Best New Bowhunting Gear from the 2018 ATA Show
Deputy Editor Dave Hurteau and Hunting Editor Will Brantley reveal their favorite new sights, rests, trail cameras, broadheads, arrows, and more from the 2018 Archery Trade Association show
From bow sights that’ll range the target and pick the pin for you to new trail cameras that’ll fit in the palm of your hand, there’s a lot of cool new hunting gear to see at this year’s ATA Show—in addition, of course, to all the sweet new bows and crossbows. Strolling these aisles is like being in a giant candy store for bowhunters. Here’s some of the best new stuff we’ve seen so far (we’ll keep updating this page as we cover more products each day).
Spot Hogg Double Pin Pointer
Newly included on the company’s Hogg Father and Tommy Hogg double-pin slider sights, this is a small innovation that in the right situation could make a big difference. Unlike your typical single fixed-point dial indicator, the new Double Pin Pointer (shown above) tells you the correct corresponding yardages for both of your pins, no matter what the dial setting. This translates to less dialing, and less potentially game-spooking movement, when a buck or bull is on the move, quickly getting a little closer or farther away—and it’s this sort of obsessive attention to detail that generally makes Spot Hogg sights so outstanding. $389 for Hogg Father; Spot Hogg](http://spot-hogg.com/)
Rage Extreme 4-Blade
The original Rage Extreme punches great-big gaping holes in game animals via a 2.3-inch cutting diameter. If that weren’t extreme enough, this 4-blade version adds a fixed 7/8-inch cut-on-contact blade for good measure. The result is one wicked-looking hybrid head, which (for those who are worried about blade deployment on mechanical heads) is guaranteed to make a lethal-sized hole at the very least—and an absolutely devastating hole at best. The new X-Treme 4-blade features Rage’s Slip Cam technology and Shock Collar blade-retention system, and each package also includes a second set of red high-energy Shock Collars for the hottest speed bows and crossbows. $35 per two; Rage Broadheads
The Bronc Box
This is one well-engineered, virtually bombproof modular travel storage system for not just your bow (or gun), but also your hunting gear, electronics, and photo or video equipment. Perfectly sized for the bed of a pickup, the Box’s foam-lined upper interior compartment measures 42 inches long and fits up to two bows. The lower compartment has 12,000 square inches of space. At 55 pounds, the Box is built for a beating, with a 2-inch-thick foam-filled rotomolded outer shell featuring multiple handles, locking points, tie-down points, rubber feet, and two wheels. The lid has a rubber gasket seal and closes tight with four compression latches. You can customize this hauler with all sort of extras, too, including foam inserts, trays, gun racks, a light, pressure-release valve, and even dividers that double as cutting boards, perfect for breaking down your critter after the hunt. Starts at $995; Bronc Box —D.H.
Nomad Cottonwood Hoodie and Bib
This new mid- to late-season outfit from Nomad checks all the boxes for me. It’s got Berber Fleece, which pretty much all bowhunters love because it’s warm, soft, and totally silent. It’s got a windproof membrane, which is a must when cold breezes start to bite in November. And it’s got a bib, which retains heat around you core better than pants do. These garments also sport a lot smart details, including articulated sleeves, internal gasket cuffs, and a fleece-lined kangaroo pocket on the top. The bib has an elastic waist, targeted venting, and can be quickly converted to pants. Maybe best of all, it’s affordable—at least as today’s premium outerwear goes. $180 for 1/2 Zip Top, $180 for bib; Nomad Outdoor
Rivers Edge Lockdown Stands
This company’s latest Lockdown ladder stands kept catching my eye as I walked the aisles of the ATA show—because even from a distance they looked rock-solid and well made. I took a closer look on the last day and was impressed. All of Rivers Edge’s Lockdown stands feature an exclusive Gridlock system designed to lock the stand to the tree before you ever leave the ground, for safer, less-nerve-wracking setup. Made with high-strength tubing that’s powder coated for better grip, these stands also have Teartuff mesh seats and vinyl-dipped armrests (no cloth padding for squirrels to make off with). There’s a 20-foot Bow Pro version ($199), a 2-man 17.5-foot version ($299), and a Wide 1-man version, shown, ($229). Hunt Rivers Edge
IQ Define Bow Sight
Garmin’s may be the slickest new rangefinding bow sight, but based on the feedback I heard at the show, this is the one more hunters would feel comfortable putting on their bow. For one, it looks more or less like a normal bow sight. For two, if the electronics crap out with the Define, you’ve still got pins to aim with. Last, and probably most important, it’s affordable. IQ’s latest is a quality, 5-pin, aluminum sight with tool-less micro-adjust pins, plus a rangefinder that’s accurate to within one yard. And it’s simple to use. You sight in at 20 yards, and then calibrate the rangefinder to that mark. (Sight in your other four pins while you’re at it.) Then you simply press a button, mounted anywhere on the bow grip, and the laser starts ranging whatever your 20-yard pin is pointing at. If that’s a buck, just pick the right pin for the yardage, and let her go. When you consider the cost of a good sight plus that of a good rangefinder, plus the value of not having to carry a separate unit, the price tag on the Define looks better and better. $349; IQ Bow Sights —D.H.
