I thought I was going to be doing something else today, so I didn't go hunting this morning. Plans got cancelled, so I'm setting here pondering things.
Thought I would share this:
Quite a number of years ago, a friend of mine, and I did some probing into how animals react to both bow noise, and how they react to arrows "coming at them" noise. This test also involved the banging of 2X4 boards together.
The probing/testing was specifically conducted on free range, and heavily pressure/wired Texas whitetail deer.
Without going into any great detail: In "every instance", the reactions of the animals were greater (much greater) to the arrows, than to the bows, or the board banging noises, and the reactions to the arrows reduced as we took the steps to quiet the flight of the arrows.
No, you can't beat the speed of sound, but you can greatly reduce an animals reaction time to that sound, especially if your arrows are quiet, and (within reasonable adjustments of course) as fast as you can get them.
Do it how you want, but listed in order of importance (for me):
(1) I get my in flight arrows as quiet as I can get them, which is pretty darn quiet.
(2) I get my arrows flying as fast as I can get them while staying in the 9 - 10 gpp window.
(3) I get my bow as quiet as I can get it, which is pretty darn quiet.
The primary reason I use plastic vanes for my fletching has nothing to do with the weather. I can shoot wet feathers just fine. It's all about the in flight arrow quietness, and the vanes are quieter in flight (by far) than the feathers are.
Stealth, and speed all rolled into one very lethal package.
I agree that closer is better. Plus it's more fun when you can see the ticks on their backs
I had my wife record me shooting 4 different arrows. I was 40 yards from the target and she was 5 yards from the target, safely off to the side and behind something. She was probably 5 yards from the arrow's flight path.
here they are ranked by noise level in descending order
5.5" banana, factory turkey feathers
5" traditional, home ground wild turkey feathers
4" parabolic, factory turkey feathers
4" trad vanes, thin flexible plastic vanes
You can hear the banana fletching coming so loud and clear even in windy conditions it blew my mind. I could hear the bow go off, then a whooshing sound getting louder and louder, then the arrow impacting the target.
The trad vanes were so quiet I could barely make out the sound of the arrow. I could hear the bow go off, silence, then a slight sound, then impact.
The parabolic was not much louder than the trad vanes. so that would be a great compromise for tradition and silence. also, I had shot them through a squirrel and a hedge apple, I was not able to steam them back out properly. that's part of why I think they were almost as quiet as the vanes.
The traditional cut was only a little quieter than the banana cut.
I had a bedded buck, in 15 mph winds not alert looking away. Shot him with 5.5 banana feathers and he lunged up out of his bed as the arrow was getting there. I was 20 yards away. I hit a little low and back of where I was aiming. I ended up finding him 17 hours later and had to put another shot on him.
Had I been closer he may not have moved as far, maybe he wouldn't have had time to move at all. But if I had just fletched with either the parabolic or the trad vanes he wouldn't have moved either.
So why not do both? Tonight I had a spike come in 7 feet from my stand, on my arrow was aae trad vanes. I'm doing both.
There's certainly nothing wrong with getting bows and arrows quiet, but once a good shot scenario presents itself (calm big game animal, undetected shooter) the biggest controllable red flag variable affecting outcome outside of lousy accuracy by the shooter is probably distance.
Animals have amazing reaction time but few can "outduck" a point-blank shot released by a practiced shooter from full draw with reasonably tuned gear. At 5-10 yards or so there's simply not enough time for a large critter to dodge the hit and that applies regardless of how fast, slow, or fancy one's archery gear is...unless the critter was already on alert. Under good conditions and excepting equipment malfunction, at very close range if one misses/wounds the fault is generally more a function of shooter error than the animal's super reaction time. So many controllable variables to consider for sure, but if picking just one I believe range would be at the top of the list of importance.
That's why sport-based bowhunting should be a 'get as close as you can' affair, even if under today's rules and tactics it mostly isn't.
I shot my second buck last night, the first was a 7-yard shot and I goofed. I wasn't focused on the shot or where I wanted to hit all I was doing was thinking don't hit the shoulder. well, I hit the t of the shoulder blade. I swore I shot a brick wall. I got 1.5" of penetration and zero blood. the buck walked off like nothing happened.
Anyway, last nights buck is the 8th deer I've shot with a stick bow. so I don't have a lot of experience. It was windy 12-15 mph, he was bedded facing away. I stalked to 20 yards he never turned to look at me just had his ears up. I snapped an arrow on the string, and I mean snapped. Ive never knocked an arrow that loud before. He didn't even move his ears. I got drawn and shot, as the arrow is maybe 5 yards away from him he suddenly gets up. I catch him low and back. I have not recovered him yet but will resume looking in the morning.
