Field Testing Reports
Blevins Gap Outdoors is in no way affiliated with any manufacturer or retailer. Any products endorsed here will be based on what we feel is a good product and what has worked for us while actually hunting in the field. We are not professional hunters backed by sponsors like you see on television, we are just like you are. Our goal is to let hunters know of good products when we find them. We are in no way saying the products reviewed here are the best, but only our true opinions of the product. We will try to discuss both the positive and negative sides of each product if they have them.
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|Bushnell YardagePro Rangefinder||Ol' Yeller Friction Call By Knight&Hale|
|Bushnell YardagePro Scout Rangefinder||Penlight By Streamlight|
|Feather Flex Turkey Decoy||Rocket Miniblaster Mechanical Broadheads|
|Gold Tip Carbon Arrows||Rocket Steelhead Mechanical Braodheads|
|Limb Savers By Sims||Sta-Put Arrow Holder|
|Mathews SQ2||T.R.U. Speed Nock With Peep Aligner|
|Muzzy Zero Effect||Tree Stand Bow Holder|
|Loggy Bayou Climbing Tree Stand||Mathews Switchback and XT|
|Cobra Sidewinder Radiant Bow Sight||Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter Muzzle Loader|
|Cuddyback Capture||Summit Viper Climbing Tree Stand|
|Lumenok Lighted Arrow Nock By Burt Coyote||Muddy Outdoors Full Body Harness|
Gold Tip Carbon Arrows XT Hunters
The 2000 bow season was the second year we used Gold Tip XT Hunter 5575 arrows. During this time we have shot them hundreds of times during practice shoots and have killed several deer with them. During this time we have only one failure. While shooting some 3D targets an arrow was skipped off the side of a small sapling about 1" in diameter and then into the target. The arrow appeared bent so it was put on a spinner and was found to in fact be bent a small amount. We were confused to say the least. We had the understanding that they would not bend. After our dealer contacted Gold Tip we were told that if a layer of the graphite was broken it was possible the shaft could bend. We have not had any other problems with them. They have proven to be much more durable than aluminum arrows and we have now been shooting them for seven years and have killed numerous deer and several turkey with them.
The nice thing about the newer carbons like Gold Tips is that they use inserts not outserts. Unlike the smaller ACC's it's easy to tune your bow because the shafts are not that much smaller than a lot of aluminum arrows. If you build you own arrows use a 5 minute epoxy glue to install the inserts, we have not had any trouble with inserts pulling out using epoxy. Make sure you clean out the end of the shaft with alcohol before gluing in the inserts. I use a cue tip to remove all of the carbon dust left from cutting the shaft. We did have a couple inserts pull out when they were glued in with crazy glue. The other thing we have done is change to Easton Uni-Nocks, they don't seem to hold the string the same as the Gold Tip nocks, they seem a little tighter when they are new. The other thing we like is that they come in more colors than the Gold Tip nocks.
You may hear people claim to get 40 to 50 fps more speed out of carbons. Some may get that much increase in speed but I find it hard to believe. We have seen about a 20 fps increase in speed on about four different bows going from 2312 Easton arrows. Overall we are very pleased with our Gold Tip XT Hunter's, for now I don't see us ever going back to aluminum arrows.
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Rocket Miniblaster Mechanical Broadhead
The use of mechanical broadheads is growing in popularity. Over the last four years we have used Rocket Miniblaster broadheads with outstanding results. There are both positive and negative points to mechanicals and we will try to cover as many of them as possible.
The most common complaint heard about mechanical heads is that they don't penetrate well. As you know it takes kinetic energy for an arrow to penetrate an object. We will use white tailed deer as an example based on our hunting experiences. It takes more kinetic energy to open and penetrate a mechanical head than it takes for a fixed broadhead to just penetrate. This is because it will lose energy while opening the blades on the mechanical head. The worst case would be the largest heads with cutting widths larger than 1 1/2". Bow speed plays an important part of the equation as well as total arrow weight. Some manufactures recommend a minimum and even a maximum arrow speed in fps based on the design of the head. Attempting to shoot mechanicals from a bow that is to slow will greatly reduce arrow penetration. Shooting some mechanicals from bows to fast could allow heads to open up in flight.
