Are you serious about arrowing a big buck this season? Don't forget the all-important accessories. These will help both the bow and the bowhunter perform to their full potential.
By Bill Winke
Many parts must work together to produce a successful archery shot at a whitetail. What many bowhunters learn too late is that the parts playing seemingly minor roles are just as important as the bow that propels the arrow. In other words, success comes down to paying attention to the details, and there are a lot of those details in archery. That means you shouldn't overlook anything, especially when choosing your accessories for the coming season.
While accessories might not be glamorous, and they really are taken for granted in many instances, good hunters know they are critical to anyone's ability to shoot a bow accurately. This is particularly true of compound bow shooters, who make up the overwhelming majority of whitetail bowhunters today.
It's not long until bow seasons open in most areas, so if you're a bowhunter, now's the time to be finalizing that 2004 gear list. And if you're in need of accessories, here are several of the best on the market this year:
What an arrow does upon reaching its target is critical in bowhunting. Thus, the broadhead is arguably the most critical accessory a bowhunter uses. It's what actually harvests the game, through blood loss. That means the head you shoot should be chosen carefully.
Today, broadheads can be broken into three categories: mechanical models that open on impact; fixed-blade models with replaceable blades; and fixed-blade models with non-replaceable blades and one-piece construction. All can be effective for taking whitetails, but not everyone has the same preferences in design.
It's no secret that in recent years, the most impressive advances in broadhead design have occurred in the mechanical category. (Some hunters call these expandables, as they open on impact.) Sales of mechanicals were growing rapidly, and nearly every broadhead manufacturer was getting on board with a new and innovative model.
While the mechanical trend continues in 2004, it is with noticeably less momentum than before. A bit less emphasis is being placed on increasing that segment of the broadhead market. As a result, we are starting to see more R&D going into fixed-blade heads, with the goal of combining great durability, better flight characteristics and enhanced penetration. Here are some of 2004's top broadheads of each type:
Muzzy president John Musacchia is not one to make large changes in his product line, because he says he feels the overall design of Muzzy broadheads already hits the mark -- literally and figuratively. Even though the head changes little from year to year (or maybe because it changes little), it is among the most popular brands.
Four of Muzzy's top-selling heads (Screw In 100-Grain 3-Blade and 4-Blade heads and the Screw In 125-Grain 3-Blade and 4-Blade) are now available with ferrules in Realtree camouflage. Cutting diameters are 1 inch for 4-blade models and 1 3/16 inches for 3-blade models.
Phantom broadheads are one example of a style that is currently in the middle of a revival. Well-manufactured, straight cut-on-impact broadheads are becoming more popular with compound bow shooters, because they fly well even at moderate arrow speeds and penetrate better than any other broadhead style on the market.
Each Phantom head is precision machined for straightness, and that's important. Poor alignment was a problem with earlier-generation cut-on-impact broad-heads that weren't made as well as this one.
There are five models of Phantom heads: a pair of two-blade models that weigh 80 and 105 grains; a pair of four-blade models that weigh 100 and 125 grains; and a two-blade head that permits replaceable bleeder blades that weigh 125 grains. All have a 1 1/8-inch primary blade cutting width.
When it comes to catchy names, it's hard to beat Grim Reaper. But there's more to this head than its name. The Razortip, Grim Reaper's original broadhead, offers a fresh approach to tip design. The Trocrazor Tip has three small razor-sharp blades embedded in the steel tip to start penetration. These blades are removable for replacement, and they line up with the three primary blades.
The cut of the tip razors is kept small so the main blades can still find enough purchase in the hide to open; however, the cut is large enough to permit the ferrule of the head to slip easily forward as it penetrates.
Grim Reaper's blade-retention system is also unique. A spring-loaded ring is pushed upward to fit into small notches on the blades. The ring/notch system holds the blades closed until impact. On impact, the blades are pushed backward, compressing the spring and permitting the blades to open.
This design eliminates the need for O-rings. Also, with this arrangement you can quickly replace the blades without any need for tools. Grim Reaper is available in three weights -- 85, 100 and 125 grains -- and each has a cutting diameter of 1 3/8 inches.
Drop-away models are one of the hottest trends in rest design. These models complement the conventional launcher- and flipper-style rests that have been the standard for many years. Drop-away rests snap downward out of the path of the fletching within a controlled amount of time after the string is released. Bowhunters tend to be most interested in this style as a way to beat fletching contact with the rest, a common tuning problem.
Drop-away rests are even more beneficial with carbon arrows. These small-diameter arrows require that the support arms of a conventional rest be brought so close together that it is difficult to slip one of the shaft's fletchings through the gap. With a drop-away rest in this application, you not only eliminate fletching contact, but you can also use an even more aggressive helical-offset angle for a faster-spinning, more stable, more accurate arrow.
Muzzy was one of the first companies to offer a modern drop-away rest back in the late 1990s. The Zero Effect features a set of mechanical linkages to drive the rest up and down. The rest features a large hook-shaped launcher that cradles the arrow before the draw and automatically centers it when you pull the string back. You can easily adjust the linkages so the rest rises and falls in the proper timing to match your bow's draw length.
