Hoyt: Putting The Walk In The Talk

From the president on down, this bow manufacturer employs bowhunters to build bowhunting-tough bows.

AFTER SPENDING SEVERAL HOURS with Hoyt President Randy Walk and Director of Sales and Marketing Mike Luper, I noticed that one word kept popping up in the conversation -- toughness.

Many bowhunters focus on arrow speed, smoothness of draw cycle, hand shock, parallel limbs, and so on. Seldom do they mention toughness, despite the fact that serious bowhunting can be very hard on equipment. We crawl around on the ground, up and down mountains, scramble up trees, and climb onto trucks, boats, ATVs, and horses. We hunt in all kinds of weather, from the searing heat of Arizona to the frigid Arctic. And we entrust our gear to airport baggage handlers!

Yet a bow's durability goes unnoticed -- until the bow fails. When that happens on an expensive hunt, light years from the nearest pro shop, toughness suddenly becomes a crucial element.

"Our bows are a few ounces heavier than others, but we believe they're the toughest bows on the market," Walk said. "We put our bows through both dry fire and empirical destruction testing, and we haven't found another bow on the market that can come within 60 percent of our test requirements."

One need only examine Hoyt's Triax Limb Pocket Stabilization System to see the durability engineered into every bow.

"We probably over-engineer our bows and could take some weight out of our limb pockets, or our TEC Risers, or our cams, but after looking at the possibilities, we refuse to do it," Walk explained. "We won't compromise the toughness we've built into our bows. Limb alignment is extremely critical to consistency, and our limbs stay where we put them."

Walk has a point. While crawling toward a 30-inch mule deer buck one rainy morning in Alberta last fall, I was putting my weight down on the riser of my Vectrix, but had no feeling of impending doom. I knew that bow could handle the abuse.

When asked what separates Hoyt from other bow manufacturers, a wry smile flowed across Walk's face as if he'd been hoping I would ask that question.

"There's a passion in this company for archery that's unparalleled," Walk said with pride. "We're all building products we want to play with, and upwards of 80 percent of our employees shoot a bow. That generates incredible energy and allows us to excel."

During a tour of the plant, I saw firsthand evidence of that. One member of the Hoyt team had a big grin on his face as he walked the production floor. Just two days earlier, he'd killed a big bull elk. His passion for Hoyt and bowhunting was palpable.

Walk continued explaining his philosophy when it comes to the employees he hires to work at Hoyt.

"Any company can hire engineers. We hire only those who are into archery or bowhunting. Our 'archineers,' as they're often referred to, are dedicated to our purpose, and that allows us to get in front of any design problems.

"Engineering and design are two very different things. We first engineer a product, and then we design it to fit the archer's needs -- and that archer is us. All of us," Walk said.A member of the Bowhunting Hall of Fame, Walk is a highly experienced bowhunter, and that background permeates every aspect of this business he heads up for owner Jim Easton. Competitive archery is a huge part of Hoyt, but bowhunting is at the very core of this company, and that's primarily why that word kept coming up.

Hoyt's new premier bow is the Katera. It features a new cam — the Z3 Cam & 1⁄2, which is very smooth to draw and very forgiving to shoot. The StealthShot comes standard on the Katera, eliminating arm slap and killing string noise and vibration. As is the case with all Hoyt bows, the Katera is ready for any punishment and abuse that bowhunters dish out.

"It all comes back to the toughness issue. As far as I know, we are the only company making laminated limbs for all our bows," Walk explained. "They are more expensive to make, and they're a bit heavier, but when it comes to toughness, they excel. Our failure rate is less than half a percent, and some of that is owner error or abuse. When it comes to durability, we'll put our limbs up against anyone's."

Arrow speed is a constant topic in archery, and when it comes to speed ratings, Hoyt bows are right there with the rest of the market. Walk gets worked up about bow manufacturers that fudge on their advertised IBO arrow speeds.

"Speed is always important to the consumer, but we will not compromise the quality and dependability of our bows at the expense of speed," Walk said. "However, I will tell you that our bows, out of the box, will be within two or three feet per second of the advertised speed. We will not misrepresent the performance of our bows."

