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5 Ways Bowhunting Is Changing

Brow Tines and Backstrap

5 Ways Bowhunting Is Changing

Posted 2023-12-29  by  Josh Honeycutt

The archery game has seen significant advancements the past few years. How has that changed the pursuit, and what can we expect for the future?

If you hold a compound bow in an archery shop today and then pull out that dusty old skeleton of a bow your father or grandfather used, it’s almost laughable. One looks like a spaceship compared to the other. Even the hunts for which the bows were used have night-and-day differences.

Vertical archery and bowhunting existed for thousands of years without many changes or advancements. But since the mid-1900s, vertical bows have undergone extreme shifts and improvements, and the technology has increased exponentially faster. Here are five ways bowhunting has changed.

Image: Image_Bill_Konway_split_limbs

Modern bowhunting is not what it was 30, 20, or even 10 years ago. Image by Bill Konway

1. Steeper Prices

One of the first things most people notice is pricing. Logan Beach, the archery tech at Mammoth Outdoors in Bowling Green, Kentucky, said that’s one of the bigger changes this century.

“What started out as top-of-the-line products coming in around $300 to $500 quickly turned to $850 to $2,000,” he said. “Materials and inflation over the years have obviously held a large hand in the increase, but that’s part of the give-and-take with technology that’s always developing.”

2. Better Bows

Just as prices have risen sharply, so has technology. The most obvious change in bowhunting is the gear itself. Modern archery gear is far superior to the stick slingers of decades past. Faster bows, more stable components, better on-bow accessories, and more make it easier to obtain long-range accuracy. That’s good and bad.

“It’s good because more accuracy is better, but it’s bad because some bowhunters forget that a hunting situation is a lot different than a backyard deer target,” said contributor Darron McDougal. “Some also forget that deer can react to the arrow hissing through the air. Bowhunting is still primarily a close-range game, but the equipment we have is more efficient and precise so that we can maximize our accuracy at reasonable bowhunting yardages.”

In addition to parallel limbs, stronger materials, and better cams, other elements have improved. Bow weights dropped from about 7 pounds down to less than 4. Let-off went from 40% to 90%, in some cases. Bow speeds ramped up significantly, too.

“The gear has gotten more quality as time as passed,” Beach said. “They seem to be able to make or produce just about anything that’s thought up and drawn out.”

3. Better Supporting Gear

In addition to superior archery tackle, supporting gear is much different and better. Cellular trail cameras, laser rangefinders, on-bow accessories, and other items make bowhunters more efficient. Arrows and broadheads are more accurate and precise. Further, modern archers enjoy huge advantages offered by other gear, such as baiting, food plots, ozone-based products, tree saddles, ultra-lightweight hang-on treestands, scent-proof elevated hunting blinds, and more.

“I'm sure we will continue to see more equipment innovations,” said Bone Collector’s Travis “T-Bone” Turner. “But I hope we all become way better stewards of the land and conservationists. Make sure we vote correctly to stand up for our rights, and ensure we have people who are looking after the best interest of the hunter, the land, and the wildlife.”

4. Changed Motives

Before the 21st century, the primary purpose of hunting was to procure meat. Today, that’s still true. But other motives are climbing the ladder. The desire for real adventure, big antlers on the wall, internet fame, and other factors are creeping closer to the top.

“Score has blown up — 180 this or 197 that,” McDougal said. “Most 5- and 6-year-old bucks don't score beyond 150, and in many regions, they don't score beyond 130. If it’s a mature buck, it should be celebrated as a big buck, as such deer were in the old days.”

5. More Competition

Look at deer hunting today versus 20 or 30 years ago. Ask a private-land hunter if it’s simpler today to secure access, even with cash in hand. Ask a public-land hunter if it’s easier or more difficult to find unpressured public ground. Both will say it’s much more difficult today.

“Public-land hunting is so much more popular today than 20 years ago,” McDougal said. “A lot of that is due to the tools we have with mapping apps, e-bikes and other things. The popularity is no doubt a product of YouTube publicity. Outdoor writers maybe shoulder some of the blame, but there wasn’t such a big surge in popularity until YouTube really took off. Killing a public-land buck is now the thing to do.”

Even so, McDougal expects the cool factor to wear off. Within a decade or so, he believes public-land hunting won’t be nearly as in vogue. He attributes that to a declining work ethic on a national level, as people are putting less effort into things unrelated to their career.

Where It’s Going

I can’t pretend to know where bowhunting is going. If I did, I’d be drafting patents rather than blog posts. But I can say this: Bowhunting will continue to change, just as it has for the past 100 years.

“I can’t fathom what could possibly come along in terms of equipment,” McDougal said. “I said that in 2002 when shooting a Mathews Legacy (the first bow with string stops/suppressors), but look where we’ve come since that bow. I’m anticipating some really off-the-wall ideas, as bow manufacturers try to push the envelope.”

And although we’ve seen many decades of improvements, Beach thinks ingenuity and performance are about to level off. “I believe in 10 to 20 years, we will hit a plateau on performance,” he said. “At some point speed, comfort, and price have to all meet at a spot, and I think we will live to see it. With pricing continuing to increase, I hope more effort is put on the budget bow area to keep people interested and able to get into the sport without having to spend thousands of dollars.”


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