9 Cool Bowhunting Products from ATA 2010
A few finds from the outside edges of archery's largest tradeshow
Sean McCosh (DuckBuckGoose) - PHJ FieldStaff - Cincinnati, OH
Earlier this year the ProHuntersJournal.com team attended the Archery Trade Association show in Columbus, Ohio. This was the first ATA Show we have attended as a team and our goal was to discover noteworthy new products for 2010 and some of the lesser known bowhunting innovations that appeared to be both innovative and actually useful in the field. The show did not disappoint.
ATA is billed as an "industry only" event and closed to the public, so let me set the scene. We pulled up to the Columbus Convention Center and found a parking garage a few blocks away that still had available parking. Along the sidewalks camo-clad hunters and archers (mostly dealers, archery shop owners and manufacturers) were descending upon the front doors of the show from all directions, like an army of ants heading back to an anthill. Once inside we checked in at registration, received our media badges and were ready to hit the show. Walking in the front doors of the actual show floor was an exciting, almost overwhelming experience, which left us wondering where we should start, and if we would be able to cover all these manufacturers in the two days that we had scheduled to attend. The skyline of the massive space was blazing with bright colors and images from the towering display booths and signs of all the big brands in the industry - Bowtech, Bushnell, Easton, Hoyt, Limbsaver, Lone Wolf, Mossy Oak, Primos, Realtree, Scentblocker, Sitka and MANY more. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.
Without knowing a better strategy for tackling the event, the PHJ team decided to split up and attack this show from the outside edges - working our way from either side with the intention of eventually meeting in the middle. This strategy proved to have its advantages and drawbacks. The downside - I'm not sure if we ever covered the whole show. There were so many vendors to visit with and products to cover - and just making my way down the first two aisles took every bit of 3 hours. If I were to guess, I would estimate that by the end of the two days, we were able to see about 80% of the brands exhibiting at the show, and had the chance to actually speak with only about 30% or so. It was a lot to take in.
The upside to working your way in from the edges of a tradeshow is that you first get to see the "little guys"...the startups that often bring forth some of the most innovative products of all and have a passion for hunting that some of the bigger companies seem to have lost. When I look back at the products that stuck-out most to me from the 2010 ATA, most of them are from these small, startup brands in the "low rent district"of the show floor's outer edges.
We hope to get our hands on some of these products later in the year so we can do an official Gear Test and let our readers know how they perform in the field, under real-life conditions. But based on their product demonstrations from the show and speaking with their reps, here are just a few innovations that we liked for their usefulness, innovation and design.
The Bow Coach from Buckeye Cam (www.BowCoach.com) One of the true innovations we saw at the show, the Bow Coach from Buckeye Cam, is a new type of training aid for archers that claims to be able to improve your shooting form and accuracy. The Bow Coach is a small "black box" that attaches directly to your bow's riser and detects movement of the bow hand as the shot is being made and displays it graphically, giving you instant feedback after every shot. Check out www.BowCoach.com or this video on YouTube to see a video demonstration of how the product works.
Our team thought it looked like it could be great training aid for the off-season. We hope to get our hands on one soon to do a more comprehensive review.
The Breath-Taker by Smootchie Outdoors, Inc. (www.smootchie.com)
I'm a firm believer that the weakest link in scent-control while hunting is the odor emitted through your breath. The Breath-Taker by Smootchie OutdoorsInc is a disposable active carbon facemask that promises to help adsorb (trap within the mask) up to 99% of the scents and odors from a hunter's breath. It looks essentially like a camouflaged surgeon's mask and the company says it uses "pristine" (virgin) carbon in every mask. The mask conforms to the shape of your face with a flexible nose bar and comfortable elastomeric ear loops.
Again, this is another dead-simple product, which I like. If you are looking to maximize your scent-control efforts, the Breath-Taker disposable carbon facemasks may be a good alternative to more expensive scent controlling facemasks that tend to lose their scent controlling capabilities over time.
