January 02, 2022
With another bow season wrapping up, it's time to take a look at the season that was ... and the ones that will be. One of the parts I enjoy about bowhunting is the constant evolution of the game.
I like to learn and consider myself to be a lifetime learner. I make plenty of mistakes every season and try to learn from them. I’m always interested in new technologies, patterns or tactics that can help me see more deer in the woods.
Some of these advancements don’t always live up to the hype. Others have turned out to be incredible additions to the hunting experience.
I find it worthwhile to pay attention to trends because I might learn something. There were several that dominated the 2021 season, a few that might continue to have an impact in seasons to come, and one that I hope will die a silent death.
The mobile hunting movement continued to roll in 2021, and I don’t see much sign of it stopping. This is one trend I’m on the fence about. While the strategy is solid, its execution takes more care than many hunters realize.
The concept is pretty simple: Carry as little gear as possible and don’t hit the woods with a pre-set plan laid in stone. Instead, react to the conditions and the hottest sign. If that means hunting from the ground, so be it. If an elevated position is beneficial, then use a saddle setup to minimize prep time.
Nothing wrong with any of this. In a lot of ways, it’s something I’ve incorporated into my own bowhunting efforts for a long time, albeit without the use of a saddle. I’ve long favored light, portable stands and never married myself to a particular tree or location. If the deer tell me to move, I move. But I do it carefully, based on observation and known patterns. Mobile hunting shouldn’t be random, but it sometimes seems to be done that way.
I don’t see this trend going anywhere any time soon. In fact, I think we’re likely just on the edge of the boom in gear specific to this approach.
We’ve already seen a number of new saddle offerings hit the market, and a couple of smaller treestand manufacturers have popped up with uber-light (and uber-pricey) stands designed specifically for the mobile run-and-gun game.
Climbing sticks are getting lighter, smaller and, yes, more expensive as well. We should see more packs designed specifically for mobile hunting setups, more mobile-related accessories and a continued focus on tactics related to this trend.
HEAVIER ARROW STEUPS
This trend has taken center stage over the past couple of seasons, and I’ve been a fan of it for some time. Heavier arrows fly better. They penetrate better. They tune easier.
Previously, we were somewhat limited on options for creating a heavier hunting arrow. Most arrow shafts were made for speed and thus were lighter. Broadheads were pretty much stagnant at 100-grain models.
Now we have a number of new shaft options that are designed specifically for heavier overall arrow weight and increased front-of-center configurations. Broadheads are also following suit. We’ve seen an influx of 125-grain heads hit the market as well as a number of 150-grain-plus options.
I expect to see more heavy shafts, and broadheads at or above 125 grains, at the Archery Trade Association show when companies unveil their 2022 lineups.
BETTER BUDGET BOWS
Several bow manufacturers released models starting around 2019 that were friendlier on the wallet. From Bear and Xpedition to Hoyt and Mathews, top-end brands unveiled bows priced several hundred dollars below their flagship models. I hope this is a trend in the making.
I’m fortunate that I don’t usually have to buy a bow. One of the perks of my outdoor-media gig is field-testing new bows on loan on an annual basis.
But there was a time when I simply couldn’t fathom spending more than $1,000 on a new bow, and that doesn’t factor in accessories and arrows. I bet there are far more bowhunters in that position than there are ones who don’t blink an eye when dropping a grand on a bow.
With today’s technology and systems, clearly a top-quality bow can be built with a lower price tag. Maybe it doesn’t have every bell and whistle, but it will still be a great shooter.
I’ll wrap this up with one trend that none of us should be proud of. The social-media circus continued this season. Whether it was attacking someone for killing a buck that "looked like" it came from a deer farm or smashing on the parent of an 8-year-old boy who killed a giant buck during youth season, the keyboard cowboys were out in force.
To this I say: Enough. I could go on a rant about how we’re all hunters and we’re supposed to stick together. But I won’t even go there. Instead, I’ll go at it on a more basic level, and you don’t have to be religious to see the wisdom.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, He didn’t mince words. He gave two simple directives: Love God. Love each other.
Here’s hoping next bow season we all see a bit more of that attitude when checking our social-media feeds.