September 26, 2018
By Fred Eichler
Admittedly, I’m a tad stubborn and generally resistant to change. These traits would make me very easy to shoot if I were an animal, as I am very much a creature of habit in many ways.
When it comes to my traditional gear, I have long lived by the rule, “If it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it.” That attitude is sometimes tough in the hunting industry, where manufacturers often ask me to try some new whiz-bang gadget or gizmo to get my opinion. I work with many of the manufacturers whose products I have been using for years. I usually try new stuff out, and then ultimately go back to my tried-and-true gear. I try never to write or say anything negative about some of these products, regardless of whether I work with the manufacturers or not. If whatever I try isn’t better than what I am using, I try to live by the old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s best not to say anything at all.” I also realize that just because a product doesn’t work for me, doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t work for someone else.
On occasion I have tried some new products and been impressed enough to change my setup. For example, I killed my first animal with a bow over 30 years ago with an Easton aluminum arrow, and I was very hesitant to change to carbon shafts because my aluminums, and even the wooden shafts I’d shot, had worked just fine. I did some research and tested some carbons and saw the advantage in penetration due to less surface area, which also made them less susceptible to crosswinds, so I switched. Now I can’t imagine giving up my carbon Axis shafts.
Sometimes change works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I shot that first deer with a new broadhead at the time called a Muzzy. It worked great, but a few years later, while managing an archery shop in northern Colorado, I got talked into trying another broadhead. It looked cool, but the tips curled on me on more than one occasion, so I went right back to my Muzzys. I even tried some of the mechanical heads, but my recurve didn’t have enough energy to deploy the blades correctly and penetration was terrible, so I went back to the tried and true.
Another example of change was when Hoyt wanted to tweak their Buffalo recurve, which I had a hand in designing. To be honest, I was crushed. The Buffalo felt great in my hands. I was willing to try the new bow, but I honestly thought I would continue shooting my Buffalo. I was able to give some input and design ideas, and Hoyt introduced the Satori. I didn’t want to like it more than my Buffalo, but I did, and I don’t plan on changing again unless something better comes along.
This year I switched up two things I never thought I’d change. I have used the same four-inch feathers for years, and didn’t think I would ever switch. When I was at the Archery Trade Show this past January, the folks at Gateway Feathers showed me their line and asked me to try their new Batwing model. I told them I’d give it a whirl, but I honestly thought I would end up going back to my four-inch feathers.
At the ATA Show, I was also introduced to the new Arizona E-Z Fletch MiniMax tool that had what they were calling “true helical.” I’m certainly not an engineer, but the combo of the true helical and the small, 2-inch Batwing feather worked amazing for me. I was so pumped that I had our oldest son video me explaining about the new feathers and new fletching tool I was using and what was unique about them.
I have resisted changing my feather size for a long time, because what I’ve been using for so long works great. The advantage I saw was that the small, 2-inch feather gave me more clearance as it passed by my shelf and riser, and my arrow flight was amazing.
I then deliberately found one of the largest broadheads I owned, which was the discontinued 150-grain, four-blade Muzzy Phantom. The Phantom had way more surface area than the tiny feathers had, which is usually a no-no. Surprisingly, the arrow still flew like a dart, and I was genuinely excited.In inclement weather, I believe the small, stiff feathers will not weigh as much as a larger feather, even if soaked by water. Additionally, the smaller surface area of the feathers should reduce wind drift on breezy days. The clearance advantage for people shooting off the shelf like I do is another plus for better arrow flight. The added advantage of having a more aggressive helical seems to be quicker stabilization of the arrow in flight, and in preliminary testing I have not given up any speed either. The Batwing feathers also seem to be quieter in flight, but maybe that’s just my imagination. I feel it is important to note that my bow was tuned so perfectly that with a bare shaft and a fieldpoint it was dead on at 20 yards.
I took this new setup to Texas earlier this year and harvested a deer, and it also performed well on a free-range red stag in Argentina — a bucket-list hunt for me that was a true test of my light, 50-pound bow setup on large game. I still plan on further testing this new setup, but if you happen to see me with something that looks totally different on my bow, it’s because you really can teach an old dog new tricks.