For some hunters, going after a bull elk with a bow is the ultimate test of a hunter’s ability. The skill of getting in close and undetected, having the patience to wait for the right opportunity, and placing the arrow in just the right spot for an effective kill is what each bow hunter strives for.
Yet, none of this means much if the equipment used is not up to standard, and what could be more important than the one piece that makes that first initial impact, the broadhead?
Choosing the Right Broadhead for Elk
Choosing the correct broadhead to perform when it counts is crucial and the broadhead needs to meet certain criteria to be deemed sufficient for hunting elk.
- Sharpness: This may seem obvious and a bit of a no brainer, but the sharper the broadhead, the better the impact and subsequent penetration.
A broadhead is not like a bullet in that it kills with shock by causing massive tissue and organ damage.
A broadhead kills through hemorrhage and hence needs to be able to cut and slice arteries and organs efficiently.
In order to do that it must first penetrate muscle and in some cases bone. Hence the sharper the broadhead, the more effective it can kill.
This is especially true when it comes to elk, as there is a lot of meat and thick bone to get through before the vitals are reached.
- Weight or grain: Now this is where broadheads draw a similarity to bullets. Generally, the heavier the broadhead, the higher the force of impact but also the greater the drop in trajectory at distance.
It is important to find the right weight that suits the animal you are targeting and under what conditions. Don’t make the mistake of going to light on a broadhead when you are wanting to hunt elk.
- Mechanical, replaceable or fixed: We will touch on this on the next section as there is many points to cover. Each bowhunter is different and have their preferences when it comes to broadhead types, the important thing is to choose a type that suits your style of hunting.
- Cutting diameter: As mentioned earlier, a broadhead doesn’t produce the same amount of shock as a bullet does so it needs to cut.
A larger cutting diameter means a greater chance of slicing arteries and organs, however, the greater the diameter the greater drag created on the broadhead which may reduce penetration.
- Kinetic energy: This is important because it plays a major factor in how well the arrow will penetrate. The accepted amount of kinetic energy needed for hunting elk is between 42 to 65 ft.lbs.
Kinetic energy can easily be calculated as the arrow weight, multiplied by arrow velocity (squared), divided by 450,800.
Mechanical vs Fixed Blade Broadheads for Elk
By far the most common debate heard amongst bow hunters is the choice between mechanical or fixed blade broadheads.
This question is an entire article on its own, so to keep it short and to the point, we briefly discuss each one with regards to hunting elk only.
An elk is a big, bodied animal, with muscular shoulders and a strong set of legs capable of carrying that big body over many miles away. With that, a bow hunter only has one true opportunity to make their shot count.
- The critique that the die-hard fixed broadhead users have against the mechanicals is the risk of failure, the chance that the cutters on the broadhead fail to open upon impact. Which will reduce penetration and obviously the ability to cut correctly.
Failure of a broadhead to perform on an elk can mean for a bad hunting experience and hours of tracking a wounded animal that may never be recovered.
- A draw card of mechanical broadheads is the cutting diameter they can produce.
With longer blades hidden during flight that then expand upon or after impact allows the manufacturer to create a broadhead that can cause more damage without reducing the velocity or energy of the arrow. A larger cutting area on an elk will certainly increase chances of hitting vitals.
- There are many that believe mechanical broadheads when deployed correctly will generate a better pass-through rate than the fixed broadheads. This is debatable as there are many factors pertaining to whether an arrow can pass through an elk or not.
Distance of shot, position of elk at time of shot, arrow weight, bow poundage, climatic conditions and so on. Regardless, getting a pass through on an elk is never a bad thing as it certainly makes tracking a little easier.
How Many Blades?
Two blades, three blades, four blades, two blades with a cutter or three blades with a cutter? Another question that a bow hunter must decipher when choosing the ideal broadhead for elk.
In fact, the question is not necessarily how many blades do you want your broadhead to be, rather are you focusing on penetration or cutting diameter?
Additional blades certainly mean a greater chance of hitting arteries and blood vessels, but fewer blades will have to encounter less friction and may pass through the animal with ease.
The higher the number of blades does not necessarily equate to a greater cutting diameter, as some may have you believe.
When it comes to elk, the aim is to create sufficient lethal internal damage so the animal may expire as quickly as possible. The greater chance of that happening is with the correct broadhead weight and 3-blades.
