happy hunting, dv
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A closing letter to Mostly Archery readers.

Three years and ten days ago, influenced by an advertisement on Mike Adam’s Up North Journal podcast, I wrote Hello from Mostly Archery with dustyvarmint on the Skinny Moose Network.  I’d always liked sharing my projects, adventures and tips on bowhunting forums, but I didn’t like how this information got buried over time.  While no journalist I felt I knew where a period went and could spell most words up to and including bowhunting (that doesn’t spell check by the way).  I’m not sure what I was thinking when I named the blog “Mostly Archery”, but I almost immediately regretted it and wished it had been “Mostly Bowhunting”.  Everything was set up, though, so Mostly Archery remained.

From the beginning my intention for Mostly Archery was a weekly bowhunting blog.  One post reliably published each week that was “heavier” in content than the average blog’s more frequent entries.  Now, any blogger knows that frequent new content, plus promotion, are the keys to a successful blog.  So, with my “anti-model” growth was slow.  Over time, though, dvMA went from about one “hit” per day to an average of around 199 per day.  Not gangbusters, but at about 6000 hits per month.  Only a very, very small number of weeks ever missed a post and those were more than made up for by “Mid Week Extras”.  By my definition the concept was successful.  One area I wasn’t successful in was followership.  Rather than random drive-bys I wanted a regular readership.  Repeat visitors are only about 21% of dvMA readership with subscribers being pretty low in number.

dvMA’s mission was to, “…help you avoid making the same mistakes I’ve made over time.”  That included telling the truth in product and outfitter reviews, not just turning the other cheek to allow you to make the same poor purchase.  When I dropped my bow, cam first, on the concrete floor I told you that too.  I believe my How To – Make Your Own Turkey Friction Call is one of the best and FREELY shared resources on the subject on the internet.  Additionally, I also believe my daily journals and other highly detailed posts about bowhunting Africa are some of the most informational resources for the aspiring African plains’ game bowhunter available anywhere.  

There were bad times and good times along the way.  Skinny Moose through three different ownership models was sometimes the source of serious frustration as was using the publisher Word Press.  However, I also believe dvMA was my step onto a number of shooting and pro-staff positions.  That in itself is an experience needing to be written about.  dvMA was the reason I was able to attend the coveted ATA show in 2011 and 2012.  I met some great people through those opportunities and blogged about them here. 

I have often said that when I am with Mrs. dustyvarmint and my beloved dogs, Lexus and Maggie, that I’m thinking about bowhunting.  And, when I’m bowhunting I’m thinking about Mrs. dustyvarmint and Lexus and Maggie.  I’ve also said that bowhunting, to me, is a lifestyle not just a hobby.  Having said those things here once again I’ve decided, among other life changes, to stop posting on dvMA.  I hope the gap, if any, left in the bowhunting blog community is quickly filled by another new blogger who isn’t afraid to tell the truth on product reviews or about a company’s customer service.  The Links page has several highly recommended resources to satiate your bowhunting information thirst in the mean time.  I do not know what Skinny Moose may do with dvMA, but I hope interested readers will be able to access the information for some time to come.

Thanks for reading and…   happy hunting, dv

dv’s Bow Highlights from ATA 2012
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I shot a few bows at this year’s ATA show.  Here’s what I think about them.
 

There is a popular internet based gun writer who is often accused of, “Never meeting a gun he didn’t like.”  I enjoy reading his work, but also think it odd that all the guns written about are good and perform flawlessly.  In his defense he notes that he never chooses “junk” to write about.  Well, I have to echo that sentiment here.  There are many bow manufacturer’s present at ATA.  I probably shoot samples from less than half of them.  Now, just because they don’t appear below doesn’t mean they are junk.  Rather, I’m simply not interested in shooting one for my bowhunting pursuits.  I was sorry to not see Athens Archery at the show as I really liked their 2011 offerings.  Honestly, though, there are so many good bows out there these days that choosing one is an almost mind boggling process.

Also, unless something is egregiously wrong (as was the case with major noise and vibration in a company’s 2011 Flag Ship offering) simply shooting the bows not properly set up or tuned to draw or poundage preferences in the lanes offers a pretty small snap shot of what it has to offer.  Additionally, I in general dislike it when manufacturers represent their bows’ speeds in IBO.  First, I don’t believe the average archer has a 30” draw length.  Second, I don’t believe a light 350 grain arrow is appropriate for the average bowhunter.

Above:  Hoyt Rampage XT. 

