I have been attending the annual Archery Trade Association Show for the past 6 years. This 3-day dealer trade show is the bowhunting industry’s largest, intended to promote commerce within the industry. This year it was held in the Louisville, KY, Expo Center for their 20th Anniversary. If you can imagine a facility the size of 4 full football fields filled with 615 vendors showcasing everything that the archery community has to offer in new gear and innovations, then you can imagine that it can be rather overwhelming to take it all in. Almost 10,000 attendees poured through the doors, eager to see the hottest new products for 2016. I am an avid bowhunter myself and have been involved in the retail archery industry with multiple businesses for many years, so it is always an event that I look forward to. Here are some of the products that caught my attention in a variety of categories as I attended the show this year.
For the past several seasons I have bowhunted with the QAD Exodus broadhead. They are a tried-and-true, go-to broadhead for me, having harvested my past 10 animals with them. I have unshakable confidence in their performance on even the thickest-skinned animals that I have taken: moose, brown bear and African game. However, this year at the ATA Show, two other broadheads caught my attention that I plan on giving a try this coming hunting season. The first is the Diamondback by Ramcat. In the past, the Ramcat Broadheads have been considered barbed and therefore illegal in Alaska (where I primarily hunt) due to their design. However, this year they have come out with a true fixed blade that is Alaska-legal. It has an offset blade design and a 1 1/16-inch cutting diameter (making it a great choice for both low- and high-poundage bows). Additionally, Ramcat also purchased the right to use Dorge Huang’s (engineer at Firenock) FACT Concentric Technology on this head. The double inset O-rings from his design ensure precision alignment and heads that won’t loosen in your quiver—always staying perfectly tight. MSRP $42.49 for 3. Check out www.ramcatbroadheads.com for more information.
The new Trophy Taker A-TAC broadhead also caught my eye. This sturdily built fixed blade is composed of a solid stainless steel ferrule with an unvented single .080 thick main blade that fits through the ferrule and locks into place. As I said, I’ve been hunting with the Exodus, which offers a .040 thick blade and that up until now has been one of the thicker options on the market (many like the Slick Trick, which I also like, for example are .035). The A-TAC’s .080 thickness would make this a bone crusher andhas got me very excited to try them on thick-skinned big game. This high-quality design does come at a steeper price, $99.99 for 3. I am, however, someone who is more than willing to pay a little more for better quality and engineering. Check out www.trophytaker.com for more information.
Small game hunting just got taken up a notch with the new Rip Trick. Made by well-known broadhead company Slick Trick; the Rip Trick is a much sturdier option than a Judo Point; its .035 steel blades and super steel ferrule offer a 7/8-inch cutting diameter and would be perfect for small game like rabbits or that squirrel that keeps making a fuss by your bait-station tree-stand. MSRP is $26.99 for 3. Visit www.slicktrick.net for more information.
Are you a sheep or goat hunter, trying to cut out every possible bit of weight on your pack trip? Celestron has created a crystal-clear spotting scope that can easily fit into your pack without adding much weight. The ultra-small Hummingbird is multicoated, nitrogen purged, ED glass for bright, clear views with an adjustable zoom lens. Originally designed for bird-watching enthusiasts to be light and able to pack in easily in a pocket, it might be the hunting solution that you’ve been looking for! We were pleasantly surprised at how clear the glass was and the dramatically smaller size was impressive. Cutting weight without cutting quality of the glass in a spotting scope is a sheep hunters dream! MSRP is $319-$359 and you can visit www.celestron.com for more info.
There is nothing worse than getting a chill you can’t get rid of while sitting in a tree-stand. ThermaCell released new items to deal with cutting the chill while hunting this year. In addition to their popular Headed Insoles from last year, they now also offer ThermaCell Heat Packs. These come in two sizes (hand-warmer and pocket-warmer) that can be adjusted to 3 different comfort settings of 104, 113 or 122 degrees. Unlike the Zippo brand pocket/hand-warmers, the ThermaCell warmers can be put directly up against your skin due to their treated medical-grade silicone exterior. These rechargeable warmers can even be controlled directly from your smartphone without removing it from your pocket/clothing. They offer a 6-hour battery life per charge. They aren’t cheap at $79.99 for 2 hand-warmers, either, but since you can recharge them you should be able to still get your money’s worth! Visit www.heat.thermacell.com for more.
