"If you haven't killed dinner with a sharp stick lately, your spirit is floundering," Nugent says as he takes aim at a stuffed deer 40 yards away. He lifts his Martin Gonzo Safari bow, draws a bead on his target, and says a prayer before he lets go.
"I look at the heart of the animal and say, 'In the name of the Father,'" Nugent says quietly. He begins his draw and mumbles, "and the Son." He anchors, looks at his target, flexes his back muscles, and says, "and of the Holy Spirit" and lets go.
"Backstraps!" says Nugent, referring to the fleshy, choicest part of a game kill. It's a direct hit in the region of the heart.
Nugent — the 54-year-old self-proclaimed "Motor City Madman," guitar-picking rock star, card-carrying board member of the National Rifle Association, and avid bow hunter — wants to talk about the technology of archery.
"I love gear," Nugent says. "My life is a fondling-of-hardware orgy."
Ancient Hunting Tools Get High-Tech Help
Bows and arrows have been around since the dawn of fire, but enthusiasts such as Nugent know technology is making yearly changes to this ancient skill. There's a race to make the fastest bow out of composite materials, a race to make bows as quiet as possible, and a race to see who can introduce new designs to the market as fast as possible.
"I'm technology-obnoxious," Nugent says of his equipment. He likes the newest gear but sticks with tradition. "You see there are no sights on my bow because I have a combination of current high tech and primal hand/eye coordination."
Nugent does use Sims Vibration Laboratory vibration-dampening modules in the limbs of his bow. They look a lot like rubber bathtub plugs imbedded at key positions on the bow's limbs. The purpose is twofold: to extend the life of the bow, and to quiet the release so as not to spook the animal that's being hunted.
"What happens is vibration comes from the limbs and into the riser and this material absorbs it before it gets to the grip," says George Riles, former U.S. national indoor archery champion and now marketing director for Martin Archery. "This makes the bow feel smoother and last longer because the residual vibration doesn't go into the arrow shaft and it's not as destructive."
More Power, Less Vibration
Martin Archery has long been one of the forerunners in archery technology. Riles says he sees the ability to dampen the vibration as a key technology being incorporated into the bow's design.
"The bows get more powerful over time as we learn more about aluminum and metal and fiberglass," Riles says. "We have to find out how to dampen the vibration for the bows to be effective."
Technology has also improved the speed at which bow designs are tested and enter the market. At Martin Archery in Walla Walla, Wash., designers are able to draw a new grip on a computer and give it to a machinist who programs a cutting tool. The new aluminum grip can be produced in a day. "Then we can make a prototype, shoot it, test it, and all this can happen in a week's
Archery associations don't track the number of archers who hunt or target shoot with bows, but it's believed to be in the millions. Some estimate that 450,000 to 600,000 bows are sold each year. The race to come up with a technologically advanced bow is fierce, with more than 50 manufacturers competing in the United States alone.
Nugent: It’s All About the Hunt
Nugent is looking forward to a bow that incorporates vibration-dampening modules into the bow-manufacturing process. "I think the limbs and risers will be impregnated with Navcom technology so you won't have any outboard gear," Nugent says. "It will be integral to the bow."
Nugent takes another aim at a stuffed elk some 60 yards away as he gives a final thought.
"In the final analysis, there are some advantages to a high-tech bow rather than your cedar longbow," Nugent says. "But 99 percent of bow hunting is atechnical. It's the hunt, stalking and getting as close as you can to your prey, then poking him with a sharp stick."
Nugent lets go with a final strike to the elk's chest.
"Call me steak boy!" Nugent says. "You can't grill it till you kill it. I like to grill and I like to kill!"