Best New Bowhunting Gear from the 2019 ATA Show
F&S editors scour the trade show floor for the hottest new archery products of the year
The doors of the Louisville, Kentucky, expo center have swung open, the 2019 ATA (Archery Trade Association) Show has begun, and all manner of archery nuts are swarming the show floor—including us. We’re hitting the shooting lanes and the sprawling mega-booths of the big manufactures, as well as the mom-and-pop exhibitors set up on banquet tables in the hidden corners to find the best new archery gear for 2019. Here it is. We’ll be adding to the gallery as the show progresses.
Burris Oracle Rangefinding Bow Sight
The day is coming when the majority of bowhunters will no longer carry handheld rangefinders, because those tools will be built into the average bow sight. And the latest step along that path is the Burris Oracle, a rugged, easy-to-use sight that gives you the exact range to your target and the precise aiming point for that distance. You just sight in at 20 yards plus two farther distances, and the Oracle automatically calculates your arrow’s entire trajectory. In the field or on the range, you point the fixed 20-yard pin at the target, press a button attached to your bow’s grip, and a readout displays the distance while a green illuminated “pin” pops up on a vertical sight bar. Put that pin on your target and shoot. The Oracle is constructed of aluminum, with no glass to glare or fog. It has a built-in inclinometer for true horizontal distance, locking micro-adjust knobs, 2nd and 3rd axis adjustments, and Burris’ transferable Forever Warranty. $830; Burris —Dave Hurteau
Pelican Air 1745 Bow Case
Here is a rugged, serious travel bow case that doesn’t weigh a ton. In fact, with weighs just 23 pounds, which means it’s easy to maneuver through airports and it cost less in baggage fees. The crushproof, dustproof, waterproof, HPX resin shell rebounds without breaking, and the case has six heavy-duty push-button latches (including two TSA-approved combo locks), four stainless-steel lock hasps, and integrated wheels. The interior features high-density foam padding and a modular storage system that allows for a range of configurations to fit your gear. Plus, it’s all backed by Pelican’s lifetime warranty. $399; Pelican —D.H.
QAD Ultrarest Integrate MX
Many things have changed in the arrow rest world over the past decade. When was the last time you saw a new two-pronged model? What hasn’t much changed is the mounting system. Virtually all modern rests attach to a compound bow riser via the Berger hole and a bolt. QAD, one of the best-known drop-away rest makers, has changed that this year with the new Integrate Mounting system. Think of this like a set of dovetails on a rifle. The rest clamps securely to the bow and three planes—yaw, roll, and pitch—are secured, rather than two. Once mounted, the rest is automatically leveled to the bow’s riser. The only problem with the system, at least for now, is the bow itself has to be dovetailed, and most bows aren’t. The Mathews Vertix, which is the company’s new flagship for 2019, was specifically designed for this rest and comes from the factory with the dovetail system—but the folks from QAD promised that other bows from other manufacturers are in the works. $250; QAD. —Will Brantley
Wildgame Innovations Shadow
Several years ago, I tried a couple WGI trail cameras and honestly wasn’t that impressed. They didn’t cost much, but they didn’t last long, either. The company has upped their trail-camera game in a big way. This past season, I stuck a WGI camera over a corn pile in September, where it ran all season. This spot was in a river bottom with a lot of deer traffic. At one point in the fall, heavy rains caused a flash flood, and the camera spent a night underwater. It’s still ticking right now—with the original set of batteries. The new Shadow series of cameras is tiny (3x3x2 inches), and they don’t come with a litany of over-the-top features. What they will do is take 16 megapixel photos and 720p videos, and with just four AA batteries. Best of all, the cameras retail for $100. Time will tell if they’re as reliable as the camera I used this season—but if they are, you’re looking at one hell of a bargain. Wildgame Innovations —W.B.
ALPS Outdoorz Contender X
For most of deer season, I prefer a lightweight lumbar pack. Things change around Halloween. At that point, I need enough room for an extra layer of clothing and the essentials to help me make it through an all-day sit in a lock-on stand, like a Thermos of coffee, a book, lunch, and toilet paper (admittedly, parts of the kit do require climbing out of the tree to be of use). I carried the new Contender X pack from ALPS this past deer season, from November on, and it was excellent. The pack isn’t overly heavy at just under 5 pounds, but it has 1,853 cubic inches of space, which is plenty enough to carry everything I need without the undue bulk of a full-sized framed pack. It has a U-shaped top zipper pocket that allows you to access the pack from your stand without unzipping the entire compartment, as well as a pocket for a hydration system and hose ports on both sides of the pack. The hip pockets are perfect for carrying essentials like a rangefinder and headlamp, and the molded suspension system is rigid enough for hauling meat out of the woods if needed. It includes a rain cover, and though the pack wouldn’t be my first choice for a backcountry elk hunt, it could work to haul out a heavy quarter in a pinch. I’ve seen lesser packs work for the task. For an all-around pack system that you could use for about anything, this one is a pretty good bet. ALPS Outdoorz —W.B.
