Mathews Chill X Review

mathews chill xI want to start by saying that there is no such thing as a bad bow nowadays.  The technology gap has effectively been closed and just about every manufacturer makes a solid product.  People are fiercely brand loyal and just about any conversation about bows will quickly will devolve into an uneducated brand bashing.  Everyone is after the same thing.  That being a comfortable bow that they can shoot accurately and confidently.  By confining yourself to a certain brand of bow you rob yourself of offerings by other companies that might suit your style a little better.  The only way to truly get the right bow for you is to remove all preconceived notions and shoot everything out there.  I switched from a Hoyt this year and you’re about ready to find out why I’m glad I did.  That being said, let’s get down to business.

The Chill X is Mathews’ newest bow for 2014.  This dual cam offering is a longer version of the popular Chill R.  Sporting a 35 inch axle to axle length with a 7 inch brace height, the Chill X is a good choice for someone who wants a bow that pulls double duty as a hunting rig and something that can shoot 3d as well.

The biggest thing that sticks out about this bow is the 35 inch ATA length.  I’ve shot short bows for the past several years and really thought nothing of it.  It wasn’t until I shot the Chill X that I realized how much those extra inches make a difference.  It is noticeably more stable than the shorter bows and at long distance that makes the difference between a hit and a miss.  Having a rock solid hold on something increases accuracy as well as confidence.  As far as it being too long to hunt with, as I’ve heard some say, that is complete b.s.  Bows with an ATA of 32 inches and shorter didn’t come around in mass until a few years ago.  Before then, people didn’t have much trouble maneuvering longer bows and they still don’t.  I seriously doubt I will ever go back to a bow with an ATA shorter than 35 inches.

The draw cycle on the Chill X is smooth.  Very smooth.  Again the ATA length comes into play allowing for a smoother draw cycle than what you would get from a shorter bow.  Utilizing Mathews’ proprietary Rock Mod system the back wall is very solid due to a cam stop the previous versions of the McPhearson Monster didn’t have.  Allowing for either 75% or 85% let off, the Rock Mods also allow an easy change in draw length.

The DYAD AVS cam.  The counterweight contributes to the dead in hand feel.  The cam stop that gives the rock solid back wall can be seen about and inch and half below the axle.

The DYAD AVS cam. The counterweight contributes to the dead in hand feel. The cam stop that gives the rock solid back wall can be seen about and inch and half below the axle.

One thing that really set the Chill X apart from other bows I’ve shot recently is there is no shock upon pulling the trigger.  It is about as dead in hand as you can get.  This is partly due to the perimeter counter weight on the cams.  When the limbs fire forward, the counterweights go in the opposite direction and thus deaden the shot.  There is simply no shock when you pull the trigger of the release and it really makes a bow sling unnecessary.

Now comes the one thing I don’t really care for.  The grip.  The Chill X has a very thin, minimal grip.  It is basically like holding the riser where the grip should be.  There is nothing to fill up your hand.  The reasoning behind this is sound, however.  The fatter the grip, the more apt you are to torque the bow.  This is fine, but the thin rubber grip rubbed a blister on the inside of my thumb .  I’m starting to get used to it and I’ll just have to toughen up.

Thin rubber grip on the Chill X

Thin rubber grip on the Chill X

I almost neglected to put anything about speed in this write up.  All bows are fast.  It’s just that simple.  But I did get to shoot this one through a chronograph so it’s worth mentioning.  The bow is rated at up to 336 fps with 75% let off.  It is worth mentioning here how bow manufacturers come up with their speed figures.  They use a 30 inch draw length and shoot the lightest arrow out of the heaviest draw weight available.  Shooting a 380 grain hunting set up I normally use, I was able to get an average of 284 fps with a 29 inch draw length at 70 pounds with 85% let off.  That is plenty fast enough.

So in summary, what is the Chill X boiled down to bare bones?  It is a bow that veers away from the popular trends now seen in the archery industry.  A 35 inch ATA with a 7 inch brace height make it very stable and very forgiving.  The Rock Mod system gives an incredibly solid back wall and the ability to easily change draw lengths.  It has a really dead in hand feel with no jump upon pulling the release trigger.  Most importantly, it is butter smooth and easy to shoot.  That’s really all we’re after and why I’ll be shooting the Chill X for the foreseeable future. They’re available in Lost Camo, Black, and my personal favorite, Desert Tan.  $1099 Retail.  Check out Mathewsinc.com to find a dealer and go shoot one to see for yourself.