The Elements by Celestron lineup is also offering several items that work both to warm you up and provide additional functions. The Thermocharge 6 is a small rechargeable hand-warmer that also doubles as an electronics charger (i.e. phone). This water-resistant rechargeable lithium battery can provide up to 8 hours of heat or the slightly bulkier 10 version can provide up to 12 hours. The Thermotorch 5 is a rechargeable flashlight that can provide 6 hours of heat, up to 22 hours of light and is capable of charging your electronics. How’s that for multi tasking? Visit www.celestronelements.com for more.
Love lighted nocks? The Nockturnal brand of lighted nocks have always been my favorite. They are more durable than other brands on the market and easy to use. With the new Nock Tool, they just got even easier. This tool allows you to quickly install, remove or turn off any Nockturnal nock with ease. I received a prototype of the tool last year at the ATA and used it all year. It works like a charm. I was thrilled to see that it is now in production and will be available for sale. These will be a must-have in your archery tool kit and is priced at just $6.99. Go to www.nockturnal.com for more info.
Each year at the ATA show there are a couple of bow brands that you hear everyone talking about. Each vendor’s booth you stop at, whether it’s a sight, rest, stabilizer company etc., they are asking if you’ve had a chance to go over to the shooting lanes of Brand X and wondering what you thought. This year was no exception with us consistently hearing talk about the bows from Gearhead Archery and Xpedition Archery.
Gearhead Archery T18/ T20/ T24
When you first see a Gearhead Archery bow you can’t help but to be intrigued. The incredibly compact T18 bow is only 18 1/2 inches axle to axle (22 inches in total height including the cams). Its machined “waffle style” riser makes you think of a mini Mathews but its design, placement of the grip and shoot-through riser design are completely different. Despite its small size, it actually weighs 2.9 pounds, which is not too far off from Hoyt’s Carbon bows that are full-size compounds (the T20 and T24 weigh slightly more and offer longer draw lengths than the T18). Its small size would make it easy to strap to a pack for hiking in or to shoot in a tight space. It is convertible from RH and LH in minutes, which is unique for a compound bow, and it is rated at 325 feet per second (IBO). Overall this sounded pretty sweet, and I was intrigued, so I shot it to see if its performance matched the hype. I cannot say that its draw cycle impressed me. It was smooth at first and then had a very stiff hump at the end to roll over. It had a solid back wall but that rollover was so stiff that it went directly from that to the wall feeling very abrupt with little valley. Upon release of the shot, however, there was little vibration and it was fairly dead in your hand. Enjoyable to shoot? No, Not for me. Innovative, interesting concept? Absolutely. It will be interesting to see where they go with these bows in the future. But now the hardest part to swallow, the price. With a 7075 aluminum machined riser its price tag is a steep $1,249. Switch to the titanium riser version and you’ll pay a hefty $1,949. That being said, this is the archery industry’s first solid titanium riser—and with the price of titanium and the innovation behind it, the price is somewhat understandable. Visit www.gearheadarchery.com to learn more.
A few years ago when I was attending the ATA Show, Xpedition Archery was the new brand that everyone was talking about. This year I noticed as I went around the show and met with other vendors and folks who owned other accessory brands, they kept mentioning that they had “switched” over to Xpedition from whatever their long-term loyal favorite had been. Relatively speaking; Xpedition is still one of the smaller bow brands. However, their annual sales numbers continue to grow at a very rapid pace and usuallythat causes bow brands to experience major delays in production as they get inundated with orders from dealers. What sets Xpedition apart is that they are owned by Applied Engineering, one of the largest machining companies in the country. They are machining their own risers and their capacity to “keep up” is tremendous. Their 92,000 square-foot facility in Yankton, SD, allows them to do all the machining and assembly in house, shipping from there direct to dealers. I owned a large archery store for many years and can recall bow companies that experienced very rapid growth and the stress of having to tell my customers on special orders that the wait to get their new bow was going to be 3- to 4 months. Xpedition customers and dealers don’t have to go through those “growing pains” and that speaks volumes. Lead times are generally 2 weeks on a bow order. Applied Engineering has 48 years of aerospace aluminum machining experience and the quality of the machining is evident in their finished product—topped off this year by some beautifully done, unique finish options that had everyone at the show talking. When you are meeting with so many industry vendors throughout the show and hearing them say they’re switching to Xpedition you just can’t help but wonder why. Bows with smooth draw cycles, solid back walls and deep valleys that are rated at impressive (and attainable!) speeds is your answer. If I can get the speed of a “speed bow” but with a comfortable draw cycle, then a bow brand has my attention. Check out Xpedition Archery at your local pro shop or www.xpeditionarchery.com.
