Our editor-in-chief goes through his bowhunting gear, piece by piece, and explains why he thinks these 10 items are among the best new bowhunting products for whitetail hunters.
By Daniel E. Schmidt
Not unlike white-tailed deer, we bowhunters are creatures of habit. We find the best new bowhunting products, and we stick with them for years, or until something better comes along. I’ve always been under the belief that you stick with something if something works. But, of course, I continually test new archery products year after year just to stay up with this industry’s ever-changing technology.
What follows is my Top 10 list for bowhunting products I’ve personally tested and find among the finest in their class. What do you think of my assessments? Add your comments and gear insights to this blog by clicking the “Reply” button at the bottom of this article.
Mathews Creed compound bow. There are a lot of good bows out there from all the major manufacturers. Any one of them will do the job quite nicely. I’ve shot Mathews bows extensively over the years, and I must say this one is among the quietest and — best of all for me — gentlest on my aging shoulders. I’ve shot both the Creed and the Creed XS these past two seasons, and I’ve found they both deliver the same smoothness, efficiency and accuracy.
The bow is especially kind to me via its generous 7-1/2 inch brace height. That means my natural shooting style flaws aren’t exaggerated as much, especially when hunting. I’ve got this thing dialed in to 50 yards, but I never, ever expect to take a shot at a deer that far away. The extra distance, however, gives me supreme confidence when shooting at deer that are 30 yards away or less. http://mathewsinc.com/product/mathews-creed-xs/
Maxima Red arrows from Carbon Express. Going on my second season of shooting these shafts, and I really like them. There is so much technology built into these arrows that you’ll need to visit the Carbon Express website to get the entire rundown of why and how they’re built for accuracy. All I know is that my arrow groupings went from decent to fantastic the day I started shooting Maxima Reds. Most of this improved accuracy can be directly linked to the flex-control feature that is built into the red portion of the shaft. That, along with how this arrow manages a broadhead in flight is why the Maxima Red is well worth the extra money. Now, I’ve shot plenty of deer over the years with bargain-priced shafts — nothing wrong with them. But, as with all things bowhunting, you really can’t put a price on confidence. http://www.carbonexpressarrows.com/archery/hunting-arrows/maxima–red–
Nocturnal lighted nocks. If you’re not using a lighted nock (and they’re legal in your state), you should be. I’m under the belief that any state that has a law banning lighted nocks should have its collective head examined. Lighted nocks do nothing more than help bowhunters find their blood trails and recover their deer. They do not promote anything other than that. I’ll stand toe to toe and have this discussion with anyone on the planet, so bring it on! OK, back to my point (insert smiley face here). The Nockturnal nocks are different in that they include a recessed bumper (best way that I can describe it) that automatically engages the nock upon the release of the arrow. I’ve shot these nocks all summer and now the first month of archery season, and have had 100 percent “ignition” every time. They are not only highly reliable; they are BRIGHT. Last week I soaked one in blood (shot a big doe here at home), and the deer carried the arrow with her before dropping dead about 75 yards away. The nock was the first thing my buddy and I saw as we went to look for the bloodtrail. Nockturnal nocks are produced by Rage. http://nockturnal.com/index.html
Rage X-Treme broadheads. Going on three years of shooting this broadhead (with 20+ kills), and I must say it might cause me severe depression if they ever stop making it. I’ve shot the new Kore from Rage this year and like it as well, but the X-Treme is still my go-to broadhead mainly because it is scary sharp (which all broadhead are not) and offers an absolutely devastating 2.3-inch cutting path on broadside shots. Notice how I qualify that — broadside shots. Why? Well, because on quartering shots, it is much LARGER than that. The broadhead must hyperextend over something when shot on a slight angle, because I’ve had deer with entry wounds that far exceeded 3 inches. Rage perfected short blood trails when they introduced the X-Treme. The keys to this head is the sharpness of those blades; the cut-on-contact point; and the plastic Shock Collar that keeps the blades in place before and during the shot.
Rage does not recommend this broadhead for bowhunters who shoot less than 60 pounds of draw weight. They do offer low-poundage broadheads for those applications. Now, that being said, I will admit that I break the rule in this case; because I shoot 55 pounds of draw weight. However, I’m darn-near adamant about my shot placement, and I do not shoot deer that are standing at anything but a complete broadside or slight (very slight) quartering away angle. I haven’t had it happen to me, but I have seen some pretty bizarre cases of deflection from guys who shot mechanical broadheads at deer that were standing at steep quartering angles during the shot. One experience like that will cause many hunters to swear off mechanicals forever. That’s a mistake, because the problem came when they released the arrow. It takes some self-discipline and common sense, in my opinion. Deflections can happen with any broadhead, including cut-on-contact styles.
