Off-Season Experimentson May 22, 2013
Variety is the spice of life. Generally, that’s true of all things – including bowhunting. Every now and then, it’s good to try something new to make sure we’re at the top of our game. You don’t want the bowhunting world to leave you behind because you’re too set in your ways. The offseason is a perfect time to do some experimentation such as check out a new bow and/or try some new accessories, a new shooting style, or maybe work on your form; assuming it needs some tweaking. A good question to ask yourself is “How are you going to know if you can make some improvements unless you experiment with new things”? With that in mind, let’s look at some of the areas you can experiment with this off-season.
Is it time for a new bow? There seem to be two basic camps of bowhunters. Those who change bows frequently, and those who find one they like and keep shooting it until the wheels fall off – figuratively speaking, of course. Bow manufacturers make incremental improvements in their products every year. Cumulatively, those improvements add up over time. There’s nothing wrong with going for the latest and greatest each year, if you have the money to do it. But for the rest of us, figure that cumulative improvements add up to significant advances about every five or six years. That is, a top of the line bow one year is a technological dinosaur five or six years later. The new bows are faster, smoother, lighter, etc. They’re more efficient in virtually every way.
The offseason is a perfect time to check out new bows to see if it’s time to make an upgrade.
Go to your local archery shop and play around with the new bows. A good shop with its own range will let you try out anything. See how they feel. Does the bow draw easier than yours? Is there less hand shock? Is it faster? If the answers are “yes, yes, yes,” then you know you’re holding an instrument that will allow you to deliver arrows on target more effectively than yours. Switching to a new bow in the offseason gives you plenty of time to become familiar with every aspect of it by the time hunting season rolls around. It also gives you time to become proficient with it.
The offseason is also the perfect time to try out some new accessories for your bow. Let’s start with sights. Pretty much all bowhunting sights feature fiber-optic pins. Did you know those pins come in various sizes? The smaller the pin, the more precise you can be with your aiming. However, small pins are more difficult to see in low light than larger pins. So which one is right for you?
The most common pin sizes are .10, .19, .29 and .39, with .39 being the largest and .10 being the smallest. Try a couple different sizes in varying light conditions to see which one performs best for your eyes. Just because .10 is the smallest, doesn’t mean it’s the one you should choose to achieve optimum accuracy. You might have trouble seeing that pin. But on the other hand, the .39 pin might be so big that it covers too much of the target, and you might not be able to achieve pinpoint accuracy.
Maybe a new sight is what you need to improve your shooting.
Long sight bars allow you to be more accurate than short ones. Hold a pencil point right in front of your eye, then push it out to arm’s length. You’ll notice you can be more precise in using that point for aiming at arm’s length. But a long sight bar also can create more problems maneuvering your bow, especially if you hunt from a ground blind. What’s best for you? You won’t know until you try a couple sights.
Stabilizers help keep the bow steady while you’re aiming. And a stabilizer performs best when you concentrate its weight at the very end, away from your bow, as far away from the bow as you can get it. Target archers use stabilizers that are as long as 36 inches. Bowhunters probably don’t want to lug something like that around the woods, which is why 12 inches generally is considered the maximum length for a bowhunting stabilizer. Have you ever shot with a 12-inch stabilizer, with 8, 12 or 14 ounces of weight at the very end? Try it and see if you find something you like. Maybe your bow arm tends to move all over the place with the stubby, 4-inch stabilizer you’ve been using, but you find your pins settle down with a 12-incher tipped with a 10-ounce weight. Steady pins lead to more bull’s-eyes.
Try out different stabilizers in the offseason.
Some hunters swear by T-handle releases. Others love the triggers that strap to their wrists. Some even like a back-tension release. Try a couple different releases to see if you are using the one that suits you best. Also, not all releases function the same. There are calipers that require only slight pressure to set them off, versus jaws that only open as far as you pull the trigger. To open the jaws totally, you have to pull the trigger all the way back.
Try out different releases in the offseason.
Broadheads can be the most frustrating piece of equipment bowhunters deal with. Some fly great for one guy, but poorly for another. There are many reasons why broadheads don’t fly well. We’re not going to get into all that here. The bottom line is, you need ones that work for you. Have you been using fixed-blade heads? Or have you opted for expandables? If you’re thinking of switching, the offseason is the time to play around. Get packs of different heads and put them through the paces. See which ones fly best on your arrows, from your bow.