Rise of the Mechanicals

By Nick Simonson

With North Dakota’s archery season fast approaching, many hunters are preparing their bows and related equipment for the Sept. 1 opener.  While most hunters have a set of gear they’re happy with – from their bow and quiver to their sight and stabilizer – one variable that is always on the minds of many bowhunters from season to season, is the large array of broadheads to choose from and whether or not they should make a switch.  Broken down simply, the choice rests with the more traditional fixed blade options versus a number of mechanical or expandable offerings which are growing in popularity.

Fixed blade broadheads, such as the Muzzy MX-3, have stationary blades and have been a traditional offering since the dawn of bowhunting.  Usually an inch or so in diameter, the broadhead and its cutting blades are relied upon to kill deer efficiently.  Expandable broadheads, like the Rage Hypodermic models however, have mechanical parts, which upon contact with a target, expand outward in some cases to a diameter of 2.3 inches, delivering a more lethal blow in terms of area affected.

According to Tony Dorn, Owner of the Outdoorsman in Fargo, expandable broadheads, such as models produced by Rage, have grown in popularity over the last decade, and now sixty percent of his customers utilize mechanical broadheads each season.

“Expandable guys like the amount of trauma and accuracy,” Dorn stated.

That sentiment was echoed by Jordan Beyer, Bow Technician at Scheels in Bismarck.

“People started going more towards [mechanical broadheads] a couple of years ago,” Beyer stated, suggesting growing faith from deer hunters in the expandable models to provide a cleaner, more humane harvest.

However, Beyer relayed that those bow hunting for bigger game, such as elk, still prefer fixed blade options, like Ram Cat and G5 Montec broadheads for their stability in flight and their reliability out of the bow.

In some of the mechanical models, especially right after their entry into the now $35 Million broadhead market, concern over proper deployment of the cutting blades, including early release upon being fired out of a bow, kept many hunters from utilizing expandables and perhaps lingers in the psyche of those hunters unwilling to make the switch.  Recent improvements on many mechanical models, with more reliable blade-holding mechanisms on the broadheads, have helped overcome the early stigma and spur the increased transition to expandable offerings.

Avid bowhunter Dusty Nielsen of Valley City, navigated the ups and downs of the mechanical broadhead market until he found what worked best for him, and in the past two years has harvested two Pope & Young bucks including a 157-inch whitetail last year, and a 148-inch whitetail in 2015.

“I switched over to the Rage hypodermics; I never used to use them, because early models were very touchy, but now with the locking collar, it literally can’t open up until it hits something,” Nielsen commented, adding that at the range he normally takes deer of 20 to 40 yards, he’s very confident in the blades.

While there is still time for hunters to experiment with a variety of broadheads, the season is fast approaching, and shooting with practice blades designed for each type of mechanical or expandable broadhead is recommended so a hunter can get more comfortable with the feel and flight of their arrow.  Nevertheless, with the increased popularity of archery hunting in North Dakota,and nationwide, demand for the gear that will take down deer is growing by leaps and bounds.  The North Dakota deer archery season opens at noon on Fri. Sept. 1, and runs through Sun. Jan. 8, 2018, and resident tags are available over-the-counter for $30.

“Since the gun tag results were released, we’re seeing a lot of people in the archery department,” said Beyer, “there’s a push because they didn’t get their tags, and as a result, this week and into archery season we’ll be very busy,” he concluded.

(Featured Photo: Dusty Nielsen of Valley City, N.D. with his 148-inch whitetail buck taken via a Rage expandable broadhead in the fall of 2015. Photo Submitted)

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