge cutting diameters. It is the best expandable broadheads that offer zero compromises when it comes time to let the arrow fly. Especially on deer, antelope and light skinned game that tends to flee quickly the rage three blade broadheads devastate game animals’ organs.
Best Fixed Broadheads
These are the old standby true blue broadheads. Muzzy Trocar broadheads are the best all-around fixed broadhead available. Made for the first generation of American Archers who took to the woods with simple recurve bows and a post sight in search of game. These broadheads are the definition of simple. Muzzy has been around since it all started and these broadheads have stood the test of time for a reason. These affordable and available broadheads are an awesome value for any hunter while offering the reliability of fixed blade broadheads.
The blades of the Muzzy Trocar are a cut on contact deep penetration machine. Each blade, three in total, are made from stainless steel and while slim they’re very stout and can stand up to a full pass through and stay in one piece. That one piece that cuts over a 1-inch circle straight through anything you’re likely to shoot it with.
The blade geometry is easy to sharpen without cutting yourself, but these blades come from the factory with a legendary edge that just needs a basic strop to be tree stand ready.
The only thing to watch out for on these broad heads is the small size. These broadheads are by design small with thin blades. On bigger boned game like elk or stout hogs the blades can bend and the point on the broadhead can deform easily.
The thin construction on the shank of the broadhead that screws into the arrow can deform as well if you hit a major bone, or miss and hit a tree. A small dab of soap before screwing in the broadhead can fix this and make it easy to slide in and out, no matter what.
The G5 montec is the best fixed broadhead you can buy. G5 is known for making top notch broad heads that stand up to abuse. These broadheads can be had in coated or stainless steel and the design of the broadhead is where the strength lies. The pyramid design of the blades reinforces the steel in front of it and the whole broadhead is solid as a rock.
This is the broadhead for the big guys. A favorite of hog and elk hunters who chase tough game with heavy bones. These broadheads all around are designed to be the bone breaker many hunters want and while slightly more expensive than other broadheads they’re cheaper than comparable expandable broadheads and if kept clean and dry they’ll last a very long time.
The 100% steel construction means you don’t have to worry about a blade shearing off inside the animal or braking apart when the cut on contact blades hit their mark.
The beefy nature of the broadhead is good for archers who want extreme forward of center weight because while the broadhead is by no means “oversized” it is a solid chunk with small details to lighten the load slightly. G5 offers these broadheads in several different weights and all are in full steel.
The broadheads don’t come very sharp from the factory, but they’re very easy to sharpen because of the flat, straight blade lines. Be sure to sharpen and strop these blades before you head out.
Best Crossbow Broadheads
Crossbows are becoming more and more common and there’s one thing for sure, they’re here to stay. Crossbows aren’t much more powerful than regular bows because of the short draw length so broadhead construction shouldn’t be bigger concern than on a regular bow unless you’re shooting a high energy crossbow that shoots heavy arrows fast. Crossbow bolts sometimes have different thread patterns and diameters than regular arrows and using them can make for an unstable arrow that’d be irresponsible to shoot at game.
G5 Outdoors T3 Crossbow Broadhead
A tough, durable and extremely sharp broadhead is easy to find. The trick is getting it at a good price. The T3 crossbow broadhead is a great hybrid of cost, durability and rugged cutting power you can depend on to get the job done. The great thing about these broadheads is how sturdy and well-made they are. Constructed of 100% steel and securely fastened to their insert with no major weak points or faulty design flaws.
The design of these blades is extremely important because, after all, these are mechanical broadheads. The channels that deploy these blades are wide and located where it is unlikely to be clogged or blocked. These T3 Crossbow Broadheads from G5 have a unique feature of having no o rings but rather clips that are tunable for deployment as the shooter sees fit. This is a very usable feature as you can tune the broadheads for the game you’re after.
The blades themselves are mounted where they should be and cut a respectable 1 ½ inch diameter. They’re easy to sharpen and the three blade arrangement makes deep wide cutting channels that bleed out game quickly and leave bold blood trails.
Maintaining and Sharpening Broadheads
Caring for broadheads is simple. Rinse them off with clean water when you come in from the field if they got dirty or wet to make sure they don’t rust. Rust will normally form on the very tip of the cutting edges before the rest of the broadhead and won’t always be orangey-red. Stainless steel, especially if left alone in between seasons, will get a cruddy buildup that looks almost like candle wax on the edge of the blade and needs to be re sharpened.
This build up, or corrosion along the edges of the blades dulls them and makes for a weak edge that can fracture along the length of it leaving you a dull broadhead.
Any heavily rusted broadhead needs to be retired or used for target practice only because the structural integrity of the broadhead is lost and the blades may shear off if you shoot it into an animal and penetration will suffer.
Foam quivers dull broadheads. Even if very careful packing them into the quiver before the hunt, getting them into and out of the quiver makes for dull points, and edges that is bad news for performance.
Be 100% when screwing the broadhead in that not only the threads of the broad head are clean but the insert on the arrow are clean. It never hurts to add a little, very little, drop of soap, oil or even scent proof laundry detergent onto the threads as you screw them on. It works like an anti-seize making sure you can get them off to sharpen and clean them.
If storing your bow and arrows away for a long time, remove the broadheads from the arrows and store them in a dry secure holder away from kids. Bows aren’t stored like guns but can kill just as easily. Even if a child can’t draw the string back, they can slap a razor sharp broadhead against another kid or furniture or their own hand. If nothing else putting them away keeps them from getting dull or rusted.
Shooting and Hunting with Broadheads
There’s only one way to test out a broadhead; you have to shoot it. Any archers worth their salt has a target that’ll allow them to test their broadheads. Many expandable broadheads will have a practice dummy-head and fixed broadheads can be fired as is. When shooting these arrows with their new lethal tips, you need to look for a few things; range, pin adjustment, and noise. It is logical to thing that if you replace a field tip with a broadhead of equal weight the point of impact on the target and the bow will shoot the same but it just isn’t so. Many trophies have been lost because hunters skip this step to dial everything in.
The main thing the new broadheads are going to affect is the point where the arrows impact the target. Everything from more wind resistance to different balance and different vibrations during shooting are going to change how the arrow flies. This makes a huge need to adjust your pins to be sure they’ll hit where you want them to.
The second thing you’ll need to check is the range your arrows will now fly. If you were practicing with a 100gr field tip and switch to a 150gr or heavier broadhead your effective range could change. Especially past 40 yards, small changes make huge differences and the extra weight can mean excessive drop on the arrow as the ranges get longer. Controlling this drop could mean jacking your pins up or shooting the arrow faster and flatter but once hunting season rolls around it’s better to just shrink the yardage than make huge adjustments to your system.
Finally get outside and check for noise coming from your new broadheads. A loud bow can make game “jump the string.” A phenomenon where game hears the bow release and have time to flinch and duck below the arrow because the sound is traveling 3 times faster than the arrow. There’s no way to beat the speed of sound on a bow so you have to be quiet. All bows make noise, but excess noise when you change broadheads could mean they’re loose or they’re too heavy or put together wrong and this is all bad. Be sure there’s no excess noise or vibrations when you shoot your bow and keep everything working ship-shape.
Hopefully this has helped in selecting the best broadheads for deer, elk or any other game you may be hunting.