The Lowdown Trail Camera Viewer
You can’t truly appreciate this product unless, like me, you’re checking multiple trail cameras every week of deer season. I usually bring my SD cards home and run through them on a computer; by the time I’ve scrolled through a thousand images and saved the ones I need, I’ve killed some serious time—and then it’s time to plug in the next card. This tablet-style viewer is, at first glance, like many other photo viewers—except that it’s 60 percent larger, and videos and images load and scroll three times faster (according to the guys doing the talking anyway). The interface is incredibly simple. I picked it up and was scrolling through photos in seconds at the booth. You can select and save multiple photos while scrolling, and store them on a micro-SD card. There is no internal memory or software to slow things down. $199 Low Down Viewer —W.B.
Muzzy HB-Ti Broadhead
Hybrid broadheads that blend a fixed head with mechanical blades have been around in one form or another for years. Up until a few seasons ago, it seemed most bowhunters wrote them off as a little too gaudy, and perhaps even gimmicky. Count me among them. But that’s all changed; I started shooting hybrid heads three seasons ago, and doubt I’ll ever use anything else. Simply put, they always penetrate, cut, and punch huge holes—and the ones I’ve shot have been very accurate. Now, there are bunch of hybrid designs on the market made by many of the major players in the broadhead world. One of the newest is the Muzzy Trocar HB-Ti, which uses a titanium ferule along with a serrated single-bevel fixed blade and a pair of center-pivot 1 5/8-inch mechanical blades. I didn’t get to handle a “live one” to see if it’s as sharp as Muzzy claims, and of course I didn’t get to shoot one—but I plan to. $49.99 Muzzy —W.B.
Rocky Warhead SS
Remember the days when a pack of six good broadheads cost about $30? So do we—and those days are mostly over. But there are still some good bargains out there and several of those are under the Rocky Mountain brand, which has been making broadheads for a long time. Their newest offering is a high-end mechanical with a strong, stainless-steel ferrule and 1.5-inch swing-open-style blades. If the head reminds you of a Rage Hypodermic, it’s probably because both brands are under the same company umbrella—and the ferrule of this one is very similar to the Rage. The Rocky Warhead SS, however, costs $29.99 for a package of three. I expect a tough, compact mechanical like this to be an accurate head with plenty of penetration potential for lower-poundage shooters. Hunt Rocky Mountain —W.B.
Alps Outdoorz Impact Turkey Vest
I do keep a fully stocked turkey vest in my truck all spring—but I’m constantly rifling through the pockets to grab a few mouth calls and shells (or my rangefinder and release when I’m bowhunting) to stash in a fanny pack. If I can get away with it, I much prefer to travel light in the turkey woods. That’s why this vest made such a good first impression on me. It’s a simple, lightweight setup (the whole thing weighs less than 4 pounds) with fold-out stadium-style seating. But the selling point for me is that the front calls and accessories pockets detach with the snap of a couple buckles and can be thrown over the shoulder as one hip-sized unit with an included carrying strap. You can take the essentials and leave the vest behind—either in your truck or on the edge of the woods when you need to creep across a pasture after a strutter. At $110, this vest is refreshingly inexpensive, too. ALPS OutdoorZ —W.B.
Sitka Apex Pack
In a saturated market of high-end, extended stay packs with frames, it’s nice to see a brand like Sitka introduce a lightweight, well-designed daypack with some really smart features for spot-and-stalk and even treestand hunting. It has 1,800 cubic inches of space—which is plenty of room to stash a few extra layers, lunch, water, and gear for an all-day hunt. The hip pockets have retractable cam cables, a really cool feature that provides the perfect resting spot for the bottom limb of your bow while glassing, ranging, or just waiting on a critter to turn broadside. $199. Sitka Gear —W.B.
Cirrus Wind Indicator
Some of the coolest things you find at the bow show are from the smallest exhibitors, tucked in some out-of-the-way aisle. Case is point: this is a vapor-cartridge wind indicator with multi-color LED lights that allow you to check subtle breezes and thermals during the day or in total darkness. It also functions as a flashlight and a USB portable charger for your phone (or other devices). Each replaceable cartridge gives you over 1,000 puffs of scent-free smoke, or cover-scent smoke in earth, pine, and acorn. $49; Cirrus Outdoors —D.H.
