Bow Hunting 101: Discovering the Parts of an Arrow

When bow hunting season comes around, you want to make sure you have your gear ready. You test your bow for accuracy, and you have plenty of arrows in your quiver, but how accurate are they? Knowing the parts of an arrow will allow you to examine your arrows before you head out to hunt.

That way, you can identify any arrow problems and only take ones that will fly straight and far. Arrows might seem like simple shafts with feathers at one end and a point at the other, but each piece has a role in the arrow’s success or failure.

What Are the Parts of an Arrow?

Every arrow consists of four parts: the arrowhead, shaft, nock, and fletching. Shooting an arrow that isn’t in perfect order can not only throw off your aim, but it can be dangerous for the hunter.

So, let’s examine the parts of an arrow, starting with the part that will pierce your target: the arrowhead.

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The arrowhead is the part of the arrow that you point at your target. There are three main types and, depending on your intent, you should choose the appropriate head.

Look for any loose pieces or chips on your arrowhead, and be sure they are secure at the end of the shaft before you use them.


If you plan to hunt larger game, you want to use broadheads. They consist of three to four razor blades and provide enough strength to penetrate a large animal like a deer or caribou.

When choosing broadheads, look to see if the blades are fixed, removable, or expandable. Fixed will be one piece, removable allows you to replace dull arrowheads, and expandable have hidden blades.

Field points

You want field points on the end of your arrows when you practice. They’re not strong enough to use for hunting, so if you have these in your quiver, it’s best to leave them at home and not take them out in the field.

The ends look like a bullet or a cone and are usually screwed or glued on the shaft.

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Blunt points

If you hunt small game like rabbits, you want a blunt point. Their shape looks like a field point, but the attachment is more secure, and they may be steel, hard plastic, or rubber.

Archery Man
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The parts of an arrow wouldn’t be possible without the shaft or bolt. After all, without the long shaft, there would be nothing for the arrowhead to hold onto.

It’s important when checking the shaft to look for any nicks or weaknesses. One flaw and the shaft could snap in two under the pressure of your draw, causing injury to yourself and the loss of your prey.

The shaft is either aluminum or carbon, which are lightweight and rarely splinter. When choosing an arrow, the shaft choice is essential because it needs to match your bow’s draw for maximum effectiveness.

You want to consider the weight, thickness, spine, and diameter.

What is the draw weight of your bow? Choose an arrow with a shaft grain of five or six for each pound of draw.

You can rely on manufacturers to produce the correct stiffness for hunting, as well as the diameter, which determines the arrow’s penetration.

The smaller the diameter, the better the impact, but you don’t want a shaft that’s so thin that it will break.


At the end of the shaft, opposite the arrowhead, is the nock. The plastic or aluminum nock is how the arrow attaches to the drawstring of your bow. The slot clicks on, so when you draw, the arrow doesn’t slip.

The nock size matters because if it’s too big for the drawstring, the arrow will move out of position. And if the nock is too small, it won’t lock on at all.

The most common nock is a half-moon, and there are four ways it can attach to the shaft.

Press-fit sits in the hollow of the bolt and is the most common. Pins fit over the bolt and lock into place. Over nocks don’t lock, but they also slide over the end. And conventional nocks have a cone shape and use glue or pressure to stay in place.

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The fletching parts of an arrow are probably what you refer to as the feathers and are essential to your aim’s success.

Manufacturers use either plastic fletching or real feathers on the end of the shaft before the nock.

An arrow needs at least three feathers (real or plastic) in order to fly correctly. That’s because these parts of an arrow stabilize the arrow in the middle of its flight, so you reach your intended target.

Assuming you have three fletchings on your arrow, one will be a cock vane, and the other two are hens. The cock vane is usually a different color. Its job is to show you which way to position your arrow on the string. The cock feather should always point away from the main part of your bow.

The fletchings can cause the arrow to spin or stay straight, depending on how the manufacturer sets them on the bolt.

Checking your fletching is a must when inspecting the parts of an arrow before bowhunting. If the feathers are not in perfect shape and connected firmly to the shaft in the proper places, your arrow won’t fly right.

Not only that, but loose fletching could pierce your hand and cause an injury in the field.

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How the Parts of an Arrow Affect Speed

When you hunt with a bow, your arrow’s speed matters because your target won’t stay still forever.

You take your time finding your prey, drawing your bow, and taking aim, but once you release, you count on that arrow to reach the animal quickly.

The parts of an arrow work together to make that possible, as long as you check your equipment and choose an appropriate arrow for your bow and prey focus.

You want a strong shaft with the correct diameter and pristine fletchings in the right position. The nock needs to fit properly on your string, and the arrowhead must be appropriate for your target.

Depending on your bow, your arrows could travel between 150 and 200 miles per hour.

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Use the Parts of an Arrow to Your Hunting Advantage

Once you understand the parts of an arrow and their functions, you can identify problems before heading into the woods. Ensuring you have the proper arrows in good condition can be the difference between bagging a kill and coming up empty.

If you’re not sure what type of arrows you should use for your particular bow, talk to a seasoned hunter or someone who specializes in bows. Take your bow into a shop, have the arrows fit personally, and check each arrow for integrity before adding them to your quiver.

What arrows do you like to use when you go out to hunt? Have you ever fletched your own arrows or had to get arrow replacement parts? Tell us about what’s in your quiver in the comments!

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