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Using the right broadhead is so critical to clean bow kills that Wisconsin trophy whitetail guide Ted Marum turns away clients who shoot poorly made ones. “I’m on more blood trails in one season than most guys are in a decade,” Marum says. “And I’ve learned which broadheads work and which don’t. So when a guy calls me to book a hunt, I ask him what head he shoots. If it’s a model I’ve had trouble with, I tell him to either switch or find another outfitter.”

A bad broadhead can cost you a deer when a broadside animal takes a step quartering toward you just as you shoot, when your arrow nicks a rib on its way to the vitals, or when you make a slightly shaky shot. Quality heads are not a fallback for shooters with bad form, but they do provide every possible advantage.

Before choosing a broadhead, you need to understand the pros and cons of the three major categories:

Fixed-blade broadheads are the oldest and simplest design. Most feature a cut-on-contact tip that penetrates better than any other head, making them ideal for tough-skinned game like elk, bears, and big whitetails.

Disadvantages: You need to resharpen them, and their flight can suffer on some fast-shooting bows.

Replaceable-blade broadheads tend to fly well out of most bows, and when the blades get dull, you simply replace them. New tip designs have dramatically improved penetration and flight characteristics.

Disadvantages: They’re usually more expensive than fixed blades, don’t penetrate quite as well, and are slightly less durable.

Mechanical (or expandable) broadheads offer superior flight characteristics, making them the best choice for finicky bows. Quality models have outstanding penetration, assuming the game you’re shooting at is thin-skinned and standing perfectly broadside.

Disadvantages: Penetration and performance can suffer on deflections, or if the head enters at a sharp angle, making disciplined shot selection essential.

You can’t go wrong with any of the six models below. Even Marum will let you hunt with them.

3Rivers Archery Wensel Woodsman (260-587-9501;
WEIGHTS: 125 and 150 grains.
FEATURES: High-carbon-steel construction, Teflon-coated for smooth penetration.
PRICE: $27 for 6.
THE SKINNY: Tough enough to handle the biggest game, the Woodsman also flies well, thanks to its 3 to 1 design ratio (it’s three times as long as it is wide)–all for a very attractive price.

G5 Outdoors Montec (866-456-8836;
WEIGHTS: 85, 100, 125, and 140 grains.
FEATURES: One-piece stainless-steel construction, cut-on-contact tip.
PRICE: $30 for 3.
THE SKINNY: The Montec flies superbly, and its threaded ferrule eliminates gluing the broadhead to an adapter.

Wasp Hammer SST (860-283-0246;
WEIGHTS: 75, 85, 90, 100, and 125 grains.
FEATURES: Stainless-steel blades and Trocar tip, aluminum ferrule.
PRICE: $30 for 6.
THE SKINNY: Perfect flight and outstanding penetration make this head a top choice for budget-conscious bowhunters pursuing any big-game animal.

Muzzy MX-4 (770-387-9300;
WEIGHT: 100 grains.
FEATURES: Aircraft-aluminum ferrule, Trocar tip.
PRICE: $35 for 6.
THE SKINNY: Muzzy’s heads are known for their superior toughness, flight, and durability, and this model is no exception. The MX-4’s cutting diameter is 1/8 inch wider than that of the company’s standard four-blade design.

NAP Spitfire (800-323-1279;
WEIGHTS: 85, 100, and 125 grains.
FEATURES: Snap-locking blade system, stainless-steel blades, high-carbon-steel tip, micro-groove ferrule.
PRICE: $34 for 3.
THE SKINNY: Spitfires are a top seller for good reason: Tough and dependable, they create a large wound channel.

Rocky Mountain Snyper (715-395-0533;
WEIGHT: 100 grains.
FEATURES: Cut-on-contact tip, stainless-steel Cam-Action blades.
PRICE: $30 for 3.
THE SKINNY: The Snyper’s cutting tip means better penetration. At the shot, the blades of this smartly designed broadhead slide rearward to eliminate kickback.