Okay, let’s just get it out the way: Ranch Fairy. Love him or loathe him, Troy Fowler, aka The Ranch Fairy on YouTube, should be credited for bringing a much-needed conversation back to the forefront of the bowhunting community: The benefits of using a heavy hunting arrow with adequate front-of-center (FOC) baked in.
Yes, he can sometimes rub folks the wrong way. But I’m admittedly a fan of his work, and I genuinely admire the level of research he’s put into all things arrows, broadheads, and dead critters. That doesn’t mean I agree with everything he says nor do I think his ways are the best for every bowhunter. Some hunters just don’t have the ability, available time, or appetite for minutia to build arrows like he does—and I’d include myself in that group.
Make no mistake, the Ranch Fairy method of arrow-building, broadhead selection, and tuning works. And there are plenty of benefits to be had from getting away from the high-velocity craze. From my experience, the heavy arrows I used to shoot from my trad bow zipped right through deer while the super-sonic arrows from my compound would deliver a 50/50 passthrough percentage. Increase arrow weight without decreasing arrow speed too much, and you’ll have a hunting arrow that will out-penetrate a lighter, faster arrow. That’s just physics.
But almost all of the latest options for building heavier arrows today are pretty damn pricey. There are broadheads that cost $30 each. Bare arrow shafts that top $250 a dozen. Inserts that beef FOC almost as much as they drain your bank account. So, yeah, not exactly an ideal fit for everyone. The good news? You can build your own heavy hunting arrows with improved FOC without breaking the bank. Here’s how to do it.
Select the Best Shaft For a Budget-Friendly Heavy Arrow
Obviously, you can’t build arrows without arrow shafts, and this is the first place to cut cost. I’ve shot an awful lot of arrows over the years, and I can say without hesitation that it’s hard to find a truly bad arrow shaft today. Some are straighter than others, but if you grew up in the XX75 days you’d know that straight has taken on a completely different meaning now. While some high-level competitive archers would notice the difference between straightness tolerances of .001 and .006, that level of precision doesn’t apply to most hunting situations.
Instead, the most important factor to consider when building a heavy finished arrow is the shaft weight. For the sake of our discussion, we’re going to keep the math fairly simple and build a 30-inch arrow for a 29-inch draw length. The end goal is a finished weight of at least 500 grains—and this isn’t a number I came up with on a whim. There will be some room to play with above 500, but it’s important to not go below that.
To figure this out I ran the numbers on a KE/momentum calculator and found that a 500-grain arrow will still be fast enough to deliver the best combination of energy, momentum, and tuneability. For this, I like to start with GoldTip’s Kinetic series. They offer a 300 spine shaft that comes in at 10.4 grains per inch. For our arrow, the bare shaft (which will measure just short of 30 inches because we have to account for the nock) is going to come in around 306 grains. You can get a half-dozen of these shafts for about $70.
Select the Right Broadhead
I can’t sharpen anything much beyond a pencil. I’ve tried, but the magic of turning dull steel into sharp steel evades me. That’s why I don’t use the uber-chic (and uber-pricey) single-bevel broadheads that you read about on just about every forum and social media post these days. Instead, I stick with what works for me: Solid, proven fixed-blade heads with replaceable blades. I like 150-grain Wasp Archery Sharpshooter Traditional. And they only cost $40 for three heads.
Coupled with standard GoldTip Kinetic inserts (at 24.8 grains) and a 306-grain shaft, you now have an arrow that weighs about 480 grains. Add the fletching (three Blazer vanes at 6 grains each) and a standard nock (11 grains), and you’ve crossed the 500-grain mark coming in at 509 grains. Total cost for each arrow: About $20—which is about the cost of a half-dozen bare built-for-FOC shafts.
What Kind of Performance Can This Arrow Setup Deliver
The KE calculator says these arrows will deliver about 92 ft-lbs of kinetic energy if your bow can shoot them at 285 fps. I’m shooting a Mathew’s V3X (29-inch draw) and should hit that number or very close to it. Plugging the numbers of the arrow above into the FOC calculator shows the FOC at just over 12 percent, which is solid. Most important to me though is that this number should deliver accuracy with minimal fussing and tuning.
If you want to up the weight a bit more, you can do so by adding GoldTip’s 20-grain Fact weight system. It costs $15, adding about $1.10 to the cost of each arrow. You’d then have a finished arrow weight of about 529 grains, increased KE at about 93 ft-lbs (I reduced arrow speed 5 fps for the additional 20 grains of weight) and a higher FOC at 14 percent.
You could certainly push things and try to get a heavier arrow or spend a lot more per bare shaft for more grains-per-inch. You could even opt for one of the fancy new heads that push 250 grains. But I’m not sure you could build an arrow that would perform significantly better on whitetails at 30 yards and under.