Fixed Vs. Mechanical Broadheads for Deer

Will there ever be a true answer to the broadhead debate?

Fixed Vs. Mechanical Broadheads for Deer

About 10 years ago, I was tucked into the edge of a winter rye field on public land in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. I was looking for a deer – any deer – and when that deer stepped out and start feeding my way, I ranged her. When she turned broadside, I 10-ringed her.

As the doe ran off, I watched and waited but the lights didn’t go out. When I found my arrow, it was laying in the field and the grooves in each blade of the mechanical broadhead that allowed them to fully open on impact were jammed full of deer hair. There was a bit of blood on the very tip, but by all of the evidence I could find, my arrow – which should have been capable of a pass-through on a bull moose – had bounced off of a whitetail doe.

A few years later, I shot a solid whitetail buck and watched my arrow stick into his side as if I’d shot an oak door. When I found the broken shaft, I could hear the broken ferrule rattle around inside the insert. That broadhead was a fixed blade model that couldn’t have been more different from the mechanical from the previous season.

The common ground they shared was that they both failed.


Design & Materials

Mechanical or expandable heads have come a long way since they started becoming popular. There have been a pile of designs that were laughable, but unfortunately, bowhunters bought them and shot animals with them. Broadheads with moving parts don’t hold the monopoly on poor designs or their in-field usage, either. We’ve witnessed marketing-dollar backed heads that weren’t qualified to be used on squirrels, let alone deer.


bowhunter at full draw in treestand
The broadhead debate is unlikely to end anytime soon. Bowhunters should choose a quality head based on their individual hunting situations.

The reality is that broadhead choice matters, and when it comes to deer you’d be well-served to consider what head you choose and why. For starters, take a look at your potential choices. How are they designed to cut? That might seem simple, but it matters. For me, curved or serrated blades are out. I like straight blades that are wicked sharp no matter what kind of broadhead they’re on.

With mechanicals, I like broadheads that open by allowing the trailing edge to move back and into place as opposed to the jackknife style that has to open from the front. If I’m going to use a broadhead with moving parts, I want those movements to be minimal and in line with physics as much as possible.

No matter your choice, don’t bargain shop. Good materials cost money, and if you’re buying broadheads for $5 a head, you’re buying junk. They might work, but they might not and this is not the part of bowhunting where you should cheap out. You need a broadhead to function and to get the cost down to the price of a Starbuck’s iced latte, you’ve got to make too many sacrifices on materials and design.

Cutting Diameter & Surface

The argument for mechanicals is they offer larger cutting diameters than fixed heads, which means when you grass-bag a buck instead of hitting lungs, you’ve got a higher chance of recovery. This is generally true, and a solid check in the plus column. That same 2-inch cutting diameter head won’t get through a shoulder very easily, however. A good fixed blade on the other hand – one designed with a much smaller cutting diameter – might.


Pay attention to cutting diameter but also cutting surface. A compact three- of four-blade fixed head might offer more cutting surface than you’d think, and in my experience, the four-blade options are pretty amazing when it comes to creating nasty blood trails.

bowhunter holding arrow with fixed-blade broadhead
Quality broadheads, which are made with high-end materials, cost more but are worth every penny. There are lots of bowhunting categories you can bargain shop for, but not broadheads.

If you’re a northern Wisconsin bowhunter where bucks could breach 200 pounds on the hoof without even trying, you might be better off with the fixed head. If you’re a southern Oklahoma hunter who won’t deal with an oversized skeletal structure, mechanicals might be a better bet. It’s all situational.

Flight Time

I’ve never had a well-tuned bow that wouldn’t shoot all kinds of broadheads with my field points. I have, however, had poorly-tuned bows that wouldn’t shoot fixed heads, and even some mechanicals, very well. If your bow is throwing knuckleballs, you can mask some of that performance with a smaller in-flight head like a mechanical. But that’s a bad idea.


Clean your tuning house first and then decide what broadhead is best for your hunting situation. You don’t want to use a specific head simply because it’ll act as some sort of Bandaid either because you can’t shoot very well, or your rig is off.

Conclusion

The debate won’t end, and maybe it shouldn’t. It’s a good thing that we are passionate about our broadhead choice, because it (hopefully) means we are considering our options. That’s what we should be doing, and we should be basing our choice on individual hunting scenarios and what our research tells us about how broadheads are made and designed. If we choose wisely, we tip the odds in our favor when we step into the woods and that matters – a lot.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Alternative Season Whitetail Hunt

Alternative Season Whitetail Hunt

Mike Clerkin is hunting the alternative weapon whitetail season in Missouri with his S&W revolver.

Illinois Muzzleloader Whitetail Hunt

Illinois Muzzleloader Whitetail Hunt

G.O. Heath is hunting with his muzzleloader in Illinois.

North American Whitetail - South of the Border

North American Whitetail - South of the Border

Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan head south of the border in pursuit of whitetails in old Mexico.

Battling Breeding Bucks

Battling Breeding Bucks

Stan Potts heads to his home state of Illinois to hunt whitetails with his bow during the November rut.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Here's how to crack the summer code. Early Season

3 Types of Late-Summer Bucks & How to Hunt Them

Garrett Tucker

Here's how to crack the summer code.

Fill your quiver with the right ammo this season. Bowhunting

The Best Arrows for Deer Hunting

Tony J. Peterson - June 10, 2019

Fill your quiver with the right ammo this season.

Understanding what deer eat and how they adjust their diets to meet changing nutritional requirements will not only increase your chances of harvesting a good buck, but also your enjoyment of whitetail hunting. Land Management

What Do Deer Eat?

Dr. James C. Kroll

Understanding what deer eat and how they adjust their diets to meet changing nutritional...

Good location is just part of the equation. Scouting

The Best Summer Trail Camera Strategy

Tony J. Peterson

Good location is just part of the equation.

See More Trending Articles

More Bowhunting

Danny Farris explains some of Easton's latest arrow technology. Bowhunting

On Target: Easton's Arrow Technology

NAW TV - January 14, 2018

Danny Farris explains some of Easton's latest arrow technology.

Pat Hogan explores options for archery targets. Bowhunting

On Target: Archery Target Options

NAW TV - December 08, 2015

Pat Hogan explores options for archery targets.

Check out our lineup of the top new crossbows available this year! Bowhunting

6 of the Best New Crossbows for 2018

Haynes Shelton - June 21, 2018

Check out our lineup of the top new crossbows available this year!

Stan Potts discusses which archery releases may be best for you. Bowhunting

On Target: Archery Releases

NAW TV - March 27, 2017

Stan Potts discusses which archery releases may be best for you.

See More Bowhunting

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.