Jun 09 2014
Broadheads for Black Bears
By Clay Newcomb
First of all, anyone who has bowhunted understands that shot placement is 95% of an ethical kill. Puncturing one of three vital organs of any animal on the planet will result in a fatal, quick death. The lungs, heart or liver, no matter the size of the animal, if punctured, will bring it down rather quickly. There are other places that you can hit an animal and kill it, but these would be the ‘deadly three’ and the target area for 99% of bowhunting shots. If you hit one of these organs, the type of broadhead used isn’t as critical. The only variable will be how far the animal runs and how good the blood trail is.
I prefer a fixed blade broadhead for bears. I have harvested numerous whitetails with expandables and have seen some tremendous results using them. However, I’ve also seen some not so good results. Heads that don’t open upon entry or open up during flight or heads that do odds thing when shot at quartering animals. There is more risk for error with an expandable head, period. However, if things go right, the cutting diameter of the head can result in a quick kill.
Bears are tough and unforgiving. My philosophy is to minimize risk revolving around your broadhead and focus on shot placement. The clear choice for me is a fixed blade head. And as we’ll discuss, a four-blade fixed head can have more cutting area than some expandables.
The outfitter that I recently hunted with in Canada doesn’t allow expandable heads in his camp. Being involved in over 100 bear kills, he’s seen them not perform well. The hide of bear isn’t thick like a hog, but thick hair can be an issue with expandables. The head has to maneuver through the thick hair before it penetrates the skin, sucking up valuable amounts of the kinetic energy. The reduced energy can result in lack of an exit wound. Getting an exit hole is critical for bears, as their fat and hair can close up a wound, leaving a minimal blood trail. This is a key point. Two holes is preferred.
Bears often inhabit areas of thick vegetation and limited visibility. Having a solid blood trail is critical for recovery. If you’ve only got one hole, the blood trail will be reduced by 50%, right? A fixed blade broadhead won’t guarantee an exit wound, but it will help.
I prefer to shoot a four-blade, short ferrule broadhead. I am not as concerned with cutting diameter (the length of one linear cut), as I am total cut of the broadhead. Let’s do the math. My four blade broadheads have a 1 1/8” cutting diameter (in two directions). The head has an overall cutting diameter of 2 2/8”. This is more cutting surface than a 2-inch diameter cut, two-blade expandable. It doesn’t matter what shape the cut is, as long as it’s there. Sure a two-inch linear slice may look more impressive than a one inch by one inch X, but I have seen them have the same effectiveness. Get my point?
Overall, my pick is the four blade fixed head for bears. For minimized risk of malfunction and increased chance of an exit wound I chose fixed blade heads for black bear.