If I had a dollar for every blood trail I've been on where the shooter was positive of a good hit only to be disproven by the spoor and other evidence, I'd probably own a prime chunk of deer ground in southern Iowa. Instead, I own 28 acres of swampland in north-central Wisconsin and I've got a lot of experience reverse-engineering exactly what happened when my hunting buddies let their arrows fly. And it's not just my hunting partners who've witnessed the smoke-and-mirrors confusion of the moment of truth — I've been there plenty of times myself.
It simply shakes out where sometimes you know what happened; other times not so much. However, the mystery arrows and their impacts (or misses) have become far less common in my life due to one simple switch in gear. Instead of factory nocks, I shoot lighted nocks wherever they are legal — and they should be legal everywhere. In my darker days (pun intended), it wasn't always obvious what happened during shots at live game, and my initial impressions and confirmation of what I thought were facts weren't always so reliable.
Even though a lot of us claim to be cool customers when we shoot at big game, most of us are actually wired pretty tight and experience a serious adrenaline dump. That tends to cloud situational focus, and the reality is that it's sometimes extremely hard to know what truly happened.
A lighted nock changes everything, though. For example, last fall I shot a great buck from the ground as he walked passed my hide. The arrow hit hard, and he took off at full tilt. Because of the Lumenok fitted into the back end of my arrow, I could see that the hit was forward, and as I watched him run away, I saw my arrow go flipping end over end through the air and land in a drainage ditch. Immediately I knew that I had him squarely in the shoulder. I also knew right where my arrow was — at least 100 yards from the impact site. Closer inspection revealed that I had gotten very little penetration and that the buck would probably be OK. When I took up the trail the following morning, I found two small spots of blood in his bed, and predictably, no carcass.
I hate flubbing shots and losing deer, but I do like knowing what went wrong. Seeing exactly what happens when I trip the release has opened my eyes to animal reactions and my shot placement. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not. But I almost always have a solid idea what happened, and that's a good step toward more intelligent trailing decisions.
There are other benefits to lighted nocks. Last summer, while taping some video for Bowhunter TV, I stood at 80 yards to shoot some long-range shots. Although I had been shooting a lot and was very confident in my setup, I noticed that my arrows were tail-whipping as they left my bow. Halfway to the target they would correct themselves, but I knew something was wrong, and so I went back to the drawing board and found out that my fletching was contacting my cables. A quick walk-back tuning session brought my rest into left/right alignment and the problem was fixed, but it made me wonder why I had missed the erratic flight when I had shot non-lighted nocks. It was also a reminder that practice shooting with lighted nocks is a great idea, even if you live in a state where hunting with them is illegal.
Whether it's an issue of game recovery, recognizing imperfect arrow flight, or simply the fun of watching your arrows zip to a target, it's worth it to shoot lighted nocks. Not too many years ago your choices were extremely limited, but today's market offers nocks designed to fit just about every arrow you're likely to shoot. Lighted nocks have also gotten much lighter, so they don't upset your FOC, and they've gotten brighter, too.
Before you head to your local Cabela's to pick up a pack of lighted nocks, it's important to know the exact arrow model you shoot so that you don't spend good money on nocks that won't fit correctly. Beyond that, consider the color that will best suit your preference. It might seem like a non-issue, but some colors appear brighter than others to certain people.
For me, my go-to colors are either green or pink. I have a hard time seeing blue in certain situations, and while I don't mind red, it seems that the pink lighted nocks I've shot have been easier to see. If you suffer from red/green color blindness, you'll want to take that into account as well.
Lastly, because they are tiny electrical devices, it's best to treat them with some care. Some of the best models have contact points that depend on the right fit, installation, and maintenance to function properly. Follow the instructions for proper installation and usage and you'll be better off. If that sounds like too much work, it's not. It's actually quite simple, and when you consider that lighted nocks will undoubtedly help aid you in the recovery process of nearly every animal you shoot, it's definitely worth it.
Allen Company Shooting Star Lighted Nocks
produces the Shooting Star Lighted Arrow Nock, which is available in either red or green. Each Shooting Star is capable of up to eight hours of continuous use and will fit into carbon arrows with a 9„32-inch outer diameter.
Price: Visit AllenCompany.net for details
Burt Coyote Signature Lumenoks
Leading this lighted charge is a company that has undoubtedly accounted for more innovations in the lighted-nock realm than anyone else — Burt Coyote
. Their made-in-the-USA Signature Lumenoks are hard to beat in overall brightness and reliability. My first experience with these nocks was a nighttime hog hunt in Texas, and although it was much different than my typical style of hunting, it was also undeniably fun due in large part to the ability to track arrow flight through the dark and see impacts. Signature Lumenoks are available in green, pink and red, and depending on the model, can offer up to 40 hours of illumination. Signatures will pair up nicely with a litany of popular arrow models from all of the major manufacturers; however, if you want to fly your Burt Coyote flag loud and proud, match your Lumenoks up with their very own Lumen-Arrows for top-notch performance.
Price: $23.95 per three-pack
Carbon Express Launchpad Illuminated Precision Nocks
Another great option if you're looking to not only see your arrow flight with every shot, but also shoot with the confidence of dependable nock alignment comes your way via Carbon Express
. Their new Launchpad Illuminated Precision Nocks are designed with four-axis consistency and a straightness tolerance of .001 inches, meaning if you square the nock ends of your arrows and use Launchpads, you've successfully eliminated nearly any possible chance of accuracy issues due to inconsistent nock positioning. Of course, Launchpads also offer excellent battery life and brightness.
Price: $30 per three-pack
Easton Tracer RLI Nocks
also has their hand in the lighted nock category, and their high-tech Tracer RLI Nocks are a great choice for anyone looking for 90 hours of battery life and extreme LED illumination. Each lightweight Tracer RLI operates off of a magnetic trigger that automatically lights with every shot, and as an added bonus, features an automatic flash mode for quick recovery after the shot.
Price: $23 per three-pack
If you've made the switch to micro-diameter shafts but still want the benefits of lighted nocks, look no further than the new Firenock Zero
. Zeros weigh only 22 grains and offer a brightness of 3600 LUX, or to put it in simpler terms, are visible out to 120 yards in daylight. Fresh batteries ensure your Zeros will stay lit for days.
Price: $67 per three-pack
One of the coolest lighted nocks on the market, due to its bowstring-activated linear switch, is the Nockturnal
. Nockturnals are offered in red, green, pink, and blue. All feature over 20 hours of battery life, require zero assembly, and are water and weatherproof. Several models of Nockturnals are available to ensure they've got the arrow market covered.
Price: $28-33 per three-pack
Nufletch Archery Ignitor Lighted Nocks
Newcomer to the lighted nock field is outside-the-box-thinking NuFletch Archery
. Their Ignitor Lighted Nocks require no shaft preparation before use, and they use an exclusive insert system to ensure a perfect fit. Ignitors are totally waterproof and are string-activated to guarantee they light every shot.
Price: $25 per three-pack