Hoyt Rampage XT

  • 32” axle to axle
  • 7” brace height
  • 4 lbs
  • 323 FPS (ATA)
  • Available in draw lengths from 24.5” to 30”
  • Available in draw weights from 30-80 lbs
  • Features include the In-Line Roller Guard, XTS Pro Arc Limb System and the Fuel Cam.
  • General comments:  I shot the cast riser Rampage XT in a 25”, 60 lb configuration.  Fit and finish were good.  I didn’t know if I’d like the Pro-Fit Custom Grip, but it was fine.  There was a small amount of vibration at the shot, but very small.  Noise was minimal.  It rolled forward nicely on the shot which will help balance out a sight and attached quiver when set up for hunting.  Since I usually shoot 68-70 lbs it was difficult to get a feel for the cam upon drawing.  I like this bow.  As an everyday, ordinary bowhunter I’m not afraid to depend on a “value line” bow like the Rampage XT for all my pursuits.

Above: Hoyt’s Carbon Element.  

Hoyt Carbon Element

  • 32” axle to axle
  • 6 ¾” brace height
  • 3.6 lbs
  • 330 FPS (ATA)
  • Available in draw lengths from 24.5” to 30”
  • Available in draw weights from 30-80 lbs
  • Features include the In-Line Roller Guard, XTS Pro Arc Limb System, the RKT Cam and a whole lot more.
  • General comments:  I shot the carbon riser Carbon Element in 26.5”, 60 lb configuration.  It is a beautiful bow although I’m not convinced the four-tenths of a pound reduction over many other bows on the market is worth the premium pricing.   The Pro-Fit Custom Grip was “squishy” on the bottom end which I did not like.  As with the Rampage XT there was very little noise at the shot, but slightly more felt vibration.  The Carbon Element also rolled forward nicely at the shot.  Again, draw cycle was hard to judge as the bow was set 8-10 lbs less than my normal draw weight.  The Carbon Element is a Flag Ship offering from one of archery’s premier bow manufacturers.

Above:  The Bowtech Assassin. 

Bowtech Assassin 

    • 30 5/8” axle to axle
    • 7” brace height
    • 3.8 lbs
    • 333 FPS (IBO)
    • Available in draw lengths from 26” to 30”
    • Available in draw weights from 50-70 lbs
    • Features include Octane Strings, Rotating Modules for easy draw length adjustment and Ready Aim Kill (R.A.K.) accessory package.
    • General comments:  The lane was pretty chaotic so I did not get the specs for draw length and weight that I shot the Assassin in.  This is not a new offering from Bowtech and I have spent a little time shooting one while helping Outdoors Buddy Seth pick out a new bow for the 2011 season.  The plastic overlay grip with a slight back-radius was ok with a bit of traction.  The draw cycle is not objectionable and I believe it to be a fairly smooth shooting bow.  Having previously shot Octane Strings on a Bowtech SWAT I’ll say that they are of good quality which prevents the need to swap out them out on a brand new bow.  I’d like to see the R.A.K. accessory package offered as an option rather than automatically included, though.  I like this bow and once again point out that I’m not afraid to rely on a price point bow for all my bowhunting pursuits, but prefer higher quality accessories than those offered in the package.  Bowtech is not known for their customer service and they often take quite a beating on the popular archery forums.

Above:  The Bowtech Insanity

Bowtech Insanity CPX 

  • 32” axle to axle
  • 6” brace height
  • 4.3 lbs
  • 355 FPS (IBO)
  • Available in draw length from 25.5” to 30”
  • Available in draw weights from 50-80 lbs
  • Features include Octane Strings, OverDrive Binary Cams, FLX Guard, 7-layer limbs and more.
  • General comments:  Again, the lane was pretty chaotic so I did not get the specs for draw length and weight that I shot the Assassin in.  The draw cycle was smooth and the bow sat dead in my hand at the shot with very little vibration.  The grip is simply the riser itself, my favorite kind of grip, with the corners cut off at 45 degree angles on the two back edges.  Laminate scales adorn the riser on each side of the grip.  Again, Bowtech is not known for their customer service often taking quite a beating on the popular archery forums.

Above:  The Elite Hunter. 

Elite Hunter 

  • 31 ¾” axle to axle
  • 7 1/2” brace height
  • 3.9 lbs
  • 319 – 323 FPS (IBO)
  • Available in draw length from 25” to 30”
  • Available in draw weights from 40-80 lbs
  • Features include the ESX or Tour Cams adjusted by mods depending on draw length.
  • General comments:  I shot the Hunter in a 26.5”, but unspecified draw weight.  Like the Bowtech Assassin the Hunter is not a new-to-2012 offering.  I chose it for its generous-by-today’s-standards brace height and its availability in my draw length of 26.5”.  Elite turns out a beautifully fit and finished bow.  At 319-323 FPS IBO the Hunter is not a barn burner, but a dependable, forgivable bow for pursuing your game of choice.  I do like the draw cycle on the Hunter and would be happy to shoot this bow more.  It did nothing at the shot but sit in my hand.  The grip was my favorite of all bows shot, simply the nicely radiused riser itself with scales on either side.  Elite is known for their customer service and lifetime warranty. 

