Friday, May 31, 2013

Give It A Rest

So begins my first archery gear review. Today's subject is rests and arrows, and what I've learned about both in the last 24 hours.

Carbon arrows are all the rage today. They are very durable, and supposedly will not warp after hitting a solid target. They are very light, and very strong. They also can have catastrophic failures if you do not carefully inspect and flex your arrows EVERY time you shoot. And because they might explode and maim me, I purchased some Easton XX75 "Gamegetter" arrows after work today.

The aluminium Gamegetters were $29 for six arrows, or roughly half what my Gold Tip Velocity arrows cost. I also got a rebate for $5 off, so they were very cheap indeed. The XX75 has been the hunting arrow of choice for about two decades now, and will probably still be popular until someone makes a carbon arrow that won't explode into your forearm. It is old technology, but it works, and it is very cost-effective.

While I would never tell someone not to use carbon arrows, I am not inclined to use them at this time. And you should always inspect your arrows, no matter what spine thickness or material you shoot. Aluminium shows folds or nicks where metal fatigue is setting in--and NEVER shoot for group. Shooting groups is a great way to damage your arrows. Get a target face with multiple bullseyes and shoot one arrow at each. The center is the center, no matter what.

So that said, it's anecdote time.

I got home tonight and went in the garage to see how the new arrows get along with my bow. I shot about 25 times (that's four or five trips through my rest) and on my final shot, I saw a vane tear off, and the arrow went very sideways into my target block, though it impacted very near where I was aiming. This is the biggest downfall of the "whisker biscuit" arrow rest. They WILL tear off vanes and feathers. Most package bows come with this rest because it is cheap and effective. If you shoot 2" vanes, you probably won't have too many issues. And the whisker biscuit is very quiet and sturdy.

It will, however, amplify any mistakes you make when firing because the arrow is in contact with the bow through the entire travel of the string. It will also rob you of about 15-20fps of precious velocity. And they wear out after a while and require combing out (the whiskers eventually get twisted and matted) and eventually replaced.

The most popular replacement is a drop-away rest. This type of rest acts like a free-floating barrel on a rifle. The rest drops away soon after the arrow begins forward movement, and therefore cannot transfer motion to the arrow. Most models of drop-away rests are captive-arrow designs, so though they don't hold on as snugly as the whisker biscuit, they do prevent the arrow from falling out. I'm looking at a QAD Hunter as a replacement for my whisker biscuit.

I will probably get my new rest next weekend, so look for another review then. I'm also in the market for some small-game tips, so maybe I'll splurge and you'll get a review double-header. Until then, inspect your arrows, and respect your fletchings.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Ready For Deer Season (Four Months Too Early)

I spent the best $137 of my life on Saturday. I bought a B20 "Block" target at Sportsman's Warehouse, and my father-in-law bought a "Black Hole" block-style target. We then spent all weekend shooting in our garages. I learned a lot.

First, I bought a four-pack of Apex Doubledown silencers along with my block, and they work great. Since they're essentially a Matthews Monkeytail, I used their installation instructions (useful for placing them in the most effective locations). They seem to work very well. My bow is now essentially silent--and it was very quiet before.

Second, I've gotten pretty good with my Bear Encounter. I can pick off the 1" circles at ten yards all day long. I need to get to Archery Field & Sports and try the 20 and 30 yard lines some time. In any case, I want to get some small game tips and some Grim Reaper mechanical broadheads and hunt some coyotes and rabbits this fall, in addition to my first deer hunt since I was a kid.
Rubber squirrel says I'm ready for deer season.

Third, I spent some time with my father-in-law's Fred Bear Grizzly 45lb recurve, and it is HARD to shoot well, but very fun. Instinctive shooting, as described by Fred Bear himself, is a "you got it or you don't" skill. You can work hard and get better, but at the end of the day you're either an instinctive shooter, or you're not. I'm probably not.

Lastly, Fred Bear was a badass. He was either very brave, or quite insane. Here's a video of the legendary Fred Bear on a polar bear hunt. Skip to 6:15 to see how awesome he was at target shooting and 10:39 to see some awesome bear-shooting.