Sitka ESW Shirt and Pant
ESW stands for “Early Season Whitetail,” and it’s Sitka’s coolest new addition to their lineup, perfect for August and September bow hunts in the hottest conditions. Both top and bottom feature ultralight breathable fabrics with targeted venting to keep sweat at a minimum, plus Polygiene odor control to keep whatever sweat there is from stinking up the woods. Soft and slightly stretchy, the top’s fabric is very quiet, with silent snaps, and a raised collar to help keep the sun off your neck. The bottom is a slightly heavier—and therefore tougher—fabric that can handle the brush, but still stays cool, with tons of venting and an elasticity that makes for more comfortable climbing for treestand hunters. All in all, it’s the kind of crazy attention to detail that you expect from Sitka, made just for whitetail nuts who can’t wait to start hunting. $129 for shirt, $149 for pant; Sitka Gear —D.H.
CuddeBack CuddeLink Cell
Last fall CuddeBack came out with the Cuddelink system, which allows you to deploy up to 15 remote cameras that automatically link and send all their images to one home camera. So instead of having to check all of those cams—and disturbing as many different areas on your property—you check just one, with no fees. For 2018, Cuddeback has added the option of cell service on their G Series Home unit, which after receiving low-res images from all your remote cams will then send them to your computer or phone, all on one low-cost cell plan. Just $15 a month, for example, lets you receive up to 1,000 images. We will be testing this system in the field to see how well it works in the real world, but for now, the concept sounds great. $750 for four J Series Remote Cameras; $200 for G Cell Home unit. Cuddeback —D.H.
Primos Proof Cellular Camera
A cellular camera that’s easy to use and costs less than $200? Just take our money now. Primos —Michael R. Shea, editor-at-large
RPM Bowfishing M1-X Trigger Reel
Though bottle reels dominate the water for today’s bowfishermen, spincast reels do still offer some big advantages, including faster arrow retrieval and the ability to fight a big fish with the reel’s drag system. Many bowfishermen believe they provide better arrow flight, too. Trouble is, forgetting to press the button on a spincast reel can cause broken line and a lost arrow or, even worse, a snap-back. The new M1-X from RPM Bowfishing combines the free-spool advantages of a bottle reel with all the advantages of a spin-cast. The reel is always in free-spool mode; after a shot, you just engage the reel’s trigger and reel your big old fish right to the boat (you never miss, right?). You can engage that trigger without ever letting go of your bow’s grip, too. I’m buying one of these soon as summer gets here.
$74.99/ RPM Bowfishing
Barronett Ox4 Blind
For the price, Barronett makes some of the best hub-style ground blinds out there. I’m going on season three with one of their budget-priced Grounder 250s, and that’s after leaving it out for the entirety of deer and turkey season. It’s a little faded, but otherwise good to go. So I’m pretty excited about their new Ox series of blinds, which are built with the new OxHide bonded fabric. It seems to be rugged stuff that looks like it’ll hold up over the long, long haul. The newest of these blinds is the Ox 4, which has a 60×60 footprint and is 72 inches tall. The Ninja adaptable window system can be adjusted for gap height without noisy Velcro or zippers. The blind weighs 28 pounds, which is a tad heavy, but I’d plan to set it up and leave it out for the season.
$180 / Barronett Blinds
I’ve tried several styles of lighted nock, and haven’t particularly cared for any of them. They have obvious advantages in the woods, but I haven’t used any of them with a really easy—and reliable—means of activation and deactivation. The dirty little secret is some of them will really screw with your arrow’s flight, too. The brand-new Glory Nock promises to be the user-friendliest lighted nock on the market. It’s activated by the bow’s string, and deactivated by pressing a miniscule button on the side (you can barely see it) and pulling it off the string. It’s virtually foolproof, perfectly low profile, and weighs just 13 grains. The nocks are sold in packs of three for $24.99, or individually for $9.99, and are available in a variety of colors and sizes.
VAP Xtorsion Arrows
When you think Victory Archery, you think micro-diameter carbon arrow shafts. If you’ve shot many of them (I’ve been hunting with them the past three seasons, and we’ve using them as our official test arrows in our annual flagship bow shootout the past two years), you know they’re very consistent, tough, and penetrate game like needles through wet tissue. This year, VAP has gone for even better durability and penetration potential with the new Xtorsion shafts, which infuse woven carbon fiber with stainless steel. There’s no other arrow shaft like it on the market. They’re available in 300, 350, and 400 spines and weigh 11 grains per inch (350 spine). You can opt for 30-grain aluminum inserts, or boost your FOC with 60-grain steel inserts. These arrows will be sold in packages of six and they’re so new, we don’t have a price for them just yet.
