It's not a huge secret to many here that I'm a big fan of Nate Steen's work. His longbows, back quivers, arm guards; heck, even is doggone coffee mugs are phenomenal! He, James Berry, Kirk Lavender and Jim Belcher are my four favorite bowyers. That's not intended as a slight toward anyone else, just an endorsement (for whatever that's worth) of those guys as bowyers and gentlemen.
I will follow this thread with separate ones about the others in time, but this thread is intended to give a big shout out (learned that term from my grandchildren) to Nate and to share some thoughts and opinions of the Sunset Hill products I own and use. In truth, however, it’s also largely intended to solicit your thoughts and opinions if you own (or formerly owned) or have used any of Nate’s products. I don't own a chronograph, but I plan to borrow or buy one soon. Never even thought of using one until I got my first Sunset Hill bow. Over the coming weeks, I plan to do a little testing that is more scientific than these initial thoughts and I will post the results here as time allows.
Please feel free to contribute here with your own findings or impressions. You don’t need to agree with my opinion in order to post, but I’d like to stay on-track with comments from those of you who have specific experience with, and insight on, Sunset Hill products and the gentleman behind them. And let me get this out there in the interest of full disclosure. I am about as far from being an expert as one can be. I'm just a guy who enjoys the outdoors and traditional archery. That's it. I have no expertise in matters of bow-building to tout here. That said, I've sure shot a lot of arrows (and bows) over the years. Started with an old (no-name) Hill-style longbow when I was a kid. Spent most of the past several years primarily shooting recurves. Then I got ASL fever. I first emailed Nate about a build in February 2019. He's a busy man. And building bows is not his primary business, but I must say, he is very responsive and courteous. I'm still on the build list and, given the quality and performance of Nate’s bows, I am happy to patiently await the man’s schedule until my turn comes around. I’ve no doubt the bow will be worth the wait.
A few months ago, I had an opportunity to purchase my first Sunset Hill bow on the used market. A beautiful little 66” yew (laminate) bow with a myrtle handle (named, “Huckleberry”), 44# @26 ½”, which is my true draw length. I’m reasonably sure it’s passed through the hands of at least a couple members here. I’m sorry to report (Wait- check that, let me clean that up). I feel it is my duty to report that Huckleberry won’t be leaving the Green Family!
Next is a pair of 62” bows, 59# and 60# @ 27”. Then there’s Lightening – a 66” all bamboo bow with black glass on the back and yellow glass on the belly, 51# @ 26½”. So far, this bow and Huckleberry are the two I’ve spent most of my time with. The heavier bows will get my attention soon after deer season is over.
For now, I’d like to say that I’m finding Nate’s bow to be absolutely stellar in every way! They are all string follow bows, which I think may be all Nate makes. Hopefully, he’ll read this and correct me if I’ve misspoken here. They tune to be almost completely silent. Without the aid of any silencing or noise-dampening devices, they are more stealthy (is that a word?) than any other longbow or recurve I’ve shot - even those with Limbsavers, Beaver Balls or any other product installed with designs on squelching a string/bow. They have no hand shock that I can detect. And to many, the most impressive thing is going to be the arrow speed. This is why I want to acquire a chronograph.
I can easily tell that these bows are seriously launching arrows with authority, but only by:
(1) visual observation of the arrow flight and the (much) stiffer-spined arrows needed to obtain perfect flight, and,
(2) I’ve had to adjust to a much flatter trajectory than I’m accustomed to at given draw weights. These bows put an arrow on a trajectory that I have come to expect from much heavier (draw weight) bows.
For the first time ever, I’m actually really interested in seeing the numbers.
Historically, I haven’t placed a priority on arrow speed, as I always felt chasing arrow speed led to compromise(s) elsewhere (hand shock, noise, too heavy draw weight, etc.) that would adversely affect my accuracy and/or hunting success. Nate’s bows have shown me that I can have all the speed my heavier (draw weight) longbows and even my recurves offer in a beautifully crafted, one-piece Hill-style bow. First, with Huckleberry, I’ve found that I have to shoot arrows that are built for my (highly-regarded brand) 59# @ 28” (55# @ 26½”) longbow with about ¾” backset to achieve perfect flight and accuracy out to about 35 yards. With Lightening (again, 51# @ 26½”), my cedar arrows spined and built for every other 49# to 54# longbow I have aren’t nearly stiff enough! After consulting with Nate, he told me this was common (and expected) from his bows. He told me a good general starting point is shafts spined 10# to 15# stiffer than what I’m accustomed to. What?! Did he say 10# to 15# stiffer? Yep. And of course, he’s spot-on. The only arrows I had that were in the ball park were some carbon (GrizzlyStik) arrows I made up for a 60# Robertson recurve, so I gave them a try. Wow! The first shot was from about 18 yards and hit high from my target (I was anticipating more drop from these arrows). Nate told me to step it out some – to 35, 40 and 45 yards. He generously spent a good deal of time explaining arrow paradox, how much difference a dynamic pull-through release (compared to a draw-hold-release) shooting style affects arrow spine, and several other things that I found both interesting and helpful to my understanding of his bows. There’s a ton of knowledge in this dude’s noggin and a lot of generosity to share it so willingly. I really appreciate people like that, and I appreciate it when I cross paths with people like that. If we all followed such examples, the world would be a much better place.
This thread will take on a different life with pictures and chronograph results. So I’m going to wrap up and will post pics of the bows, arrow speed comparisons between Sunset Hill and other bows I have, as well as my thoughts on Nate’s back quivers as I get time to test with a chronograph. For now, I’ll simply state that these string-follow Sunset Hill bows are requiring much stiffer arrows than I ever imagined. Has anyone else noticed this from their Sunset Hill bows? Share you Sunset Hill (or Nate Steen) story and experience(s).
As a sidebar, I also plan on starting a thread about my buddy, James (JD) Berry. I won’t tell everything I know about him but I will say this – the man should write a book! He is a great success story, and has overcome several knock-downs that would’ve caused most people to fold. A man with a strong moral character and a positive energy.
More to come…