For years, I have listened to bowhunters, mostly senior citizens, who were struggling to draw and shoot their bows. Obviously, this group is growing, and as an advocate of crossbow hunting, especially for these individuals, I believe it would be ideal to let them continue to enjoy bowhunting during the early bowhunting season using a crossbow.
Unfortunately, the recent crossbow hunting legislation that was passed does not allow these individuals to use a crossbow during the early archery season; therefore, all that is left for them is to apply for a Modified Longbow Authorization, which was amended last year. You must now obtain a form (not yet available) provided by DEC, to be completed and signed by a licensed physician certifying your disability, and you must carry it with you when using the modified bow device for big or small game.
Although I have never seen one of these devices in action, I have spoken to several hunters who are using them, and the common complaints were that you still have to draw (pull) the string back to lock it in place, and that it is quite cumbersome to carry in the woods.
Up until this year, my interest in this equipment was as an alternative for those unable to draw and hold their bows. But as I thought about it, you still have to draw the bow to lock the string into the apparatus. What does this do for those who cannot draw a bow, even with two hands? What is their alternative? The crossbow.
But on May 15, the opening of the carp bowfishing season in NYS, I got an unexpected surprise. I took out my compound bow set at a draw weight of 52 pounds and struggled in pain when I pulled back the string. Once the let-off of 65 percent kicked in, it was better. For you non-bow shooters, let-off is a feature found on most compound bows that reduces or relaxes the poundage of the bow when fully drawn. For example, when I began to draw my bow, I was pulling the full 52 pounds, but about halfway through the draw, the wheels (cams) on the bow reduce that pull so I am then holding a little over 18 pounds.
Actually, the difficulty and pain that I experienced was really not a surprise, because for the past several years, I have had to reduce the draw weight. In fact, last year, while in a tree stand, I actually spooked a doe who was in range while attempting to draw my bow. I first thought the struggling was just because I hadn’t used these muscles since last year’s bowhunting season, but after a few weeks of forcing myself to shoot, it did not get any better; the first few inches of the draw continued to hurt.
My thoughts immediately turned to the fall bowhunting season, which I have not missed since I got my first Bear Super Magnum longbow in 1967. Now I know how those senior citizens asking for a crossbow season really feel. Was I going to be forced into using that modified bow apparatus? Were those October mornings watching the sun come up and the afternoons watching it set from the platform of my tree stand over? And as much as I love gun hunting, there is nothing more exciting and satisfying for me than taking a deer with a bow and arrow.
Fortunately, I called good friend and fellow hunter Jack Douglas, the proprietor of Douglas Archery in Galway, which he established 15 years ago. He has been a bowhunter since 1965 and shoots regularly in area leagues and other competitions. When I told him how I was struggling in pain when drawing my bow until it reached its letoff point, he said before considering the modified bow apparatus, he wanted me to try a different bow with a little less draw weight. What was encouraging was his confidence in the bow he had in mind and something I had forgotten — in New York state, hunting with a long (stick), recurve or compound bow must have a draw weight greater than 35 pounds. That was 30 pounds less than I shot in my younger days.
I was anxious when I arrived at Jack’s shop to see what he had in mind, and it was ready for me, complete with sights, string peep, arrow rest and string-release loop. The bow was a PSE Chaos One, and I liked the feel from the moment I picked it up. It was short, just 30.5 inches axle-to-axle, weighed only 3.3 pounds, and tests proved that it was one of the easiest draw-and-shoot bows to use. As for the technical parts, each of which Jack explained, the split-limbed Chaos One had an NI single-cam system that allows for a draw length adjustment from 24 to 28 inches. Similarly, the rotating module aids in drawing.
In the event that adjustments have to be made to fit the shooter, you do not need a bow press or any special tools. And my concerns of stability, due to the size and weight of the bow, were quickly dispelled after I took my first shot. The accessories that were added to the bow were a PSE Orion with five fiber-optic sight pins, fully adjustable UV light and a phosphorescent glo-ring.
Speaking of that first shot, I was a bit nervous and embarrassed that I would not be able to draw the bow, but Jack assured me I could do it because he had already turned down the poundage. He also said he had adjusted the sights and positioned the peep sight where he thought they should be for me. On my first attempt, I felt only a slight bit of pain but when the 80 percent letoff kicked in, everything was fine. By my third draw, all without an arrow knocked, there actually was no pain.
The specifications on the PSE Chaos One were very impressive. It was offered in draw weights of 40, 50 and 60 pounds, all of which can be adjusted down. Mine has a peak draw weight of 50 pounds, which Jack adjusted down to 44 — perfect for me. The arrow speeds of the Chaos One are quoted as 302 (lighter arrow) to 294 feet per second, using a 28-inch draw with a 60-pound bow. My new bow, set at 44 pounds, has a projected arrow speed of about 235 feet per second.
Now, with the arrow knocked, I drew and held the green dot of the Orion on the center ring of the shop target, about nine or 10 feet away, and jerked the release trigger. It hit the target, but was low. My next several shots, which I gently touched off, were much better, and the grouping was very good. Moving outdoors, Jack took me to his 20-yard range and told me to use the same pin. I actually pulled the first shot, again jerking the trigger, but concentrating on my form and release, the next three shots put all the arrows in a nice, three-inch group, about two inches high and two inches to the right.
I knew with a few minor sight adjustments and practice, I could bring this group to where it belongs for deer hunting. What I also realized was that the ease of drawing the PSE Chaos One was not painful, and most importantly, come October, I will again be in my tree stand, awaiting that big Albany County eight-pointer that I saw last year.
Before leaving Jack’s shop, I did add one thing to my new bow, a Trophy Ridge Whisker Biscuit arrow rest. I have used one of these rests since they came out in 1999. The black fibers provide complete arrow support, which means your arrow stays put after knocking, shaking or even dropping your bow. No more arrows falling off the rest when you inadvertently tilt your bow, and there is no need to keep you finger on the arrow while waiting for Mr. Big Horns to arrive.
My incident with the inability to shoot my old bow was a bit of a reality check and made me take a closer look at my physical preparations for the coming bowhunting season. Here are a few tips from PSE pro Rocky Drake on this subject that I hope to emulate.
As a bowhunter, you know the basics, but it is the muscles that really need to be primed, so you should start to shoot around mid-August. When you start, shoot three arrows, go and pull them out and then shoot again. Don’t overdo it, and stop when your form starts to get sloppy. This routine, when done at least once every several days, should get you ready, physically, for that once-in-a-lifetime trophy buck shot.
My advice, if you have been or are starting to feel pain when you draw your current bow weight, is don’t panic like I did. As an official member of the senior citizens bowhunting group, I recommend the Chaos One, which is one of Douglas Archery Shop’s best-selling bows. At $289, you can’t beat the price.