Well, the 2019 ATA show is officially in the books, and the archery industry is off and running for another year. Archery and hunting gear manufacturers gathered last week in Louisville to show their wares and help set the course for the future of bowhunting.
The Hunting Page was there to meet with manufacturers, shoot the new bows and try out whatever looked interesting. We’ve put it all together for your equipment buying pleasure.
Crossbows Are Getting Smaller: If you feel like you are lugging a ladder around in the woods when you are toting your crossbow, you are in luck. A new wave of crossbows appeared at the show that is just as powerful, just as accurate, and just about everything you love about crossbows other than size. Smaller, lighter, and more compact crossbows are definitely in this year and it looks like they are gonna stay. Big, heavy, clumsy bows are definitely on their way out. Where the axle to axle measurement once averaged 20 inches or so, many crossbows now are measuring 14 inches or less. The bow designers got there with all kinds of engineering breakthroughs including new limb designs, new eccentrics, new cable rigging, and new just about everything. But don’t let all this “new” scare you; the best and oldest names in crossbows are going compact as well a host of “new kids on the ATA block”. This is a major leap forward for anyone who has avoided hunting with a crossbow because they were clumsy in a treestand, a ground blind, or any other place crossbows are found.
Ground blinds Are Getting Better: Ground blinds have gone from plywood boxes or camo tents with windows to being high-tech, state-of-the-art hunting accessories. Once they were all about shelter from bad weather or a good place for the kids (ever take a couple of 6-year-olds deer hunting?) Of course no one has ever broken a leg (or worse) falling out of a ground blind. Once hunters realized that you didn’t have to be 20 feet up in a tree to kill a deer (in fact ground blinds are often superior to treestands), ground blinds really started taking off. Ground blinds were everywhere this year’s ATA show. This year’s ground is vastly improved over the blinds of a mere few years ago. This generation of blinds is easier to see and shoot out of (more and different shaped windows and cloth you can see out of but not into), easier to put up and easier to tear down, and easier to carry. They come in all shapes and sizes and look like trees or giant round bales or a dozen things deer are used to seeing in the woods. As the man says, “There is something for everyone”. They are easier to sit in (thanks to all kinds of comfortable blind chairs) and some pretty much disappear before your very eyes. And, best of all, they are gentler on the pocketbook. If you don’t believe us, jump online and check them out. Seeing is believing, or in the case of this year’s new and vastly improved ground blinds, not seeing is believing.
Synthetic Scents In; Deer Urine Out: CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) is doing more than killing deer; it’s changing the way we hunt them. States are beginning to outlaw scents made with deer urine, and urine-based scent manufacturers are pushing back. However, according to most wildlife experts in the know, it’s going to be a tough push. State wildlife agencies are scared to death of CWD and are serious about doing everything they can think of to slow the spread of it. It is always easier to say “no” than to run the risk of a yes followed by the outbreak of CWD. The nation’s wildlife agencies take the Public Trust Doctrine seriously, as they should. They have no choice but to take no chance with a disease that can wipe out hunting as we know it today. Retail outlets are stocking up with synthetic attractant scents that do not contain deer urine. In some cases, it’s a “just in case” move; in others, it’s “must have”. Synthetic scents are believed (according to the companies who make them) to be as effective as the “real thing” and they last forever on the shelf. If you use urine-based scents in the woods, you might take a try with synthetics — while you still have a choice. CWD is here, and banning urine scents and deer feeding, and restricting how deer can be transported may be in your future before you know it. Synthetic scents are rapidly becoming more than a trend; they are becoming the law.
Bows Plenty Pricey (Mostly): There was a day when a fella could get a decent bow for $300 and still have some change for lunch. Bow manufacturers continue to have a thing about trying to pry $1,000 out of a bowhunter or wannabe target archer who only makes half that in a week. When getting set up to shoot a bow eats a couple of paychecks, regular working folks have to think twice about putting a hundred-dollars-worth of meat in the freezer or taking up recreational archery. Sadly, bow prices continue to head up as bow use continues to go down, some see the high price of getting into archery as to why the archery business is slowing. But not everyone is pricing themselves out of the market. This year a few manufacturers have targeted, realist price points with some (or most) of this year’s models. We are not talking $250 bows here, but you won’t have to take out a second mortgage to outfit the whole family with archery tackle. Shop around and you still can get set up and have a little left over for that truck payment.
Rangefinding Bow Sights: Shooting the right pin has been the bane of bowhunters since bow sights were invented. You have to judge the range then figure out which pin is set for what range, and then hope the animal you have just ranged hasn’t moved. It all gets pretty confusing and often ends in a miss. The best solution is never take a shot more than 25 yards. Over the years we’ve seen all kinds of solutions to the “which pin” problem, but none have quite gotten it right — until now. Rangefinding sights look like they are here to stay thanks to state-of-the-art laser technologies and some pretty smart designers. Touch the button, put the dot on the deer and touch the trigger. The only problem is they still sport a fancy price, (the best part of $1,000), are a little bulky, and the jury might still be out on their ability to withstand the wear and tear that a serious hunter can deliver. If this season’s models work out, look for prices to drop and refinements to appear. Great products solve problems and rangefinding bow sights solve a bunch of them. I can’t wait to try one out.
Yikes, Bikes!: They have big fat tires for traversing rough terrain, pedals for power and an electric motor for backup power, or are the pedals to back up the electric motor? Whatever power you use to get to the way back, these fat tire bikes will get you there, and it will get you there on the quiet. Bowhunters have always known that getting in stealthily has always been part of the hunt smart equation. The trouble is, not all hunters are 26 years old and capable of covering a half dozen miles by foot in a half hour or so. Enter bikes designed expressly getting through the tough country on the quiet, places where transportation other than shanks ponies and bikes are not allowed. These fat tire bikes are made to carry lots of weight over lots of tough terrains, and best of all, they run on leg power or by an electric motor and are whisper quiet. We won’t call them a trend just yet, but neither was electric side by sides 20 years ago. And besides, the Rambo really drew a crowd at this year’s bow show.
Safe Ladder Stand Setup: The show had all kinds of well-thought-out treestands and one thing for sure, they get better every year. Better often means easier to set up and safer, but to an old (and we do mean old) ladder stand user, one stand deserves special mention: the X-Stand. The X-Stand has developed an innovate set-up system that allows you to secure the platform of the stand to the tree without ever leaving terra firma. The platform features two large claws that secure the stand to the tree and you never leave the ground. It’s quick, clean, and oh so sweet or should we say, “oh so safe”. You rig some cables, tighten with a ratchet, and clamp the platform firmly to the tree. Trust us, it is easier to see than say. Bottom line, your ladder stand is up safe and solid without so much as a slip or a tip. Hallelujah!
Cover in a Bag?: If you have ever wished there was a way to get to your stand without being seen, or a way to keep your neighbors from seeing into your fields or an easy way to create cover, the Whitetail Institute has a new product for you. It comes in a bag and you plant it. Conceal is a special seed blend that will grow tall (8 feet or more and thick). You plant it in the spring and by fall you have a privacy screen for your deer, or for you if you want to remain out of sight. It will grow most anywhere green stuff grows and is easy to plant. Sure, the Whitetail Institute is known for its food plot products but it is also known for its smarts, and this new blend is plenty smart! Savvy hunters spend all kinds of time figuring out how to get in and out without being seen; they know deer need cover and a bag of Conceal is a whole lot cheaper and easier than planting a bunch of trees or waiting for natural vegetation to grow tall. Pick up a bag or two; we bet you’ll come up with a half dozen uses we haven’t even thought of.