Tag Archives: gear

Bow Accessories: Moving Parts vs. Fixed

Bow Accessories: Fixed vs. Moving Parts

When it comes to modern bow accessories, your options are unlimited. Some parts move–like slider sights and drop-away rests–and some are fixed–like stabilizers and quivers. Today we’re going look at the potential drawbacks of having moving parts on your bow setup.

I’ve tried a myriad of accessories in my time, but last season really forced me to reconsider some of my choices. Here’s what happened:

In 2017 I got a brand new, high-performance speed bow to replace my old single cam bow. This new “speed” bow shot field points wonderfully. Then, about a week before the hunt, I screwed on my time-proven broadheads and they flew all over the place! After many fruitless hours of trying to re-tune the bow, I gave up and switched to mechanicals. And all was well…until…

Half-way through my deer hunt–and 300 miles from home–I was taking some practice shots at camp when my slider sight stripped out and no longer functioned. Try as I might, I couldn’t fix it. Fortunately I had an old multi-pin sight on my backup bow. I bolted it on and all was fine.

But this got me thinking…

Since its invention in 1966, the compound bow–and every accessory that can be attached to it–has been reinvented or re-engineered over and over again. The old “stick-and-string” has become an extremely complicated, finely tuned instrument of death…which is good…but maybe too good. Why? Because the more complicated something is, the more that can go wrong.

Bow Accessories to Consider

In this article I’m going concentrate on the four major moving parts of your bow setup that you may want to reconsider before heading into the backcountry:

  1. The Arrow Rest:  There was a time when the arrow rest was just a shelf cut into the bow. Before that, it was your knuckle. Now it’s up-and-down-swinging tuning fork contraption tied to a buss cable. Almost every bowhunter I know uses one. But not me; I use a Whisker Biscuit. The Whisker Biscuit is a shoot-through containment rest (aka capture rest). It bolts into position and holds your arrow securely in place. Unlike the popular drop-away rest, the Biscuit has no moving parts. The arrow just shoots right through it. The only drawback is an infinitesimal reduction of arrow speed. I use the Whisker Biscuit because it’s reliable and simple. It’s also inexpensive; about half the cost of a decent drop-away rest.

    The time-proven Whisker Biscuit.
  2. The Bow Sight: You have two options: Fixed pins or movable pins (aka slider sights). I used a fixed pins for twenty years, and then one day I fell in love with the slider sight. The slider sight was simple: one movable pin that doesn’t block your target. You just dial up the yardage and shoot. Then one day my slider broke right in the middle of my hunt! Now I’m back to fixed pins. I sure like the idea of a slider sight–and may go back to it someday–but for now I’m sticking with the multi-pin.
  3. Bow Cams: Almost every modern bow is powered by either single cams or dual cams. Cams are the power engine of your bow, so this is a major consideration when choosing a bow. Basically, single cam bows are more simple and easier to tune than dual cams. The major drawback to single cams is that they produce a slower arrow speed than dual cams. Dual cam bows (aka speed bows) are faster, but harder to tune because, a) both cams must roll over in perfect synchronization, and b) the extreme velocity of the arrow accentuates slight imperfections in bow tuning, broadhead design, arrow design, and shooting form. These days bow manufacturers claim to have conquered tuning issues by tethering the dual cams, but in my experience dual cam bows are still more difficult to tune than single cams. I’m sure it has a lot more to with blistering arrow speed than tuning, but just remember, accuracy suffers by adding extra speed. This leads us to broadhead selection.
  4. Broadheads:  Almost all broadheads fall into two categories: Fixed blade or mechanical (aka expandable). Simply put, mechanical blades fold into the tip during flight, and then expand on impact. Because the blades are hidden, they are less affected by wind resistance and planing. Thus, mechanicals are more accurate than fixed broadheads, especially on speed bows. The major drawback of mechanicals are twofold: a) more moving parts make it susceptible to breakage or blade loss on impact, and b) less penetrating power due to energy loss during blade deployment.
    Mechanical vs. Fixed broadheads

    Fixed blades are inherently stronger and have better penetration than mechanicals. However, they can be nearly impossible to tune with modern speed bows. The most important factor in choosing a broadhead is how well it shoots through your bow. Personally, I prefer fixed blades with my single cam bow and mechanicals with my dual cam bow. FYI, the most accurate  fixed-blade broadhead I’ve ever used is the Trophy Taker Shuttle T, and my favorite mechanical is the Rocky Mountain Warhead. Note: the Warhead is extremely reliable and very inexpensive (only $12.99 per 3 on Amazon).

