2020 ATA best of new products: Trail’s picks
The Archery Trade Association show is held every January to showcase the latest archery and bowhunting gear. New bows, arrows, sights, rests, broadheads, tools and anything else you can possibly think of for archery is packed into a couple of giant showrooms. I have been lucky enough to attend the past few years to hand-select gear for the goHUNT gear shop and there are always a few products that catch my eye. Below are my personal favorites from the 2020 show. Hopefully, a good number of them make their way into the shop. Be on the lookout for new products early this spring!
Axcel Accustat II scope/sight
I really like Axcel sights. I have one on both of the bows I regularly shoot. My personal favorite hunting sight is the five-pin Accustat head with the carbon pro slider sight. It’s well built, packed with cool features and it just works for me.
New for 2020, Axcel has updated the Accustat scope and is calling it the Accustat II. The new scope is lighter and sports one piece fire pins with 26” of fiber for each pin. The pins are incredibly crisp and bright—much brighter than the pins on my older model. The Accustat II also has a new updated sturdy Rheostat rotating cover that allows you to adjust the pin brightness by simply turning the shade. Each pin is adjustable or you can move multiples at one time. It’s available in .010 or .019 size pins and as three- and five-pin models. I have owned and tried many sights over the years, but I keep coming back to Axcel and I anticipate adding a couple new Accustat II scopes to my bows this coming year.
We spend thousands of dollars on permits, bows, boots, packs, camping equipment and all kinds of stuff, but we may not think much about vanes. In reality, the impact point never mattered more than when a broadhead-tipped arrow is headed down range. Blazer vanes have somewhat dominated the market over the last decade, but it’s nice to see another new quality option. TAC vanes are made with a proprietary polymer blend and a state-of-the-art manufacturing process, resulting in a stiffer, lighter vane than other competitors. In listening to the rep’s pitch, he stated that testing has proven TAC vanes to be quieter and more accurate while allowing the arrow to retain significantly more speed down range.
For hunting, TAC offers the Summit, the Matrix and the Driver vanes. The Summit is your traditional 2” blazer profile while the Matrix and Driver are both a bit longer and lower profile. TAC also produces their own base primer pen and glue, guaranteeing adhesion of their vanes when used.
I have not had the chance to try the TAC vanes yet, but based on the feel and industry response, they are on the short list of new products I’m excited to try.
VXR bow — Mathews SCS sling system and Engage bow stand
I have already done a review of the 2020 Mathews VXR 31.5, so I won’t add too much more, but I really do enjoy shooting that bow. It holds very well, is dead quiet and, personally, I think it’s a really sharp looking bow in the new ambush green matte finish.
A couple of items I have not talked too much about are the new accessories that can be added to the new Mathews bows. Mathews has always produced really nice add-ons, but it feels like they are continuing to expand and improve that line-up. The Flatline stabilizers are very nice; the quivers are clean, quiet, and function extremely well. The integrated dovetail mounting system and the QAD rests are really attractive options for their new bows. I could go on about others, but the two I want to highlight here are the new Engage limb legs and the SCS bow sling.
The Engage limb legs fit easily over the limb pocket, holding the bow upright, without the cam or stabilizer needing to touch the ground. You can even shoot the bow with the legs on without impacting the shot. For antelope ground blind hunters, this is a must have in my opinion.
The SCS stands for silent connection system, which are two small posts that attach between the limbs of the new VXR bows. Those pegs can then be used with a bow rope to quickly and quietly hoist your bow up to your treestand or you can attach the bow sling. The sling was made in conjunction with Mystery Ranch and it’s a handy option to carry your bow over your shoulder in the field
Over the past five years or so, there has definitely been a shift in western big game bowhunting towards one piece, heavy duty, maximum penetrating broadheads. We have seen heads like Strickland, Iron Will, Valkyrie and others start to over take the traditional replaceable blade heads. I would debate whether or not it’s warranted, but it’s currently where the market is.
Along those lines, the new Annihilator is a fresh take on broadheads. In appearance, they look small and have a very low profile. If you measure the cutting diameter, it’s actually just shy of an inch but the scoop design of the head punches a hole rather than cutting slits. In comparing actual cutting surface area, the Annihilator claims to offer a greater channel than other cut on contact heads.
The back scoop design of the heads does create drag, but, reportedly, the wedge design stabilizes the head producing field tip like flight. The Annihilator heads are composed of 4140 alloy steel hardened to Rockwell RC:52 for edge retention and durability. Broadheads are packaged and batched in packs of three and will all be within .4 grains of each other. If you are looking for a low profile, solid, one piece broadhead that can be resharpened, then the Annihilator is an intriguing option for 2020.
Montana Black Gold Ascent Mountain Lite
Black Gold produces an outstanding line of hunting sights and they continue to create new and interesting options every year. The new Mountain Lite is built off of the Ascent Verdict, but has been revamped, offering a more compact lightweight version. In addition, they have also added the Duel Indicator System, which is essentially two yardage indicators, but why would you need that?
The Mountain Lite is a slider sight, coming in either a three- or five-pin configuration. Like other slider multi-pin sights, you’d set your pins at your desired yardages and then use your bottom pin as your floater and dial the housing to extend your range. The two indicator system allows you to use the bottom indicator to dial to extended yardages: 70, 80, 90 yards, for example. The top indicator can be used for the midrange shots like 36, 48 or 53 yards where you would use your top pin.