Ideal Broadhead Grain
The ideal grain for a broadhead, whether you decide to use mechanical or fixed, should be related or rather inserted into the kinetic energy formula to determine the correct amount of energy needed to obtain penetration on a bull elk. That kinetic energy, as mentioned above, should be in the range of 42 to 65 ft-lbs.
An example would be a bow that shoots a 400-grain arrow at 297 feet-per-second, through the calculation that will produce 78 ft. lbs. of kinetic energy. This would therefore produce the desired amount of kinetic energy for a bull elk.
It is important to mention that the 400-grains stated is the combined weight of the arrow spine and broadhead.
The specific weight of the broadhead alone should be 100 to 125-grains. Be sure to target practice with your broadheads before heading out hunting as they may fly differently from the target arrow heads.
Best Broadheads for Elk
There is no shortage of broadheads to select from but when you are choosing a broadhead with the intention to target a large game animal such as an elk, then you had better choose a broadhead that has been tried and tested.
Below is a quick recommendation of four fixed blade broadheads and four mechanical broadheads from brands that have built solid reputations within the hunting industry and have hunter’s successes on elk to back them up.
Top Fixed Broadhead Brands for Elk
There is no better fixed blade broadhead out there for damage than the QAD Exodus. Testing these broadheads I wasn’t sure what to expect.
In the sharpness test they were performing pretty good, but some blades seem sharper than the others.
On the shooting test, they were flying pretty good but nothing to get too excited about.
But on the damage test, they were in a league of their own. If your looking for a fixed blade broadhead with the cutting damage of a mechanical then the QAD Exodus is what you want.
If I could choose only one broadhead for elk, this would be it, solely for the damage that it can inflict.
G5 Montec CS
G5 took a lot of slack on the standard Montec about not being so durable. However, the Montec CS has settled them doubts and is practically indestructible.
We tested the durability and structure of this broadhead in as many ways possible and each time it came out looking like it had not been fired.
For elk, it’s important to have a solid strong brodhead, and the Montec CS is just that.
I would have liked to see them just a little sharper out of the box. It wasn’t a huge deal as they were still sharp enough and can easily be sharpened in the field.
What I really liked most about the G5 Montec CS was the meat damage. During our testing it left incredible damage on the meat and this is what is most important in an elk broadhead.
Another nice benefit is that it flies pretty well.
The Nap Thunderhead is a solid all rounder broadhead and one of the best performing elk broadheads for the money.
One of the first things you notice about the NAP Thunderhead is it’s size. It is a rather larger imposing broadhead that is quite long and a huge cutting diameter of 1 3/16″.
Despite it’s large size it still flies incredibly well and is pretty accurate.
NAP Thunderhead have taken their fair share of elk and are one of the favorites for elk hunting amongst many bowhunters.
Top Mechanical Broadheads for Elk
Sharp, fast, accurate, and huge cutting damage. That sums up the Wasp Jak-Hammer broadhead.
If you were on the fence before about mechanical broadheads, this might just be the one to change your mind.
Out of the packet the Jak-Hammer was pretty sharp. Maybe not the sharpest we have seen but damn close. However, when you look at the damage it does to the meat it really stands above the rest.
We fired these broadeads over and over at all manner of objects,and each and every time they opened. Not only did they open every time, but everything they hit, they left huge damage.
Another great thing about the Jak-Hammer is that they are pretty durable. After all we fired at, they came back in good shape and we never lost an o ring.
Grim Reaper Razorcut SS
The Grim Reaper Razercut was a close second in testing, maybe even a bit sharper. But since it’s elk broadheads were looking for we had to put it second to the Jak-hammer due to the damage inflicted.
The Razercut is very solidly built which is what you want for an elk broadhead. The cutting diameter is also a little less than the Jak-Hammer.
However, the overall quality feels much better and I don’t think I have ever fired a more accurate broadhead.
The best broadhead for hunting elk, is one that will get good deep penetration from a kinetic energy above 50 ft.lbs while creating sufficient internal damage to the animal with a cutting diameter of 1 ½” plus.
Deciding on whether a fixed or mechanical broadhead is best for elk, is subjective and comes down to the hunter’s preference. Both broadhead types have been proven to kill elk effectively, so it comes down to a matter of choice and weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of each type.
Regardless of the broadhead you decide to use for hunting elk, remember that nothing, no matter how much money you spend on those broadheads or how good the reviews are, they are almost worthless without correct shot placement.