Conclusion

Compound bows are much more complicated than they used to be, which is good and bad. Bow manufacturers tout speed as their primary selling point, but faster bows aren’t necessarily more accurate. The same concept applies to arrow rests, bow sights, and other accessories. Newer isn’t always better.

When it comes to equipment selection, I recommend keeping it simple. And when it comes to moving parts, less is more.

Consistent success afield comes from skill and woodscraft, not gear. As always, I recommend focusing more time and energy on the process and less on equipment.

Good luck!

The Archery Advantage

Advantages of Archery over Gun Hunting

Hunting big game with archery tackle is one of the greatest challenges a person can face, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. Stalking close to unsuspecting prey, and then harvesting that animal with a stick-and-string stirs the primal spirit and reconnects us with nature in a way that gun hunting can’t. But did you know that bow hunting also has several advantages over the gun? Let’s look at a few:

1) Early Seasons/ Late Seasons: In most western states, the archery seasons occurs before the rifle season. In Utah for example, the archery hunt begins in mid-August when deer are still in their relaxed summer routines which makes them more predictable and easier to stalk. They are also velvet-clad which keeps them out of the thick timber.

By the October rifle hunt these same bucks become hard-horned and tend to stick to thick timber, making them harder to locate.

States like Idaho and Utah also have archery-only, late season rut-hunts which allows archers to take advantage of giant, rut-crazed bucks which are much easier to locate after the rifle season ends.

2) Longer Seasons: Most western states have much longer archery seasons than rifle. In Utah for example the general archery season is 28 days long compared to the 9-day rifle hunt. It certainly helps to have time on your side, and having a season that’s three times longer will allow many more opportunities.

3) Warmer Weather: Early season means warmer weather, and warmer temperatures means more time afield. You’re also less likely to get snowed out of your hunt.

Cold weather wears on your overall attitude, thus compromising mental toughness. It’s far much easier to get discouraged when you’re cold and wet.

And finally, warm weather affords lighter clothing and less gear to pack around, making you quieter and more mobile.

4) Easier to Spot: Summer bucks wear a reddish-orange coat throughout August which makes them much easier to spot against green vegetation. They also run in bachelor herds well into September, and since there’s more of them, they’re easier to spot. By October most big bucks are running solo and holding tight to heavy timber during daylight hours.

5) Better Draw Odds: Probably the greatest advantage of archery is ease of drawing a tag. In the unit where I deer hunt, I’m guaranteed an archery tag every year. But gun hunters are only able to draw every other year due to high demand. This is an important archery advantage, because if you can’t get a tag you’re not going hunting!

The same advantage applies to limited entry and other high demand tags. In Utah it takes an average of two years longer to draw a limited rifle tag than a limited archery tag.

6) Quiet Weaponry Means More Opportunities: As any archer can attest, it’s just a matter of time before you sail an arrow over some unsuspecting buck that you’ve spent hours stalking. But if you have a quiet bow–as most bows are–you’ll likely get a second chance. This happened to me last year, and fortunately my second arrow got the job done.

Probably the worst disadvantage of rifle hunting is that all the deer on the mountain are alerted after the first rifle shot. After that, any deer with any sense goes into deep hiding and becomes extremely difficult to find.

7) Archery Makes You a More Skillful Hunter: Sure, there are many skillful rifle hunters out there, but shooting accurately is only half the battle, for both rifle and bow. When the deer are holding tight to timber, you’ll need to have some decent stalking and locating skills. That’s what the bow affords: it forces you to be quiet and patient, to slow down, and to learn everything you can about your prey in terms of behavior and habits. Inevitably, the byproduct of all of this extra effort leads to a deeper connection to nature and a richer hunting experience.

Conclusion

When I made the transition from rifle to bow, I was blown away by how little I knew about deer behavior, much less my ability to stalk close to them. I burned many tags while building these skills, but in the end I’ve become a far more effective hunter.