Primos Double Bull SurroundView Ground Blind Primos
Okay, it’s only Day One here at the ATA show, but the new Double Bull SurroundView blind is currently tied for the coolest new hunting accessory I’ve seen so far (see the new Garmin bow sight below.) And, I don’t think anything I’ll see in the next few days is going to change that. This is a legit innovation. The SurroundView 360, which the company has dubbed “the blind with no blind spot,” is fully wrapped, at eye level, with an ingenious one-way see-through material. From the outside, critters see only a solid bank of Primos Truth Camo. Yet from the inside, you see a black backing with thousands of pin-holes that appears almost perfectly transparent. In other words, you get a wide-open, 360-degree view of the terrain you’re hunting—as well as any deer or turkeys trying to slip in from the side—while still being totally concealed. When I first heard about this product, I figured the SurroundView material would have to be too porous and flimsy. It’s neither. Originally used for outdoor patio awnings, it’s heavy, tough, and made to withstand bright sun and bad weather. According to the PR folks, at least, the pin holes are small enough that while some moisture can seep through, rain is kept mainly on the surface of the outer fabric. The practical advantages of this blind are obvious, but it also makes for a much better hunting experience. Whereas most blind leave you feeling confined and cut off from your surroundings, the SurroundView brings the outdoors in and transforms what it feels like to hunt from pop-up. The 360 model is 77-inches hub-to-hub and 70 inches tall. $499; Primos. Also available in SurroundView 270 ($399) and 180 ($299) versions.
Garmin Xero A1i Bow Sight
This is the hottest new bow accessory at the 2018 ATA show. The company’s booth was packed this morning with gawkers wanting to get a peek at this wild new technology. In a nutshell, the Xero A1i is the first bow sight that incorporates a laser rangefinder that displays both an angle-compensated distance to your target and a pop-up LED sight pin calibrated to hit dead-on at that precise yardage. No guessing, no gapping. Once you sight in and calibrate pins for at least three different distances, as far out as you care to shoot, the sight computes the correct holds for all distances in between. That done, you press a button to range your target via a red LED dot inside the housing, and up pops a correctly calibrated green LED sight pin. Aim and shoot. There’s a lot more to this sight than I can explain here. It can be set up for automatic single pin (as above) or multiple set pins. You can customize the LED colors. You can program the sight for multiple “bow profiles,” if you want to shoot a different arrow or back off your bow poundage. You can even sync it with some Garmin watches, which will receive yardage and angle information from the sight after the shot and then guide you to the exact spot where the animal was standing, to help in recovery. Okay, some of you are saying, “The next version will shoot your deer for you.” I get it. But in the typically ho-hum arena of bow-sight innovation, this is some pretty astounding new technology—whether you choose to use it or not. Of course, it ain’t cheap.
Starts at $799; Garmin
Nikon Monarch 3000 Stabilized
I used the Monarch 7i VR (Vibration Reduction) rangefinder on a mule deer hunt this fall and was very impressed. It just works. Even one-handed, even when you’re shaking, the reticle quickly locks onto your target and almost magically makes it stop moving around so you can get an accurate yardage. The 3000 Stabilized is even better, first in that it can range reflective targets up to 3,000 yards, and second in that it features a new variable intensity red OLED display for better contrast in changing light. Of course, this is as much (or more) a rifle hunting accessory as a bowhunting one, but, hey, I saw it here at ATA, and I’ve definitely been shaking hard enough with a bow in my hand before to make ranging a buck difficult. This will surely help.
Nikon Sport Optics
Hawke XB30 Crossbow Scope Hawke
Virtually all new crossbows come with a scope. Many of them suck, and so it’s no surprise that there’s a slowly but surely growing crop of aftermarket crossbow scopes. The new XB30 line from Hawke—which is typically top of the class in crossbow scope quality—is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for an x-bow upgrade. These scopes are available in two versions; both have 30mm tubes and fully multi-coated optics. The wide-angle version, which we checked out, has two optional magnification ranges of 1.5-6×36, and 2-8×36. The “speed ring,” as it’s known on a crossbow scope (it’s the magnification power ring or “zoom it in” ring on a rifle scope) easily locks into place once the scope is sighted in according to the speed of your crossbow and arrow setup. The scopes are waterproof, fog proof, and shock proof, and come with a lifetime warranty.
$249.99 to $279.99. Hawke Optics
Browning Strike Force Pro XD
Hurteau and I both have used several Browning trail cameras over the past few seasons, and they’ve all been excellent performers, known especially for razor-sharp images. The Strike Force Pro XD is the flagship model in the Browning line for 2018. It features two lenses—one for daylight photos and one for nighttime photos—for crystal-clear images, regardless of available light. Of course, we haven’t been able to verify the camera’s performance for ourselves, but the sample images we saw in the Browning booth looked pretty danged sweet. The camera is an astounding 24 MP, and has a built-in 1.5-inch color viewing screen. It features a .15-second trigger speed, 120-foot flash range, and 1920×1080 HD video capability. Maybe best of all for me, because I can never seem to find a straight tree for hanging my camera, is the included steel adjustable tree mount. MSRP is a very reasonable
$229; Browning Trail Cameras