My arrow was fetched with 3, 5.5" high profile banana feathers and I'm shooting vented broadheads. this was the only arrow with such big feathers. I just found a bare shaft and threw it together as I have had a pretty fantastic second bow season and am low on arrows. I am hunting in a suburban environment where noise is normal. there is construction noise to be heard from two directions. The snap of the nock didn't bother him, so why would the bow going off? That arrow approaching sure did. I'm shooting a 525grain arrow out of a #42 mild r/d bow with string silencers pretty quiet, and slow.
I wonder how much difference there is between vented and non-vented broadheads and field points. I plan to move to solid heads next season.
With my short draw length and low poundage bows, I have had trouble with plastic fletching hanging up in a critter. Feathers lay down and offer no resistance. Plastic fletching stay up and hang on guts, tendons, bones, etc. That's been my experience anyway. 'course that was 20 years ago. Maybe plastic vanes have gotten softer of late.
I tried plastic vanes, but never got good performance - cost me a huge buck once. I agree that one should find the fletching style that works best and tune well. In my mind, that's about all we can do from the equipment angle. Shooting at a relaxed deer is one of the most important things that affect a deer's reaction to the shot. I have never killed more than a handful of deer, so I don't have near the experience that a lot of you have. However, I have missed enough shots to have observed a lot of deer as they react to the noise of the bow and/or the arrow.
So are you saying, it's not a matter of the critters hearing the noise, but that they react to certain noises more than others? In short, they hear the 2x4s and don't react to them (or react less than they do to arrow noise), and they likewise hear the bow noise, but don't react to it either, or at least less than they react to arrow noise?
I suppose that's possible. The bow noise and 2x4 noise are farther away, (and perhaps new, strange noises to the critters) and perhaps perceived as less threatening (though that perception has to occur with split second speed), whereas the arrow noise is approaching them, higher pitched, and maybe even louder, which might be perceived as more threatening.
There's no doubt that bow noise occurs before arrow noise. If, in fact, they disregard or just aren't as spooked by the bow noise, it has to mean the sound is less threatening to them, not that they can't hear it. The range at which the critters hear the noise no doubt influences the level of reaction as well.
Of course, as I noted before, there are also instances when the critters don't hear any noise, or at least chose not to react to it. The last deer I killed, I shot on a very calm, quiet morning at about 12-14 yards, slightly quartering away while the deer was doing a slow walk. Shot was a bit back, but the deer never flinched until the arrow was through it. Then it skipped ahead a few steps and stood. Then it fell over.
I have been down range of incoming arrows, several times.. ( range, behind a wall) while instructing juniors. With " normal fletching" i myself can hear em coming, no problem. While at Tim's, sitting in a ground level hide, on a wooden bench seat, i let go with a good one that, well, was a prize winner and woulda got me kicked out of a fine restaurant.....nobody so much as flinched, and there were critters all around me...close... but just let that danged green jaybird make its noise and they jump 10' straight up!
My experience is in agreement with Rick's. But I made a couple different choices:
I stuck with feather fletching because part of my archery adventure is to be as organic as possible. I try to stick to natural materials where possible and that means local turkey feathers.
I apply my fletching straight on the shaft. Straight fletching makes way less noise than helical fletching.
I played with 2 fletched arrows. I could never get them to fly without wobble. Wobbly arrows don't penetrate worth a flip.
Hmmmm. How did you separate bow noise from arrow coming at them noise in your test? At the range we most often shoot with traditional gear, 30 yards and usually 20 yards and less, I'm not convinced that the critter reacts more to the arrow noise than the bow noise. The arrow doesn't begin to make much noise until it starts spinning a yard or two from the bow. I don't know how far it would have to get from the bow, toward the animal, to be spinning at full speed to create the most noise. Regardless, by that time, it would likely be too late for the critter to totally jump the arrow, so to speak. On the other hand, if it moves with the sound of the bow going off, it will move a lot further before the arrow reaches it.
I've stood behind backstops on 3-D ranges and had folks shoot arrows past me. At closer range, I always heard the bow before the arrow. At longer ranges, however, the bow noise became less noticeable, or unnoticeable, while I could hear the arrow coming from farther away. At 40-60 yards, I'd say the arrow was half way to me before I heard it, but I certainly did hear it.
In almost all of my experiences, most with 20 yards and in shots, it seems the deer either heard something (bow or string) and reacted, or didn't hear anything and didn't react. And the situations where the deer doesn't react at all at the shot have been just as frequent as when they do react.
Of course, I do try to make my bows and arrows as quiet as possible.
Very interesting thoughts, Rick. I'm thinking of testing some two-fletch vanes between deer and turkey seasons for my ASL's. Jim Neaves at Centaur Archery told me a few years ago that he's completely converted to two-fletch arrows (although I think he's using turkey feathers). Jim reports virtually no fletch interaction with the bow during the shot (fletched at roughly 1 o'clock and at 7 o'clock) and noticeably quieter arrow flight. Also, the fletch orientation is the same no matter how you nock the arrow on the string. As long as the arrow flight is consistently stable (fairly easily achieved via bareshaft tuning), what's not to love?