Above all, archery hunting makes the whole experience far richer than simply sniping deer with a long-range rifle. Long after the meat is gone and the antlers are nailed to the wall, that experience will linger on. And isn’t that what we’re really hunting for?

Hunt Like a Cougar

Hunt Like a Cougar

Who is the greatest mule deer hunter in the world? That’s right, it’s Mr. Cougar (aka mountain lion). Out West an adult cougar kills a mule deer every 10-14 days. That’s 30 deer per year!

Why do we care? Because the average western hunter is lucky to kill just one mule deer in a year. At that rate how can anyone expect to improve their skills, especially when hunting with primitive weapons? Perhaps we can learn a few things from our feline friends…

Cougars are actually similar to humans in many ways. For instance, we’re both predators and meat-eaters with forward-placed eyes designed to catch fast motion. We’re similar in size and even color: a cougar is tan/orange just like a human before he dons some fancy camo pattern. And just like cougars, we love to hunt mule deer!

A few years ago I started comparing my own hunting style with that of a cougar. I found this to be a surprisingly helpful way to hone my hunting skills and make decisions afield.

How to Hunt Like a Cougar

Below I’ve listed several traits that make a cougar such an efficient mule deer hunter, and how we can learn from them:

• Cougars stalk very close: Killing is done eye to eye, paw to hoof. Survival means stalking very close and remaining completely undetected. Deer can’t see super-slow motion or fine detail, so the cougar capitalizes on those weaknesses. Stalks can last several hours, and even then, most stalks end in failure. But the cougar persists and eventually eats. The two greatest virtues a hunter can glean from cougars are patience and persistence.

• Cougars are light on their feet: Have you ever seen an obese cougar? Heck no. Mature males typically weigh 125 to 220 pounds, and they only eat as much food as is necessary to survive. Cougars also eat 100% organic, lean meat and avoid processed food and carbs. Instinctually, cougars know that over-eating will slow them down and make them inefficient killers. What can we learn? It’s pretty obvious: stay trim.

• Cougars hunt alone: Cougars rarely hang out in packs, and when they do it’s usually a young family or juvenile group. Adult cougars live and hunt on their own. There’s no reason in the world they would hunt in a group. Hunting in a group increases visibility, doubles their scent, and slows them down. A cougar doesn’t get home sick or lonely either, which makes him mentally tough and distraction-free. For all these reasons, bowhunters can benefit greatly by hunting alone too.

• Cougars cover lots of ground: A cougar’s home range is anywhere from 10 to 300 square miles, and he often travels hundreds of miles in search of game. He’s constantly mobile. If a cougar keeps hunting the same mountainside every day, he’ll eventually run out of food and starve. Human hunters might consider doing the same. If you aren’t finding deer where you have in the past, it might be time to move on. Being flexible enough to explore new areas (or new units) could be the ticket to success this season. More importantly is being physically able to cover lots of rugged country once you’re out there.

• Cougars don’t carry extra weight: Killing is done using powerful fangs and claws, not heavy, cumbersome weapons and a pack-load of gear. The cougar travels light, carrying only the basic necessities to live full-time in the wild. Sure, humans have different physical needs, but how different are we, really? We have a coat, the cougar has fur; we have a tent, he has a den; we have shoes, he has footpads, etc. Is a GPS, binos, cell phone, or camera really necessary to kill one mule deer? As for weapons, there are a myriad of lightweight options available. Many bow manufacturers make compound bows weighing less than three pounds, and traditional bows weighing less than one pound!

• Cougars minimize scent: There’s no question that cats are clean animals, and the cougar is no exception. Unlike pack hunters (wolves and coyotes) the cougar hunts alone. Thus, he incorporates daily tongue baths and carefully buries his stinky treasures, all for the sake of reducing his presence afield. For us humans, vigilant scent reduction increases your overall success by reducing your footprint in the woods. Of course 100% scent elimination is impossible, but there are a number of ways to reduce scent without going overboard. I am a big proponent of field baths as well as scent-eliminating sprays, deodorants, and detergents.

Conclusion

Down through the ages cougars have used their innate and learned hunting skills to locate and kill more mule deer than any other animal on earth. This perfectly adapted predator doesn’t require fancy gadgetry, technology, apps, or upgrades to be successful. The next time you’re thinking about making changes to your hunting routine, ask yourself, “What would Mr. Cougar do?”