Our experience has been that the large heads with cutting widths larger than 1 1/2" like Rocket Hammerhead's did not penetrate well. On the other hand the Rocket Miniblaster's penetrated very well. We got complete pass through shots on about half of our kills and the rest at the least started to exit the deer. All the deer we killed left very good blood trails and every deer traveled less than 100 yards, with several only traveling 50 to 60 yards.
We only see two negatives to Miniblaster heads. They are a little on the pricey side at about $ 20 for three. The other is that when you shoot one in a deer or in the ground it will damage one or more of the blades most of the time. The good thing is you can buy replacement blades.
The last thing we like about Miniblaster heads is that we feel they are a little safer to handle than fixed heads. You are much less prone to cut yourself or a bow string while nocking an arrow in the dark or in the excitement of a monster buck coming to you.
Before you buy any mechanical broadheads, make sure they are legal in the state you will be hunting. Some states still don't allow them.
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Bushnell YardagePro Laser Range Finder
The use of laser range finders are growing in popularity, more hunters are going to them each year. The old type of range finders like the ones made by Ranging will be a thing of the past. No more focusing and adjusting to get a range, no more calibrating due to temperature changes. The new age laser range finders are a simple point and push the button. As fast as you can aim and push the range button you get a LED display of the range. It's as simple as that.
From our experience the Bushnell range finder is as accurate as they claim, +/- 1 yard. All of the ranges we double checked were 50 yards or less. We measured an object with a tape measure, them checked with the range finder. Since we use this range finder for bow hunting we did not double check any long ranges.
In actual field test we found that they work very good in open terrain like around fields or in more open woods. Even in a woods that is thicker you can still get enough good readings to eliminate guessing ranges. They also have a feature that allows you to range through limbs but it seemed to still give some bad ranges at times. It seemed to work better just trying to shoot ranges without shooting through limbs. We found in most cases it was possible to get all the ranges needed in clear shooting lanes. We did not try to range any deer, instead we ranged land marks like trees and made a mental note of the range. We don't like the idea of trying to range a deer while trying to get ready for a shot. For gun hunters that might have more time to react before the shot ranging a deer may work fine.
For those hunters that hunt different stands most of the time a laser range finder will be very useful. It will allow a hunter to know an accurate distance to their target. If you hunt the same stand most of the time a laser range finder will not be that much of a benefit. After hunting a stand several times you should be able to check distances when walking in and out.
The only negative we found with our laser range finder was that it was a little bulky and it's a little more weight in our back-packs. Some of the newer models are getting smaller and lighter. In the next year or two they will only improve in these areas.
If you hunt different stands a laser range finder will make you more accurate in your shots by knowing the range. If you don't mind a little more weight to carry you won't be disappointed with the performance of a laser range finder. They can also be fun to play around with, you won't believe how far off your friends range estimates will be.
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Tree Stand Bow Holder
Many bow hunters use bow holders in their tree stands. For many years I have refused to use one because of the fear of not being ready if a deer comes by. In 2000 I finally decided to give one a try, my son had been using one for several years and has been telling me how much they help. The model I selected was made by Third Hand Archery. It's made from a 3/8" steel rod covered with plastic dip and mounted by an aluminum plate. It can be adjusted to most places on your stand and also for bow angle. When I first installed it on my stand I tested the holding ability of it by trying to make my bow fall out of it. Short of kicking it out of the holder it would not come out. Any sort of a bump or shaking of the stand would not cause the bow to move much at all. Under normal hunting I don't feel my bow would ever be in danger of coming out of the holder.
