Monday, November 5, 2012

Product Review: JackKnife - Smartphone Bowmount

Whether it is to film for you to show your friends or to try to get it noticed by someone, getting a hunt on video seems to be the biggest craze. I have tried filming my hunts using different video, but some of the cameras are bulky and expensive for most of the budget conscious hunters I know. This is where I think S4Gear came up with a solution that fits almost every compound bow hunter I know. Most of us have a Smartphone  and S4Gear jumped on that. They came up with a bow mount for your Smartphone called the JackKnife and I've been testing it out over the past couple months with good results.

My first impressions of the JackKnife were very good. The product looked very easy to use. Right out of the box I was impressed with how small it was, but I was cautious when I saw all of the knobs and moving parts. There is no sheen to the mount as it is black plastic and it is also very lightweight. Any bowhunter will tell you that having lightweight gear is a must, especially when it’s mounted to your bow.

It installs very easily to a sight mount or the side of a compound bow with one of two sets of provided screws. You can actually relax the tension on the knob and move the JackKnife frame away from the mounting bolt holes to allow easier and faster installation. It only took me about a minute to get it installed.

The product features shown on the S4Gear website explain it rather well.

  • Universal Design fits all bows with AMO standard sight mount, right or left handed -- even with quiver & sight installed.
  • Highly Adjustable cradle mount fits virtually any Smart Phone with or without protective case.
  • Compact Design folds flush against the riser when not in use and still fits in most bow cases.
  • Quick Detach to easily remove your phone for storage.
  • Oversize Knobs for easy adjustments even when wearing gloves.
  • Protective Foam Lining holds your phone securely in place while guarding against shock and vibration.

After you get the JackKnife mounted to your bow it’s time to fit it to your camera phone. Again, this was very easy by using the knobs to open the grip and sliding the phone in. The orange you see is soft foam that holds your phone in place. You lock that down and then it’s on to the back of the Jackknife for fine tuning.

One of the features I really liked was the ball joint knob on the back that allows you to position the camera at virtually any angle exactly where you want it. I tried it many ways and it was great! You can position it horizontal or vertical. I did it both ways to see if there was any difference in video quality, noise, or difficulty in getting it set up how I wanted it. I found no differences and was rather pleased at how easy it was to set up.

I have been testing the mount with an iPhone inside a Lifeproof case. (I also tried my old Android and the JackKnife adjusted down to that, too.) The mount does indeed hold the iPhone, case and all, firmly and it is easily adjustable on the fly. You can rotate left/right with the larger knobs very easily, even with gloves on your hands.

With the ability to view and share their footage filmed right from their bow, its social media live in the woods!

  • View your shot placement before you track your animal. 
  • Use your Smartphone as a training device.
  • Sight mounting bracket placement records video from the "hunter's eyes".
  • Use in addition to other cameras to incorporate split screens in final video pieces.

This is good for short yardage shots only. I can’t fault the JackKnife because these are limitations of the phone itself, but I don’t want anyone feeling mislead. Videoing from under 30 yards is acceptable, but after that most camera phones don't capture good video beyond that. I tried a few shots out at 6o yards and you couldn't see the shot, or the impact of the hit. Once I moved in closer to 30 yards it got better. It was even better at 20 yards. I normally practice between 40-60 yards and move out to 80 as well. I could not video from my phone well at those distances. I attempted to, but it was a waste of time as you couldn’t view the target well enough.

Here I was set up at 100 yards.
The one thing I did notice, which I have found with many camera mounts for your bow, is that you can see some degree of vibration in the video while filming. If you want to video your hunt it is something you will have to make peace with because it happens often.

Something very cool to try that isn’t actually videoing your hunt is to Skype with someone while hunting. The person you are Skyping with can view whatever you are shooting at, or if you reverse the camera they can view your reaction while you are hunting. I understand you want it to be quiet and the person on the other end would have to be quiet, but it’s an interesting idea. My dad and I have discussed it and we are going to try it at some point for fun. Have any of you tried it? What were your results?

The cost of the JackKnife is $44.99 retail. In my opinion that is very high. The entire mount is plastic and while it has moving parts that certainly have to be put together at the factory, I think this should retail more toward the $25.00 range.  I think more bowhunters would consider something like this if the price were lower.

This review ran in the Fall 2o12 Issue of Bow Adventures emagazine.


  1. Hey, Do you have any video from this mount? Looks interesting!

    1. I did take some video and it's like you would imagine. There's no image stabilization in the phone, so my style of hunting left it a bit shaky. I tested it sitting down, as if I were in a stand, and it worked better.

  2. Yeah...Figured it would be shaky....especially when you shoot...

    1. Any camera is, but much depends on after the shot, too. If you plan to follow the animal with your bow moving or if you are just amped up, it'll be tough to keep still.

  3. This is mounted on the right/quiver side of the bow (for righthanders). However, does it mount on the left side? I don't even know if that's possible without getting in the way of the rest, but it would definitely help with balancing the bow.

    1. It needs to mount to a sight or quiver mount. If you had two holes unused it would mount. Be worth a try, but it might interfere with your line of sight.