Final Note: If you ever get a chance, buy a tag and shoot a cougar. They are tasty, but more importantly we really don’t need the competition.

Happy Hunting!

Why I Switched to a Single-Pin Slider Bow Sight

Montana Black Gold Ascent single-pin “slider” sight.

Why I Switched to a Single-Pin Slider Bow Sight

Watching my arrow sail harmlessly over a world-class buck at 50 yards wasn’t heartbreaking; it was traumatizing! After replaying the shot over and over for a year, I concluded it was either an error in ranging, or more likely I settled the wrong pin (60-yard?) due to buck fever. Consequently I made some drastic changes to my bow setup last year, starting with my bow sight.

Standard multi-pin bow sight.

For years I used a standard multi-pin, fiber-optic bow sight. When the single-pin (slider) sight came out, I wrote it off as just another unnecessary gadget which would likely introduce more problems than anything. But after carefully weighing the pros and cons, I decided to try it–and I’ll NEVER go back.
Here’s why:

Single Pin Pros

1) It’s far easier to focus a single pin on a small target than to wade through multiple-pins–or worse yet, shooting between the pins–especially under high stress.

2) Multiple pins–whether 5 or 7–take up way too much space in the sight picture. A long row of pins is not only distracting, but blocks too much of the target or animal’s vitals.

3) If you’re shooting heavy arrows and/or pulling a light draw weight, the pins on a multi-pin sight will be spaced widely apart. This adversely affects accuracy. A single-pin sight that can be dialed to the exact yardage has proven to be far more accurate in my experience.

Single Pin Cons

1) The most obvious drawback to a single-pin sight is that every time the animal moves, you have to re-adjust the sight. If the animal moves a lot, or is walking towards you, it can be very frustrating. But after actually using it in the field (and arrowing three animals in 2016), I realized just how rare these scenarios occur. In most cases you’ll have plenty of time to range the animal and move the slider; it only takes a second.

2) Moving a single-pin sight creates extra movement. Again, this proved to be a nonfactor. When hunting thick timber, I leave my pin set at 20 yards and don’t worry about it. If an animal busts out at 25-30 yards, I just have to hold a little higher. When I’m hunting more open terrain I leave the pin at 30 or 40 yards, but it really doesn’t matter because animals that far out are usually calm and won’t notice the slight movement of my hand. After all, just drawing your bow creates far more movement than scrolling a slider wheel.

Final Note

Just about every archery manufacturer makes a single-pin sight now. My only recommendation is buy a sturdy, all-aluminum model that can stand up to the rigors of hunting.

If you’re not yet ready to commit to a single-pin sight, then you should consider a hybrid sight. In a hybrid sight the top few pins are fixed, but the bottom pin is movable. This solves most issues listed above, but again, you still have multiple pins blocking the target. My advice is to keep it simple: one pin, one man, one giant buck.

Hunting Checklist

My Hunting Checklist

I just got back from an impromptu deer scouting trip, and right away I’m inspired to share my own personal “hunting checklist.” My wife and I were both in a hurry to get out-of-town, so naturally we forgot several items. But believe me, I won’t make this mistake during my actual hunt.

Since bowhunting deer is the most important thing I do, I am very thorough in my preparation and gear packing. I have been compiling this list for more than fifteen years and frequently add new items. Note: Some items don’t apply to short trips, or even every trip. Did I forget anything? Let me know.

Here it is:

hunt-list

Primitive Weapons Survey 2015

DWR_Survey_2015
DWR Primitive Weapon Survey 2015

Primitive Weapons Survey 2015

I received this survey from the DWR the other day. It asks several questions about using different and newer technologies on bows and guns, such as rangefinders, 50-cal. bullets, bow-scopes, etc. They even asked my opinion on using crossbows during archery season! How is this even being considered? What a joke!

Of course I answered “NO” on every single question. Do you really need a scope and rangefinder attached to your bow? Do you need to hunt deer with a crossbow? If so, maybe you’re a secret gun hunter.

