Stick Bows: See The Arrow!
Shoot a visible arrow so you can identify your hits.
By Joe Blake

 At 27 yards the big pronghorn buck stood, legs splayed, as it quenched its thirst at the muddy pond.  The only problem from my perspective in the well-situated pit blind was that another smaller buck stood adjacent to the animal I was concentrating on and effectively prevented a shot.  All I could do was wait and hope that the smaller buck finished drinking and left before my target departed. 

 That’s exactly what happened!  One minute both bucks were noisily gulping down the dirty water and the next minute my buck stood alone as his counterpart turned to vacate the area.  Quickly coming to full draw, I concentrated on the trophy’s chest and released the heavy cedar arrow, but that’s when things became sketchy.  Sure, the Zwickey-tipped arrow ate up the distance in an instant and hit home with a resounding thud, but that was all I knew for sure.  You see, I had recently made up these arrows and used a black cock feather, two gray-barred hen feathers and a black nock…what could I have been thinking!


 Brighten the Way
 One of the most important points to releasing an arrow at a big-game animal is to be able to follow its flight and identify the hit, and this is virtually impossible when using dark or drab-colored fletching and nocks.  This is especially true for instinctive bowhunters who must train their eyes to the flight of the arrow in order to learn to shoot well.  Obviously, if you can’t see what your arrow is doing on each and every shot you can never complete the learning process, and for this reason it is imperative that you use the arrows that you can see well in flight.

 From a personal standpoint, I have always preferred yellow fletching and nocks more than any other color, but white, red, orange, chartreuse and others might work for you as well or better.  Each bowhunter is different and has different preferences when it comes to arrow colors and combinations.  Also, some hunters can get by with just a bright cock feather or even simply a bright-colored nock and follow their arrow’s flight just fine, which is great if you are concerned that the game you are after might pick up a quiver full of brightly colored arrows.


 From years of experience I don’t believe that bright arrows alarm game unless you are waving your bow and arrows around like a flag;  the possible exception being when you are bowhunting for turkeys because they see colors better than other game.  For this reason, I strongly suggest that a bowhunter experiment during the off-season to come up with a color combination that is visible and is to his or her liking.

 Dipping Helps Little
 On the opening hunt I had dipped the crown on my arrows in bright orange which shows up great when the arrows are in the quiver but the color of the cap dip is of little use when the arrow is in flight because you won’t see it!  As luck would have it I didn’t need to identify the hit because the arrow effectively cut the big buck’s heart right in half and he only made it 50 yards before going down in a cloud of dust.  But had the hit been less than ideal the lack of visibility from my arrows could have caused problems.  This is because identifying the hit is of paramount importance because it tells you what type of tracking job you might expect and how you should proceed.

 Now let’s fast forward nearly 20 years to a definitely older and hopefully wiser bowhunter who is carrying a quiver fill of very visible, white arrows.  White cap dip, three white feathers, white nock.  As the tall-tined eight pointer turns broadside at 17 yards the hunter sends a cedar arrow perfectly through the deer’s ribcage and watches as the shaft skips across the hay-field behind the deer.  The results mirror that of my previously mentioned antelope hunt in that the buck raced away but folded up in plain sight only 60 or so yards away.  But what differs is that I knew instantly that the shot was perfect and that the buck’s flight would be short.  The only reason I could be so sure of this was because my white feathers told me so!


 As with nearly all of life’s decisions, arrow colors are a matter of personal preference, but don’t overlook the importance of visible arrows on your next hunt.  If you are a stickbow shooter who uses instinct alone to guide your shafts then don’t even consider an arrow you can’t follow in flight.  While visibility has its practical side, also don’t overlook the sheer joy of watching your arrow arch gracefully toward its intended target, whether it is that buck of a lifetime, a 3-D target or simply a rotten stump.  There’s something almost magical about watching your arrow and target come together, and I for one intend to enjoy the experience by using visible arrows for all of my shooting.