Well, that’s it. My short snippets on a few bows I’d likely be willing to shoot while pursuing critters in the field.  Do you have any comments on the bows in this post?

happy hunting, dv

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Outfitter Report – Fair Chase, Ltd 2012
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The following is my trip report from a recent adventure with Fair Chase, Ltd. for javelina and hogs. This is a modified North American Hunting Club format.

1) Outfitter: Fair Chase, Ltd

2) Owner: Rob Kiebler

3) Address: P.O. Box 1679, Azle, TX 76098

4) Phone: 972-523-5621 (cell)

5) E-mail:  [email protected]

6) When: January 18-20, 2012

7) Where: El Indio, TX

8) Guided: Fully

9) Drop: No

10) Transportation to hunting area: By truck driven by guide and/or outfitter.

11) Accommodations: Motel-type rooms that exceed the comfort and quality of actual motels; two beds per room per bathroom.  The strip of rooms has a large porch with Cracker Barrel rockers.  Separate game room, lounge and bar also with a large covered porch and rocking chairs. Separate kitchen and dining building.

Above:  The “motel” type rooms at the Cinco Ranch.

Above:  The interior of a Cinco Ranch room.

Above:  The exterior of the game room and bar.

Above:  The interior of the game room/bar.

Above:  The pond is just outside the “motel” rooms.

12) Trophy hunt only: No

13) Species hunted / harvested: Javelina and feral hog hunted. One javelina harvested with two botched opportunities on feral hogs.

Above:  I love stalking javelina.  Probably because we are of about the same intelligence level.

14) Tools used: Compound bow.

15) Land hunted: Private

16) Cost: Booked at 2012 rate of $375 per person per day for three-day hunt including one animal per day, food, various beverages, lodging, guiding, transportation on ranch and basic meat and trophy care. Check with outfitter for current rates. Additional costs included air fare $296.30, rental car $223.56, license $49, and tip.

17) Challenging terrain adversely affect hunt: No

18) Did weather adversely affect hunt: No

19) Quantity of game: Outstanding

20) Quality of game: Excellent

21) Guide’s Competence: Guide and outfitters’ skills and ability to apply them exceeded my own hunting skills.

22) Guide’s Hunting Ethics: Excellent

23) Condition of Equipment: Good

24) Food: Outstanding!

25) Trophy care: Excellent

26) Meat care: Good

27) Number of outfitted / guided hunts for myself: 9

28) Recommended: Highly!

29) General comments: Rob is part outfitter, part guide, part host, part concierge.  His customer service is second to none that I have ever experienced.  Smilie the ranch manager who also acts as guide is also the consummate host.  Juanita and Pattie prepare fabulous Tex-Mex meals that absolutely ensure a hunter will not starve away from home.  The approximate 15,000 acre low/no/cattle fence O’Brien Cinco Ranch is a fantastic place.  My only regret hunting with Fair Chase and on the Cinco Ranch is that I can’t do it every year or multiple times each year.  

Temperatures ranged from forty to low eighty degrees.  Being cold-blooded I often wore long underwear in the mornings and shucked them after breakfast.  Cell service for many visitors is extremely limited on the ranch which is on the Rio Grande River in southwest Texas.  Shot distances from blinds, ladder stands and tri-pod set-ups ranged from 16-21 yards.  There is a separate gun area.

happy hunting, dv

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Vapor Trail Archery Strings and Cables
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 Talking about one of my favorite bowhunting products.

Back in 2004 I was preparing for my first feral hog hunt, see Into the Sunny Black.  I’d been on time-demanding sea duty for two years and didn’t feel the string and cables on my old round-wheel Hoyt Spectra Fast Flite were quite up to snuff primarily due to a lack of love on my part.  After a lot of research Vapor Trail Archery replacements were decided upon.  From that day forward, with one silly short-term exception, my bows have worn Vapor Trail strings and cables.  That Spectra Fast Flite in particular has seen lots of abuse as my primary bowfishing bow since 2005.  Recently, the Berger button nut on this cast riser bow simply fell out, but amidst heat, freezing temperatures, water, ice, slime and blood those strings and cables are still going strong.

