The ATA show might be the worst place in the world to test bows. I hate to start with such a caveat, but there it is. The show floor is loud, clanging with distractions, and all the bows are set up differently, most notably with varying draw weights, somewhere between 50 and 60 so anyone can shoot them. It’s a mess.
And yet, there is much to glean. I just returned from show, held in Nashville earlier this week, and had a chance to look at and shoot pretty much all the new bows in one place. And while there was no way for me to fairly compare or rank the various models here, I was able to get a solid first impression. What’s more, having thoroughly tested all the flagship bows from last year, I could quickly see if and how each company stepped up their game for 2014.
And now, with that sweeping qualification aside, here are my first impressions of this year’s new compound bows.
As I write this, I am traveling to the 2014 ATA show in Nashville, Tenn., where I will, for the first time, get my hands on the mystery bow that one of you will win at the end of this contest. Meanwhile, Bowtech unveiled this new flagship on their website this morning. And so, the mystery is revealed and here it is (pictured above): the new RPM 360, so named because it is the company’s fastest flagship bow ever with a smoking IBO of, you guessed it, 360 fps. Judging by its appearance and specs, the RPM looks like the 2013 F&S-Best-of-the-Best-winning Experience with afterburners.
If you weren’t motivated before, you should be now. And as ever, all you have to do to win it is score some bucks.
Jack Hoffman, holding a custom Henry .22 rifle given to him by auction-hunt winners Robert and Riley Colson.
This is 7-year-old Jack Hoffman. You might recognize him; he’s pretty famous. Jack’s 69-yard touchdown run at the 2013 Nebraska Cornhusker’s Spring Game landed him on the news and talk-show circuit, in the Oval Office to meet the President, and at ESPN’s latest awards ceremony where he took home an ESPY for “Best Moment” in sports.
Jack is a true hero. While fighting his own battle with pediatric brain cancer, he—along with his family and the Team Jack Foundation—has raised more than a million dollars to help find a cure for the more than 3,000 other kids who are diagnosed with the disease every year.
I'm accustomed to seeing deer on magazine covers, but I snapped-to a couple weeks ago in the grocery-stole aisle when I spotted a whitetail doe on the cover of Time, with the headline: "America's Pest Problem: Why the rules of hunting are about to change." I tossed the magazine in my cart and read it as soon as I got home.
If hunting usually takes it on the chin in the mainstream media, the Time feature was a notable exception. Fairly and thoroughly reported, the story took a nation-wide view of wildlife populations, particularly in suburban areas. Author David Von Drehle interviewed biologists, community leaders, and citizens and came to the conclusion that, in most cases, hunting is indeed the most effective, cheap, and humane method for dealing with critters when they become pests.
Can’t figure out why you’re not getting good blood trails? Maybe your broadheads are dull. If you think that doesn’t make much difference, you’ve obviously never cut your finger with a really sharp knife. Trust me, it’ll bleed. A lot.
What's that? You didn't get a new compound bow for Christmas? Well buck up. You can still win Bowtech's brand-new 2014 flagship model, and this one is guaranteed to be newer than any that the other boys and girls got last week, because this one hasn't even been released yet. I will find out—and report to you—exactly what it is at next week's ATA Show. To win it, all you have to do, as usual, is score some bucks.
If you’re still hanging stands for this season, here’s a tip that will help you get set up more quickly and safely. Otherwise, put it in your memory bank for next fall.
As I say here, the most precarious part of hanging a lock-on stand, especially a heavy one, comes when you have to hold the weight of the stand with one hand while trying to secure the strap with the other. It’s an awkward, slow, and potentially dangerous process.
Check out this amazing antler Christmas “tree” made by Caleb Stewart, my guide on a recent whitetail hunt with Gobbler N Grunt outfitters (gobblengrunt.com) in northern Nebraska. He constructed it in pretty much the same way as shown in the video below, except that animals, I suspect, were harmed (and eaten) in the making a Caleb’s version. Also, he simply wraps string lights on his.
For the “trunk,” Caleb starts with 6-inch-diameter PVC, tapering to 4-inch and then 3-inch. He screws the antlers to the pipe in the same way as shown, drilling pilot holes through the antler and the PVC and securing with screws. Then it’s plumber’s putty and the same trompe-l’oeil technique to make it all look real.
Tis the season of wishing for certain things without any certainty of what you’ll actually get — of giddy suspense with a dose of mystery. So in keeping with the season, Bowtech is putting up their brand-new 2014 flagship bow for a prize — so new, in fact, that it has not yet been released. Which means you boys and girls will have to wait until after Christmas (and in fact after the ATA show during the first week of January) to find out exactly what’s under the red ribbon. Meanwhile, the fact that Bowtech’s last two flagship bows won back-to-back F&S Best of the Best Awards means you should be very excited.
As usual, all you have to do is score some bucks. But we’ve got a twist here, too: blacktails and muleys. Bowtech, after all, is headquarted in Oregon, and why should this be easy?
Both of my freezers are full. There’s no real need for me to take another deer, which is perfect this time of the season. It means I can head for the big woods, deep into the low conifers and the high beeches, where a northeastern hunter ought to be once there’s the promise of snow. It means I needn’t give a thought to what might walk under my treestand down on the farm. It means I can take my muzzleloader for a long, quite walk in the timber, and probably not see deer, and not care one way or another.
So that’s what I did. On the morning of the season’s first snowfall, which had started as sleet in the middle the night but turned into big wet flakes by dawn, I walked a straight mile toward the first bedding ridge where hemlocks rise to a granite knob. If you’re very lucky, you can sit here and watch deer below as they filter in to bed against rock’s south-facing base.