Gettin’ Stickbow Close

I’ve been considering getting into traditional archery for some time.  I’m not ready to drop my compound and go all trad but I think it would be fun to occasionally break out a recurve and shoot a doe or two.  It’s simple and I like simplicity.  The guys over at gettinstickbowclose.com are some amazing archers and are pretty good at stabbing big bucks with the old stick and string.  While I don’t think I could every completely ditch my compound, these guys’ videos definitely make me want to try it out.

The Real Badass of Bowhunting

In an age of hyper speed bows, carbon arrows, and huge mechanical broadheads, it is easy to lose sight of where we’ve come from as bow hunters.  People have been killing things with a stick and string for over 30,000 years.  It is easy to forget that what we’re doing is nothing new regardless of the space age materials our equipment is now made of.

Currently, it seems everyone is fixated on arrow speed and how big of hole their broad head can leave.  Spend five minutes in any bow shop and you’ll come out believing your equipment is completely ineffective unless you’re zipping an arrow out of a carbon frame bow at 330 fps.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in all this stuff and think that by being on the cutting edge of technology we’re breaking new ground in archery when in fact, we really aren’t.  If anything, as our equipment is advancing, we as hunters and shooters are regressing.

Howard Hill is considered by many to be the greatest archer of all time.  Before his death in 1975 he had tallied over 2,000 animals with a long bow and was the first white man to kill an elephant with archery equipment.

Remember back in the early 90’s when 80 and 90 pound compounds were the measure of manliness?  Hill used a 172 pound long bow on that elephant.  That, sir, is a man.

Everyone nowadays seems to think the pinnacle of “making it” in the bowhunting world is to get a tv show on one of the pay to play outdoor networks.  Howard Hill produced over 20 feature films for Warner Brothers in his career.  When is the last time you saw one of the current hunting “celebrities” get national exposure other than Ted Nugent spouting some inane garbage on a cable news show?

Levi Morgan might be one of the best 3d shooters in the world right now, but Howard Hill won 196 field archery competitions in a row.  Hill also shot plums and other small targets off of people’s heads at 20 yards.  I’m going to say that again.  He shot small pieces of fruit off of people’s heads.  One miscue and it was curtains for his volunteer.  Youtube abounds with 100+ yard bow shots but whens the last time you saw someone make an almost 400 yard shot with traditional equipment?  Howard Hill pulled that one off in the 1950’s.

As time has progressed, we’ve lost our way as archers.  We no longer have any Howard Hills, Ben Pearsons, or Fred Bears.  These guys have been replaced by fist pumping, over the top personalities pimping the latest and greatest shortcut to success.  Gone are the days of packing of into the backcountry solo to pursue something other than a 150 inch whitetail.  We’ve become obsessed with antler scores and trophy management.  Having the newest and best camo and scent suppression system has taken the front seat over woodsmanship.  This needs to change.  Our forebearers did what they did because it was fun and it was challenging.  They were breaking new ground and not even knowing it.  So this fall, when you take to the woods, do it for yourself.  Keep it simple.   Embrace the challenge of what we do and love and try to channel your inner Howard Hill.  You don’t have to go try shooting plums off of someones head, but instead, I challenge you to do one thing this fall with a bow that you have never done.  Whether it is expanding your effective range, taking up traditional equipment, or small game hunting with your bow, it will put us back on track and increase your overall skill set as a bowhunter.  Our sport is getting stagnate and it’s up to us to change it.

 

 

A Few Words on Ozonics

Just about everyone in the bowhunting world has heard about Ozonics.  If you haven’t, it’s a little portable ozone generator that renders your human scent inert.  Deer supposedly can’t wind you and it will turn you into the epitome of stealth in the deer woods.  It’s a popular product and has a legion of  dedicated users that swear by it, but before you go plunking down $400 on one of these units, there are a few things you should probably know.

