Small Game Hunting With Bow and Arrow
By: Dale Karch and Todd Smith
Good Game Comes in Small Packages
What is THE most hunted animal in North America? The whitetail deer? The black bear? The elk?
Nope! It's the cottontail rabbit! In fact, more hours are logged in the field each year by small game hunters than any other. Let's face it; small game hunting is in our veins. Sure there are some die-hard big game hunters that don't have the time to "waste" on small game. But they're in the minority, and they don't realize what they're missing.
Some of the most exciting bowhunting action on the planet is found in hot pursuit of small game. Whose heart doesn't skip a beat when he hears beagles on the hunt sounding off? Or, perhaps the thought of floating silently down a small river on the lookout for late summer, early fall squirrels is more to your liking?
Have you ever been jolted back to reality by a pheasant busting up at your feet, a flurry of feathers and a cackle that just about made you jump out of your boots? Or how about stalking the tundra and spruce in search of snowshoe hares, or ranging the arid desert for jackrabbits?
Dale and I have shared some great fun chasing the multitude of spruce hens that inhabit the Alaskan far north.
From East to West and North to South, we all have small game to hunt and we love doing it. It's exciting, challenging, rewarding, and produces tasty rewards to boot. Small game hunting has a lot to offer the traditional bowhunter. Not the least of which is plenty of action!
Those of us who have taught Bowhunter Education are well versed in the discussion of how broadhead tipped arrows kill by hemorrhage resulting in blood loss in contrast to bullets which kill by shock and tissue damage. The small game point is, in bowhunting, the exception to the rule. These heads, like bullets, rely on converting the energy from the weapon into a package that kills by delivering a powerful blow packed with a heavy dose of shock and, at times, tissue damage.
Small game comes in many shapes and sizes, as do the points we use to hunt them. In this article we'll cover the various small game heads available to the longbow and recurve shooter and describe their various strengths and weaknesses. You'll also learn the subtle and not so subtle differences between heads, which should make choosing what you need much easier. Certain heads are better suited for particular situations and really, no single head can do it all. A few come close, but we feel it's best to keep an open (and educated) mind as you consider the wide selection of options out there.
After kicking around the best way to present the different heads, we've decided to feature a selection of some of the most popular small game heads and discuss them individually. This way you'll be able to get a good feel for different styles of small game blunts available.
The Hammer™ Small Game Blunt
Nail'em with the Hammer! Offered in a Screw-in Hammer and a Glue-on Hammer, they are devastating on all small game and sure to be your new favorite stump shooting blunt. The fluted design with scalped cutting edges grab into small game and keep the arrow from becoming stuck in trees or under grass. The recessed ballistic point delivers killing shock to all sized small game. Made from hardened steel to take hard hits and keep shooting. Offered in point weights of 100 up to 250 grains.
The Hammer™ Blunt features Scalped edges and recessed ballistic point for a powerful shock and hemorrhage option.
Jack Zwickey and his dad Cliff designed the amazing Judo. It took real 'out of the box' thinking to envision such an amazing arrowhead. They truly are perfect for realistic bowhunting practice. You can shoot into stumps, trees, cut-banks, and even open fields without fear of losing your arrows. The small spring arms that encircle the head prevent deep penetration in the stumps and ground and they grab tall grass and flip your arrows up so you can find them in grassy fields. Judos are the ultimate stump shooting head. Zwickey even calls it, The Unloseable Point. You'd be hard pressed to find a longbow or recurve toting traditional bowhunter who doesn't have a Judo or two in his or her quiver. For that very reason they are often called to perform as small game heads and have many small game species to their credit. Zwickey Judos are available in several sizes and in both screw-in Judo and glue-on Judo versions. Be sure to check out the Judo's big brother, the Kondor Screw-in point. We do recommend that you have over 50 pounds of bow force if you intend to use them for small game.
The Zwickey Judo is known as "The Unloseable Point," thanks to the small spring arms that encircle the head.
Snaro Bird Points
What an attention-getter! This is one popular head, probably because of the four loops of wire on a steel blunt. This head has advantages and disadvantages. They're heavy (200-300 grains) and wind resistant so they slow down your arrow. This makes hitting moving game, especially at longer distances, more difficult. When you see the big loops you think, "Hey, I'll still get my animal or bird even if I'm off a little." But the truth of the matter is, if you miss, this head is not going to get you rabbits and squirrels. You need a lot of power behind this head to take advantage of the wire loops. If you don't have the power, you may hit your target with the loops but you won't have enough power to kill them. We think the best use of these is on birds, and then specifically when you're aiming for the head. In that situation, a near miss will result in a bird in the hand more often than not. When the wires connect on the head or neck of a bird, they're very effective. Snaro Bird Points come in three wingspans; 2" (200 grains), 3" (250 grains), and a 6" (300 grains). Offered in screw-in only.