On their website, Smootchie OutdoorsInc. sells Breath-Takers in packs of 5 for $9.99 or you can get their "full season deal" that includes 10 packs of 5 (50 masks) for $79.99.Â
Bushnell Backtrack GPS & Digital Compass (www.Bushnell.com)
The Bushnell Backtrack has been around for a year or two, but it was new to me.Â As I mentioned earlier in the article, I am a big fan of simple, reliable and easy to use products - especially when bowhunting. The BackTrack fits that description by having only two buttons and storing up to just three locations. Because it offers a backlit LCD for viewing in darkness and low light, the BackTrack is perfect for helping you get from your truck to your treestand in the dark. It can also be used to set a third GPS coordinate at the location of a downed animal - so you can easily find it again if you want to go back to get your truck or ATV to recover the animal. To use, simply select the location you want to navigate to and the BackTrack displays the direction and distance to travel.
As a Dad, I would also like to do some simple geocaching play with my kids using this type of device. I think it would be a fun and easy way to help enhance their appreciation and knowledge of navigating in the outdoors.
The Bushnell BackTrack retails for around $60 on Cabelas.com, a relative bargain when compared against many of the full featured and more complex GPS systems.
Cambowflage from Arrow Minded Innovations (www.Cambowflage.com)Â Whether you hunt from the ground or a treestand this product can help you stay more concealed and break upyour silhouette. The company's website describes Cambowflage as a bow accessory that acts as a blind. The product concept is pretty simple, you simply attach lightweight carbon poly "arms" to the riser of your bow that are designed to hold small cut limbs, branches or other vegetation that match your surroundings. The kit also contains a set of aluminum legs that, along with your bottom cam, act as a tripod to keep your bow upright in front of you when you are hunting from the ground. The legs are adjustable to varying terrain conditions and easily removable for treestand hunting. Without testing it myself, I don't know how severely adding natural camo to the outside edges will affect the balance of your bow and affect longer shots. For close up hunting in certain situations, however, it seems like an interesting innovation that could do a good job of helping keeping you hidden.
Hooyman Extendable Tree Saws (www.hooymansaws.com)
During the show I had a chance to spend a few minutes with Andrew Hooyman, President of Hooyman Saws. Andrew was one of those guys who is clearly passionate about his product, and for good reason. The Hooyman Extendable Tree Saw is well designed, durable and a great tool for any Whitetail hunter to keep in his pack for use while clearing shooting lanes, brushing in a blind or for pre-season tree stand prep. This product is unique in that it acts as both a folding saw and an extendable tree saw. Plus it is compact, super tough (you can feel the quality when you hold it) and relatively lightweight. Hooyman Tree Saws come in both 5-foot and10-foot extendable models, and are made of aircraft grade aluminum.
Saws and replacement blades can be purchased directly from the Hooyman website or from this page on GanderMountain.com. The 5-foot model is priced at $49.99, while the 10-foot saw (with carrying sling) is offered at $79.99.
IQ Bowsight (by Field Logic)
One of the biggest innovations in bowsights that I have seen in awhile is being introduced this year in the new IQ Bowsight. This new brand of innovative sights is marketed by Field Logic (makers of Block Targets and Rage Broadheads).
The unique feature that makes this bowsight stand out from the crowd is what they call "Retina Lock" technology. IQ places a magnifying lens in front of a colored optic element inside of the top bezel of the sight. So only when perfectly aligned with your eye and when proper shooting form is being used, the Retina Lock feature produces a green glow behind a black centering dot. It reminded me of something you would view while taking a vision test at the optometrist. IQ claims this technology will help archers verify their shooting position so that their hold and anchor points are consistent every time.
I played with a prototype model at the show that produced a red glow, rather than a green one (as seen in the picture to the right). I have to admit, I was pretty impressed by how it worked. When I held the demo bow up in shooting position and applied torque to the riser just slightly from one side to the other, the Retina Lock feature did indeed give me instant feedback that my form was flawed. If we can get our hands on one of these new bowsights for an upcoming Gear Test, we will let you know our impressions of how it works on the 3D course and in the field.
The IQ Bowsight will be available in four- and seven-pin configurations in both left and right-hand variants. IQ says the first models will be arriving on dealers' shelves by May with suggested retail prices of $199.99 and $219.99 for the four and seven-pin configurations, respectively.
Stink Stick from Scent Sticks, Inc. (www.StinkStick.com)
There may be a few similar products on the market, but the design of the Stink Stick particularly impressed me. Especially after coming out of a bow hunting season where it seemed I was continuously fumbling with dripping scent bottles, cheap, disposable scent wicks and plastic baggies that never seemed to allow me to keep my hands or my pack clean and scent free after handling.
