Welcome to the host site for outdoor writer Steve Sorensen’s “Everyday Hunter” columns. For a complete index of all columns, go to EverydayHunter.com.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Need a Third Hand?

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, September 18, 2010.)

One of the simplest inventions is a bow sling
that doubles as a set of tree hooks.

If he ever turns his mind to inventing a better mousetrap, current mousetrap manufacturers will go broke.

Many times I’ve said that outdoor pursuits produce some of the most resourceful and inventive people. One of those people is Jim Litmer of Third Hand Archery Accessories. Jim hasn’t just come up with an idea or two. He has a whole range of products that will make what you carry lighter, put what you need within easy reach, or make your hunting excursions go little safer and smoother.

Bottom line – he gives you that third hand you often wish you had. No, it’s not a surgical addition. It’s the name of his company – Third Hand Archery Accessories, a line-up of handy tools that make getting a grip on things easier for hunters.

One of the simplest inventions – and one I’ll use regularly – is a bow sling that doubles as a set of tree hooks. Sling it over your shoulder and hook your bowstring to the rubber clip. When on stand, wrap the sling around a tree and hang all your gear (binoculars, rattling antlers, grunt tube, quiver) on the four hooks. As for the rubber bow clip, he also sells it separately, and many 3D archers use it to carry their bow on their belts.

He also offers something he calls a “can’t-fire release.” It’s not actually a release aid, but everyone bow shooter should have one for two reasons.

One – the most damaging thing you can do to your bow is an accidental dry fire. Draw your bow with the can’t-fire release when you don’t want to release an arrow, and eliminate the possibility of dry firing. Two – use it for reps to build the chest, back and shoulder muscles you use for drawing.

But it’s not just for the individual archer. Every archery shop should have several of them to use for checking a customer’s draw length.

Another top product is the 32" x 34" “Rag Bag” – actually a printed target cover that you pack full of worn out clothing and rags. Even though I hesitate to say it’s the “cheapest” – because it isn’t cheaply made – this is one of the least expensive arrow targets you can get. Your wardrobe throw-aways replace the most expensive part. It’s durable enough to outlast any other target cover, and you can replace the rags over and over. The top closes with Velcro.

For gun hunters who hunt from the trees, he’s solved that old problem of getting your rifle or shotgun up into your treestand with his Tree Stand Gun Hoist. Before climbing into your stand, place the muzzle of the gun into a nylon pouch, and fasten the strap to the stock of your gun. It’s secure and keeps debris out of the gun barrel. After you’ve climbed, you simply pull the gun up with its business end safely pointed down at the biggest backstop in the world – the world itself. It would make a great gift for the young hunter who has just completed his hunter’s safety course.

I’ll add a word of advice here. Since you lay your firearm on the ground to get started, a means of protecting the scope from dirt and moisture would be a plus. Maybe the next invention from Third Hand will be an accessory to protect your scope.

For getting your bow into your stand, he has the Tree Stand Bow Holder. It clamps to the side of your climbing stand so your bow can hitch a ride – it stays with you all the way up the tree. When in your stand, it keeps your bow secure, silent, and ready.

If you’re like me, you might look at Third Hand Archery Accessories and say, “I could have thought of that.” But you didn’t. The good news is that all Third Hand products are surprisingly inexpensive, so why reinvent the wheel? You can check out all his American-made products online at www.ThirdHandArchery.com, or call 1-800-339-0232 for a print catalog.

From time to time, every hunter wishes for a third hand. Countless hunters have used Third Hand Archery Accessories with success. You might as well be the next one.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Crossbows -- Not What Some Think

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, September 4, 2010.)

The crossbow isn’t a bow turned horizontal
and adapted to a rifle stock.
Non-hunters might not realize it, but plenty of controversy rages within the community of deer hunters. Some of the hot topics are antler restrictions, herd reduction, wildlife management units, and baiting. But in a state as traditional as Pennsylvania, few topics are as divisive as crossbows in the deer woods.

Not wanting to speak where I have no experience, I’ve refrained from commenting on crossbows. Until recently I had never shot a crossbow, so my thoughts are based on my own limited experience, the experiences of people I know, and common sense.

Hunters offer a variety of reasons why they’re against the use of crossbows. Many crossbow opponents are archery hunters who argue that a crossbow has too great a range. But when I watch the arc of a crossbow arrow in flight, I don’t see how it significantly extends the range of a bow. And the arrow (some prefer the term “bolt”) is subject to the same limits any arrow has. That’s why the great majority of deer shot with a crossbow are well within the range of traditional archery shots.

Some of the most fervent opponents try to associate crossbows more with modern firearms than with archery tackle. That’s why they label them “crossguns,” But the comparison to guns is neither fair nor historically correct. In the history of weapons, crossbows preceded firearms by hundreds of years. Crossbows were widely used more than a thousand years before firearms were invented.

The only similarity is that a crossbow is a shoulder-fired weapon. But the crossbow isn’t a bow turned horizontal and adapted to a rifle stock. If there’s a relationship, the rifle borrowed from the crossbow, not vice versa. It would be more accurate to call a rifle a miniature cannon mounted on a crossbow stock.

Some object to crossbows because they think they’re the ideal poacher’s weapon. Yes, a crossbow’s silence is an asset for the lawbreaker, but a compound bow or traditional bow is silent too. Besides, any weapon that shoots an arrow isn’t an efficient poaching tool. An arrowed deer might involve hours of tracking and increase the odds of getting nabbed.

As I see it, a .22 rimfire makes a far better poacher’s weapon. Aim for the deer’s head and get a bang-flop, then recover the deer as soon as possible after the shot.

Some people say that the crossbow manufacturers are the only ones pushing crossbow use. But, some of the biggest names in vertical bows are manufacturing crossbows – PSE, Horton, Parker and others.

Last season one of my friends, Mark McInturff (originally from Pennsylvania but now living in Ohio), shot his second consecutive wallhanger buck with a crossbow. November 14, 2008 and 2009 were his lucky days. (I know where he’ll be on November 14, 2010.)

Mark is a lifelong hunter and he’s been using a crossbow for perhaps 15 years. Never before has he had an opportunity at anything like these bucks. Does his experience show that the crossbow is unfair? No. What it shows is that they grow ’em big over in the Buckeye State, and that if you hunt long enough sooner or later you’ll tag one. Or two.

Another friend, Tom Pisarchick from Brockway, PA, shot a huge whitetail with a crossbow on public land in the first half hour crossbows were legal in Pennsylvania last fall. It taped 181 gross inches on the Boone & Crockett scale. Isn’t that evidence crossbows are unfair? Not if you know the details.

Pisarchick, who is also a dedicated hunter with a vertical bow, wasn’t choosing the easy way. He scouted that buck all year, had a very good idea where it would be on opening day, and shot it from a ground blind at 20 yards.

The crossbow isn’t the cheater that anti-crossbow hunters think it is. Like regular archery tackle, a crossbow is a single shot. It can’t be fired without movement, or re-fired without lots of movement. Crossbows aren’t taking over the woods because they’re cumbersome to carry and need as much attention to tuning as vertical bows need.

I’m not ready to run out and buy a crossbow yet. For one thing, I like my compound bow. But as I age, if a crossbow keeps me in the October woods for a few more years, I’ll probably someday be hunting with one.