CHANGING FOCUS, I asked Walk to address a trend that has swept through the bow industry in recent years: Why do an increasing number of bowhunters feel the need to install a custom-made bowstring immediately after buying a new bow?

"Making strings is a difficult process, especially when you have to do it at production levels," Walk explained. "We found that some so-called no-stretch string materials were very inconsistent in their failure rate. One could fail after 500 dry fires, the next after only 25. With string materials you must make a choice, and we prefer consistency. Until we introduced our FUSE strings in 2006, a custom string maker could do some things a high-production process couldn't. Consistency in length, twists, and creep is difficult to achieve, particularly when the human element is involved.

"We developed a new process for our FUSE strings that essentially eliminates operator error and inconsistency. The operator of our machines need only tie the first knot, and the machine takes over. A computerized process pre-stretches our strings and buss cables to 700 pounds and then applies twists to the correct length. The servings are applied with our tension-controlled process to our specifications. Then we apply 700 pounds of tension again," Walk said. "There are a total of 10 steps in the process. The result is a bowstring that is exactly the same as the previous one with the correct length, number of twists, and resistance to creep."

Walk had good advice for archers,

advice that should be heeded, regardless of brand of bow.

"We recommend the consumer install a rest and string loop or nocking point on any new bow and shoot at least a hundred arrows through it before even thinking about tuning. That allows the string to settle in. After that, our FUSE strings and cables will stay put," Walk promised.

ALL THE TALK about toughness, reliability, speed, and consistency brought the conversation to Hoyt's 2008 line.

Hoyt employees shoot their bows at the Hoyt Archery Park.

"We're excited to unveil seven new compound bows, including the Katera, our flagship bow for 2008," Mike Luper said proudly. "Powered by our newly designed, super-charged Z3 Cam & 1⁄2, the Katera is the fastest bow we have ever sent to market. Although extremely fast, the Katera remains very forgiving and easy to shoot due to our innovative StealthShot Technology, which captures the string at brace height, creating a very clean release of the arrow for a deadly accurate shot. The StealthShot also eliminates any excess noise and vibration. With the toughest riser, limbs, pockets, and cams available, the Katera will hold up on the brutal bowhunting battlefield. You can remain 100 percent focused on your hunt."

The Katera is a 33-inch bow with a blazing IBO rating of 330 fps. A six-inch brace height contributes to that speed, but the StealthShot eliminates the negatives of a short brace height such as arm slap, string noise, and vibration. The new Z3 Cam & 1⁄2 generates the speed while providing a smooth draw cycle. This new cam is also available on the Vectrix Plus, an enhanced version of last year's popular flagship bow.

For those who prefer a longer bow, the Katera XL is 36 inches axle to axle, and despite having a much longer brace height of 7.5 inches, it still zips an IBO arrow along at 320 fps.

Other new models for 2008 include the Seven 37, Vantage X7 and X8. These bows feature longer risers and brace heights and the new Cam & 1⁄2 Plus for smoothness, accuracy, and shot-to-shot consistency. All the new top-end bows are fitted with StealthShot Technology and FUSE Custom strings and cables.

As always, there are plenty of options at Hoyt, and a new Bow Selector on their website, www.hoyt.com , will help you decide which bow is right for you.

With all the technical data covered, the conversation slipped into the bowhunting mode (this is a bowhunting publication), and I posed the standard question to Hoyt's president: What is your favorite game animal?

"I've had a fascination with mule deer since I was young. I don't think there's anything tougher to bowhunt than a mature mule deer buck," Walk said. "I've taken some good ones, but not one I consider really big. I spend most of my time bowhunting mule deer and feel if you can hunt muleys, you can handle anything else."

We concluded the visit the way any group of bowhunters would -- swapping hunting stories. While recalling bowhunts for moose, mule deer, elk, and even wolves, Randy Walk had a telling glint in his eyes. This was clearly a bowhunter first, a bow manufacturer second.

It was clear to me that putting the Walk in the talk comes naturally at Hoyt.

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