Handy Clicker Video Overview and Instruction

Included in this post are five short videos that introduce the Handy Clicker and describe its basic use in both the bow hand and string hand. The videos were shot during one take, but I had to do some editing, allbeit crude, to separate the full-length video into five parts so that the files were small enough to upload. In other words, I hope you’ll focus on the Handy Clicker and not the production quality–a professional videographer I am not!

I hope you enjoy the videos and let me know what you think…about the Handy Clicker…not my “onscreen presence.”

Keep the Traditional Spirit Alive!

Ron

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Introducing the Handy Clicker

The Handy Clicker is a new, hand-held shooting aide that I developed to help cure target panic and establish a highly controlled shot activation system that involves physical and auditory cues. In addition, it’s super easy to use and unlike other systems, such as bow-mounted clickers, the Handy Clicker travels with you and not on your bow, enabling you to accurately shoot any bow and arrow combination that you pick up. It’s versatile, as well, and can be used in either your bow hand or string hand.

In my book, A Traditional Bowhunter’s Path, I described my own personal shooting struggles and how I overcame them first with a bow-mounted clicker and then then a psycho-trigger that involved touching my arrow’s fletching to my nose to activate the shot. In response, I received hundreds of e-mails from grateful readers who solved their own shooting problems through the techniques I described.

However, I also continue to receive e-mails from archers and bowhunters who are unable to achieve success with bow-mounted clickers, psycho-triggers, or grip seers. And, to be honest, I wasn’t happy with those systems either because they all require you to attach something to your bow or modify your bow or arrows.

Using limb-mounted clickers means having one on each of your bows, keeping them tuned, and making sure they don’t work loose in rainy conditions. The “feather-to-nose” method means custom fletching your arrows so they contact your nose. This prevents nock tuning and means you always have to have YOUR arrows to shoot your system.

This means that you can’t just pick up a friend’s bow and arrow combination or test drive a bow at an archery event without some sort of compromise.

I wanted a robust shot activation system that would go where I went and above all, would help restore fun and success to the many frustrated archers and bowhunters who I see suffering from target panic and other shooting problems that stem from an uncontrolled shot.

Target panic is a psychological condition that prevents us from carrying out a completed, or what some call a “closed loop,” shot cycle. It’s two most common manifestations are locking off target or being unable to reach full draw before releasing the string. There’s a lot of science behind why and how target panic evolves in the human mind and I’d encourage you to check out the work of Joel Turner at Shot IQ for more information.

The Handy Clicker short-circuits target panic by providing a conscious, physical movement that is not automatic and if adhered ingrains highly structured shooting.

Getting proficient with the Handy Clicker requires practice. I recommend 100 shots to figure out what is most comfortable for you. Do you have it adjusted properly? Does it work best in your bow hand or string hand? Over which finger is it most comfortable to place the finger thong? After an additional 100 shots, you’ll start to feel consistency and control, and your accuracy will greatly increase.

In closing, I’ll tell you a quick story to illustrate how deeply the Handy Clicker becomes part of your shot cycle. Recently I was setting up a bow for a customer. I stepped outside to shoot a few arrows, but I was distracted by the tuning process and not focused on REALLY shooting. Eventually I found myself at full draw, staring at the target and wondering why the bow “wouldn’t go off.” I had forgotten to grab my Handy Clicker so my subconcious brain had no cue to release the string–it was waiting for a signal that never came.

In this shooting video, you can see a Handy Clicker in my bow hand and hear the barely audible click, just as I release the string.

Thank you for your interest in LifecCycle Gear. If you try a hand clicker, please send me your thoughts and any suggestions for improvements.

I sincerely hope the Handy Clicker improves your accuracy and success on targets and in the woods.

Keep the Traditional Spirit Alive!

Ron

Choosing the Right Bow

In 1993 when I embarked on my traditional archery journey, it was nearly impossible to find recurves or longbows in Pennsylvania’s local archery shops, and worse, no one in those shops knew anything about traditional bows or where to buy them. With no local options and no internet to speak of at that time, I ended up buying a 1970s vintage Browning Medallion recurve for $25 from a second-hand store in Clarion, Pennsylvania. The Medallion was part of Browning’s target line and at 64 inches and 46 pounds it turned out to be a great starter bow. I still have it today and shoot it often. Around the same time, I picked up a copy of Jim Chinn’s book, Winds of Change, which proved to be an excellent primer on how to tune and shoot traditional bows. The situation today for traditional archers is very different! There is a dizzying array of information on bows and related equipment. I recently counted 121 bowyers listed on a popular web site for traditional archers. Think about that. One-hundred-twenty-one businesses, from Mom and Pop operations to corporations, specialized in making and selling traditional bows! By all accounts, the good old days are now! With more choices comes the difficulty in making good decisions.