With that said, I feel a good bow holder can be a valued piece of hunting equipment for your tree stand. I still don't use mine to hold my bow while hunting but I use it while getting ready in the stand, rattling or doing anything that is best done without a bow in my hand. Over the years there have been times where I have either dropped something or came close to dropping my bow while trying to get something from my pack or something like that.
Don't get me wrong, I still keep my bow resting in my lap 99% of the time. I don't like to move anymore than I must when I see a deer coming my way so I prefer not to keep my bow in the holder. Overall I would recommend putting a bow holder on your stand. If you do, make sure it is one of the better ones that will hold your bow securely. Some of the less expensive holders don't look like they would hold a bow as good as they should.
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Limb Savers by Sims
If you are one of the few bow hunters who has not tried a set of Limb Savers yet because it seems like a gimmick, think again. We thought the same thing until last year when we tried them on several bows. On every bow we put them on they reduced both noise and vibration. Even on bows that are known for being quiet with little vibration Limb Savers helped them as well. I can't believe a little piece of rubber can help a bow so much. If you are a bow hunter and want to reduce the noise and vibration in your hunting bow try a set on your bow. I don't think you will be disappointed with the results.
In May of 2001 I bought a new Mathews SQ2 and the first thing I put on it after I got it set up was a set of Limb Savers. I also put a set of cable dampeners by Sims on it and it helped it even more. The cable dampeners look similar to Limb Savers, they come two in a set slide on the cable guard rod.
Limb Savers work, that's all I can tell you.
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T.R.U. Speed Nock with Peep Aligner
For the last several years we have been using T.R.U. Speed Nocks with a peep aligner with great success. It's a small nock that replaces the standard brass nock. It has a small tab that slides into the nock of the arrow which aligns the peep sight. It's not much larger than a brass nock and some people claim to see increased speeds using them. It's made it two pieces and is held together with a small screw.
No longer do we worry about our peep turning while in the stand. If you happen to drag your bow string on your pants while sitting on stand your string can rotate a little turning your peep. With a T.R.U Speed Nock this can't happen. It's just something else you don't have to worry about when the time comes for the shot.
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Sta-Put (Arrow Holder)
On of the problems in bow hunting is keeping your arrow on the arrow rest while sitting in a tree stand. On today's bows it's even a larger problem due to all the different types of arrow rest and overdraws. To solve this problem we have started using a arrow holder called a Sta-Put. It attaches to your riser or overdraw and flips down to hold the arrow on the rest. When you shoot it flips up out of the way of the arrow and vanes.
. The Sta-Put does not seem to effect the arrow flight and it allows you to hold your bow in any position without the arrow falling off the arrow rest. I like to hold my bow on my lap on it's side and the Sta-Put allows me to do this without holding the arrow.
The only down side to using a Sta-Put that we have found is that it will make a little noise when shot. If you shoot a super quiet bow you may notice a little noise coming from the Sta-Put when shot. Overall we would not go to the woods without one on our bows. If you don't like holding your arrow with your finger give one a try.
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Bushnell YardagePro Scout Laser Rangefinder
New for 2001 bow season we tried the latest rangefinder from Bushnell and have liked what we have seen so far. We played around with it in the woods before taking it hunting. It's been used the entire bow season so far and it has been great. The smaller size is a real plus for a bow hunter and it will range from about 11 yards out to 400 yards in the field on deer and 700 yards in the field.. It's small enough to fit in a shirt pocket which is a real plus. The lens has a sharp image and the eyepiece can be adjusted or focused. It uses a small camera type battery that helps keep the weight down. For those of you who have a Yardage Pro 400 and liked it, you should love the Scout. If you are in the market for a laser range finder look at the Scout. It cost a little more but it's worth it to get the performance and small size.
