Bowhunter's Holiday Gift Guide

Yes, bowhunters wear camo hats and gloves. But we don’t want them for Christmas anymore than Junior wants underwear and T-shirts. We want something unexpected. Something we wouldn’t get for ourselves. A little wow factor. Of course, if you are a nonhunter buying for us, you have no idea what might constitute that. So, here is a list of can’t-miss gifts this year’s archer. If you are the bowhunter tired of getting camo hats and gloves, just leave the family computer open to this page.
Trophy Ridge React-One Bow Sight Trophy Ridge made a great splash a couple years ago with the React sight, a wildly innovative, multi-pin model that, once calibrated at 20 and 30 yards, automatically and accurately sets the other pins. Now, the React comes in a single-pin, slider version—the React-One. As with the original, you start by sighting in at 20 and 30. That done, this sight's smart-pin technology automatically sets the range-indicator marks for precise accuracy in 10-yard increments out to 100 yards. No need to mark up the indicator or mess with tapes. The React-One features a bright .019 pin, a 3-position rheostat light, second and third-axis adjustments, tool-less micro-adjustments, and numerous mounting holes for optimal positioning. ($200; trophyridge.com)
Bear Archery Cruzer Bow All sorts of little nuances—from brand loyalty to personal preferences—make it nearly impossible for you to pick the right new compound bow for a seasoned archer. But for a budding bowhunter, you can’t go wrong with Bear’s new Cruzer. The bow’s draw weight can be adjusted from 5 to 70 pounds and the draw length from 12 to 30 inches, without the need for a bow press or extra modules. In other words, this bow will grow with your new shooter. With an IBO speed of 310 fps, it’s plenty fast enough, and it has solid all-around hunting specs, including a 6.5-inch brace height, 32-inch axle-to-axle length, and 3.6-pound bare-bow weight. But the real bottom line is this: You may not want to drop a bundle of cash on a first bow, not knowing if your new hunter will stick with it. What I've always liked about Bear Archery is that their mid- to low-price bows tend to be great values. This is a fine example, ideal for the new archer, and it comes with the company's Ready To Hunt package (including rest, sight, stabilizer, wrist sling, peep, and D-loop) all for around $400. ($400; beararchery.com)
Cabela’s Instinct Lancer Crossbow With the number of crossbow-friendly states having reached a tipping point, the whole world wants a new crossbow for Christmas this year. And lucky for you, this is the big-ticket archery item that the non-hunter can pull off, because (1) most hunters are fairly new to crossbows and haven’t yet developed strange little preferences or brand biases; (2) compared to a compound a crossbow far less of a “feel” implement; and (3) all you really need to know is this: Buy a Cabela’s Instinct Lancer. I’ve shot most of the latest, high-end crossbows, and none, in my opinion, is better than this one. Comparatively compact and lightweight (6.9 pounds), the Lancer fires bolts an impressive 395 fps with just a 155-pound draw weight. It has one of the best triggers I’ve ever used on a crossbow, is consistently accurate, and surprisingly quiet. The Cease-Fire cross-bolt safety pin (a redundant safety mechanism to be used when loading or carrying) is a good idea, but the fact that it must be totally removed to disengage pretty much guarantees you’ll lose the thing. But this is the bow’s only failing. The Lancer ain't cheap at over $1,000 (that's for the complete package, including bow, a very good range-compensating scope, quiver, bolts, cocking aid, and string stops), but with top-end models demanding insane prices, you won't find a better value—or a better crossbow. ($1,050; cabelas.com)
Browning Strike Force Sub Micro Trail Camera Browning claims it new Strike Force Sub Micro is the smallest trail camera in the hunting industry. I haven’t measured them all, but I can tell you that at 4.5x3.25x2.5 inches, it’s really small. But it’s also loaded with features, including 10MP picture quality, .67-second trigger speed, HD video with sound, 100-foot flash range, time-lapse mode, and more. All that said, here's what you really need to know: I've talked to several whitetail outfitters whose businesses rely, in part, on having trail cameras that are tough, reliable, and get the shot, time and again. They rave about the latest Browning cameras, one saying: "It is almost as good as a Reconyx, for less than half the price." ($180; browningtrailcameras.com)