There are recurves, American longbows, hybrid longbows, Asiatic bows, flatbows, bamboo backed bows, selfbows, and the list of styles goes on. Add to the list of bow styles, the availability of different grip types, such as low, medium, or high and dozens of custom options, including working recurve or static recurve limbs; wood or foam limb cores; fiberglass or carbon backing; clear or colored glass; checkered or stippled grip; single or double string nocks; and so on. It’s easy to see how confusing the choices can become for even a seasoned shooter, let alone a newcomer. Another twist in this new age of traditional archery is that these bows aren’t inexpensive, with most quality American made bows starting at around $600 and going up to more than $1,500. Purchasing the wrong bow, such as one that’s too heavy or doesn’t fit your hand, can be costly. The purpose of this post is to provide some basic advice on selecting the right bow that will serve you well and suit your shooting or hunting style.

First, don’t fall into the trap of buying a particular bow just because 10,000 Joe Bowhunters on the Internet said it was “by far the best bow they have ever shot.” Seeking advice from Internet discussion forums or members of your archery club is a good idea, but always measure that advice against your own needs as an archer and bowhunter. Your best hunting buddy, Butch, might extol the virtues of his 70 inch, 75 pound English longbow, but you should make sure that type of bow fits your needs before plunking down your hard-eared cash for something similar. Also, don’t judge a bow by its cost. Just because it’s more expensive does not mean it is better. Some of my most disappointing purchases have been high-end bows that just didn’t hold up to their hype.

It’s often difficult to give fellow archers advice on buying a new bow because everyone is different. So, before I get started with specifics I’d like to throw out a few caveats. I’m 5’9” tall, medium build, and middle aged. What fits me might not fit you. For hunting, I use climbing tree stands, ground blinds, and sometimes a ghillie suit. My style of hunting might not match yours. I shoot three fingers under, aim “instinctively” at less than 25 yards but use the tip of my arrow for longer distances. My form might not concur with yours. In other words, what works for me, might not be the exact ticket for you. I can give you some tips to get you on the right path, but the fine-tuning will be up to you.

The first question many newcomers have is: “should I shoot a longbow or recurve” and, in fact, it’s a good question for experienced shooters, as well. In the past, most authors have urged those considering the traditional bow to start with the recurve because it’s “easier to shoot.” Fifteen years ago that was probably true. But I believe today’s modern longbow designs rival recurves in their shootability, particularly because of a convergence in grip styles. Older longbow designs, such as the Hill style, with its short riser, straight grip, and narrow arrow shelf can be difficult to tune and shoot. Today; however, there are numerous bowyers making straight-limbed bows with long risers and pistol style grips that make hand placement easy and consistent. To understand the difference, imagine gripping a broom stick versus the thumb-hole stock of a custom rifle. Don’t get me wrong, one isn’t better than the other, but the skill required to be successful with each is certainly different. In other words, if you are new to traditional archery or simply struggling with your shooting, choose a bow with a contoured grip and arrow shelf that is cut to center (or nearly so) and don’t worry too much about whether it has recurved or straight limbs.

The term “shootability” gets tossed around a lot in archery literature and it’s an important concept to understand when comparing bows, but no one ever takes the time to define it. For me, shootability means a bow that is forgiving toward errors of form so that it does not exaggerate shooting mistakes or shot-to-shot inconsistencies. A bow should not pinch the fingers of your drawing hand and should draw smoothly without rapid weight gain (no more than three pounds per inch) to your draw length, especially the last two inches. A little “bump” or hand shock after releasing the string is fine, but it shouldn’t be distracting or uncomfortable. Finally, a bow needs to shoot where you are looking. All bows can be tuned to do this, but I find it bothersome when I have to set up a vastly different arrow than my others to make two bows of similar weight hit the same spot.

