Here’s Why You Should Consider Using Lighted Nocks when Hunting with a Crossbow
Lighted nocks have been one of the most significant changes to archery—of both the traditional and crossbow styles—in the last 50 years.
The company Lumenok claims, “We invented the lighted arrow nock,” so its story is a good place to start. When he was hunting in the fall of 1998, company founder Curtis Price took a shot at a buck and missed. He spent an hour crisscrossing the woods looking for his arrow, only to find it without any trace of blood. “Well, that spot was spoiled for the next few days,” Curtis recalled thinking. “On my way home, I showed up at my brother’s house complaining that there had to be a good way to make an arrow more visible.”
Curtis and his brother, Eric, then hashed out several ideas about how to light up an arrow. Initially, they discussed chemical reactions as a way to create light. Then they landed on the idea of using an LED, a light-emitting diode. (This is a semiconductor diode that glows when voltage is applied.) The solution was to develop a pressure-sensitive switch, a watch battery and an LED. The resulting Lumenok unit is assembled into an incomplete circuit. When the arrow is fired, it closes the circuit and the light comes on. Wiggling the nock backward breaks the circuit again.
It took many prototypes and three years before the brothers patented their lighted nock. They started the Burt Coyote Company in 1998 to manufacture the nocks and other products.
Today, both brothers still work with the company and have about 30 employees in their plant in Yates City, Illinois. The company builds products under the Lumenok name, including crossbow bolts and nocks for those who want to replace the nocks in existing bolts. They also offer an option to design your own bolt using several different options for shafts, vanes and colors. Lumenok also manufactures products for Ravin, Barnett, Excalibur and TenPoint. “Our offerings in the crossbow market are a big part of our business today,” Curtis says.
Many Options Today
There are many options for lighted nocks in today’s marketplace.
FeraDyne Outdoors began manufacturing its Nockturnal lighted nocks in 2013. For crossbows, the company’s adjustable barrel end allows a performance fit. “Nockturnal lighted nocks use a patented linear switch to actuate the circuit that connects a battery to a circuit and lights the LED inside the nock,” says Tim Kent of Phenix Branding for FeraDyne. He claims, “This is the only system of its kind on the market today.” A more recent innovation from FeraDyne was the Shift, which makes it easier to turn the light off without tools.
TenPoint Crossbows has been offering lighted nocks for 10 years. The company uses a proprietary lighted nock, the Alpha-Blaze, in its bolts. These work in TenPoint, Wicked Ridge and Horton Crossbow Innovations crossbows.
Jeff Baker, product manager for Excalibur, explained that the company originally used Lumenock lighted nocks. More recently, they developed their own Beacon nocks. The latest models of Excalibur crossbows have a small switch to turn off the light and a collar to lock into the new anti-dry fire system.
Performance in the Field
My interest in lighted nocks started the same way that Curtis’s did. I missed a buck and spent about an hour looking around before finding the bolt, which also did not have blood on it. I walked all through the area, and that spooked any remaining deer there. I thought how much easier it would have been with lighted nocks, especially since I had made this shot with only one minute of legal shooting time left.
The next season, I set out with my new Excalibur lighted nock bolts. I did some test firing and found that there were some ballistic differences. I later found out the bolts I purchased weren’t the same models as the non-illuminated ones, which could have explained the difference. I did more testing. The ultimate was with new bolts, illuminated and non-illuminated, that were the same in hand. Thinking about the issue, it makes sense that there is some difference. The LED, battery and circuit add a small amount of weight to the illuminated nock.
I tested the weight theory with an Excalibur Firebolt and put it on my Hornady reloading scale. The lit bolt weight was 268.5 grains. The non-lit one weighed only 257.5 grains. Excalibur puts the weight at 250 and 263 grains for non-lit and lit, respectively.
My first two shots with the illuminated bolt ended up at the same height, but two inches to the left. Looking closely, there was no chance I pulled the shot as both went through exactly the same hole. My next shot was nearer to the non-lit arrow; it was just an arrow’s width away. So were subsequent shots, which led me to the conclusion that lots of practice is needed to ensure the lit bolts are on target if you are practicing with non-lit bolts.
I asked the manufacturers for their input regarding a change in the point of impact with lit versus non-lit bolts.
Jeff Baker from Excalibur says that the illuminated nocks are heavier and that will make some difference on the point of impact. He suggests sighting in with traditional arrows then moving to the illuminated ones you’ll use to hunt. “As long as you aren’t trying to hit a quarter at 50 yards, you should be able to go back and forth between them,” he adds.
TenPoint crossbows use the Alpha-Nock with a deep bowstring groove, a large smooth radius base and elongated ears. The illuminated version is the Alpha-Blaze Nock. “The Alpha-Blaze Nock is designed to generate an identical point of impact to our unlighted Alpha-Nock,” says TenPoint marketing manager Brian Flaherty. “Our unlighted Alpha-Nock HP features a longer internal length, adding weight and allowing it to have the same weight as our lighted Alpha-Blaze Nock.” He says the Alpha Blaze-lighted nock generates an identical point of impact as the Alpha unlighted nock.
FeraDyne’s Tim Kent adds in, “Generally, lighted nocks will not change the trajectory of an arrow but it can, depending upon bow/crossbow tune and other factors.”
What Do Sales Say?
The sales of lit versus non-lit crossbow bolts say a lot about whether hunters should be lighting up their arrows when hunting. Here are the company representative’s comments about sales factors.
FeraDyne sells more non-lit than lit crossbow bolts and traditional arrows, but Kent says this is because more products are offered without lights.
“There are more hunters using a lighted nock system each year, which is especially true for crossbow hunters at the moment,” Kent says. “I believe the reason is how fast crossbow arrows fly and the increased ability that a lighted nock gives you to determine point of impact, especially in a hunting scenario.”
Ten Point’s Flaherty notes: “When hunting with a crossbow, lighted nocks really are essential in allowing the hunter to see the point of impact. As compared to hunting with a vertical bow, it is much more difficult for the shooter to track a crossbow arrow with his eye while looking through the scope. With the speed of today’s high-powered crossbows, lighted nocks allow you to track your point of impact. We sell about 40/60 lighted to non-lighted.”
Baker says that Excalibur moves more illuminated bolts as well. “The majority of hunters use illuminated so they can see the point of impact in the animal and are more easily able to retrieve the arrow,” he says. “Most people recognize the benefits and have moved to illuminated nocks.”
Manufacturers rarely agree on one thing, but all point out how it is more difficult to track a crossbow arrow as compared to a slower arrow from a vertical bow. The result is not only easier recovery of the bolt, but also the knowledge that it provides the hunter as to whether there was a hit or a miss, and therefore whether tracking is in order. This all circles back to Curtis Price’s original reason for inventing the Lumenok, and it’s a clear demonstration that his invention was a success!