Sitka Fanatic Jacket, Bib, and Pack
I’d be more than happy to be convinced otherwise, given how expensive this stuff is, but until then the Sitka Fanatic late-season system, with its Berber fleece and Windstopper fabric, is simply best thing out there (and by no small margin) for cold-weather whitetail bowhunting—as in four-hours-in-the-teeth-of-a-January-wind cold. The original Fanatic system is not noisy by any means, but knowing how jumpy late-season deer can be, Sitka decided to redesign the outfit for 2019 to make it even quieter, and more burr-resistant. They also added a new pack that is lightweight, has smartly designed pockets, and features innovative closures in which nylon webbing slips under a system of tabs. Honestly, I thought these closures might be a pain in the neck when I first saw them, but I used the pack for much of the fall and came to really like it. One thing I’ll say: There can’t be a quieter pack out there, because this one is completely silent. $449 for jacket; $439 for bib; $199 for pack; Sitka. —D.H
The most talked about bow of any kind, and maybe the most talked about new product, of the 2019 ATA show is the Ravin R26 crossbow. For years, hunters have been asking manufacturers to make a lighter, shorter, more maneuverable crossbow that doesn’t rob them of speed and accuracy. This is it, in spades. The R26, as the name implies, is just 26 inches long. Think about that. I have caught trout that size. It weighs just 6.5 pounds, has an axle-to-axle length of only 5 inches when cocked, has a mere 9.5-inch power stroke—and yet still delivers speeds of 400 fps. And the Helicoil system, including the Frictionless Flight feature in which the arrow is free floating and doesn’t ride along a rail like other crossbows, ensures accuracy. Ravin says it will group within 3 inches at 100 yards. When you first shoot the R26, it feels almost too short. But you get used to it after only a few shots—and you quickly start to understand how handy this bow will be in the woods. The only knock: the price is as steep as the bow is compact. $2,050; Ravincrossbows.com —D.H.
Rage Hypodermic NC
NC stands for no collar, and if you’re a bowhunter who frets over getting the blades of an expandable tucked neatly and tightly into the traditional retaining collar—or you don’t fully trust that caller in the first place—this new Hypodermic is made for you. The New Hypodermic NC replaces the old collar with an internal spring system that keeps the blades closed until impact. I had this broadhead in my hands just a few minutes ago, and I can tell you that securing the blades in the closed position feels solid and positive, in a way that gives you confidence that they will both stay closed in flight and open when they need to. The 100-grain head has all steel construction, a chisel tip, and a 2-inch cutting diameter. $50 for three; FeraDyne Outdoors. —D.H.
Apex Covert Pro Single Pin Sights
Building on the popularity of its initial Covert Single Pin bow sight series, Apex Gear introduced three new models for 2019 called the Apex Pro Series. Unlike their predecessors, the new Pro sights don’t have pins at all. Instead, a single green LED at the center of razor thin crosshair acts as a baseline 20-yard marker. The result is an unobstructed view through the sight to your target. Once sighted in at 20 yards, you use an elevation dial that moves the sight housing (and the dot) to match the distance to any target. The dial’s micro “clicks” make it easy to make precise distance adjustments, and a simple push-button adjusts LED brightness. The battery illuminating the LED lasts for up to 400 hours, and automatically turns off after 4 hours to conserve life. If you like the open view of a single-pin sight, but don’t want to forsake the added confidence of having a second pin, Apex makes a two-pin model to help with those long-distance shots. —Ben Romans
Buck Rub Raven Claw Magne’ Drop
No matter how many times I practice drawing or easing down the tension of my bow, my arrow never fails to bounce free at the worst possible time. Rests with a capture bar help during the draw, but do nothing as I relax. That’s why I’m excited about the Claw Magne’ Drop from a new company called Buck Rub Gear. As you draw, the arrow falls into the valley of the rest, and avoids any moving parts during the release. But its main feature is two arms that hug an arrow as you slowly relieve string tension. When you draw again, the arms drop to the side and allow the arrow to sit in the rest again.
But what makes this drop-away rest different from so many others is it doesn’t have internal gears and you don’t need tools to make adjustments. It operates with just a few finger-tight screws and magnets. You can move the rest from side to side with pressure, and raise or lower it by turning a nylon screw. Even lengthening or shortening the draw cord is simple. It flosses through the unit, so simply pull on the tag end to tighten, or the tethered portion to create slack. —B.R.
