Along The Trail 1-17-13

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Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the 2013 Archery Trade Association Show in Louisville. The show was open to exhibitors, distributors, buyers and the media. Somehow, I was able to squeak through the door with an exhibitor badge.

Once inside, I was greeted with sensory overload of all that is archery and modern bowhunting! Every make and model of compound bow, crossbows of all stripes, arrows, broadheads, treestands, you name it - if it was a product on any of the big three outdoor networks, it was well represented.

Like the pages of Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s and Gander Mountain come to life. It was pretty impressive, even for this down home recurve shooter.

My group made our way through the show and up and down the aisles. Around each turn or standing behind a booth was an “outdoor celebrity” or television personality. I remember thinking to myself, “Gee, he looks taller on T.V.” or “She must really use a lot of makeup on camera.” I’d watch as grown men would rush around from celebrity to celebrity asking for autographs and snapping photos with their favorite outdoor heroes. I’ll admit, I even sought out a couple of guys that I admire and shook their hand and shared a brief conversation.

My buddies and I split up to better cover the expanse of the Expo Center and I felt like a fish out of water.

Traditional archery is barely a blip on the bowhunting world’s radar screen, but I did manage to find a handful of vendors that catered to my style of archery. I spent most of my day chatting with manufacturers of traditional bows and accessories and visiting with a few of the other traditionalists in the sea of modern archery buffs.

The one thing that was glaringly obvious was the fact that hunting and bowhunting in particular is big business.

After testing the waters of the outdoor industry this past deer season, I became well aware that money fuels it, but I had no idea just how large of a part it played. The over the top glitz and glam, the out of this world technology behind each display and booth, all vying for your sporting dollars told the story. Like the saying goes, “Money talks and (insert your word here) walks” was evident and there was a distinct difference in the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ at the show.

As the day wound down and I’d about had my fill of “must haves” and techno-this and techno-that and hero worship, I came across a booth that was displaying arrowheads that were loaded with .38 or .357 caliber handgun rounds. They were designed to be shot from a bow, on the end of your arrow and “go off” upon the arrow’s impact.

Now, I like guns, I like bows and I like things that go ‘boom’ – but guns and bows are two distinctly different things and have no business cross pollinating!

I thought to myself, this is not archery or bowhunting and it’s a bad idea on several levels and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

“Is this what we’re coming to?” I questioned as I shook my head to myself and grumbled under my breath.

That was enough for me and as I drove home, my mind asked where and how a guy like me, a die hard traditional bowhunter, a guy who is passionate about the outdoors fits into the “outdoor industry”.

It’s a razor’s edge, having one foot planted in the world of woodsmanship and the other foot in that of instant gratification of today’s hunter. A delicate balancing act to say the least…

I thought about the direction that bowhunting is going today and I didn’t like the answers I came up with.