It’s that time of year again, when the outdoor industry introduces all its latest, greatest products, and I’ve just returned from the Archery Trade Association’s annual show.

The carrot is seeing old friends and colleagues in the archery industry, but the real purpose in going is to get a look at all the new products being rolled out. Alas, word-count constraints limit me to mentioning just a few of the noteworthy new items displayed.

There are always trends, and I’ll start with crossbows as they represent one of the fastest (and few) growing segments of the industry. With their relatively recent rise in popularity have come considerable concurrent advancements in crossbow technology as manufacturers try to make their bows safer, faster and quieter. The latest trend is making them more compact and therefore more maneuverable in tight hunting situations, and even faster still.

Ravin Crossbows, a new brand last year, burst onto the scene with some unique and innovative technology for their R9 and R15 bows, designed to make them exceptionally fast and accurate. With this year’s R20 they’ve achieved estimated arrow speeds of 430 feet per second (fps) and a punishing 164 foot-pounds of kinetic energy, yet with a meager 6-inch axle-to-axle width when fully drawn.

From the genius mind of Matt McPherson, owner and founder of Mathews Archery and Mission Crossbows, comes the SUB-1, so named for its purported ability to shoot less than 1-inch groups at 100 yards. And it flings those arrows at 350 fps. And from TenPoint, considered by many to be the Lexus of crossbows, comes the Shadow NXT with a 6.5-inch width and a speed rating of 380 fps, as well as a new four-cable technology system for improved strength, stability and accuracy.

A fairly common question among hunters looking for eye-level concealment is, “What model ground blind should I get?” Once you get past deciding between economical hoop style and the more sturdy and durable (and largely more popular) hub style blinds, it largely boils down to individual features. At least it did. NAP, known primarily for accessories like broadheads and arrow rests, has introduced two new and radically different ground blinds. The Mantis 2 and 3 have some neat features but the most noteworthy are an asymmetrical design and peaked roof, virtually eliminating the straight (and unnatural) horizontal line of conventional blinds.

From the Primos Double Bull line – the brand that really ignited ground blind popularity a couple decades ago – comes a new line of Surroundview blinds. Ground blinds are an extremely effective way to hunt but I always feel a little claustrophobic, my sight and hearing being limited by the confines of closed fabric walls. For the Surroundview blinds, Primos developed one-way, see-through windows that give you a choice of 180, 270 or 360 degrees of visibility and hearing, while still offering the same concealment as a conventional blind.

On the practical side, from Maine, comes a product called the Skyline Safety System. As someone who hangs and erects dozens of free-standing and ladder stands each fall by myself, I can really appreciate this device. It’s essentially a claw-and-ratchet system you attach to your ladder stand or climbing sticks so you can safely attach them to a tree before you ascend. Then you can climb up, permanently attach the stand or sticks and remove the system to use on the next tree. It also includes a lifeline that will prevent you from falling.

Continuing with the safety theme is a product that’s both whimsical and practical. Hunter Safety Systems, leaders in the field of fall restraint harnesses has reintroduced their immensely popular Pro Series harness-vest combo, retaining features like a breathable mesh interior, quiet fabric exterior and multiple pockets. But they also added ElimiShield scent control technology and a USB charging port for cell phones or other devices.

Impractically, most of us spend too much time messing with our smart phones while on stand. Practically, you should all have a well-charged phone with you in an elevated stand so you can summon help in case of an emergency. While reviewing the new vest HSS’s Jerry Widener I also discussed other potential applications for the charging system, but you’ll have to wait until 2019 for those. In the meantime, hunt safely.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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