Breadcrumb Trackable Nocks
How about using a smartphone app to find your arrow? The Breadcrumb nock makes that possible, with a bluetooth-activated radio chip that communicates with your Smartphone if you get within 50 yards of the nock, allowing you to locate your arrow by flashing an ultra-bright LED light or activating a sound chip. Breadcrumb also has a product using the same technology that helps you locate your stand or blind in the dark. —Scott Bestul
Summit Ground Blinds
Summit has a new line of ground blinds for 2019, and my first impressions from the show floor are that they’ll be pretty damned good. The Viper is the flagship blind, and it’s available in both three- and four-person versions. It’s loaded with subtle features that—if you do a bunch of ground blind hunting—are really nice, including a panel-style swing-open door, called the Hush Silent Hatch, that allows for quiet entry (with enough room to squeeze in a crossbow or pack without snagging), and TruView fabric window panels, which allow you to see out, but don’t allow critters to see in. The panels have a sliding system to adjust shooting windows to your liking. The blind’s carrying case isn’t a case at all, but a sling that snaps into place for convenient transport. Once the blind is set, the sling can then be hung on the inside, where it provides five large pockets for rangefinders and other gear. The blinds retail for $299.99 for the three-person model, and $329.99 for the four-person. —W.B.
Summit Featherweight Switch
Lightweight lock-ons are all the rage for hang-and-hunt bowhunters. The Featherweight Switch isn’t the lightest hang-on out there, but for what you get—a comfortable seat and 28×23-inch platform with a 300-pound weight capacity—it’s impressive. The stand weighs just 17 pounds. Perhaps best of all, the stand is designed to be used with the Switch Receiver, which is a bracket that can be placed on trees ranging from 8 to 20 inches in diameter. The stand slips into and out of the bracket in seconds, and is secured around the tree with a secondary safety strap. Additional receivers can be purchased for $29.99, so you can have multiple sets without dropping coin on multiple stands. The Featherweight Switch retails for $219.99. —W.B.
Moultrie Mobile XV-7000i and XA-7000i
Moultrie’s newest wireless cameras are completely integrated systems that combine the modem and camera into one unit. The two cameras run on either AT&T or Verizon service with pay-by-the month $10 data plans (no contract required). The cameras are 20 megapixels with 80-foot detection and flash range and 1080p video capability. They’re powered by 12 AA batteries, and the controls of the camera can be accessed and changed remotely via the Moultrie Mobile system. Maybe best of all, the cameras retail for just $179.99, making them pretty good bargains in the world of wireless cameras. —W.B.
Millennium T360 Tripod Stand
A tripod stand isn’t ideal for every situation, but they’re the cat’s meow in a few. But, most tripods have inherent problems. The worst is that they’re not all that stable—and the higher you climb, the shakier they become. The new T360 is a heavy, beefy sucker that’s a full 16 feet tall to the shooting rail. The 40-inch platform provides plenty of room, and of course the stand is topped with a Millennium’s signature, super-comfortable chair that swivels 360 degrees. The stand has powder-coated steel construction with numerous braces to keep it steady, and the legs are individually adjustable for use on uneven terrain. A camouflage blind skirt is included. It’s heavy at 156 pounds, but the extra weight is well worth the height and security you get with this stand. —W.B.
When you meet up with folks on the ATA show floor, one of the first things you ask and get asked is: What bows do you like? This year, the consensus answer came down to two new compounds above all the others. The first is the new Vertix. Mathews has been on a roll in recent years with the excellent Halon and Triax models. The 30-inch Vertix has many of the same virtues: the draw cycle is impossibly smooth for such a fast bow (343 fps IBO) and it is absolutely dead in the hand at the shot. (The company says the Vertix has 20-percent less vibration than the Triax, which strains credulity only because the Triax seemed to have virtually zero noticeable vibration to begin with.) Their latest flagship also has a new Engage grip that everyone seems to like, and the bow features SwitchWeight modules that allow you to change the bow’s peak draw weight in 5-pound increments. Bottom line: Mathews has yet another standout bow for 2019. $1,099; mathewsarcheryinc.com —D.H.
Bowtech Realm SR6
The other bow on everyone’s lips is the Bowtech Reign SR6, and for the same reasons. With a top-speed IBO of 352 fps, it’s a full-blown speedster, but it doesn’t draw or shoot like one. What makes the Reign’s draw seem so effortless is that the peak weigh comes right at the beginning of the cycle, when you’re strongest; then it slowly eases you into the valley. The impression is that it just gets easier and easier to pull. Like the Vertix, the SR6 is dead at the shot, and it incorporates Bowtech’s signature FlipDisc, which lets you choose between Comfort and Performance settings. It’s going to be a dog fight between these two—and all the other excellent new compounds—at our 2019 bow test. $1,099; bowtecharchery.com —D.H.