After deciding on a basic bow style, one of the first decisions a new archer must make is whether to buy a take-down or one-piece bow. If you plan to do a lot of traveling and need the convenience of a bow that breaks down into shorter sections, then a take-down is often the best option, but there are other reasons to choose one design over the other. Take-downs cost more money, but offer the flexibility of buying additional limbs of varying lengths or weights—a nice feature if you plan to use the same bow for hunting spring gobblers and bull elk. Several bowyers even offer take-down models with risers that will accept longbow or recurve limbs. Take-downs tend to have more physical weight, which might be perceived as a negative, but many shooters, me included, find the extra mass in the riser to have a stabilizing affect. Some bowyers offer two-piece take down bows that have a connection such as a sleeve or hinge that joins the two halves. Two-piece take downs retain the look and feel of a one piece bow, but after owning a few I’m not a big fan. Two-piece bows don’t offer much of an advantage for traveling. With a two-piece, 64 inch bow you still have two 32 inch long sections to wedge into your luggage. With a three-piece bow, no one piece generally exceeds 24 inches, making packing much easier. On trips, I often carry a three-piece longbow in the “false bottom” of a duffle bag without anyone knowing it’s there. On several backcountry hunts, I have carried a three-piece bow tucked in my backpack or in a horses’ s pannier until it was time to hunt. If one side of the coin is convenience, the other is simplicity.

There is definitely something to be said for the straightforward, gracefulness of a one-piece bow. It’s akin to handling a perfectly balanced bamboo fly rod. If you plan on using one bow for all of your hunting and 3D shooting needs, then the versatility of the 3-piece take-down is great; however, if you can afford to buy different bows for varying purposes and don’t plan to travel much, then the always-dependable one-piece will work fine. I shoot both and like them equally well.

As with most things in life, when it comes to bows moderation is the key. When you go to extremes there is usually a compromise. Generally speaking, bows with radical limb designs tend to be fast but finicky to shoot, while more conservative designs, less focused on maximizing speed, are more forgiving to errors in form. A radical reflex/deflex longbow might be advertised to shoot nearly 200 feet per second, but if you can’t consistently put an arrow in the kill zone at realistic hunting yardages, then all the speed in the world is irrelevant. A slow hit is better than a fast miss! Look for well-rounded bow designs that don’t compromise certain traits, such as shootability, in favor of other characters such as speed.

Even within a particular bow design, going to extremes can prove troublesome. For example, very long bows are smooth to draw but inconvenient in the woods, while short bows are more convenient but tend to telepath errors in shooting form. The thresholds where these characteristics begin having negative consequences are different for each shooter. For instance with my 27 inch draw, longbows of 60 to 64 inches and recurves from 58 to 60 inches seem to shoot best for me; however, many archers comfortably shoot bows much shorter or longer. If you’re just getting started and are of average build, I’d recommend staying away from bows less than 58 inches and more than 64 inches.

A very important consideration is the bow’s grip. Whether you’re shooting a longbow or a recurve, the grip needs to comfortably fit your hand to facilitate repeatable hand placement. Even if a bow is otherwise properly proportioned, a grip that is too large or small, or places the hand in an unnatural position can compromise your shooting. An ill-fitting grip will contribute to bow torque, hand slippage, and an overall lack of confidence. There are many grip styles to choose from. Traditional style longbow grips that are straight or contoured with a slight locator are the most difficult to master, but offer the ability to be shot with a low, “heel-down” wrist position, which makes the palm of the hand a natural extension that flows into the bow’s riser. Highly contoured pistol style grips found on many recurves and contemporary longbow designs facilitate repeatable, high-wrist hand placement that promotes consistency. With a high wrist the bow’s grip is more or less cradled in the web formed by your thumb and forefinger. If you’re just starting out or switching from a compound, I’d recommend a contoured grip over a straight grip until you master the basics of shooting.

I know you’ve heard it before, but no advice on bow selection or shooting would be complete without saying—don’t “overbow” yourself! Start with a light to moderate weight bow and work yourself up if you feel the need to be shooting something heavier. For most adult men, 40-50 pounds at the desired draw length is a good place to start. For women, I would recommend 30-40 pounds. The fact is, a 45-pound bow is plenty for deer hunting and a 50-pound bow is perfectly adequate for most North American game. Many writers recommend hunting with the heaviest bow that you can shoot comfortably, but what does that mean? I can shoot a 75 pound bow pretty well for a handful of shots. Does that qualify as comfortable? I doubt it. I could never shoot such a bow under pressure or in poor conditions, such as cold weather. Some years ago I hunted in Georgia with shooting guru G. Fred Asbell. One evening, Fred gave a seminar to a group of hunters and in it he talked about the importance of appropriate bow weight. He had the group try this little exercise. With your bow in hand, bend at your waist until your back is parallel to the ground. Now draw and hold your bow for 10 seconds. If this comes easily, you’re good. If not, you might want to consider a lower weight. Judging by the primordial howls emitted by Fred’s participants, I’d say most were way overbowed…or at the very least expressing some hidden, inner Neanderthal! For many years, I shot bows that pulled more than 60 pounds, but in recent years I’ve changed shooting styles and dropped bow weight by 10 pounds. I’ve seen no difference in arrow penetration on big game and I shoot far more accurately at the lower draw weight.

