April 20, 2023
By Fred Eichler
The mule deer spike came right up to the decoy and stared at it. I was so temped to take him with my recurve, mostly because he was right in my wheelhouse — 10 to 15 yards away and fixated on my decoy. The only reason I hesitated was because I was in a large blind with two cameras running so I could document the muley’s reaction to the decoy.
In full disclosure, I was also holding off because the larger mule deer buck in the group was looking hard at the decoy as well, and I was hoping for a shot at him. It was peak of the rut, and I was experimenting with a new prototype decoy — and possibly risking ruining my hunt that morning to see if this decoy would work. I was nervous, because I had tried another prototype decoy from the same company that didn’t work at all a few years earlier. In fact, it spooked some deer, and so it didn’t go to market as a result.
Testing new products is one of my favorite things to do. I enjoy trying to figure out if the product is something I would truly use, or if it’s something I wouldn’t buy if my life depended on it.
For example, in recent months I’ve had the opportunity to test a new prototype mule deer decoy from Montana Decoy, a new outfitter tent from Cabela’s, as well as the final production model of the Bear recurve riser I worked on.
I am honest in my assessments of new products or test versions, but over the years I’ve made some people angry and had them argue with my feedback. When frustration or an argument is the response, I usually remind them in a polite way that they asked for my opinion, and I did not ask for theirs!
I’m certainly not right all the time, and my opinion is just that — an opinion. Truth be told, I’m probably wrong more often than I’m right, and a prime example of that was the first time I saw bottled water in a store.
At the time, I thought that bottled water was the dumbest idea I’d ever heard of. In fact, I would have bet the farm that trying to sell bottled water was a faulty business plan, because why would people pay for what they could get for free? I was way off on that one!
Fortunately for us, there are a lot of amazing products out there that help us hunt more efficiently, shoot more accurately, get better performance, stay warmer, hide more effectively, etc. There has been a slew of amazing people in the archery industry who have come up with innovative ideas that have added to our experiences in the field…and I’m rarely one of them.
I never cease to be amazed and impressed by those who have invented new products or improved upon existing ones, and I often find myself scratching my head and saying to myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I enjoy flipping through old issues of Bowhunter and looking at the ads to see the products that were released years ago. Some are still relevant; others have gone by the wayside.
If you don’t know much about the history of archery or the men and women who have helped shape it, then have some fun and look up some of these people. Trust me when I say they have all left their mark on the archery and bowhunting world via the amazing things they created.
Admittedly, I’m providing you with an embarrassingly small number of names. There are many others who should be listed here but aren’t, but those who are were the first ones to pop into my feeble-at-times mind.
For example, when people say bows, I think of men like Doug Easton, Earl Hoyt, Fred Bear, Tom Jennings, Ben Pearson, Mike Palmer, Fred Asbell, Ken Beck, Howard Hill, and John Schultz, to name just a few. Just think of how great it is to have a broadhead you don’t have to make yourself, thanks to people like John Musacchia, Bruce Barrie, Andy Simo, John Zwickey, Ben Pearson, Fred Bear (yup, those last two are both listed above as well), and Richard Malesky, to name just a few.
Think of the camouflage most of us wear, thanks to people like Jim Crumley, Bill Jordan, and Toxey Haas. I even think of the calls we use, courtesy of people like Larry D. Jones, Ben Lee, Preston Pittman, and countless others.
Don’t get me started on treestands. We all use them, but I’d bet money that few hunters know the names Ben Southard, James Baker, or Bob and John Louk. That’s a shame, in this man’s opinion…
When I am hunting, I think of some of these people, as well as those who aren’t listed here but should be, because they were smart enough, inventive enough, or had a dream to make things better for all of us. Yes, they also did it for profit, but who doesn’t want to make a living working on something they are passionate about?
Now, to finish the story I started at the beginning of this article… The larger buck I’d been watching started moving in closer to my decoy. My heart rate did what it usually does, and my breathing ceased its rhythmic routine to be replaced by what most of you all have experienced, which I can only describe as the opposite of rhythmic and calm.
I drew back, and fortunately muscle memory took over and I watched as my arrow flashed out of my bow and took the buck through both lungs. He dropped a few seconds later.
It’s times like this that make me pause and take a moment to thank all of those who have come before us. Those true pioneers who invented, and in some cases continue to invent, all kinds of amazing things for the sport I love that’s really more than a sport. It’s a lifestyle.
For those of you interested enough to actually watch this hunt, you can find it on MOTV’s digital series, “Just Shot,” or you can check it out later this year on Sportsman Channel.