While test-shooting four models of 100-grain broadheads recently, I couldn’t help but think about my first archery season for white-tailed deer 40 years ago.
My bowhunting setup in 1971 consisted of cedar arrows, Bear Razorhead broadheads, and a 43-pound Bear Grizzly recurve bow. I traded away that bow in 1974 after switching to an Allen compound bow.
I’m now hunting with my 12th bow since switching to compounds 37 years ago. Most of those retired bows still hang in my basement’s rafters. I can’t bring myself to get rid of them.
Today’s archery equipment can make average shooters good, and good shooters excellent.
In the interest of safety -- mine and anyone nearby – I’ll never shoot some of those compounds again, especially the first two. And in the interest of my forearm, I’ll never shoot the third one, either. Its string had a painful tendency to smack my forearm at the least hint of handle torque. Sentiment is the only thing keeping those three bows hanging around.
However, I would feel confident shooting and hunting with any of the other 11 or so compounds, all bought or acquired since the late 1980s.
Even though practice, perseverance and woodsmanship separate good bowhunters from average-and-worse bowhunters, today’s archery equipment can make average shooters good, and good shooters excellent. The new bows and arrows now for sale are superior to anything I hunted with 25 years ago and before.
Today's bows are better than ever, but so are our releases and arrow rests.
I’ll also take today’s broadheads over the reputable, but heavy, Bodkin and Razorhead broadheads of my youth. For instance, throughout spring and summer I’ll practice with 100-grain field-points in the backyard. When I replace the field-points with three-blade 100-grain broadheads made by Muzzy, New Archery Products, Field Logic or Tru-Fire, to name a few, I seldom need to make big adjustments to my sights.
I doubt my bow is tuned any more finely than most archers’ bows, but it still launches most broadheads with bull’s-eye accuracy. I never had that type of “out-of-the-box” performance with yesterday’s broadheads.
Of course, maybe part of that accuracy can be attributed to the mechanical trigger release I use instead of the traditional three-finger approach. After struggling with a bad flinch in fall 1983, I made that switch and never looked back.
Or maybe it’s today’s fall-away rests that make the biggest difference. I was impressed how much better broadheads shot when I scrapped the old shoot-through rest for a fall-away about five years ago.
Or maybe it’s the carbon arrow shafts I now shoot. Or is the carbon/aluminum combination shaft that makes the difference? No matter. All of today’s shafts are better than the old cedar or fiberglass shafts I used in the early 1970s.
As recently 1995, though, I killed deer with ancient heavy aluminum shafts -- Easton 2020s for you old guys -- that I bought in 1977. I moved on only when my supply of 2020s in the Autumn Orange finish finally ran low in the mid-1990s.
Another big advantage enjoyed by today’s bowhunters are fiber-optic pin sights. Was it really the mid-1990s when I still thought a dot of red or white paint on a pin sight was as good as it could get, short of battery-powered lighted sights? How quaint.
Although most of the early fiber-optic pins were flimsy and needed protecting, they make up for this shortcoming with high visibility. Even in the shadows of dawn and dusk, they were highly visible, and made battery power almost irrelevant.
Sure, I know what some people are thinking: All this technology creates an unfair advantage for bowhunters. Buck pellets. One constant, despite all the advances, is the fact that bows remain short-range weapons. I killed my first deer with a 35-yard shot with the 43-pound recurve bow in 1973. That still ranks as my farthest shot on a whitetail.
In fact, a good self-imposed restriction for my bow-shots on woodland whitetails might always be about 25 yards. The value of today’s equipment is that it reduces the chance for errors and poor shots at such ranges.
Recurve bows aren't for everyone, but some skilled archers are deadly with them.
If you’re a master with the old gear, recurves or longbows, that’s fine. But if you’re not so hot with truly traditional equipment, you might consider moving on to compounds or crossbows. We’re hunting deer, not the past, right?
I’m as sentimental as the next guy about my old archery gear, but I’m more deadly with the modern stuff. And that’s how I’ve come to view old gear vs. new gear: Even though sentimentality gives me warm feelings, those thoughts wouldn’t outweigh the guilt I’d feel if my old gear wounded a deer unnecessarily.