For my physical size, shooting form, and hunting style three bow designs seem to get the job done better than the others—1950s style recurves built on a pattern similar to the venerable 1959 Bear Kodiak, reverse handle reflex/deflex longbows like those made popular by the Shrew bow company, and three-piece take-down longbows. The key is to find the design that feels most natural and easily becomes an extension of your body. Aesthetic qualities aside, look for a bow that hits where you look, fits your hand, has minimal hand shock, is quiet, pulls smoothly without stacking to your draw length, and has good speed. There’s no substitute for practice, but selecting and shooting a bow that’s well matched to your needs will go a long way to making you a more successful archer and bowhunter.

Traditional Spirit Part I

These days, with the resurgence of metal risers, the growth of ILF, and nearly ubiquitous use of carbon arrows, we see a lot of discussions (and downright arguments) about what defines traditional archery. For my first official post here at LifeCycle Gear, I’ve chosen an excerpt from my book, “A Traditional Bowhunter’s Path” to tell you a little about what traditional bowhunting means to me.

I often wonder what the average person sees in their mind’s eye when they picture a traditional bowhunter. Do they see the great archery innovator Fred Bear grinning at them from under his trademark Borsalino hat? Or, maybe it’s that do-gooder Robin Hood stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. What about the chiseled Howard Hill with his signature back quiver and American style longbow? Possibly it’s the always impeccably dressed duo of Saxton Pope and Art Young. For many, it’s likely not someone of European descent at all, but rather a Comanche shooting a stubby ash flatbow from beneath the neck of galloping “paint.” Or perhaps it’s a crouching Seneca sighting down his dogwood arrow at a tom turkey strutting in a stand of sun-dappled hemlocks. Or, it’s just as likely that many people don’t picture any of these images because they don’t have a perspective to distinguish traditional bowhunting from any other sort of hunting.

For an entire human generation, from the early-1970s through the mid-1990s, traditional archery was in a very deep slumber and on the verge of disappearing all together. The decline and near extinction of traditionalists was brought on by the rapid growth and popularity of the compound bow, which took over the archery industry after being introduced in the early 1970s. The term traditional archery was coined to refer to archery methods practiced before the compound bow came into wide use. Today, traditional bowhunting is enjoying a strong resurgence that is being fueled by Americans wishing to return to a simpler, less gadget filled life that reconnects them with something “real.” As evidence of this, one needn’t look any further than the local food and back-to-the-land movements, the proliferation of do-it-yourself websites, and the popularity of everything retro. I think it is a combination of these motivations that is causing people of all stripes, including large numbers of young, urban “hipster hunters,” to seek out traditional bowhunting. So, what is traditional archery today and what does it mean to hunt in a traditional way?

Most would agree that traditional bowhunting involves the use of vertically held bows, such as longbows or recurves, that use a single string and offer no mechanical aids, like pulleys or levers for drawing the bow. Beyond that; however, the use of equipment alone to define what it means to be a traditional bowhunter becomes ineffective at best.

I once ran into an old bowhunter on a Wildlife Management Area in northeast Oklahoma. His weathered cheeks held deep, curving creases like the lines on a hickory nut and his knotted old knuckles bespoke of hard work and pain. I guessed that he was in his eighth decade, but he could have just as easily been a weathered 60. One thing was for sure, he had been at the game of bowhunting for a very long time. He wore a felt hat, plaid wool shirt, and had a leather back quiver full of carbon arrows slung over his shoulder. In his left hand rode a Bear Kodiak recurve with a single sight pin protruding from the riser. By contrast, I was carrying a handmade osage selfbow fitted with a bow quiver, containing three neatly made ash arrows, and I wore a head-to-toe outfit of modern camouflage. Who was the traditional bowhunter? Despite the fact that his bowhunting life predated the compound bow, did this old bowhunter’s sight pin and carbon arrows disqualify him from being traditional? What about my unorthodox use of a bow quiver on a selfbow or my fancy camo duds? As you can see, any strict definition based only on equipment or shooting style is bound to fail.

Resisting certain gear and technologies in favor of maintaining the traditional way plays a substantial role in what it means to be a traditional bowhunter. It’s a ridiculous notion to suggest that we, as traditionalists, should reject all innovations. That would surely drive us to stagnation and eventual extinction. For example, carrying a cell phone when hunting alone is common sense, not a rebuke of tradition. The state of being new is not the problem in and of itself, or at least it shouldn’t be. A thing that is new only becomes bad if it somehow cheapens the hunt or defies the basic ideology of what it means to be a traditional bowhunter. So why do traditional bowhunters cling to old ways when there are certainly more effective ways to put meat in the freezer? I think it’s in our DNA to revel in the past and challenge ourselves to meet the world as our ancestors did.