Above:  I’m pictured with Vapor Trail’s Steve Fondie at the recent 2012 Archery Trade Association show.

When you call Vapor Trail in Ham Lake, MN you talk to a person.  I like that.  You are likely to be referred to Steve or Jarrod Fondie, president and vice-president respectively, for technical or business questions.  Orders are shipped fast for a reasonable price.  I can’t remember it taking more than 2-3 days to receive a new set.  Who wouldn’t like that?  Even when I’ve screwed up my own order, thanks to a manufacturer’s technical listing, VTA got me strings and cables so quickly, twice, that I was able to change them out between weekly league shoots.  I have used more expensive strings with far less customer service support, but with no better performance results.

    Above:  Available in a wide-variety of color combinations VTA strings look as good as they function. 

To my knowledge VTA doesn’t advertise what their strings are made.  However, whatever it is they are made well and, apparently, pre-stretched.  Thought goes into their construction.  For example I’ve received VTA strings that had serving at the string stopper location where the original manufacturer’s strings did not.  That is a good feature for this wear-prone location.  Thread is inserted into the middle of the string near where your peep should go to make installation easier.  In my experience they are usually set within about ten shots.  I can count on no further peep rotation after that point.  This also makes tuning, a necessary process I hate, quicker.

dv’s Time Out Corner:  If at all possible I do not subject my bow and, by inclusion, strings/cables to the extreme internal temperatures of  a hot vehicle for long periods of time.  Again, once in a great while, if unavoidable, they will get left in the truck under full sun, but overall through many years of hunting trips and 3D shoots it is the rare occasion that they experience this.  I feel that over time this practice has had positive results where I see others complain about good quality strings/cables over-rotating and stretching who are less cautious with their equipment.

It is true that I was selected for VTA’s pro-staff in 2011 and have been renewed for 2012.  However, I used their products for six years before joining and would use and recommend their strings and cables even if I were not on their pro-staff today.  VTA strings and cables are what I trust on dustyvarmint’s everyday ordinary bowhunting adventures.

happy hunting, dv

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People Pictures from Archery Trade Association 2012
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Profiling some great people I met at this year’s ATA show.

 Above:  Up North Journal staff member Kevin Hutchings poses with UNJ boss man Mike Adams outside the show entrance. 

 Above:  Cindy Braun of AMS Bowfishing graciously showed me the year’s new products.

Above:   Terry Harmston, owner of Hunting Made Easy stands in front of the company’s many bow hanging devices.  HME products are innovative, affordable and some of my favorites.

Above:  Mikes Sohms, owner of Magnus Broadheads showed me how they are packaging Bullheads with their recommended arrows and an instructional DVD.  Magnus is well known for their no fault lifetime guarantee and superior customer service.

Above:  Jarrod and Steve Fondie of Vapor Trail Archery took time out at their high energy booth for this photo.  Their strings, cables and rests are among the best products in the industry.

Above:  A prized photo and experience. Left to right clockwise: Chase Fulcher continues to set new bowhunting records each year, Day One Camouflage owner Gary Christofferson, yours truly, Casey Brooks is one grizzly short of the Super Slam, Super Slam bowhunters Gary Martin, Tom Hoffman and Jack Frost and, finally, the renowned Randy Ulmer.

Above:  Dave Holt has been an extremely strong technical influence in the world of bowhunting for decades.  I attended my first seminar with him in 1994 and highly recommend his books Balanced Bowhunting and Balanced Bowhunting II for anyone who heads into the field with a bow more than two or three times a year.  He now spends four to five months a year in Africa testing equipment and helping others realize their bowhunting dreams on that continent.  Dave can be contacted at [email protected]

Above:  Bowhunter magazine editor Curt Wells and Super Slam Bowhunter Gary Martin.  Curt’s articles and interviews are interesting and practical.  Gary always keeps me hopping in one way or another.

Above:  Cameron Hanes inspires many bowhunters to challenge themselves physically.  Fitness is something I also consider essential to bowhunting.

Above:  I shared accommodations with Michigan friend and fellow Skinny Moose blogger Lonnie Collins who writes Aim Small Miss Small.  Lonnie is a wise fount of shooting and hunting knowledge.

Above:  I watch very, very few hunting videos, but those put out by Todd Prignitz’s White Knuckle Productions make the short list.

Above:  Joe Jacks of TiteSpot produces the best quiver in the industry AND he’s a darned nice guy.  Here he shows off the now 10% lighter 2012 quiver in the new Carbon Weave pattern; hmmmm…..

That’s it for people pics from the 2012 Archery Trade Association show.  Look out for my product picks coming soon.

happy hunting, dv

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