Did that just happen? Hardly 10 minutes had passed after my 50th attempt for the day to get a bull to answer my bugle, when one finally answered back. I nearly jumped out of my camo at the sound, and from the follow-up bugle, he was closing the distance fast!
This hunt transpired just like your dreams. The bull answered, headed my way, then stepped into an opening at 30 yards. I drew with the bull in sight of my form, and he watched the arrow smack right behind his shoulder. The “Did that just happen?” moment was me watching the bull tip over 60 yards away in full view. That’s elk hunting at its very best, and a fixed-blade broadhead led the way to my success. Truth be told, it was my third fixed-blade victory during the 2016 big game seasons, and I added a fourth punched tag when I slam-dunked a Kansas whitetail later in the year.
Because of my successes in the field with fixed-blade broadheads, I’m a huge fan of them. That’s not to say I haven’t tagged my share of animals with mechanical-style heads. I’m not afraid to use mechanicals, I just prefer following the footsteps of North America’s first bowhunters back before Europeans docked the boat; Native Americans had great luck with fixed-blades.
In reality, I prefer a fixed-blade head because I spend most of my early season pursuits on big-bodied elk that require the stoutest of equipment. After growing comfortable shooting those heads, I prefer not to change my setup midseason. It’s kind of like a “lucky shirt” disorder. If you’re debating the fixed-blade decision, then consider some of the following as you peruse the aisles at Cabela’s.
Fixed-Blade vs. Mechanicals
One of the biggest negatives of using a fixed-blade head is bow tuning. You’re shooting a fixed-wing aircraft out of your bow without flaps, rudder or ailerons. Your arrow vanes help in stabilization, but those wide blades sticking out in front of the vanes can have a tendency to veer off target.
In contract, most mechanical broadheads have the profile of a target tip, so they cut the air with little resistance or air-deflection issues. They’re easier to tune, and you can likely shoot another model and still be relatively sighted-in if you find yourself without your brand of mechanical in the outback.
That noted, most modern compound bows tune so precisely that getting a fixed-blade broadhead to fly with accuracy is hardly a problem. Any pro shop technician worth their weight will have you hammering 10-rings with a fixed-blade head after one visit. The trend in low-profile broadheads aids this tuning issue with less wing surface to steer an arrow astray.
A second major consideration is cutting surface. Some mechanical broadheads deploy and have a cutting surface of more than 2 inches. Several spread out to carve nearly a 3-inch hole through your target. Compare that to the typical fixed-blade head that averages a 1 1/8-inch cutting surface to slice through a target.
Of course, it’s not apples to apples. A mechanical broadhead requires additional kinetic energy to deploy, robbing some of the energy needed for arrow penetration. This is particularly true on quartering shots requiring added penetration to reach vital organs. If you’re shooting an 80-pound draw, it likely doesn’t matter, but for the mainstream shooter, companies took this into consideration. Many now manufacturer mechanicals with rear-sliding cutting blades instead of those that fold (jackknife) back. Rear-sliding blades use less kinetic energy during deployment.
Regardless of the size of the cutting surface, it’s razor sharpness that gets the job done with either style of head. Broadheads kill via hemorrhaging, so to create the most bleeding possible, they have to be operating-room sharp. Kinetic energy or not won’t help you if you try to punch a Popsicle stick through a buck instead of a scalpel.
Why is that a con for fixed-blade heads? Some require you to re-sharpen after use, and that means you need to be skilled with sharpening tools. Companies such as G5 make it simple with sharpening tools so easy to use that Bubbles the chimp could operate them.
A final thought is price. Most fixed-blade heads cost 25 to 50 percent more than mechanicals. In Washingtons, that relates to an added expense anywhere from $10 to $30 per three-pack of fixed-blades. It likely won’t cause a divorce, but if you’re prone to missing . . . just saying.
As I explained earlier, I choose fixed-blade heads for elk because the broadheads are sturdy. They tend to be stronger and more durable simply by design. The cutting blades are secured front and back, whereas most mechanicals deploy, leaving them attached only to the front or midsection of the ferrule. Some fixed blades, such as the G5 Montec that I use, are actually a one-piece construction. It’s virtually indestructible.
Adding to the pro debate is the simplicity factor. There are no moving parts, no hinges, and no rubber bands in the fixed-blade design. Mechanical things can and do fail. Just ask the engineers at Chernobyl. With no moving parts, and sturdiness to boot, you have to give the fixed-blade head a golden star.
And although re-sharpening may require some practice, you can guarantee that your broadheads are sharper than out of the packaging. The initial investment of fixed-blades may be more than comparable mechanicals, but you can reuse them time and time again, saving you money. The same can’t be said of many mechanical heads. Even if you can replace the blades, the process of removing screws and aligning blades is delicate work. Can you say “hand me a Band-Aid, please?”
Finally, a razor-sharp, cut-on-contact, fixed-blade head doesn’t eat up any kinetic energy for blade deployment. That gives it more energy to punch deep into vitals.
5 Top Fixed-Blade Picks
If you think a fixed-blade broadhead is for you, there are new models to consider each year, as well as some “oldies but goodies.”
Wasp launched the new SST Boss 3-Blade Broadhead (above), a 100-grain head designed to fly accurately with bows shooting 300 fps and even faster. The SST tip combines with virtually indestructible .027-inch blades for increased penetration on large, thick-skinned game. The three-blade design has a 1 1/8-inch cutting diameter, and the Boss comes with two extra sets of blades.
The Cabela’s 100-grain Instinct Incision broadhead (above) is built from aircraft-grade aluminum with a hardened chisel chip to punch through hide. It continues its 1 1/4-inch cutting path with three razor-sharp, stainless-steel blades, each one measuring .030-inches in thickness. This low-profile, fixed-blade head is ideal for fast bows.
If you like nostalgia, then look no further than Muzzy’s popular 3-Blade broadhead. Crafted from aircraft-grade aluminum, the broadhead punches through with a Trocar chisel chip and cuts deep with .020-inch stainless blades. The 75-, 100- and 125-grain versions have a cutting diameter of 1 3/16 inches. Replaceable blades make this an affordable option.
The Magnus Four Blade BuzzCut (above) has a serrated leading edge that cuts massive amounts of tissue for easy-to-follow blood trails and quick kills. These durable heads feature a Diamond Tip for superior strength, a .042-inch-thick main blade, plus a Bleeder Lock to hold in the 3/4-inch bleeder blades. The cutting diameter of 100-grain head is 1 1/16-inches; on the 125-grain, it’s 1 1/8 inches.
Finally, if you prefer one-piece construction, look no further than the time-tested G5 Montec (above). This stainless-steel, three-blade broadhead comes in 85-, 100- and 125-grain versions, with cutting diameters of 1-inch, 1 1/16-inch and 1 1/8-inch, respectively. You can even order them in pink in the 100-grain offering. They best part is they can be re-sharpened for years of service.
This article was produced in cooperation with Cabela’s.
Hunting images by Mark Kayser