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Penlight by Streamlight
Late in the 2001 bow season we tried a little penlight called a Stylus 3 made by Streamlight. It's about the size of a ink pen and has a pocket clip. It's powered by 2 AAAA batteries and has a very small LED type bulb that comes in several colors. Ours has a blue bulb and is very bright for it's size, it puts out plenty of light for a person to walk out of the woods. It can also be clipped on the bill of a ball cap for hands free light. It came in real handy while putting climbing tree stands on trees and getting ready to climb a tree with it on our hat. You would not believe how bright it made hunter orange nocks and vanes on my arrows show up in the dark. It would also be a good back up light to carry as it weighs next to nothing.
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Knight & Hale Ol' Yeller Friction Call
For the last two or three years I have used a Knight & Hale Ol' Yeller Sla-Tek friction call with great success. I have never had much luck with friction calls in the woods until now. It seemed like they sounded great at home or around camp but as soon as I touched one in the woods all I got was a lot of squeaks. I have tried several slate and aluminum calls over the years with the same results. So when Knight & Hale came out with the Ol' Yeller I thought I might as well donate my money one more time. They claimed it would work with water on it in one of their ads so I gave it a try. You guessed it, they were right. After playing around with the call before the season I was ready for another failure in the woods. What a surprise I got when I made a call that first time in the woods and it sounded great. After many years of failures with friction calls I now will not go into the woods without my Ol' Yeller.
Like most friction calls you can change strikers and change the tone of the call. I have used several strikers and settled on a striker that has some type of a fiber tip. What I like most about the call is you can get high pitched or real raspy yelps from it depending where you call from on the call. In the middle is coarse and raspy, go out to the outside edge and get high pitched yelps. Another good thing about it is up in the morning it is a great locator call. It will produce loud cuts that can be heard a long ways. I have had great luck starting birds up in the morning with it. My son and I have hunted together and I have started birds after he had called with his call on several occasions. If you have not had very good results with friction calls you might want to give Ol' Yeller a try the next time you go out.
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Muzzy Zero Effect Arrow Rest
After bow hunting for over thirty and dealing with arrows falling from my arrow rest at times I would prefer them not to Muzzy has solved my problem. Trying to keep an arrow on the rest while sitting in a tree stand for many hours has been a problem for most bow hunters at one time or another. Depending on what type of rest you use this is a problem we have all faced. There have been several arrow holders designed to keep arrows in place and some work real well for the most part. The down side is added noise while drawing or during the shot. I can't tell you how many times my arrow has fallen off the rest over the years but one time is to many if it happens at the wrong time.
The first time I saw a Muzzy rest I thought it looked odd and would surly make a lot of noise. I blew it off as just another one of those gadgets to get bow hunters money. Even after a friend of mine that has an archery shop showed me how it worked I was still not sure. But after seeing a couple in use I installed a MZE on my Mathews SQ2 during the summer of 2001.
My SQ2 had a Mathews overdraw on it to start with and was a very quite bow to start with but the first thing I noticed was less noise during both the draw and the shot. I could not believe how quite the MZE was. After I finished tuning my bow I got my next surprise, my groups had improved as well. I did not consider accuracy when I made the decision to try a MZE but what a good surprise. After thinking about it, accuracy had to improve because the rest eliminates any vane clearance problems there may be.
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Feather Flex Turkey Decoy
After using Feather Flex decoys for a number of years I can truly say I can recommend them. They are durable enough to last several years if not treated to rough. I can fold a couple decoys up and carry them in my game bag in my turkey vest and not know they are there. They are easy to set up quickly without making a lot of noise. The last thing is they work under the right conditions.
What I mean by right conditions is if a gobbler can see your decoy it helps calm him down because he now can see the hen he has been hearing. With that said I will explain. In my experience decoys work well set up in open fields where a gobbler has no trouble seeing it. They pick up on the decoy with little trouble and in most cases respond positive to it. They seem to calm their nerves once they see the hen that has been making the calls. I like to use a hen and jake together, I put the jake behind the hen like he is walking after her.
