ATA Rolls On...Electric Wheels?

Jan 11, 2019

The Archery Trade Association officially opened yesterday morning here in Louisville, Kentucky. Suddenly frigid temperatures and a threat of snow on Saturday didn’t seem to have first-day attendees overly concerned.

For, exhibitors and retailers alike, this show’s too- important to let a little weather bother them.

Walking the floor yesterday, I enjoyed opportunities to visit with several buyers and business owners. Their stories all sounded very similar.

One Ohio dealer talking while waiting to meet his sales rep was surprisingly candid.

“We’re a full-service store,” he said, explaining that his store also sold guns and included an indoor shooting range. “Without the other businesses,” he said, “I don’t know how I would keep the archery business going. Archery is very slow - with the exception of crossbows.”

When I asked “why crossbows” his answer was simple: “they (crossbows) are priced right. If we’re trying to get someone into archery, or they just want to give bowhunting a try, they can get into a decent crossbow for far fewer dollars than a compound bow.”

“We want to get people into archery,” he said, “trying to tell them one bow’s better than the other doesn’t encourage them to try archery.

His job, he explained, was to show the customer the products he offered, help them make a decision, then sell them what they wanted. “In my market,” he said, “compound bows prices make them a tough place to start.”

Walking the aisles after a few years absence tells me he’s not far wrong. Today, crossbows and compounds coexisit side-by-side in the shooting lanes. That’s a huge change from the days when compound bow makers scorned crossbows - and the “so-called archers” who shot them.

Technology has invaded the outdoors, and archery’s not exception. Virtually everything is lighter, smaller and offers everything from exotic manufacturing techniques to unheard-of technological capabilities only a few years ago.

Burris, for example, is showing their Oracle bow sighting system ( Oracle seems an apt title, because the system combines a glass-free digital bow sight with a laser range finding system. A hunter zeroes their bow and calibrates the Oracle at the range. When they go afield, they can quickly get an exact distance measurement as the Oracle calibrates the aiming point. The correct aiming point then illuminates in the sight.

Burris' Oracle system (above) combines rangefinding, sighting and drop compensation in a single, all-aluminum unit. Meanwhile, innovation area exhibitor Spence Gear was demonstrating their "Stand Guard" (below), essentially a lightweight humanoid dummy that hangs in your treestand to get desensitize animals to a presence in the tree stand- and discourage trespassers. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photos.

Stand Guard ( is an exhibitor in the Innovation Area. But they offer a lower-tech device suitable for any tree stand. Simply put, Stand Guard is a humanoid shape users can suspend via a cable fastened above their tree stand. Because the device is suspended, it moves in the wind, simulating the motion of a camo-attired person sitting in the stand. With the Stand Guard left in place, animals become desensitized to a “person” being there. Judging from game camera video that showed deer and other wildlife moving right next to a stand that had either a Stand Guard or a camo-attired observer aboard, the desensitization works. It’s a solid, albeit somewhat complicated “story” to tell, and the Stand Guard owner acknowledge that the need to explain the concept- and demonstrates folding and unfolding it for every potential customer makes it better suited for specialty shops than big-box retailers.

As far as “trend spotting” - it looks like the tuned-in high-tech hunter of the future will be riding into the woods on a...fat tired, electric bicycle. Electric bikes today have come a very long way to the hunting scooter from which they all evolved.

They’re nearly silent, fast (20-30 MPH fast) and have the capability to go 20-or more- miles on a single charge. That’s a lot of mobility, especially when they’re also capable of carrying much larger loads than ever before.

They’re not-inexpensive, I saw a variety of models priced from $2,000-$4,500 or more (depending on equipment and engine size). But seeing them zipping around the demonstration areas quickly demonstrated their capability to move even plus-sized folks around.

There’s a wealth of accessories, from mud flaps to dual-duty kayak/treestand haulers, even carts to carry firewood to camp or coolers and fishing rods and surf gear down to the beach.

Everyone riding one of the electric bikes looked like they were enjoying themselves (above). And this booth by Rambo (below) demonstrated a few of the myriad of applications where electric bikes would work. Jim Shepherd/OWDN photo.

If you’re serious about the outdoors, but lack the space or cash for either an ATV or full-sized 4-wheel drive vehicle, electric bikes considering.

Owners of a live-aboard boat, full-sized RV or tow-along camper could find them an affordable means for getting around campgrounds or marinas.

And, if you want, you really can use pedal power to save the bike’s energy and get some exercise for yourself.

We’ll be watching to see if the interest in these new bikes continues at SHOT. In the meantime, I’m angling to see if I can’t find a way to quietly add one to gear already crowding my garage.

Meanwhile, it’s once-again obvious no one was imitating Chicken Little when they warned that that a newly-emboldened Democratic contingent in Congress would mean reinvigorated attacks on gun rights.

Die-hard gun hater Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has been joined by a dozen or so colleagues from equally gun-unfriendly areas to introduce the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019. It’s not just a reconstitution of the bill she’s introduced in nearly ever Congressional session. This new bill would ban the “sale, manufacture and importation of 205 ‘military style weapons’ by name, and any “assault weapon that accepts a detachable ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics, including a pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel, or a folding or telescoping stock”

The bill says that owners of existing rifles would be allowed to keep them- and the magazines. But they couldn’t be transferred. What Sen. Feinstein’s news release doesn’t say is that nothing prevents a future attempt to further restrict ownership or remove the grandfather provision. Gun rights groups are already preparing for another protracted fight, and quietly admitting the current administration’s seeming willingness to shift positions on almost anything has them very concerned.

That’s it from Louisville...and as always, we’ll keep you posted.

—Jim Shepherd