What is Ozone?  Ozone is an allotrope of oxygen that is very unstable.  The oxygen we breathe exists in nature as two oxygen molecules that are double bonded.  This is how oxygen wants to exist.  It’s happy this way.  Ozone is the normal double bonded pair of oxygen atoms with an extra oxygen atom stuck on it.  Oxygen is not happy in this state and is very unstable.  It wants to revert to its normal state of two molecules instead of three so it will readily give the extra oxygen molecule away.  What does this mean to us as hunters?   In very, very, simplified terms, when ozone encounters a molecular compound of human smell (or any smell), it gives away its extra oxygen.  This changes the human smell to something different that is non threatening to deer.  This is oxidation and what makes ozone effective at destroying scent, mold, bacteria, and viruses.

Ozone has a variety of commercial applications, from sanitizing laundry in hospitals, to treating water in wastewater treatment plants.  Ozone generators are used in fire and water damage restorations to remove weird smells like mildew or smoke.  It is a very useful industrial tool, and like most industrial tools, it can also kill you deader than Custer’s nuts.  OZONE IS TOXIC GAS!  Ozone is listed as a primary irritant and will go to work on your respiratory system and eyes even in low concentrations.  The EPA has set regulatory guidelines on how much exposure is safe, however, and the Ozonics system “meets or exceeds” these safe levels.   Herein lies the problem.  The EPA states there is “evidence to show that at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone is not effective at removing many odor-causing chemicals, viruses, bacteria, mold, or other biological pollutants.”   So there you have it.  Ozonics is meets or exceeds safety guidelines, but according to the EPA, anything under the limit isn’t effective at at destroying odor causes. Even more, the EPA is talking about these things in closed environments.  Trying to use an ozone generator outside to kill your scent is like trying to raise the level of the ocean by peeing in it. Further, the Ozonics company doesn’t release how much ozone the thing generates because it is “business confidential.”  You better get an industrial grade ozone generator cranked up because I smell bullshit.

The second biggest thing that makes me a non believer is there are no scientific studies to back the product up.  Yeah, there are a lot of “tests” on the internet, but there are no true scientific tests.  It is all based off of anecdotal evidence and tests that don’t utilize the scientific method.  It’s conjecture at best, bullshit at worst.  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and there simply is none.  For every person who swears an Ozonics unit saved their hunt, there is another person who has had a deer walk 5 feet from them downwind with no Ozonics while smoking a cigarette and not spook.  People believe what they want to believe, hard facts and evidence be damned.

Hunters are a predictable bunch.

Hunters are a predictable bunch.

People are predictable, especially hunters.   They seem to always be looking for shortcuts or instant gratification.  The beauty of a product like the Ozonics is that it doesn’t even have to work, just give the illusion it is.  You don’t need  scientific backup or proof, just anecdotal evidence.  Couple this with some savvy marketing and you’ve got yourself a million dollar business.  I don’t fault the Ozonics people one bit for doing what they do; get that cash.  I fault hunters for being so damn desperate.  Put in your work, be patient, and you will be successful.  Drop all the extraneous gadgetry and just go hunt.  It’s more fun that way.  There’s a level uncertainty that makes hunting fun and exciting, and unlike the effectiveness of an ozone generator,  that much I can guarantee.

 

Arrow Penetration on a Hippo

Ever think about killing a hippo with a bow?  Yeah, me either.  Cam Hanes has, apparently, and did a pretty interesting penetration test on a recently expired hippopotamus.  Cam is relatively famous for his long shot videos he posts on Youtube and was recently on safari in Tanzania where he was presented with a unique opportunity.  Another hunter had killed a hippo and just to satisfy curiosity, he shot a couple arrows out of some high poundage Hoyts into it to see how they penetrated.  The video is a true testament to just how massive and tough these creatures are.

Flashback Friday

Here’s a Preston County West Virginia public land buck that gave me fits in the fall of 2012.  I saw him three times that fall but never got a shot.  I’m not a fan of hunting a specific deer because I think that’s impossible in the big timber, but this guy was definitely one of the reasons I made the 1.5 mile hike into this area 39 times over the course of that archery season.  He wasn’t a monster by most people’s standards, but anyone that has hunted public land in northern West Virginia can attest to his status as a great buck.  West Virginia Buck

Trail Cam Photo

Yesterday I retrieved a trail camera from one of my hunting spots.  Nothing remarkable, but I did get a photo of a doe with a split ear that I saw a lot last fall.  She’s an older deer and very wary.  Good to see she made it through the brutal winter up here.  The seven point with her is the biggest buck I’ve seen in this spot so far.  Hopefully the giant that roamed this place last year shows back up.