In my experience using decoys in the woods is not that effective because it's much harder for the gobbler to see the decoy in the woods in many cases. I set up decoys in the woods many times and most of the time the gobbler never pays much attention to it. This tells me he is not seeing it. I have had them react positively to my decoys in the woods a few times but on average they don't. I'm not telling you they will never see your decoy in the woods, just not as often. Most of the time I don't bother putting out decoys in the woods unless it's a very open woods where they have a better chance of being seen. Bottom line is that I never go hunting without my decoys.
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First let me start by saying that there are many good bows on the market to choose from these days. Before anyone goes out and buys a new bow there are a few things to remember. There is no way someone should try to talk you into buying a bow like theirs. We all feel the bow we shoot is the best bow on the market or we would not be shooting it. When you decide to buy a new bow you should go to as many pro-shops as you can and shoot as many different bows that appeal to you as possible. What feels good to one person may not to the next. By going to a pro-shop you will be sized for the right draw length and draw weight. There is nothing worse than trying to shoot to much weight or the wrong draw length.
I have shot most of the Mathews bows on the market and owned about four different models. I have been bow hunting for over thirty years and during that time have shot a number of bows. As for a hunting bow I like the SQ2 better than any bow I have ever shot. My SQ2 is used for hunting only so that set up is what I will cover. It is a 60 pound bow that is cranked all the way up and pulling about 64#, it's a 29" draw. I have installed Limb Savers and a Muzzy Zero Effect arrow rest. It has a 4 ounce Quite Tune stabilizer on a 2" extension rod.
The SQ2 is a short 31" axel to axel bow that shoots like a longer bow. It has a 8 1/2" brace height that makes it a very forgiving bow. It is IBO rated at 305 fps, not a speed bow but plenty fast for a hunting bow. It has less noise and hand shock than any bow I have shot to date. It's short length makes it a great bow for tree stand hunting as well as hunting from blinds.
The performance of the SQ2 has been very good. It is an enjoyable bow to shoot with a smooth draw and good valley. After shooting the SQ2 a while you forget about how short the bow is.
At this time I feel my SQ2 and it's set up is as good a hunting bow for whitetail deer and turkey as I have ever shot. I still check out new bows but can't imagine a bow any better than my SQ2. I think it will be a while before I change bows. If you have not shot a SQ2 you owe it to yourself to shoot one if you are thinking about buying a new bow. I must warn you, if you shoot one be ready to put out the cash!
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Rocket Steelhead 100
In 2002 I went from Rocket Miniblasters to 100 grain Rocket Steelheads after one of the guys we hunt with tried them the year before. All I can say is if you like Mechanicals you will like the performance of the Steelheads. They are a little smaller in diameter than the Miniblasters and penetrate better. They have a 1 1/4" cutting diameter and the head is smaller overall. They come in both 100 and 125 grains.
So far I have only killed a couple of deer with them but I was impressed with the Steelheads even more than the Miniblasters. Both were pass through shots and the deer traveled between 50 and 75 yards with outstanding blood trails. There is not muck more a hunter could ask for. I'm very pleased with the Steelheads so far.
Some of the performance test I have read in a couple of bow hunting magazines have reported excellent performance from the Steelheads. They out performed some fixed heads in penetration test. I'm not trying to say they are better than some of the fixed heads on the market but, they will perform as well in some cases.
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Loggy Bayou Climbing Tree Stand
Loggy Bayou has been around several years and has had it's ups and downs I have been hunting from what has been called the original Loggy Climber tree stand so that is the stand I will cover. Like all tree stands it has it's good as well as bad points. The perfect tree stand has not been built as far as I'm concerned so when selecting a stand keep that in mind.
The stand I have has rubber pads that contact the tree to keep it from slipping on the tree. The newer stands have aluminum cleats in place of the rubber. The stand climbs very good on rough bark trees that are dry, I have never had any problems with it climbing or slipping. That being said, I have had a little trouble with the stand slipping on slick bark trees that are wet, therefore I would not recommend climbing slick bark trees that are wet. I try to stay away from slick bark trees altogether if possible but I have climbed slick trees if that is all I had.