Bushnell Core DS Trail Camera
Most trail cameras have one image sensor that is optimized for either daytime photos or for nighttime photos—or neither. You see the problem there? That’s why Bushnell’s new Core DS camera has two image sensors. One designed to capture the very best daytime images, the other to get great nighttime photos. If your serious about counting tines and discerning one good 10-pointer from another, this is just the thing, especially for night photos that are too often washed out or blurry. $200 for low-glow, $220 for no-glow; bushnell.com —D.H.
Montana Decoy Wiley Tom
On one hand, you always want to carry a reaping decoy just in case the opportunity arises. On the other, you don’t want to lug the thing everywhere you go. Montana Decoy’s new Wiley Tom pretty much solves the dilemma. Yes, you still have to lug it, but it only weighs 1 pound, 14 ounces, and it folds up (even with real feathers) so you can stuff it in a vest. The basic decoy is two-dimensional fabric with a photorealistic image of a strutter back and front. You can use it as is, or you can—and should—add your own real tail fan and wing feathers for more realism. It features a peep hole and a stake that allows you to prop it up like a conventional deke when you want to. $90; montanadecoy.com —D.H.
Primos Triple Dogg 360 Wireless E-Caller
Unlike other electronic predator callers that throw sound in one or maybe two directions, the new Triple Dogg sends any of 75 prerecorded sounds and five complete hunts 360 degrees all around you and every which way. Plus, you can link it wirelessly to other Primos Dogg Net series callers (including the new larger Horn Dogg, with 100 prerecorded sounds, 10 hunts, and telescoping legs) to mimic moving prey and active predators. The Triple Dog runs on AA batteries, and you can control the device and download more sounds with your phone. $250; primos.com –D.H.
Double Bull SurroundView Stakeout Blind
Double Bull’s SurroundView technology had everyone talking last year when it debuted at the ATA show. If you need a reminder, the one-way see-through fabric lets you see out while critters can’t (or at least can’t easily) see in, giving you a wide-open view of the woods. This new Stakeout model, with two-hub design, sets up in seconds to instantly provides the concealment you need to hide a fidgety hunter or to draw a bow on a gobbler. The blind has three triangular shooting windows and weighs just 4.5 pounds, making it a whole lot easier to lug into the woods than a full-blown pop-up blind. $113; primos.com —D.H.
Stacked Outdoors Stacked Ladder Sticks
This is the freshest idea in climbing sticks to come along in years. These one-piece, molded-polymer sticks are strong enough to support hunters up to 300 pounds, and yet they weigh just 2.35 pounds each (without straps). What’s more, they stack perfectly together for easy transport via the included shoulder strap, as well as for compact storage (a stack of 40 would take up about the same room as a step ladder in your garage). Plus, these sticks are silent on the tree, so no clanging while setting up for a stealthy hang and hunt. With steps on both sides of the center bar, they provide surer footing for climbing and decending, too. $179 for four; stackedoutdoors.com —D.H.
Wildgame Innovations Zero Trace Plasma Ion Field Generator
In an obvious play to compete with Ozonics, Wildgame has introduced the Zero Trace with PureION technology, which generates a field of ion molecules designed to safely dispel human scent particles. Does it work? I have no idea. That will take some serious field testing. What I do know is that some hunters are understandably concerned with health risks associated with ozone. (According to the EPA, breathing ozone can result in a number of respiratory problems.) The Zero Trace offers a safe alternative, says the manufacturer, with no damaging affects your health or gear. It’s also very quiet, runs on a rechargeable battery pack, and comes with a slick magnetic mounting bracket. $199; wildgameinnovations.com —D.H.
TenPoint Nitro XRT
Along with the new Ravin, this is the other crossbow generating the biggest buzz at the show—for two reasons: a 7-inch axle-to-axle length when cocked and a top speed of 470 fps. This reverse-draw model weighs just a little over 7 pounds and handles really well thanks the company’s center-weighted riser design. It has a very good trigger, is one smooth shooter for so fast a bow, and it exudes the high-end quality that TenPoint is known for. (Not to mention the high-end price.) The top speed mentioned above is with a 370 arrow, but if, like me, you prefer a little heavier arrow, you don’t lose a whole lot, as the bow fires a 425-grain Pro Elite arrow at 450. $2,550 with accessory package; TenPoint. –D.H.