Shot Placement and Arrow Lethality

This setup comes to 822g with 400g of point weight.

Buckle up. Its the main event. A match for the ages.

I’m not even going to pretend to hide my bias here. I believe in heavy hunting arrows, FOC, and Ashby’s 12 points of penetration. Does my current setup meet all of the points? No, but I am very close, with 10 out of the 12 checked. (I’ll be looking at single bevel heads in 2019).

I want a passthrough whenever possible. Two holes are better than one, even if the one is wide. When placed in the correct spot at an optimal time, this goal will be achieved with most setups, even those of a sub-optimal formula. But what if that doesn’t happen? What if the wild, unpredictability of nature should interfere with our perfect scenario? We are hunting wild game in a wild element after all.

My very first deer fell to a passthrough at 25 yards. I was shooting a 2117 aluminum with a 145g broadhead that was nowhere near as sharp as it could have been. Still, it whipped through the hide, slipped through the ribs, and deflated both lungs before landing in the snow on the other side. The red spray was intoxicating. There was electricity in the air and pride in my heart. I would’ve written the greatest broadhead testimonial the bowhunting world had ever seen had it been requested at the moment. And it would’ve had to have been at that moment. A second doe crossed my path minutes later; and while I repeated the action — the results were different.

She was closer — 10 yards away — but knew something was amiss. We played the game hunters play with wary deer. I was waiting for my moment. She was waiting for my movement. I was young and new to the game. I knew little of shooting at spooked deer and a broadside target at ten yards proved too good to pass up. I was going to tag out my first season afield — with a longbow no less.

Things went as you might expect. I released, she spun, and the arrow caught her in the shoulder. The impact was enough to put her to the ground, but 4″ of penetration wasn’t enough to finish the job. She got back up, shook off my arrow, and ran to parts unknown.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room. My shot placement was incorrect and the situation was not ideal. This doe was spooked having seen the aftermath of my first kill. She knew I was there but was curious enough to linger. While I feel I should have aimed lower or passed on the shot altogether, the results would have been different with an arrow that was optimized for penetration. I am almost certain the shot would have been lethal. Despite my error in judgement, a sharper broadhead with a tanto point, and at least 200g of additional weight would have made a big difference.

That being said, I do not condone advocating for heavy, weight-forward setups as an excuse for practicing poor shot placement or bad woodsmanship. That is silly and no ethical traditionalist is doing that.

 

All bowhunters strive for optimal shot placement. If they do not, they shouldn’t be bowhunters. It is that simple. As Isaac Jestus stated in episode 20 of the Traditional outdoors podcast, proper shot placement should be assumed. This is why the shot placement argument is met with such animosity when brought up in conversation. It is inherently offensive to an archer. You are basically telling them to “shoot better”.
Arrow lethality is a failsafe that we can all practice with a little bit of education and tuning. It is not an excuse to shoot poorly. It never was. Ed Ashby conducted research for us to do what we do in a more effective way. He never said “go forth and shoot shoulders”.
On the other side of the spectrum, it isn’t necessary to force opinions and make people feel foolish either. As Todd Smith expressed, “When people tell me something is working for them, I tell them to stick with it.” Bingo. Guys like Todd and Isaac are willing to educate, not judge. This is the proper approach. You are never going to convince someone to try something new by ridiculing what they are already doing. It doesn’t work in politics. It doesn’t work in religion. And it isn’t going to work in bowhunting.
I think we could all take a step back from the keypad and think about how we are communicating with each other. It would be better for the community overall.
For those who are interested in the Traditional Outdoors episode I am referring to, click here. If you are interested in arrow lethality, check out the Ashby Reports. They are absolutely free and worthy of your time.

Snagged

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Fishing was never easy for me. I found it boring and stressful, as a child. The idea of touching worms and fish grossed me out. In fact, one of my earliest childhood photographs depicts my (much younger) father tormenting his bawling son with a freshly caught perch and a devilish smile across his face. Mom offered a comic book bounty for the biggest fish caught just to get me to participate.

Dad loved to fish. It was his release. Taking us fishing – not so much. We snagged more than we fished and the old man spent more time untangling our messes than fishing. When he wasn’t fixing snags, he was griping about fixing snags. No one could gripe like my old man – not even the rookie version. He had an aptitude for it and is a veteran now that he’s in his 60s.

We were terrified of him. He was never violent but could be terrifying nonetheless. We hated coming clean on wrongdoings and there was nothing more egregious than a snagged fishing line on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. It was understood amongst us boys that you kept your mouth shut and rod straight should you find yourself in the salad. We would sit there, lines tight, until the wary eye of the seasoned angler happened to glance our way. He always knew. He ignored us sometimes but he knew. Mom was there to point it out whenever that happened. He would’ve ignored her too, had it been possible. She had a way of being heard when she wanted to be.

“Steve?”

Silence.

“Steve?”

Silence.

“Steve!”

“Whaaaaaaaat?!”

“I think your son has a snag.”

“Ahhh for crying out loud! Which one?”

“All of them.”

The results were always the same. You could hear his heart racing and synapses snapping up-and-down the Cheboygan River. He’d throw a fit, reel in his line, and mutter his way down the bank – arms flailing for maximum effect. He would then spend the next 10 minutes trying to free the line. If that didn’t work, he would break off and spend another 15 retying and baiting. Then there was the state of our reels, which was usually abysmal post catastrophe. That would add another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the nest we’d constructed by not owning up to the mistake. By the time the old man had one of us straightened out, another would get fouled up. It was a never-ending cycle of comedy and despair. To fully grasp my father’s frustration, you’d have to have lived it yourself or attempted to change consecutive flats on a busy highway with temps well into the 90s. He must have been out of his mind to have subjected himself to that level of anxiety. But that is what good parents do – and I had great ones.

These memories have always made me smile. Now a right hand filled with river-kissed cork makes me grateful. I am a fisherman. It took me 20 years to get here, but I am here nonetheless. Dad knew what he was doing. He understood the bond-building elements of outdoor activity and how important planting the seed was.

Now its my turn.

My daughter Aubrey in her first pair of waders.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out our latest Traditional Outdoors episode with Glen Blackwood of the Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company. Glen is a life long trout enthusiast and his passion for the sport is infectious. We also talk about taking kid’s fishing and share a fantastic online resource for doing so.