While climbing a tree that is small the climbing bands extend past the bottom of the stand and will vibrate and make a lot of noise while climbing. To eliminate this problem I took a bungee cord and attached to both sides of the bands to pull them tight against the frame of the stand. This eliminates this problem very well.
The seat is fully padded and comfortable to sit on and is adjustable for angle on the stand/tree. What I mean by that is you can adjust the seat to three different positions to allow the seat to contact the tree. The seat is then strapped to the tree to hold the stand steady making it very stable. My stand made little or no noise when it was new but now makes a little noise when I move around in the seat at times.
It has a large platform but it needs it because of the large seat. It is easy to shoot out of standing or sitting in most cases. I like to shoot sitting down when possible and the Loggy allows you to do that better than the stands that has any frame in front or beside you. It's light weight and packs fairly well through the woods, but once again you need bungee cords to keep the band from making noise.
I will also cover the climbing aid while I'm at it. I have had two of them and like the newer one with the aluminum cleats over the rubber pads. I have had trouble with the older one with the rubber pads slipping on wet trees. The new style seems to climb much better. With both styles you must not put to much angle on the climbing aid or it will miss most of the pad or cleat. This is even more of a problem on smaller trees around 12"-14" in diameter. One thing I did was fill the inside of mine with spray insulation to deaden the metal sound and I also glued a thin piece of plastic inside the area that slides on the main climber to reduce noise.
I don't think Loggy like most stand manufacturers make their stands here in the U.S. anymore so I don't know about the quality today. The stand I have was made here in the U.S. and the quality is fine.
I have been hunting out of my Loggy for about five years or so and until I find a stand that suits me better I will stick with it. Overall I would have to say it's one of the better stands on the market.
In the spring of 2005 I shot the new Switchback for the first time. I had been shooting a SQ2 for the last two years and had said I don't expect to be buying a new bow until I shot one better than what I had. I had shot an Outback but did not think it was that much better the year before.
After shooting the Switchback I was impressed to the point I went back several days later and shot it again. A few weeks later I decided to go shoot it and my SQ2 together for a comparison. Both bows were set at the same weight (60#) in order to make a good comparison. The first thing I noticed was how smooth the Switchback was during the draw. It was like pulling several pounds less than what the SQ2 felt like. After shooting the two bows together it was easy to see the Switchback was a bow that was much better than my SQ2 and I would have to have one.
A couple weeks later I was setting up my new Switchback. It is a 60 pound bow that is cranked all the way up and pulling about 62#, it's a 28" draw. I have installed a Muzzy Zero Effect arrow rest on it and a 4 ounce Quite Tune stabilizer on a 2" extension rod. At this time I have not seen the need for Limb Savers or string silencers.
The Switchback is the smoothest bow I have shot to date. Like the earlier Mathews bows, noise and hand shock has been reduced even more. It is a fun bow to shoot and has proven to be very accurate.
The only thing that I have found that I don't like about the bow is there is a little hand torque at the release. I shoot with an open hand but I still get a little torque at times. After playing around with my grip I found by putting more pressure on the base of my palm it eliminated the torque.
In closing, if you are thinking about a new bow, go shoot a Switchback as one of your options. I think you will consider this bow a fine bow.
In December 2005 I went to compare how the new Switchback XT shot next to my Switchback. After shooting them side by side for a while my conclusion was both bows shoot the same to me. I could not tell any difference between the two bows, not that I expected to. The XT is 2" shorter and 3-5 fps slower but that's about it. I'm surprised Mathews went to the trouble to put the XT on the market since they are so much alike. I'm sure others my think there is a big difference between the two. Guys wanting a shorter bow may have been requesting this bow and will be very pleased with the XT.
