Too much tech?


INDIANAPOLIS — Sitting over breakfast at the 2008 ATA Archery Trade Show in Indianapolis, the chatter over hot waffles turned to new products.

"Have you seen anything that knocks your socks off?" was the query.

"Not really," was the answer.

This was followed by a discussion of a pricey new space-aged product designed to make a hunter disappear from the radar screen of a big whitetail buck coming in on full alert.

Such early morning conversation led me to ponder the question of whether or not there is — or ever will be — too much technology making its way into hunting in general, and into bowhunting in particular.

There are plenty who argue the advance of technology is a good thing. Anyone who has ever been disoriented on a western bowhunt with a storm rolling in would heartily agree, especially when they are back in camp safe and sound.

Others, however, argue technology has replaced the necessity for practice, woodsmanship skills, and attention to detail, while at times giving hunters an unfair and perhaps unethical advantage.

In reference to the above example of a GPS unit guiding a hunter safely back to camp, such proponents would likely say hunter with good map and compass reading skills is actually safer in the woods.

Why you ask? Because, they would argue, that hunter's life isn't completely dependent upon a device whose power source or ability to operate can fail.

"I think that sometimes we might be getting too much technology," said Brian Strickland, a Colorado Springs outdoor writer and western bowhunting aficionado attending this year's ATA Show.

"After all, the object of the game is to outsmart them, not to eliminate their natural senses. For instance, a big part of whitetail hunting is playing the wind right — if you don't, you will not be successful."

Dale Moses, a bowhunting safety instructor from Texas, sees both sides of the argument.

"I think it's a good thing," Moses said. "I wonder sometimes how far the new bows can go, but they are quieter, faster, and can make you a better hunter.

"With faster bows, if you misjudge the shot distance a little bit, you can still hit close enough with these flat shooting rigs to make a clean kill. In the old days, a slightly missed shot was a wounded animal, not necessarily a dead one," he added.

"Plus, these newer bows are great at transferring kinetic energy through the shot, which again, can help in the clean harvest of a deer.

"And any technology that will make it safer like stands or harnesses, I'm obviously for," he said, while also noting that things like activated carbon clothing and high-tech garments help hunters enjoy their time in the woods and be more successful.

That doesn't mean, however, that Moses gives a blanket endorsement to increasing technology.

For instance, while he understands night vision equipment might have a legitimate use in predator hunting applications, he's all too aware that such technology can tempt people into illegal poaching activities of big game animals.

"I'm also leery about something that might be prone to fail at the moment of truth," Moses said. "But on the other hand, things like scouting cameras can really help a hunter without much time to sit and glass for hours to have an idea of what he's got on his property. That can ultimately help make him successful."

Of course, both of these hunters are looking at this argument from the side of hunting as a pastime.

For bowhunters like David Hale of Knight & Hale Game Calls fame, the bottom line of such pursuits isn't just the number of antler inches; it's also making sure that the bottom line will allow a hunting business to survive in this increasingly competitive industry.

And that's why Hale isn't at the ATA Show just to greet fans, smile for photographs, give autographs, and catch up with old hunting acquaintances.

He's also there to help his company sell products like the new Knight & Hale Rack Master call, a grunt call that allows a hunter to reach out and call loudly when a buck is far away, as well as calling very softly as a buck moves into a shooting lane.

"On the calling end of it, it's mainly trying to figure out what these animals are not used to," Hale said. "It's hitting them with something that will work, but they are not used to, and that's basically all of the reinventing we're going to be doing."

Hale is also aware of current trends and coming applications of technology in his industry however.

"When you get into the electronic world, it's a whole new talk," Hale said. "There's a whole lot of things electronically that's going to transpire in the near future that we never dreamed of — and I won't get into all of those details.

"It will go off into arenas that you would say it's impossible for electronics to be involved in."

So can the wheel continue to be invented (or reinvented) at shows like this and the upcoming SHOT Show in Las Vegas?

"I'm not going to be silly enough to say that you can't come up with new stuff, but somebody that's an old guy like me that's been around for a long time, I'm probably not going to invent too much anymore," Hale said.

"But we're certainly going to try as best we can on doing some new things."

And that should ensure that the 2008 ATA Show will certainly not be the final time the question about the interaction of hunting and increasing technological advances will be asked.

Now if you will excuse me, I've got some waffles to reheat in the microwave.