In western big game hunting there are often two scenarios: an animal like a bull elk moving through shooting lanes and you need to make a shot. At these moments, set fixed pins are awesome. The other scenario is, perhaps, making a stalk on a bedded mule deer buck where we stalk in, range and wait to execute a shot where we know the exact yardage. The Mountain Lite sight covers it all: fixed pins with the ability to reach out with the slider or range, dial your top indicator to the exact yardage, and execute the shot.
Anyone shooting a bow and arrow for any amount of time has probably had a little bout of target panic. We have done multiple deep dive articles into what target panic is and how to overcome it. There are several methods and steps to dealing with target panic, all of which work towards the archer being able to achieve a surprise, almost subconscious, release.
The ThruFire is arguably one of the strangest looking releases I’ve seen, but having tried it, I’m really impressed. How does it work? Near the top you’ll see an opening where you can load your D-loop by pressing in the black button on the side of the release. Once you have arrived at full draw, you can then place your index (trigger finger) inside the half moon shape of the release. At that point, you begin pulling through the shot with your rhomboid muscles. As you pull through, your trigger finger unmoved, it will begin to compress the body of the release (which is spring-loaded). When it compresses, your finger will contact the actual trigger and fire the arrow. You can set the tension of the compression to as heavy or light as you want, but the point is you do not have a trigger and you can’t punch it. In order to fire an arrow, you have to pull through the shot to activate it.
If you are struggling with target panic and punching the trigger on your release, then the ThruFire might be just the ticket to ditching bad habitats, helping you become less anxious and more accurate.
STAN Xtinction 2 and PerfeX Releases
Stanislawski, or STAN as it’s more commonly called, is a company that has been producing target archery releases for a long time—49 years to be exact. In 2019, they released an index finger release and, for 2020, they have improved upon that with the Xtinction 2. The Xtinction 2 blends target grade performance with the simplicity that a hunter needs in the field. It’s fully adjustable and, without getting into the nitty gritty, all I will say is that it feels really good in the hand; the release is so consistent and crisp.
The PerfeX is not new, but they have just released a long neck version. For me, I prefer the fit and feel of the long neck. The long neck option also has a small feature called the spring-loaded string keeper. The simple spring-loaded lever allows you to easily hook the release onto your D-loop and leave it there. It’s quiet, quick and effective. Your release will not fall off. Additionally, the PerfeX is fully adjustable; tension, thumb peg position and three- and four-finger attachments that can also be adjusted for angle. I have shot a lot of releases over the years and the PerfeX is right up near the top for a thumb trigger release.
Victory VAP SS
There are a lot of quality arrows on the market, but it’s not often that we see something new and exciting. The new Victory Archery VAP SS are a micro diameter hunting arrow with stainless steel layers infused into a carbon fiber weave. In essence, it won’t permanently bend like other metal-wrapped arrows, but still has the strength of stainless steel. The VAP SS comes in three spines—300 (9.9 GPI), 350 (9.0 GPI), 400 (8.5 GPI)—and three variances: the Elite, Gamer and Sport. The Elite is the straightest with a +/- .001” tolerance. A dozen SS arrows comes with 50 grain inserts, but there are also optional 75 or 95 grain inserts for added FOC.
One other little feature I love about Victory arrows is that each one is spine aligned, meaning that the stiffest side or “spine” of each arrow is labeled. This offers you a very consistent batch of arrows that can all be fletched perfectly so that each arrow will come out the bow exactly the same way. The VAP SS should be an exceptional big game hunting arrow.
MR pop up 38
I’ll admit it: a few years ago, when Mystery Ranch pitched the idea of the pop-up packs I was a skeptic. It just didn’t look and feel like a pack I would hunt with; however, the new Pop Up 38 has my attention. For 2020, the frame has been redesigned. Instead of the tent pole-like frame that folded up, they have converted that to a flip-lock extension system. Picture a set of trekking poles converted into a pack frame. In my opinion, it’s a much cleaner, easier frame to use and allows for a fine-tune adjustment on frame height.
The Pop Up 38 is a day hunting front country pack that can be converted over to a load-hauling system with the load shelf and pop up frame. It also comes with a two pocket top lid and an outer compressible pocket, which is great for any gear that you need on hand in a hurry. It’s approximately 2,319 cubic inches and will be available in coyote, foliage and subalpine camo.
G5 ASD Flip
The original G5 arrow squaring device is a handy little tool that you can use to square the ends of cut arrow shafts or inserts. It’s been a key piece of equipment in my arrow building process that allows me to build a squared arrow where the insert and broadhead align much better. New in 2020, G5 has released the ASD Flip. The Flip is longer, offering more support for the length of the arrow. The sandpaper/squaring portion of the device can now be moved easily to accommodate mico-diameter arrows with outserts or any raw shaft. The ASD flip is a simple little tool, but when it comes to building a consistent dozen arrows that will fly true, it’s a key piece of the puzzle.
Overall, the 2020 ATA was a solid show with a lot of really exciting product launches. The spring months are ideal for setting up some new arrows, adding a sight or rest to your bow, or perhaps even buying a new bow. Archery hunts kick off across the west in August, now is the time to pick up some new gear and have it absolutely dialed for opening day!