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Bow shooters have sought upgrades from the first stick and string to the latest models of compounds and crossbows.

Stick bows eventually gained power with curved (recurve) limbs. Crossbows made bow shooting (on hunts or in warfare) more compact. Compound bows stacked energy through pulleys that “compounded” the power of a single string. The modern crossbow took the vertical bow into a horizontal position and reduced the need for longer bow limbs and arrow shafts.

Crossbow shooters like to call their shooting missile a “bolt” rather than an arrow, but the stick, string and shooting things are basically the same functioning mechanisms used since humans first tinkered with stick-throwing devices to lengthen and add power to their spear- and rock-throwing pursuits.

In recent years, many crossbow companies have devised mechanical (physical and gas-operated) means to draw the heavy draw-string weight of a powerful, high-end crossbow. Technology has advanced in simplifying drawing mechanisms, but shooters at the end of the hunting day or an outing still had to unload a crossbow by firing a dummy arrow into the ground or, if possible, a backstop strong enough to stop the arrow/bolt safely.

Added to the woes, most hunts end at and shortly after dark and many states require crossbows to be unloaded when not in use. Firing to unload a crossbow after dark can make it difficult to find the bolt, increase the risk of damage when shooting into a rock or other solid device under the ground surface and has the possibility of arrows or ground material kicking back during these download shots.

Winchester Archery, based in Secaucus, N.J., has just patented a new device that eliminates the need to “dry” fire an arrow/bolt to download a crossbow after its use. “The Dark Horse model will feature a mechanical accessory that quietly and efficiently lets down draw-string tension without the use of CO2 gas or electrical power,” said Eric Brex, vice president of operations at Winchester Archery. Brex, an avid hunter with all kinds of archery gear from recurves to crossbows, described the device as a hydraulic cylinder in the butt stock, which can be pulled back to engage the cylinder that supplies the resistance to the released string when the trigger is pulled.

The release is quiet; no shafts are damaged; the device is back in place and ready for reloading.

Brex described the Dark Horse model as having 17.5-inch limbs with a 180-pound draw weight, power stroke of 13 inches and a foot-per-second speed close to 360.

He noted this model should be available in the fall. For details on this and other models and accessories, visit winchesterarchery.com. Brex added that the Dark Horse has a pistol-grip like forearm on the standard AR frame and a separate rail for attaching a camera, flashlight and other accessories.

This accessory bar will get a bit more use now that the Pope & Young organization as made rules changes. Pope & Young, organized in 1961, is a Minnesota-based bowhunter’s conservation group that sets standards for sportsman-like conduct, scores kills of games species and is a leading voice in all aspects of archery involvements.

Since its inception, Pope & Young has emphasized fair chase in all its pursuits and ratings of game taken. Sometime in the late 1980s P&Y established a mandate “no electronics attached to the bow or arrow.”

During the next quarter century bow tinkerers have come up with all kinds of inventions to ease and simplify the hunt. For example, inventors came up with light in the nock (base of the arrow shaft) as a means of finding a lost arrow.

Record bow kills always seem to come with some sort of controversy about the bow shooter’s harvest. A bow-mounted camera often serves as proof of the hunter’s success or wrongdoing.

Both a standard lighted arrow nock and a mounted camera constituted unwanted electronics to the P&Y officers and board of directors for decades. Earlier this year a new president, Jim Willems of New Mexico, and key board members were elected and changes in the by-laws were ratified to accept both devices.

J.R. Absher at Archery Wire, Willems noted, “It is generally accepted that such equipment does not aid in harvesting an animal and can actually enhance the overall hunting experience. It’s good to get the issue behind us and move on to other important matters.”

Willems was responding with an effort to change what some critics, within and outside the organization, have perceived as a negative “old guys” mentality.

Critics would not give much credence to the possibility of Pope & Young decision makers anytime soon adopting by-laws changes that would accept as a hunting device the crossbow.

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