Looking for a great bow for a beginner?
The Hoyt Ignite is in its second season and is still as popular as ever. This bow goes from 19- to 30-inch draw and 15- to 70 pounds of draw weight, making it the perfect choice for everyone from youth shooters and ladies who want to hunt to guys who are looking for a good price-point with good quality. Being able to get all set up for just a few hundred dollars is appealing to anyone who wants to dip their toe into archery without diving in head first. This year Hoyt launched some fun new color options (shown) in addition to their regular camos and black, which refreshed this already popular beginner bow’s appeal! Go to www.hoyt.com for more.
I am a huge fan of Striker Bows. Made in Minster, OH, by the skilled hands of Rick Ellis since 1998, these beautiful high-quality wood long lows have no hand shock, are incredibly smooth drawing and are the type of bow you buy and keep for a lifetime. I know, because I own one and love it! However, up until now they have only offered the one-piece long bows in their more consumer-friendly price-point bows—the Sport and Classic. In order to get a takedown version you had to do a custom bow that ranged in the $1,200-plus price-point. This year for the first time they are offering a takedown version of their Sport and Classic models in a more economical price-point without sacrificing quality. This might just prove too tempting for me to pass up adding another bow to my collection this season! Visit www.strikerbows.com for more.
Tired of having your string silencers break after a few hundred shots? Ever have the rubber rot out and they just come apart? X Factor Outdoors makes a string silencer that you cannot break with your bare hand. Trust me, we tried. All three of us tried, over and over, and it couldn’t be done. Now that is durable! Made from A-Tech Rubber Compound these silencers are guaranteed for life! And at only 13 grains, they are also by far the lightest option on the market. These will be going in my bowstring this season without a doubt. Check out www.xfactoroutdoors.com.
There are lots of cover scents on the market, and it’s hard to know which one to choose. There is a small, new, up-and-coming company called Be the Tree that may have just nailed it. Be the Tree is a full scent cover lineup consisting of laundry detergent, cover scent spray, body wash, lotion, etc. and it smells like the woods. Literally. Three of us tried on the product and then closed our eyes and tried to describe the scent. Words like forest, soil and earth came out in our descriptions. Seems like there couldn’t be anything better than that to help you blend into your hunting surroundings! Visit www.bethetreellc.com for more information.
New Camo Pattern
Walking through the ATA show, the new Badlands camo pattern immediately caught my eye. This is one of the biggest changes that Badlands has offered to their lineup in many years. Their new “Approach Pattern” uses what they call Phase Shift Technology; meaning the look of the pattern changes based upon your immediate surroundings. Their entire lineup is available in their versatile new pattern that can transition from the forest to the tundra as you need it. There was a great deal of excitement at the show around the new pattern andwith good reason. I think it is going to be a great seller for Badlands this year! More information can be found at www.badlandspacks.com.
Do you ever get tired of shooting paper circles and want a little variety? It doesn’t get any more unique than some of the cool 3D target options available from Masterpiece Targets. From Bigfoot’s giant head to full-size bats hanging upside down from a tree, these cool 3D targets are bound to keep your attention and make shooting even more fun. 3D targets can be pricy, though, so what can you do for a more affordable option? The new Morrell Half Back Turkey is made from self-healing foam, so you can shoot it with field points, fixed blade or mechanical broadheads. This anatomically-correct raised vital target can be shot on all 4 sides, is 100% waterproof and has an easy carry handle, all for around $100. Great value and great product from a great company (www.morrelltargets.com).
Joni Marie is founder/owner of Rockstarlette Bowhunting and is a Factory Pro Staff shooter for several national archery lines. She has hunted extensively throughout North America and Africa with her bow.