Snaro Bird Points are most effective against birds.
Bludgeon Small Game Blunt
Made of a hard hitting rubber-plastic. Great for stump shooting and small game hunting. The raised tips offer small game killing shock, yet enough to help prevent sliding under the grass. The Bludgeon blunt is 7/8" wide at the tip and tapers back to 5/16" at the base of the head. Offered in 125 grains screw-in only.
Hard Hitting Bludgeon Blunt
Flat-Nosed Steel Blunts
These points are still quite popular with bowhunters and they do a very good job at killing small game. The Flat nosed deals the shock and a small chamfer helps to prevent skipping. They are stamped with diameter and grain weight for easy identification. If they have any down side, it'd be that they're small in diameter so they don't pack as hard a hit as do the wider blunts and, when used on wood arrows, impacts on the sharp corner of the front flat will often break your arrow. The solution to that is easy though: don't miss! But, of course, that's easier said than done! Still, these heads are a great deal, they've been around forever, and they're every bit as good today as they ever were. They're available in both glue-on blunts and screw-in blunts, so they'll appeal to any small game hunter.
Steel Blunts are a popular, effective, and affordable small game head.
Tred Barta Bunny Buster
The Bunny Buster rubber blunt is so handy it deserves to be included in every bow hunter's small game repertoire. The basic concept of a hard-hitting rubber blunt has been tested and battle-proven for over 50 years. This one, with its one-of-a-kind parallel-to-tapered internal slot, can be slipped over tapered or non-tapered shafts or even over other points on wood, aluminum, or carbon arrows. There's no tapering and no glue needed. Wood arrow users can give new life to an arrow that breaks off behind the head by pulling an extra Bunny Buster out of their pocket and slipping it over the broken end of the shaft for an instant small game or stump-shooting arrow. Make sure to always keep a couple handy.
The Bunny Buster offers more that just convenience; it packs a deadly knockout punch on small game, yet bounces off trees and stumps making it an excellent roving or stump shooting arrow as well. This is a distinct advantage over solid steel blunts. Glancing blows with steel blunts often break wooden arrows, the Bunny Busters bounce and reduce the risk of breaking arrows. Rubber blunts like the Bunny Buster have been successfully used on all sorts of small game, including; snowshoe hare, jackrabbits, grouse, pheasant, squirrel, and more. These blunts deliver a tremendous amount of shock to their target with minimal tissue damage. Whether you use the Bunny Buster as your first choice for small game hunting, or as a secondary head for arrow repair, you'll be pleased with their power and performance. You'll understand why Tred Barta himself uses them!
Bunny Busters are available in sizes to match most arrows on the market and weigh approximately 120 grains.
A versatile small game head, the Tred Barta Bunny Buster, is great for hunting or stump shooting.
Tred Barta Blunt
One of our most popular small game heads is the Barta Blunt. The Barta Blunt has a reputation for putting small game down for good. They've proven themselves time and time again as hard-hitting, quick-killing heads. They utilize a flat faced leading edge that transfers the shock to the animal followed by a sharp edged "Claw" that tears its way through soft tissue causing many small game animals to drop on the spot. Barta Blunts are very effective on all small game. Available in a 145 grain glue-on version only.
The Barta Blunt - Tred Barta lends his name to this quick-killing small game head.
The Head Saver
Designed for the wood arrow stump shooter. The Head Saver keeps your field point or blunt connected to the arrow after the wood shaft has broken behind the point. Works great for stump shooting and small game hunting. Great money saver!
The Zwickey Scorpio is an effective way to convert your broadhead into a small game point
We've included the field point because some folks just don't know any better. In a word, DON'T. Don't use field points for small game hunting. They don't kill quickly and it's not fair to the animal.
Broadheads are not intended for small game hunting, but sometimes they are used. Most of the time it's a big game arrow used to shoot a small game animal when the bowhunter didn't bring any small game arrows with him. We don't really recommend broadheads for small game, but we have seen excellent results on game birds like grouse and pheasant. The risk of shooting clear through your animal is high and if using dogs, broadheads are strictly prohibited. Still, sometimes bowhunters will choose to use broadheads. Recommend you take a look at Zwickey Scorpio Broadhead Stoppers as they help limit penetration of broadheads. Good for turkey hunting too!
Like the birds and animals they were designed for, Bunts and Small Game Heads are available in many shapes and sizes. From simple flat-faced steel blunt to exotic Snaro Bird Points and everything in between, there's a head for every use and every bowhunter.
Dale Karch & Todd Smith
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