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Cobra Sidewinder Radiant Bow Sight
When I decided to upgrade my bow sight I went to the local Bass Pro Shop to look at all of the different sights out today. As I walked up the row with around 25 to 30 different sights, one sight just jumped out at me. The fiber optic pins on the Sidewinder sight looked like it was two times brighter than all of the sights I was looking at. It did not take to long to decide on a three pin Sidewinder sight.
After mounting the sight on my bow I found it very easy to zero in the sight. No tools are required to adjust this sight. There are two thumb screws that allow you to adjust the windage and elevation of the sight body without the use of allen wrenches. To adjust the individual pin elevation you still need allen wrenches. The pins are .029 and are easy to see. Target shooters may like a smaller pin but for hunting the .029 pins are great. The sight is constructed of aluminum with no plastic.
On my sight the sight ring has a white outline to highlight the ring. On the 2006 version the ring has an orange highlight that I like much better.
If you are looking at fiber optic sights for your bow, you should check out a Sidewinder and compare it to much more expensive sights. They are very good sights at a good price.
Update: I contacted Cobra to ask if the new orange sight ring decal was available. In two days it was in my mail box at no charge. Cobra is a class act and still operate like companies should. They take care of their customers.
Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter Muzzle Loader
In January 2008, I bought a Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter 209 X 50 to use a little during gun season. I wanted more of a challenge than what a center fire rifle gives you being a bow hunter for the most part. I had been doing some research for several years on the Encore so I felt that was the inline I wanted to try. I looked at several different guns to check the quality and workmanship of each gun. I was pleased to see that TC quality was good. After talking to several people that were shooting Encores and debating which to buy, I decided to buy the Pro Hunter due to the added features over the Encore. I liked the hammer that was adjustable to the side and the primmer remover that can be moved out the way to remove the breech plug. I also liked to ramrod that has a tee handle built into it. All of these features can be added to the Encore but, buy the time you added the newer features to the Encore you are getting up to the same cost as the Pro Hunter.
The Pro Hunter has good fiber optic open sights installed on it for those of you that like open sights. Due to failing eyes I opted to put a scope on mine. I started with a Leupold one piece base and standard Leupold rings in a matt finish. I went with a Nikon 3x9x40 scope, again, in matt finish.
After getting it zeroed in which took a few shots, I got use to the guns feel very fast. When I first looked at the design of the Encores I thought it would not be a gun that would have the comfort that other guns have. In fact, it may be the opposite. I like the feel of this gun very well.
Now for the important part of any new gun, how did it shoot. The first thing I noticed was the trigger pull. It was a very crisp trigger, with little travel. The only thing I don't like is that it is a little to heavy and not adjustable. That being said, I have found that you can change the spring to lighten the pull. I did a little searching and found how to improve the trigger on the web. You can send your frame to Mike Bellm for a trigger job or purchase the parts from him and do it yourself. His web site address is http://www.bellmtcs.com/ . All of the information you need can be found there, as well as the parts. I plan on doing my trigger before next year.
It is early in my testing but I'm very pleased with how the gun grouped with no more that I have shot it. I have only tested one powder and a couple of bullets to date. As with any gun you have got to test a number of loads to find the right load for that gun. Each gun shoots different so I plan to do more testing next year. What my Encore liked the best so far was 100 grains of American Pioneer Powder, Jim Shockey's Gold FFG with a Remington Black Powder Muzzleloading primer topped with a 250 grain Thompson Center Shock Wave bullet. This load shot about 1 1/2" groups at 100 yards. Next year I'll be trying more powders and bullets because I feel this gun will shoot even better than it has so far.
Cuddyback Capture Trail Camera
In September 2008, I bought a new trail camera to upgrade the old 35 mm film cam that I have been using. I had been having good luck with my DeerCam 200 made by Non-Typical Inc. so decided to try the new Cuddyback Capture they had just come out with. The first camera I got I had to return due to a cloudy lens on the sensor. This problem caused the sensor to loose range, requiring deer to get much closer before it would trigger. The second camera is in use now and has worked flawless the first couple of months. I'm now starting to have a little trouble with it not setting off the flash at times. It looks like I will have to send it back to have checked out.