Apex Gear archery sight. If you’ve read this far, you’ve gleaned that I’m a no-nonsense type of guy when it comes to bowhunting for whitetails. That’s probably because I was brought up in archery when old-school styles ruled the day. Apex is a modern company with some pretty fancy archery sights, but they also offer some rock-solid models that provide worry-free shooting — like the four-pin model I’m shooting on my bow. These sights feature easy-to-adjust pins, reversable brackets and large (nearly 2 inch) apertures. The sight also has a glow-in-the-dark shooters ring which helps bracket in the target during low-light conditions. The pins themselves feature an innovative design that protects the fibers and allows them to stay lit all the way to the end of daylight. Huge benefits in a very compact design http://www.apex-gear.com/archery-sights/tundra-series.asp?catid=14EF030088AA44CBAC06E6F08F4B71C1
Tru Fire Edge Release. Archery releases, perhaps more than any other archery accessory, are left to personal preference. We all have different shooting styles. Some guys like some caliper releases (like this one), while others like open-hook designs, or back-tension designs. I prefer the small caliper style and especially like this Tru Fire model because of its foldback design. The Edge features a linear-motion bearing that allows me to fold the release back so it snaps flush to the back of my hand while I’m climbing up to my tree stand, walking through the woods, etc. The small caliper fits perfectly onto my string loop, and the buckle strap provides for a perfectly snug fit. The Edge is so compact that I often forget that I’m wearing it. http://www.trufire.com/edge_releases.html
Ozonics field ozone generator. Biggest question I’m asked every week: Does it work? Absolutely. Is it foolproof? No. However, it sure has improved how I hunt. How does it work? Again, too complicated to get into here on this blog. In short, the Ozonics unit creates an ozone layer that surrounds your scent stream while on the stand or in a ground blind. The unit transforms oxygen molecules into ozone molecules and projects them downwind. The unit needs to be 6 to 12 inches above your head while in a tree stand, or in the window of your ground blind pointing outside. I’ve hunted stands that were completely wrong for the day’s wind direction and have had success while using an Ozonics unit. The last example was on that doe I shot last week. She had busted me the previous evening out of the same stand. I didn’t have my Ozonics with me on that hunt. I came back the next afternoon and killed the doe as she approached the same clover food plot. She was stamping her foot while approaching the plot mostly because I believe she knew there was something there the previous day. After a few minutes, she calmed down and stepped within 25 yards of my stand. My wind was blowing straight to her. I can’t attribute that success to anything other than the effectiveness of the Ozonics unit. http://www.ozonicshunting.com/how_howozonicsworks.shtml
ThermaCELL mosquito repellent. I do not know who invented this product, but whitetail hunters everywhere should herald them. The ThermaCELL mosquito repellent appliance is game saver during early season bowhunts. I would have never stepped foot outside the cabin last week in North Dakota had I not been armed with a ThermaCELL, that is for sure. Almost everyone has tried one of these by now, but if you are someone who hasn’t, here’s how it works: The ThermaCELL unit is about the size of a large TV remote (or early cordless phone…LOL). A single butane cartridge powers it. This provides a slight heat source that heats up an SD-card-sized waver that’s treated with alletrhin. Allethrin is harmless. It is a naturally occurring substance found in chrysanthemum flowers. Mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums want nothing to do with you when this odor is in the air. Best of all, I haven’t found a white-tailed deer that has been bothered by this smell (which, by the way, I cannot smell while I’m in the stand with the ThermaCELL unit on). Only downside to this wonderful invention is the unit is noisy to turn on at first. You have to snap the button on and off until it ignites. The other minor downside is that you have to swap out the butane cartridge and repellent wafer about every 3 or 4 hours depending on wind conditions around you. http://www.thermacell.com/mosquito-repellent/why-thermacell/how-it-works
Ultra-Rest from Quality Archery Designs. Again, there are lots of great options in accessories for bowhunters, and arrow rests are no exception. This particular rest (first recommended to me by my pro-shop buddy Cory Johnson of Smokey Valley Archery here in Wisconsin) is one heckuva a good product. It’s made in the United States and has a 90-day money-back guarantee. I’ve been shooting these rests on my bows for more than three years, and I have to say they have been a blessing in disguise mainly because I’m done with worrying about arrow flight off of my bow. The Ultra-Rest is a total arrow containment device that snaps into place with a simple flick of the thumb. It releases the arrow instantly, and it only drops when the bow is fired (not when you let down). I’ve never had a single hiccup while shooting or hunting. http://qadinc.com/2011-HUNTER.html
Hawke Frontier binoculars. If you’re looking for a pair of high-performance binos at an affordable price, you need to check out the Frontier line. These retail in the mid-$400 range, and they provide all of the bells and whistles (and clear viewing) of models in much higher price points. I’ve used them for bowhunting and gun hunting. For me, optics are a simple tool — is that a deer, or is that a stump? — how big is that buck out in the beanfield? — etc. The Hawke Frontier binos not only allow me to make better decisions in the field, they do so with clear and crisp viewing. Twist-up eyecups helps relieve eyestrain and a precise focus knob allows for fast, sharp image recognition. http://www.hawkeoptics.com/frontier-ed-open-hinge.html