My old adage is gear won’t save you. Forget about the gear and learn about your quarry. For the greatest success, spend more time in the field and less money on equipment

Anyhoo, in the comment section of the survey I wrote:

Modern bow and gun technologies already put the animals at a greater disadvantage. The purpose of hunting is to build sportsmanship and woodcraft, not executing animals at greater and greater distances. Relying on technological advantages not only discourages fair chase, but reduces the number of animals in the field. In the long run it reduces the number of available tags for potential hunters and therefore discourages hunting.

Hopefully the Utah DWR will listen to real sportsmen.

My New Hunting Gear Page

New Hunting Gear Page

I learned a long time ago that a person can have amazing success with inferior gear and a tight budget. That being said, some basic quality gear is still necessary. And by “quality” I don’t mean the top shelf, newest, high-tech bow or gizmo; rather just something that’ll hold up in the woods and get your arrow on target.

In nearly two decades of bowhunting, I’ve tried lots of gear. Some has held up better than others, and just about everything has been upgraded or replaced…and on a budget no less. I might not be able to tell you what new fancy products are hitting the market this very minute, but I can tell you from experience what works and what doesn’t, and which items are most important and which you can skimp on.

Following this post you’ll see a new tab at the top of the page entitled “My Gear.” Click on it to see a list of my current gear and my very opinionated opinion on each item.

Remember folks, if you don’t first learn to hunt well, the gear won’t save you. Save your money where you can and use it to buy more time afield. Time, more than piece of gear, will lead to that giant buck.

Armguard Basics: Avoiding String Slap

armguard

The Archery Armguard

Oh, the all important armguard. With all the available archery accessories out there, the armguard is often overlooked. In fact many advanced archers don’t even use them. But for the beginning archer, the armguard is absolutely necessary. It’s just a matter of time before you hit your forearm with the string and break all the blood vessels in a three-inch swathe. It’ll take a couple days for the swelling goes down, but the bruise will linger for a week.

Armguards are worn on the inside of your bow arm, somewhere between your elbow and wrist. It should be worn snug enough to not slip around.

Armguards come in all shapes, sizes, and materials and attach around your arm with straps, buckles, Velcro, or string. In ancient times they were fashioned out of leather. Nowadays, it’s mostly stiff plastics, fabric, and cushioned material. You could easily make one out of duct tape if you were so inclined. The important factor is that you have something to protect your arm while you’re learning proper form and techniques.

Armguards come in all shapes and sizes.
Armguards come in all shapes and sizes.

I prefer the Tarantula 3-Strap Armguard because it’s longer than the two-strap and therefore covers more of my sleeve.

Why Do I Need an Armguard?

Obviously the armguard serves to avoid hitting your forearm and wrist with the bowstring, but it also holds bulky clothing out of the string’s path. If the string contacts anything during the shot, then the arrow will be thrown off trajectory.

The most important reason to wear an armguard is so you don’t develop target panic. Target panic is caused by flinching. If you have a very painful experience in the beginning, then you’ll anticipate the shot and lose your focus. You’ll jerk the string loose instead of letting it release on its own. Remember, the release of the arrow should always be a surprise; the result of your back muscles squeezing together, not your fingers letting go. If you develop target panic early on, it could take months to fix it. So it’s best to avoid it by wearing an armguard.

Hitting yourself with a string (string slap) is easily avoided by holding the bow correctly. Remember to hold the bow with your elbow bent slightly outward. If you lock your elbow inward—a common newbie mistake—then you’ll inevitably hit your arm. At the same time, don’t bend your elbow too much or it will force your arm muscles to do the work instead of your arm bones.

Factors that Cause String Slap

If you still have problems with the string hitting your arm, then it’s likely caused by two other factors:

  1. Short brace height. Brace height is the distance between the bowstring and the bow grip when the bow is at rest. Most bows are somewhere between seven and ten inches. If the string is too long for your bow (traditional bows only), then you’ll have a short brace height. Upon release, the bow will pull the string into your wrist. You can easily remedy this problem by buying a slightly shorter string.
  2. Over-gripping your bow. This happens when you rotate your wrist too far around the grip and let the bow settle in the center of your hand. Remember, the bow should settle at the base of your palm and in-line with your forearm. Over-gripping pulls your wrist into the bowstring’s path.

So much for the basics! I’ve touched on a lot of information here, but in the end just remember to wear an armguard. If you practice with proper form, then soon you won’t even have to wear one.