Overall I like the Capture's features. It's easy to set up the date and time and also the test mode for aiming. The Capture uses four "D" cell batteries and the battery life has been good so far. It's easy to replace the batteries when required. One thing I don't like is there are no security features to keep someone from stealing the camera. I made a bracket for mine to allow putting a cable around the tree to secure it a little better. This will not keep someone from stealing it, just keep the honest people in line. If someone wants it they can still get it. I think I will make something better for next year. The quality of the pictures are not bad for a 3MP camera. The trigger speed is good from what I have seen and the sensor seems to be good as well. You can click on the thumbnails below for more details. For $200 it's not a bad camera, I'm satisfied with the picture quality but disappointed with the problems I have had with it. Update: When I put the Capture out for the 2009 season after a few days I checked it to only find out there was a problem with the second Capture. It had three days left on the warranty so it was replaced with a third unit. I will say that Cuddeback responded fast and the new unit was back in about seven days from the time I sent it back. I will say I like the Capture but will say I'm very disappointed with all of the problems I have had with them. I don't think I will be buying anymore Captures anytime soon. I will look around for more options.
Summit Viper Climbing Tree Stand
I started using a Viper during the 2010 bow season in an effort to extend my time in the stand. After having five back surgeries my time in the stand had dropped to about 2 1/2 hours per hunt. The first time out I was able to stay in the stand for 4 hours without much trouble. Since that first hunt I have become a total fan of the Summit line of climbers. They climb very well and are stable to shoot from. They make no noise once you get set when you move around. I have gotten a few squeaks from the bark hitting the paint on the blades. If you sand the paint off the blades, it solves the problem. The only other problem I have had is the seat height not staying adjusted where I had it. I like my seat adjusted high so I don't sit way down in the climber. The straps slipped allowing the seat to drop lower than I wanted. To solve this I just adjusted the seat where I wanted it and took a sewing awl and sewed the buckles in place. Last year after sitting in my Viper my son bought a Summit Titan, he wanted a wider stand to give him more room to move around. He likes the Titan better than the Viper for the added room. The only problem either of us have with the Summit stands is it can be hard to stay awake, they are that comfortable.
We added a set of stabilizer straps to our stands from Third Hand Archery that makes the stand even more stable. You can check them out at this link. http://www.thirdhandarchery.com/product.asp?PRODID=13 If you are hunting from a Summit climbing stand these straps not only make your stand more stable, it also makes them pack better.
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Lumenok Lighted Arrow Nocks
For the 2011 bow season we installed some Lumenok's in our arrows. We tested them on the practice range before hitting the woods. We were very pleased with the results, they were brighter than we thought they would be. We had no problems with them coming on at the shot. In the low light that you experience during the prime bow hunting time, they will allow you to clearly see and follow your arrow to the deer. As the bow speeds get faster, arrows are very difficult to see in the field. As of this writing, we have shot four deer and one turkey using Lumenok's. They helped us see the arrow all the way to the animals which helped us confirm where we had hit. The only problem we had was if you don't get a complete pass through on the shot, the arrow hitting trees as the deer runs through the woods may turn the Lumenok off. We had that happen on one of the deer we killed.
Muddy Outdoors Full Body Harness
In 2011 we started using a full body harness made by Muddy Outdoors. We have used a number of different harnesses over the years but had not found one we liked. They served the purpose for safety but, were not very comfortable. We looked at all of the popular brands and decided to try Muddy Outdoors. After using this harness this year I can only say we are 100% satisfied. Once I put it on I forgot I was wearing it, comfort was not an issue. They are equipped with binocular straps which is a added feature if you carry binoculars. We have not had any problems with then getting tangled up like some of the harnesses we have used. They are easy and fast to put on and look to have good quality. To date this by far the best harness we have used, I will not be climbing a tree without one on.
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