January 15, 2016
The ATA Show 2016 has just wrapped up and I'm back in the office. There is always a bit of a spin-my-wheels period after the show, simply because I get to see so much great, new stuff. For any diehard bowhunter or archery enthusiast, walking the show floor can lead to sensory overload and a sudden desire to seek a Ritalin prescription.
As is always the case, some of the bigger bow companies, accessory companies and camo manufacturers spent plenty of time in the spotlight. While they certainly deserve it, there are several companies showing off their wares that deserve a little stage time as well. Some products are real head-scratchers, while others are completely unnecessary.
My favorites, however, are those I see that make me suddenly realize that the minds behind them have solved a problem of some sort. It may be something we, as bowhunters, have fought with for years. Or it might simply be a problem we didn't realize we were facing.
Either way, here are five companies that should be on any bowhunter's radar from ATA Show 2016.
ATA Show 2016 | TRACT Optics
It's pretty hard to believe that the optics industry isn't saturated, and anything that can be done, has been done. This was the feeling I had when I sat down with a few of the folks from TRACT Optics during ATA Show 2016. As they described the impetus behind starting the company, I played with both their 8x42 and 10x42 binoculars.
Staring down the show floor through each, it was pretty clear the quality was there and just as importantly, the weight wasn't. It was also clear that the eyecups on the Torics and Tekoas were different. It has always been a pet-peeve of mine that bino companies use quality lenses, coatings, and overall materials to produce decent optics, only to drop the ball on eyecups. The minds behind TRACT didn't.
Great products are a start, but when I started hearing about their business model everything became much clearer. TRACT is a direct-to-consumer company that offers an In-Field Trial program to earn your trust. Simply visit the website, find the model you like, and request a seven-day field trial. Shipping is on them, and after a week, you get to decide if the glass is right for you or not. This very well could be a game-changing business for anyone who doesn't take their optics' purchases lightly.
ATA Show 2016 | Ultimate Wild
Pinning down a company like Ultimate Wild isn't easy. Prior to ATA Show 2016, I thought they made flashlights; really, really good flashlights as I came to find out this fall during a few nighttime blood-trailing endeavors. It turns out that UW does a hell of a lot more than make good flashlights.
Their lineup includes gear cases, bow cases, a trail camera, an action camera, and a host of other products. Every single thing in their booth was clearly built to last, but it wasn't until chatting with one of the guys behind the company that I truly started to comprehend what I was looking at.
I was staring at the displays around their booth when off-handedly, Aaron, stated that they had built a computer to run their TV screens and lighting. I remember thinking that they must have bought a hard-drive, monitor, and a few other after-market goodies and simply paired them up. I was wrong. They actually built a computer from a bevy of parts to keep their booth operating smoothly.
By the time Aaron was done explaining this, and showing us the products in their lineup, I felt an insecurity in regards to my intelligence that I've not felt since trying my best to survive upper-level algebra and accounting courses in college. Mark my words here, Ultimate Wild is creating products that will change the way you hunt - for the better.
ATA Show 2016 | onXmaps
As a devout public-land hunter, I'm always staring at maps. These days, a fair amount of my time looking over aerial photos and topographical maps means I'm peering down at my phone or tablet screen. Pre-hunt tends to involve a tablet, while the actual hunt tends to involve my phone.
I'm looking for hotspots, access points, and property boundaries and it's a ritual that not only takes place in camp after each day of hunting, but actually in the field. The problems I run into involve finding exact boundaries between public and private and identifying a host of features on the places I can hunt (and of course, just how to navigate to those spots).
Enter onXmaps. By sourcing information from a wealth of different agencies, onXmaps offers the most comprehensive mapping resource I've ever found. Layers of valuable data are available in a clean, easy-to-understand style, but it doesn't end there.
Private landowner information is available, as is a clear layout of lightly travelled backroads, which is a personal favorite of mine. How often have you stared at a map or stood over a freshly killed mule deer or bull elk and wondered, "Where is the nearest road?" Wonder no more, because onXmaps will show you.
ATA Show 2016 | Celestron
There are probably more amateur astronomers or aspiring biologists who have heard of Celestron than there are hardcore hunters. This is because the company has developed a following with their telescopes and microscopes amongst the non-hunting crowd.
The first product that drew me to this company was their FireCel, an ingenious hand-warmer. The latest that has really caught my attention, is their Hummingbird line of spotting scopes. Both are tiny compared to other spotting scopes, yet offer excellent long-range viewing. It's their weight and size that I really, really like. The 9-27x model weighs well under two pounds and would easily fit into a daypack.
The problem this solves? Anyone who hikes far enough to find game in the backcountry knows where I'm going with this. There is no longer the need to decide whether carrying a spotting scope is worth the extra pack weight.
Just toss a Hummingbird into your pack and go. It won't add more than about 20 ounces and will pay for itself the first time you set up to look over a mountain basin. Of course, the product line stretches far beyond diminutive spotting scopes into a litany of cool gadgets that will help you have a better hunt.
ATA Show 2016 | Guidefitter
More than a few hunters have uttered the words, "I'd love to go on an elk hunt, but have no idea where to start." It turns out that someone was listening, because a new website - guidefitters.com - now allows hunters looking for far-flung adventure to research their hunts and find the perfect outfitter.
This is especially crucial for bowhunters looking to find a truly archery friendly operation instead of ending up on a rifle hunt that is pretending to be a bowhunt. This free website allows users the chance to apply several filters to their search to find exactly the type of hunt that suits their preferences.
For instance, if you want to elk hunt, with a bow, in New Mexico while staying in a wall tent, you can run filters for that specific of a hunt. You will also see upfront pricing with each outfitter as well, so you don't end up spending too much time salivating over a trip that is well beyond your means.
To my knowledge, nothing even close to this comprehensive exists in the realm of choosing a reputable outfitter. If you've ever considering going on a dream hunt, but tend to get bogged down at the starting gate, Guidefitter is perfect for you. In February, the company plans to launch a Guidefitter app, which will make the process even easier.