Although Dwight Schuh had been kind enough to offer me a few assignments throughout his years as this magazine's Editor, it wasn't until I was driving home from a public-land whitetail hunt in North Dakota that my dreams of becoming a part of Bowhunter would come true. Freshly minted Editor Curt Wells was on the line, and he asked me first how the hunting had gone.
I was all too eager to relay the story of the buck that was in the back of my pickup, but Curt was calling for more than just a recap of my hunt.
He was fishing around to see if I'd be interested in taking on the Equipment Editor role. Saying yes to an every issue column in the number-one bowhunting publication didn't require much deliberation on my part.
I grew up with Bowhunter, having been introduced to it by my father. The larger-than-life animals and stories were otherworldly to me as a youngster, who could think of few things outside of sitting in a treestand and trying to arrow a deer.
There was no greater authority in my eyes then, and after becoming a part of the publication, I can say that I've yet to run across a single source of bowhunting information that draws upon so many true, honest-to-god experts.
It's not just some of the world's best bowhunters who grace our pages, however, and that is becoming more important to me. Hardworking hunters find their bylines in this publication as well, and it's their stories I find myself drawn to these days, because their success is the kind that any one of us could someday find.
Seeing someone with limited hunting time and limited funds come away from the woods with an animal — any animal — and an experience that makes them truly happy, is the foundation of this magazine; and if you're paying attention, you'll see that it's usually one type of animal in particular — the whitetail.
Deer are the glue that binds nearly all of us together. Their availability and aptitude for making us look like silly bipeds who should stick to fast-food is what makes them so special.
Bowhunters are obsessed with whitetail deer, and we are constantly on the hunt for an edge — anything that will give us a little better chance of doing everything right.
This has spawned an entire industry that, as strange as it may seem, rests solely on our ability to run an arrow through an animal that in some ways is simply a crafty rabbit with antlers.
That's selling a whitetail buck short, of course, because he is a heck of a lot more determined to survive than any bunny I've ever run across. A deer's tenacity to stay on this side of the clouds is one of the reasons we have so many arrow options. After all, if you're not shooting the best arrows for your setup, you're in trouble.
The options are many, but a safe starting point for nearly everyone would be Easton's FMJ 6MM ($70/half-dozen).
These small-diameter arrows are designed with a 6mm carbon core and a 7075 metal jacket, which increases both durability and penetration. Choose from three spine options that offer weights anywhere from 8.8 to 10.6 gpi.
Of all of the different arrows I've shot over the years, the BLU RZs ($90/half-dozen) from Carbon Express rank very high on my favorites list.
This is largely due to the fact that they feature some of the tightest spine and weight tolerances of any arrows on the market, meaning picking up a dozen BLU RZs is like buying match-grade ammo for your bow.
Beman's latest, the ICS Whiteout arrows ($65/half-dozen), are designed with an ultra-bright, white/gray Realtree snow camo pattern to not only help you see them better in flight but also to examine spoor after you run one through a buck.
These arrows are sold with precision-machined aluminum inserts and are 100-percent Made-in-the-USA.
Last year I carried Victory Archery's VAP arrows into the woods, and I ended up filling quite a few whitetail tags with them. I was very impressed with their performance, which means I'm pretty stoked to shoot the new VAP TKOs ($95/half-dozen).
These micro-diameter arrows use Victory's Low Torque Technology to produce killer flight and penetration, even if you should manage to center punch a shoulder blade.
Gold Tip's latest offering, the Kinetic Pierce ($150â€“$165/dozen), is an excellent choice for whitetails as well, thanks to its micro-diameter design and its weight tolerance of +/- 2 grains.
A straightness tolerance of .006" and the Ballistic Collar Insert System round out the highlights of these arrows, which are offered in multiple spine options.
Bloodsport's 100-percent carbon Hunter arrows ($30/half-dozen) are perfect for budget-conscious whitetail junkies.
Hunter shafts are standard diameter, and they are built with the proprietary Bloodsport Rugged Wrap construction process to ensure they hold up to the nastiest of impacts. Several options ranging from a 500 spine (6.5 gpi) to a 300 spine (9.1 gpi) are available.
For the traditional crowd, 3Rivers Archery offers a bunch of great arrows. Anchoring their lineup is the Classic ($70/half-dozen).
These Port Orford Cedar shafts are hand-spined and weight-matched to within 20-grain groups per pack. Spines of 40 lbs.â€“45 lbs. all the way to 65 lbs.â€“70 lbs. are available, with each shaft sold at the full length of 32".
If fletching your own arrows is your thing and you happen to be a traditional archery enthusiast, then it's definitely worth your time to check out Trueflight Feathers' new 18 Combo Packs ($14).
Good for six arrows, these Combo Packs contain six Barred feathers and 12 Solid feathers. Choose from either 4" or 5" round or shield-back feathers, in a wide range of colors.
Gateway Feathers is another company that will help you trick-out your stickbow ammo. Their Patriot line ($14) is full of snazzy feather-fletching options.
To ensure your fletching stays firmly attached to your chosen shafts, Gateway also produces G1 Glue ($12â€“$14). This no-drip adhesive is perfect for forming an incredibly strong bond on all wood, carbon, or aluminum shafts.
Compound shooters looking to enhance the look and performance of their arrows would do well to check out Bohning's True Color Wrap/Vane Combo ($34).
This kit includes everything you need (wraps and vanes) to finish off your ammo. Bohning has really taken their graphics to new levels this year, with such color patterns as American Flag, Blue Rusted Flame, and White Leopard.
An under-the-radar company that has been producing some quality lighted nocks and other arrow accessories for quite a while is Clean-Shot. New for this year, they've addressed inserts with their Lock-n-Load Precision Self-Centering Inserts ($11â€“$17).
These glue-free inserts are reusable, improve arrow flight, and allow for easy broadhead indexing. This may not seem like a big deal, but an awful lot of the broadhead-tipped arrow flight issues we encounter stem from poorly seated inserts.
Lastly, to truly set up a perfect whitetail arrow, it's always a good idea to install lighted nocks — provided they're legal in your state. Lighted nocks are game-changers, and if you're looking for the best and the brightest, you should look no further than Burt Coyote's Lumenoks ($30/3-pack).
The Lumenok product line has grown to meet the demands of the entire arrow industry, which means that pretty much no matter what arrows you hunt with, there is a Lumenok that will fit them perfectly. Better yet, they are also offered in several colors, are lightweight, and are capable of accepting a replacement battery.
The Nockturnal Helios ($35) is another lighted-nock option that also happens to sport an innovative vane design, too. I've spent quite a bit of time shooting Helios-outfitted arrows, and have turned into a believer.
I've never had any problems with arrow flight, they are as easy as it gets to install, and they come standard with a Nockturnal lighted nock.