High tech archery is here to stay. High speed compound bows, carbon arrows, overdraw extenders, and fiber optic sights all increase the efficiency and effective range of the bow. We spend thousands of dollars on bowhunting accessories but have you ever given much thought to the type of eyewear that would give you a slight edge in this already challenging sport. As a confirmed bow hunter there are a few ideas you may want to consider before you purchase your next prescription eyewear for bowhunting.
You may ask what role does eyewear play in bowhunting? A good question I would like to follow a typical day in the life of “Barry the Bowhunter” the way I see it.
It is a whitetail season. The morning is clear but the forecast is for a low pressure system that evening. You are up and gone from your base much before dawn. The drive in the dark is routine and you park your vehicle and you get ready to walk into your stand. There is a big buck in the vicinity and it is important that you are settled in your stand before sunrise.
Can you gain any advantage from your specialty eyewear, so far? Definitely. That drive you just made in the darkness could have been made more comfortable if you would have had an anti-reflective coating on your spectacle lenses. Small amounts of uncorrected farsightedness, nearsightedness and astigmatism can cause eyestrain and fatigue before you even get to park your vehicle. The anti-reflective coatings help tremendously for nighttime driving.
The mile long walk to your deer stand will be made in complete darkness. Loading your gear you start off down the trail. Hazards along the trail to your eyes? You bet. Even while following a trail you must contend with branches, deadfall and holes in the ground. It is easier to trip and fall when you are carrying gear. So you will want to protect your eyes physically with CR39 or polycarbonate lenses. That AR coating helps you here as well. It turns out that stray branches cause many eye injuries in the bush. A carelessly whipped back branch has the potential to cause a serious corneal abrasion, which requires medical treatment. The fact that you are dealing with plant material puts you at a greater risk for fungal infection of the cornea, which untreated can be sight threatening. Believe me this type of injury will ruin your whole day. It is painful and must be treated. You have made it to your deer stand now in perfect time. Climbing the tree you hoist up your daypack and bow, hook up your safety belt and get comfortable. The sun is just poking above the horizon and your eyes are fully dark adapted by this time.
The sit and wait routine begins and the forest sounds return to normal. Twenty minutes pass and then a loud crack off to your left. Slowly you turn your head and you make out the outline of two large bodied deer fifty yards away, but they are partially obscured by bush. Is this the buck you want? At this point you want to have the clearest, sharpest vision you can have. An updated prescription will give you this level of vision. Does one of the deer have antlers and how big are they? Hard to tell against the gray November woods isn’t it? Is this the one buck you have been waiting for?
The deer are coming closer to your stand now. The larger deer is a buck and it’s a good one. The doe steps out into the clearing twenty yards from your stand. She drops her head and paws the ground. The buck steps out right behind her. You are facing into the sun but the slight wind is in your face. You turn your head and begin your draw at the same time the buck lifts his head and sniffs the air. The buck turns and bolts followed by the doe. They wave good-bye to you with their tails as they have done many times before. What spooked them?
Maybe the sun’s reflection off the yellow gold metal frame on your dress glasses, or the reflection off the front surface of your lenses or even the reflections off the edge of your spectacle lenses. These are all sources of reflections and as a serious bowhunter you want to rule out these problems. The frames could have been flat black or camouflage to prevent reflections. The lenses should be AR coated and the edges of you lenses should be edgecoated to prevent alarming reflections.
The rest of the morning is uneventful. You climb down from your stand and head back to the truck for a nap. The sun is high in the sky now and you must walk directly into it. A tinted lens with UV protection is in order now and for the rest of the day spent outdoors.
Back to your deer stand at 4:00 p.m. after scouting the area all afternoon. The sun sinks and it is time to switch back to your AR coated lenses. A small whitetail buck walks close to your stand but you pass it up because it is early in the season
Back to the truck in the dark. It is snowing lightly now. Blowing snow and reduced visibility on the highway are the order of the evening drive.
So what is important for the bowhunter’s eyewear:
1) Physical protection from branches, twigs while walking to and from your tree stand and climbing into the stand
2) The lenses and tint you choose are important. Protection from ultraviolet radiation is a concern.
3) The frame should be designed and colored to give you an added edge.
4) The spectacle case can even be specialized for the bowhunter
5) The lens material for the bowhunter should be CR39 or polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is the most impact resistant material available but either one will protect your eyes. These lenses can be treated with a scratch resistant coating. The new high tech coatings are much better today than they were even a couple of years ago and some even come with a warranty against scratching.
6) As far as coatings are concerned you definitely require an anti-reflective coating on your lenses for three reasons:
a. You see better under low light conditions with the coating . The AR coatings increase the amount of light transmitted through the lens by 8%, which helps you for night driving. Because deer are most active right after sunrise, you want the AR advantage in these dim light situations. Any factor that helps you cope with darkness is an asset to the bowhunter.
b. An uncoated spectacle lens reflects light much like a mirror. Glass lenses more so than plastic or polycarbonate. The AR coating reduces reflections from the front surface of your spectacle lens. Whitetail buck are weary enough, you do not want to signal them on your position with reflections from uncoated spectacle lens.
c. AR coating will give you a few extra minutes of hunting on the edge of darkness which is the critical time for whitetails.
AR coatings are more expensive but they are worth every penny. The only other down side to these lenses is that they are bit more difficult to clean but the new hydrophobic coatings help with this problem.
Another small but significant source of reflections is the edge of your spectacle lenses. To solve this problem the edges of the lenses can be coated to prevent reflections from the source.
When the sun comes up, protection from UV radiation is important. Recent research literature suggests a correlation between exposure to UV radiation and early development of cataracts and age related macular degeneration. Both CR39 and polycarbonate lenses will protect your eyes against UVB and polycarbonate lenses filter out UVA as well.
Popular tints for outdoor sunglasses are the grays, browns and greens. This boils down to personnel preference. The gray tint is less likely to distort colors, green tints decrease the amount of red light transmitted. Brown falls somewhere in between. My personal preference is the brown. While on the topic of tints I will mention polarized lenses because they are especially good for anyone that is into bowfishing. These lenses reduce reflective glare off the surface of the water and allow you to see deeper into the water. They are available in gray/green or brown. Polarized lenses are also a favorite of mine.
Frames for the bowhunter should be flat black or camo pattern. You want to reduce reflections from the eyewire and the temples of your frame. Another desirable feature is the spring loaded flexible temples with a rubber coated cable to prevent slipping. Interchangeable lenses feature versatility. e.g. AR coated lenses for night, dawn and dusk and polarized lenses for daytime. The ideal spectacle case would be a hard design with a belt loop and pockets for spare lenses.
One frame that meets these requirements is the Randolph Ranger. The Ranger was originally intended for shooting trap, skeet and sporting clays, but it works well for the bowhunter.
So this fall before you head out to your whitetail stand think seriously about your eyewear. As outdoors’ people we are at a greater risk for eye injuries and exposure to harmful UV radiation. Specialized lens coating and tints can enhance vision under variable light conditions. That whitetail buck did not become “King of the Woods” by letting his senses down. Why not enhance your senses and get a little edge with properly designed lenses and frames for bowhunting?