Pennsylvania Trail Cam

 

Flashback Friday

Colorado AntelopeOf all the hunting I’ve done over the years, few hunts stand out in my mind as much as the pronghorn hunt I went on last August.  It was so many things in one it’s almost hard to describe.  It was hot, uncomfortable, frustrating, dirty, tiring, and at some points, just downright shitty.  It also turned into one of the coolest things I’ve ever done afield.

Summer of 2012, my dad and his friends did this hunt with some of his friends from Missouri.  They had pretty good success and in general, enjoyed the trip.  It sounded pretty straight forward.  Sit in a blind by a water hole and when a buck came for a drink, shoot him in the ribs.  Yeah, sounds simple enough.  Sign me up.

By the time we landed in Colorado Springs, I knew shit was about to get weird.  Our flight had been cancelled, re-scheduled, and then delayed.  Dad’s bags didn’t show up at baggage claim.  We were late getting in camp and by the time we arrived, everyone was in bed.  The next morning, when everyone hit the prairie, we were standing around, thumbs firmly in our asses, waiting for the store to open at 8 so we could buy our license.  I’m somewhat superstitious, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned.

Since dad was in full street clothes mode with no bow, he sat that afternoon with me.  It was the only fun day I had.  We were together and were able to talk and we even saw one doe come to water while the rest of the harem and the giant buck guarding it stayed 200 yards away.  The next 2 days I saw exactly zero antelope.  None.  Zero.

At this point, I started questioning my outfitter’s judgement.  I’m a guide myself, and I know the rules of being a good client.  Rule #1 is don’t guide the guide.  I couldn’t help it.  No one in camp was having anything close to success.  They simply weren’t coming to water.  It was readily apparent that something needed to change.  But being the good client is sometimes hard, and I sucked it up and sat where I was put, hoping these guys knew what they were talking about.

The last day of the hunt started out a little later than usual and as we were driving in, our guide, Oscar spotted a lone buck bedded across the prairie.  He stopped and asked if I wanted to try and go kill him.  Hell yes.  Finally we were going to try and make something happen.  Even if this didn’t work, it beat the hell out of sitting in a hot blind all day with 4 million flies and no cell phone service.

Antelope Stalk

Oscar grabbed a decoy from the truck bed and we started our approach.  It is important to note here that the decoy we used was meant to be stuck in the dirt and left, not carried on spot and stalk mission.  It was similar to a 3d bow target and weighed about 20 pounds.  When we got half a mile or so from the bedded goat, the buck spotted the decoy and locked on to it.  Luckily, he failed to notice the absurdity of an antelope moving sideways across the open prairie with two grown men crouched behind it.  At the 200 yard mark, he stood and started toward us.

I watched him coming toward us with his head lowered and mane standing.  He walked with purpose across a small draw and up the other side.  At this point, I realized he was committed and a shot opportunity was close.  “When he gets to that cactus, you shoot him,”  Oscar said.  “It looks about 50 yards.  When I say draw, draw.”  As soon as my view was obscured by the decoy, I heard the magic word and cranked the Hoyt to full draw.  Oscar slid the decoy to the side and there was nothing between me and the antelope but air.  Deep breath, pin settled, and release.  I watched the arrow bury to the feathers right through his shoulder.  He made one big jump and fell right where I shot him.

Colorado Antelope2

Success!

 

I stood up kind of in awe of what just happened.  Did that really just go down?  Oscar and I exchanged a high five and I let it all set in.  The week started horribly and continued on just about the same.  The last day we tried something new and it paid off.  A weeks worth of 15 hour days sitting in that blind became totally worth the 30 exciting minutes of the stalk.  While I’m pretty sure I’ll never sit a water hole for an antelope again, I would absolutely jump at the chance to spot and stalk one.

Very rarely does something that starts as rough as this end up well.  I got lucky.  Very lucky.

Marc Anthony accused of faking it

MarcAnthony Looks like bowhunting celebrity Marc Anthony is caught up in a little bit of a scandal.  I’ll keep my opinion to myself until I know more about it.  Here’s what Field & Stream has to say:

When Marc Anthony shot what appeared to be 190-class buck with his bow in the fall of 2010, he caught a lot of people’s attention. Anthony, who hunts from the ground with a ghillie suit, had already killed a pair of net Boone & Crockett bucks using this method, so tagging Booner No. 3…

LINK (Via: Fieldandstream.com)