ATA 2018 Trends and Impressions

The archery world’s annual gathering is the place to catch up on all the latest in bowhunting technology and trends.

Closed to the public, the event is exclusive to industry insiders and showcases the best of what is and what’s to come. After logging over seven miles checking out all the sights and sounds (including an armor-suited ScentLok mascot and Rhinehart’s walking T-Rex), I’ve gotten a good feel for what’s coming. Here’s what the 2018 ATA show forecasts…

Outdoor video is heading a new direction and getting a facelift.

Typified by the quality showings at the Badlands Film Festival, independent outdoor media producers are changing the face of and raising the bar for hunting videos. Gritty close ups. Sweeping horizons. Fresh music. These small shop creators are doing incredible work with high quality, yet highly mobile cameras. The other (welcomed) trend within the content they’re producing? A focus on the beauty and majesty of the outdoors while de-emphasizing the kill. In fact, many of the entries told stories of hunters going home empty-handed. Watch Twenty Acres and you’ll see what I mean. These films may do more for changing public sentiment about hunting than any ad campaign.

People are handling materials at extreme temperatures.

How many of us truly need a mug that maintains a liquid at frosty -26* Fahrenheit for eight days? Did the human genome project just cloudsource their staff? Are folks storing molten lava in their homes for recreational use?  The proliferation of NASA engineered thermoses and coolers make me wonder how I survived growing up with just an Igloo lunch pale and Stanley thermos. I didn’t know how bad I had it.

Shrinking tech is allowing us to do incredible things.

Perhaps the most anticipated release of the show, Garmin’s Xero autoranging bowsight packs a ton of tech into a relatively small form factor. Not only will it give you a real-time, angle-compensated yardage, it can also talk to your Garmin watch and tell you where your arrow went after the shot. Whether you want all that data is a question you’ll have to answer yourself. Breadcrumb packed an insanely small microchip into a nock to create a trackable BlueTooth enabled arrow. The nock talks to an app on your smartphone leading you to your arrow. A laser and your phone’s inner gyroscope generate an augmented-reality bow trainer called the Accubow. Think Duck Hunt on steroids. All of these products are now possible thanks to shrinking yet increasingly powerful processors and sensors.

Camo patterns are diversifying.

Gone are the days of a binary decision between RealTree or Mossy Oak for camouflage patterns. Licensing costs cut into a clothing manufacturers’ margins so developing their own, or going with a lesser-known flavor can save them (and you) a few bucks. Companies like Predator, Kryptek, Treezyn, Monster, and True Timber are in the fray for your concealment dollars and are cranking out some cool designs as a result.

The big names aren’t letting off the gas.

With so many new up-and-coming companies leveraging cheaper and more efficient production technologies, the big names aren’t sitting on their laurels. Companies must compete for the dollars and attention of bowhunters who have so many choices in almost every category of equipment they purchase. For example, at ATA this year, there were conservatively 18 compound bow and 15 treestand manufacturers. Broadheads? I lost count. The point is, the big, historic names in the industry aren’t insisting upon themselves. They’re scrambling to innovate and raise quality to keep well-informed customers coming back.

From ATA to your local bow shop, a lot is changing in our world. The tension between technology and talent continues to grow, begging each bowhunter to clarify for themselves how much is too much. The companies have made their cases, now it’s up to us as bowhunters to determine what works and where we want the community to go.

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