Adoption of extreme technology in place of practiced, skill only layers an ever-thickening barrier between hunters, the natural world, and the ritual spirit of hunting. When we allow our time-honored skills as archers and woodsmen to be replaced by commercial gadgets designed and hocked to make our enterprise quick and easy, we become disengaged intruders on otherwise wild places. Where we once walked shoulder to shoulder with other predators, we now rumble in, take what we want without preparation or skill, and rumble out. For validation of this, you needn’t look any further than most commercial hunting shows on television.

If maintaining the primal customs of bowhunting satisfies our busy brains, it’s certainly the thrill of traditional bowhunting that likewise rocks our hearts. A hallmark of traditional bowhunting that sets it apart from nearly all other forms of hunting is the need to get very close to our quarry. Some hunters choose to challenge themselves by limiting their interests to trophy animals. Traditional bowhunters achieve this challenge by limiting technology, which means it’s not about how far you can shoot—it’s about how close you can get! This requires tremendous woodsmanship, patience, a steely nerve, and a deep knowledge of wildlife ecology and behavior. You haven’t hunted until you’ve been near enough to see the liquid of a doe’s eye or smell the meaty presence of a bear.

Traditional bowhunting is far more about what we carry in our hearts than in our hands. Having been in the traditional archery community for more than 25 years, I can tell you that there are strong, unwritten values that traditional bowhunters pride themselves in following. There is a common peer-to-peer driven expectation within the traditional community that its members will adhere to the highest standards of conduct, fair chase, and land conservation. I call this the Traditional Spirit. I want to be clear about something. I am not saying that traditional bowhunters are unique amid the hunting community in having high values. This is not about dividing our ranks or disparaging others. All forms of hunting have many fine and ethical members. I have many friends, who I respect immensely, that hunt with a rifle or compound bow. What I’m saying is that this Traditional Spirit is unusually widespread and steadfast within the traditional bowhunting community.

Having Traditional Spirit means doing things the honorable way, which is often the hard way, even when easier, but less noble options are available. It means treating wildlife, fellow hunters, and non-hunters with respect. The Traditional Spirit is more than just an ethic, it’s a way of being that cannot be summed up by simply adhering to a code. It’s about honing our craft as woodsmen and immersing ourselves in the ebb and flow the natural world.

There are many problems associated with mainstream hunting today, but I’m happy to say that I see the traditional bowhunting community as part of the solution, not the problem. In Part II of this post, I’ll address some of the challenges that hunting faces, but for now, the point I want to make is that traditional bowhunters, through their high standards, have a chance to make a real difference in the pursuit of conservation and protection of our hunting heritage.

Keep the Traditional Spirit Alive!
Ron Rohrbaugh

Welcome to LifeCycle Gear!

Hi everyone and THANK YOU for visiting LifeCycle Gear! We know that you have many places to shop for tackle and learn about traditional archery, so we genuinely appreciate your interest in our products!

LifeCycle Gear was born from my strong passion for hunting, traditional archery, and conservation. For many years, I have been blending these topics in my writing and seminars, but I was always dismayed that there wasn’t a company selling top-shelf, sustainably produced hunting gear.

Now there is!

It’s our mission to provide the hunting and outdoor communities with great service and top-quality products made from ecologically sustainable materials; while promoting strategies and organizations that protect wild places, safeguard our hunting heritage, and continue the hunter-conservationist legacy.

Our gear starts with the highest-quality, sustainable materials and ends with us completing the circle by giving back to hunting and conservation. In fact, we chose the name LifeCycle to denote the natural circle of life represented in our products.

We use sustainably derived natural resources from our forests and fields in crafting hunting gear that brings wild organic food to our tables, permitting us to complete the cycle by engaging in land conservation to restore those resources.

We welcome you to engage with us in our collective hunting life cycle by sharing your thoughts and stories through our comments section, social media pages, and by purchasing our gear.

I plan to use the LifeCycle Blog to talk about hunting and conservation topics, and to share with you product development, as we seek out native hardwoods, sustainably raised bison, and wildlife-friendly textiles.

Keep the Traditional Spirit Alive!
Ron Rohrbaugh

Our Mission

It's our mission to provide the hunting and outdoor communities with great service and top-quality products made from ecologically sustainable materials; while promoting strategies and organizations that protect wild places, safeguard our hunting heritage, and continue the hunter-conservationist legacy.

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