Q: My son has an old Fred Bear Whitetail Hunter compound bow. It has the number "WH-687120" on it. What can you tell us about this bow? -Chris Carroll/Charleston, WV
A: Just hearing the words "Bear Whitetail Hunter" brings back a flood of memories to me. My first bow was a Whitetail Hunter, and I shot my first deer with it. That being said, your son's old Bear should be just that, an object of memorabilia. According to Escalade Sports, the company that oversees the Bear name, Whitetail Hunters were manufactured between 1978 and 1988. That's old in terms of a bow's life, but it's not yet a valuable antique. It's time to put that bow above the fireplace mantel and shop around for a new one because over time, the limbs might weaken and create a potentially dangerous situation when shooting.
Compared to old compound bows, today's models store more energy, transfer more of that energy and shoot smoother, giving the shooter more forgiveness to cover slight shooting mistakes. Visit a reputable pro shop and check out a new Fred Bear compound, as well as some of the top brands such as Ben Pearson, Bowtech, Browning, Darton, Mathews and PSE.
Depending on your son's age, you should look into models such as Mathews' Mustang or the company's hot, new Drenalin bow. Have a professional measure your son to match him to the bow and he'll soon forget all about that old Bear bow, except when he looks at it over the fireplace. -Mark Kayser
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Q: I'm a dedicated life-long bowhunter- it's what I live for. During 2005, doctors found a cancerous tumor in my chest, and after undergoing all the appropriate treatments, I eventually had a 7-pound tumor removed from my body. They had to take five ribs to get it out.
As a result of the surgery, shooting my compound bow is no longer easy- even with 85 percent let-off- so I've purchased an Excalibur Exocet 200 crossbow. What's a reasonable maximum range for this crossbow, and should I feel guilty about hunting with it? -Troy Hoag
A: Guilty? Are you kidding me? Your dedication to bowhunting is something every hunter should admire. My camo cap is off to you. As for maximum range, I suggest you limit your shots to 30 yards, and make sure to use an adjustable monopod to help hold the bow steady for every shot. Both Stoney Point and Shooters Ridge make topnotch monopods. You've purchased a high-quality crossbow and it should give you many years of dependable performance. -Dave Maas
Q: I recently had my bow tuned up and at the same time had its draw weight increased from 60 to 70 pounds. Now I struggle with pulling the string back quickly and fluidly in one motion. Do you have any
suggestions on what I can do to build up my muscles to handle the extra weight?
-Ach Buck/Eau Claire, WI
A: Welcome to the word of physical fitness! You'll need to gain a little more upper body strength, which can be achieved through simple weight training exercises that target the back muscles, like pull-ups, pull-downs and seated rows. If this is Greek to you, a visit to a local health club can get you started. There are also simple devices designed to help bowhunters strengthen their bow-pulling muscles. One good one is the BowFit Upper Body Exerciser (www.cabelas.com), which employs large rubber bands, and costs approximately $20. Once you get stronger, the SafeDraw (www.vibracheck.com) allows you to pull and shoot your bow anytime, anywhere without using an arrow. Such consistent practice will help you become strong enough to pull your 70-pounder with