Rinehart RhinoBlock and Crossbow Brute Targets There are people who never get themselves the best of anything because they figure they don’t need it. Instead, they think they’ll save a few bucks by getting the second or third best. And that’s fine in many cases. But not when it comes to archery targets—because although the best targets do cost twice as much, they last three, four, or more times longer. I got my Rinehart RhinoBlock four years ago, and it still stops arrows. I can’t remember another block target lasting me a year. I suspect that if you were to shoot only field points at a RhinoBlock—with compound or crossbow—it would last, oh…forever. (I can’t say for sure yet, but I’m working on it.) The RhinoBlock is not just a great backyard target; it’s also an economical one in the long run. So just get the best. It’s worth it. If you are going to shoot a crossbow exclusively, you may want the added toughness of Rinehart's new Crossbow Brute, which is specially designed for today's fastest crossbows. ($150 for RhinoBlock, $180 for Crossbow Brute; rinehart3d.com)
Twisted Timber Invader Treestand What makes a Twisted Timber hang-on stand unlike any other is its T3 Triple-Axis Leveling system, which, in a nutshell, let’s you set up on pretty much any tree, no matter how crooked, and still sit safely upright and ready to hunt. The ratchet-strap, J-Hook mounting system makes for quick, easy hanging, and allows you to pre-hang several hooks in different locations and move just the stand between them. The Safe-T mounting system on the base (which also incorporates a ratchet strap) allows for lateral adjustment for off-center stand placement with rock-solid security. It's latest current model, the Invader, has a roomy 28x24-inch platform and weights a little over 15 pounds. Or, if you believe that Christmas really does stretch across 12 days (give or take), wait a bit and get yet unreleased aluminum Dominator (30x27-inch platform; just over 10 pounds), which is set to come out in January. ($150 for Invader; twistedtimbertreestands.com)
Archer Xtreme Titanium Recon Arrow Rest With a machined-titanium launcher and carbon components, the new Recon arrow rest is designed to offer superior toughness in an ultra-lightweight package. But it delivers superior performance, too. The rest's extremely fast reaction time combined with a tuneable internal trigger system allows the archer to maximize the amount of time that the launcher supports the arrow through the shot (while still falling fast enough to ensure zero fletching contact)—which boils down to what we all want most: better accuracy. ($150; archerxtreme.com)
Victory VAP.166 Arrows For decades, buying arrows started with this question: “Do you I get a lighter shaft for flatter trajectory or a heavier shaft for better penetration?” Now you can skip the pondering and just get a micro-diameter arrow, which penetrates deeply despite its comparatively light weight. The Victory VAP was originally designed for target shooting and remains the company best-selling target shaft. So it was made for flat-shooting accuracy. But it also hits like a hammer—an ideal combination for the hunter. The Penetrator2 insert is available in 50 grains (aluminum) or 90 grains (stainless steel), giving you the option of high FOC, which aids in downrange accuracy and impact, or ultra-high FOC, which adds weight, of course, but hits even harder. The insert also doubles as an 8/32” broadhead adaptor, which means you don’t have to buy special heads—just stick with your favorites. New for this year, a Nano-Cermaic Ice coating has been added to improve penetration and toughness and ease target removal. The VAP.166 comes in three straightness to tolerances, +/-.001, (+/- .003) and +/- .006. They ain't cheap, but that's where you come in. (starting at $100 per six fletched; victoryarchery.com)
Tree Spider LiveWire Descent System On a more serious note, maybe the best gift you can give your bowhunter is some added assurance that he’ll come home safe and sound. A lot of treestand hunters have finally gotten smart about always wearing a full-body harness (if your archer hasn’t, see Tree Spider’s line of harnesses while your at it), but this doesn’t guarantee a hunter’s safety.If you can’t climb back into your stand or onto a treestep, you’ll be left hanging there—and while suspension trauma won’t kill you as fast as a fall, it can kill you just as dead. Put the LiveWire Descent System above your stand (or keep it above your head as you climb), clip in, and if you fall it will safely lower you, upright and hands-free, to the ground, to 25 feet. ($80; robinsonoutdoors.com)