Muzzy has tailored the Zero Effect to fit Hoyt's Tec-series bows with their truss-style riser designs and Mathews bows equipped with Roller Cable Guards.
NAP QuickTune 2000 RG rest
The QuikTune drop-away rest series from New Archery Products uses a thin steel cable connecting the rest launcher assembly to the cable guard slide rather than to a woven cord running to the bow's harness to lift the rest during the draw. Adjustable spring tension snaps the rest downward on release. I've used the QuikTune 4000 and have found it to be highly reliable.
In response to the growing demand for a drop-away product to work on Mathews bows' Roller Cable Guard, NAP modified its design. The result of this tweaking is the new QuikTune 2000 RG. It features a cantilever that is driven downward by the bow's down-harness, raising the rest's launchers in the procesds. It works well with these new Mathews bows.
Finding the perfect shaft for your hunting style is a great way to spend the off-season. It's also a good excuse to shoot a lot, helping you stay in touch with the sport you love. A different arrow can turn a looping trajectory into a bullet, a bullet into a hard-hitting sledgehammer. In short, proper shaft selection is one of the most important and intriguing elements on your archery gear list.
PSE entered the carbon arrow market in 2001 with three models of Carbon Force shafts. The company now offers 10 models. Of these, the new Carbon Force Radial X Weave is the most advanced. Three layers of woven carbon fibers overlay an inner core of longitudinal fibers. The resulting shaft has great strength and resistance to both bending and twisting.
These shafts are available in two grades: Pro and Stealth Hunter. PSE handpicks Pro grade shafts to the industry's tightest tolerances, with a straightness of +/- .001 inch and a weight tolerance of +/- 1 grain per dozen shafts. Stealth Hunter-grade shafts have a straightness of +/- .006 inch and are very accurate at realistic deer-hunting ranges.
Radial X Weave shafts come in three sizes, based on stiffness. The 100 weighs 6.3 grains per inch and fits low-poundage bows in the 30- to 45-pound range. The 200 works best with bows in the 50- to 60-pound range and has a weight of 6.7 grains per inch. The 300 is ideal for bows in the 65- to 80-pound range and weighs 7.8 grains per inch.
Using a typical rig with a 70- pound pull and 29-inch draw, these shafts will build up an arrow having a finished weight of roughly 380 grains. This will yield a flat trajectory.
Standard Carbon Force Extreme hunting shafts are constructed of multi-directional carbon fibers to produce enough hoop strength to allow the use of internal components. However, these fibers are not woven. Two sizes cover the entire draw length/draw weight spectrum. Straightness is +/- .003 inch.
In 2002, PSE introduced two large-diameter carbon shafts: the Equalizer 2300 and the XLS Hunter 2300. The Equalizer 2300 has a 23/64-inch outside diameter (like 23XX series aluminum shafts), a straightness of +/- .003 inch and a weight of 9.5 grains per inch. The XLS Hunter 2300 has the same outside diameter but a straightness tolerance of +/- .005 inch.
These days, approximately three of every four bowhunters use release aids. There's a good reason this number is so high and still rising: Releases are very accurate under a wide range of conditions. Although not every archer uses one, most holdouts would shoot better if they did.
But choosing a release aid is not always easy. There are many releases on the market, and not all share the same features. I went through four models before I found the one I liked best, and I haven't changed since. If you're about to start using a release or want to upgrade to a better one, here are some features to look for.
First, make sure the manner in which the release attaches to the string is as foolproof as possible. When you have a buck walking your way, you don't want to fight shaky hands while trying to get your release onto the string.
Also, on a hunting release the head should turn freely, so you don't twist the string as you get your hand into a solid anchor position. You also want a release with a trigger you can adjust to just the right tension. Generally, set your trigger for a hunting release a little heavier than for 3-D or target shooting, so you can feel the trigger through gloves without accidentally tripping it.
Finally, all good hunting releases are of simple design and durable construction. This is important, because complex machinery has a way of failing at just the wrong time. When you're drawing on a big buck, the last thing you want to have creep into your mind is doubt about the device holding your arrow.
Which releases have all of these qualities? Here is one very good model to consider, made by the biggest name in release aids: Tru-Fire.
The new Stealth is among the most adjustable caliper-style rests I've seen. The forward portion of the release head (in front of the trigger) rotates independently of the body for totally torque-free performance. You can turn your wrist to any position when drawing/anchoring and the trigger will float with your hand, not with the string. This reduces string twist.
However, if you want the jaw to be in a certain position on every shot, you can lock it in place at any setting with a setscrew. A clever dial lets you adjust trigger tension from 4 to 21 ounces without changing trigger travel and without tools. You can also adjust the release's length over a 3/4-inch range, again without tools. Put all of these features together and you have one of the most advanced caliper releases on the market today.
Tru-Fire Stealth release