Larry and the Stink Stink crew had a nice demo set up showing the airtight, leak-proof capabilities of their products. They simply filled one of the replaceable fiberglass wicks within the Stink Stick with some of the most odiferous drug store perfume they could find, and then let you take an eye-watering whiff (with the Stink Stick in the open position). Then they simply screwed the stick down into the closed position and let you smell it again, but this time there was not a trace of scent present. Maybe I'm a sucker for these simple product demonstrations, but it convinced me that the product will deliver the benefits it promises.
Stink Sticks come in regular, "magnum" and glow-in-the-dark varieties. Available in a variety of colors, they can be effectively used as yardage markers while on stand. Most importantly, they have replaceable wicks and are totally leak proof. Prices on the Stink Stick website range from $12.95 - $16.95, depending on the size and model you choose.
Tagged Out Rangefinders from Bad River Outdoors (www.BadRiverOutdoors.com)
We believe that the best hunting products are often the simplest. If you believe that too, then the Tagged-Out Range Finder might be a great product for you. Tagged-Out rangefinders work off of a simple "bracketing" theory that allows you to quickly judge the distance to a deer, elk or antelope (they have different models for different species) by simply bracketing the animal within a graduated, stair-stepped bracketing system that fits right into your bow site's site picture. This allows you to instantly range the distance to an animal, within a few yards, while at full-draw and looking through your bowsight's site picture. For a full explanation of how it works, check out the video from ATA of Bad River Outdoors' CEO, Ed Humpert, as he explains the features and benefits of the Tagged-Out rangefinder. Tagged-Out Rangefinders are available for purchase on BadRiverOutdoors.com and range in price from $17.95 for acrylic models to $47.95 for their "Extreme" aluminum models.
Tru-Fire Edge Releases by Tru-Fire Corporation (www.trufire.com)
There are a lot of competing releases on the market and smart little innovations in design and technology are worth noticing. New features on a couple of the new Tru-Fire releases for 2010 caught my eye.Â Specifically, the "foldback" (FB) and "hybrid strap" features available on Tru-Fire's new Edge series of releases. The foldback feature allows you to fold the metal portion of the release back against your arm/sleeve so that it is out of the way when you are climbing out of your stand, digging through your pack or hauling up your pull-up rope. When stand hunting, I find myself removing my release when climbing into and out of my stand, so that it does not get in the way of my grip or bang off the metal steps. But I also like to have it on when I am on the ground, so I can still-hunt to and from my stand and remain ready to shoot if I happen to jump a deer. The foldback feature looks as if it could save the time and hassle of having to take the release on and off in this scenario, which I liked.
Tru-Fire's hybrid strap was another innovation that I found appealing. This new strap is available on their Trufire FB or Trufire FB Edge and Hurricane models and takes the advantages of a Velcro strap (without the noise) and a conventional buckle strap and combines them into a new style strap that promises to simplify putting on your release and better adjustability. The cam fastener on the Hybrid strap allows for infinite adjustment verses a standard buckle strap that has holes 1/2 inches apart from each other. Although I think it's a great strap and I like the "infinite adjustment", one feature I'd like to see included in future models would be measurement markers that would help ensure you lock in a consistent strap length every time you put on the release. Tru-Fire releases can be found in a variety of models and prices at archery shops nationwide or at online retailers like Cabelas.com.
Beyond these innovations from "the outside edges" of the show, there are many more new products we saw at ATA 2010 that we would like to feature or test in upcoming articles - including some of the hot new bows for 2010. We had a chance to shoot several new bows from Bowtech, Elite Archery, Hoyt, Limbsaver and others. And let me tell you, there are some sweet shooters for 2010. If you are in the market for a new bow this year, you will not be disappointed from the bows you have to choose from.
The Tru-Fire Edge releases are some of the best releases ive shot. The fold back feature is great. No more banging the release off of things. Also, the strap is great and durable. The other nice feature is the easy adjustment in length of the realse mechanism. You can twist it so the lenght is short or you can stretch it out if you like to have a long reach to the trigger. All you do is tighten down the allen screw and you are set, but you can always change it if need be. The lifetime warranty is great too!