A great deal has been written about the pursuit of happiness. Yet half the world is wrong when it come to this subject. They think happiness rises up out of having and getting when the real secret lies in pushing ourselves and in making others happy. It’s a mistake to forget this concept, especially in business today.
“I’ve got to have a challenge,” says Gary Cooper of SLICK TRICK. “It’s in my nature to try to analyze everything and to make things better. There are plenty of times when I wish I could just chill out. But I seem to need to be looking into something or thinking about trying some new thing to be happy.
“Back when and where I grew up, which was the 1960s on a farm in rural Arkansas, I wasn’t acquainted with anyone who knew anything about archery. All I knew was that I wanted to try it. My first bow was a Bear Archery recurve. It came from Wal-Mart, and I taught myself to shoot it. There was no one else around to give me direction. A decade later I bought my first compound bow, a Stemmler. By that time I was totally fascinated by archery and especially by bowhunting. Besides the pure, simple pleasure of just being in the woods, archery and bowhunting challenged me like few things ever had.”
After college and well into a two-decade career with the United States Postal Service, Gary began thinking about yet another archery challenge.
“I found myself fascinated by broadheads,” Gary explains, “although a big part of that especially keen interest grew out of my frustration with so many of the heads I had tried over the years. The first broadhead I ever used was a big one-piece head called the M-A 3. It was copper-brazed and welded in 24 places, and the idea was that you sharpened it yourself. Of course I couldn’t sharpen those things to save my life. Nor did I have much luck with the other sharpen-yourself broadheads I tried. Then, in the early 1970s, when first Wasp and then firms like Satellite pioneered pre-sharpened, replaceable-blade broadheads, I quickly jumped on that bandwagon. Such heads represented a huge improvement in convenience and sharpness, but I still found myself far from satisfied.
“One of the biggest lessons that all of my bowhunting had taught me was that accuracy, with broadheads, was crucial. In fact, I’d concluded that accuracy was the number one requirement for any broadhead. If a head wasn’t accurate, nothing else really mattered.”
Gary took his thinking about broadheads even further.
“Beyond pure accuracy, I also wanted a broadhead that flew well without fancy bow tuning. In addition, I felt an ideal broadhead would also cut a big hole and penetrate extremely well. And furthermore, it had to be both reliable and durable. In other words, I wanted the whole broadhead enchilada––accuracy, flight, terminal performance, dependability and strength. Unfortunately, most of the many broadheads I had tried over the
years seemed to fall down in one or more of those areas. Every one of them seemed to have a weak link.”
By the mid-1980s Gary Cooper was beginning to think that he’d need to design his own broadhead. In typical Cooper fashion, that thinking took a studied and structured form. “I read everything I could get my hands on concerning broadhead design and function. I poured over magazine articles and design books of all sorts. At one point, I even drove to Little Rock, the state capital, to research broadhead design in the archives of the state libraries.
“At the same time I began experimenting with even more broadheads, including plenty of expandable heads. Eventually, after all of that experimentation and research, I arrived at a novel broadhead conclusion—almost all modern broadheads were too long!
“Broadhead length, I felt, may look cool, but it created distinct performance problems. To begin with, long broadhead ferrules were difficult to manufacture so that they were perfectly straight. Furthermore, those long ferrules accentuated their own crooked tendencies, along with any issues of misalignment between the head and the arrow shaft. Long broadheads also simply possessed excessive surface area, particularly in the blades. That unnecessary surface area promoted wind planing. The upshot of all this was that the long-broadhead design idea actually created broadheads that were relatively critical to shoot. And there’s more.
“To keep the weight down with long broadheads, lightweight aluminum ferrules and fairly thin blades were often used. Such ferrules and blades proved understandably weak. The result was that bent ferrules and broken blades were commonplace with many long broadheads.”
If length created so many problems, Gary further deduced, the broadhead solution lay in going shorter.
“After thinking all of this through, I almost immediately began to design much shorter-than-normal broadheads. An unconventionally short broadhead would hold distinct advantages for any bowhunter. A short ferrule would be much more likely to be straight. A short broadhead, with shorter blades, would significantly reduce overall surface area. Those two key things would combine to make a shorter broadhead inherently more accurate and more forgiving to shoot.
“In addition, there were significant strength and durability advantages to a much shorter broadhead. Shorter ferrules and shorter blades would both be lighter in weight. That would allow me to dramatically beef up the ferrule on a short broadhead by switching from the relatively soft aluminum of long broadhead ferrules to a much stiffer and stronger super hardened steel ferrule for an especially short broadhead, while still maintaining the popular broadhead weights of 85, 100 and 125 grains. At the same time I could also increase the thickness and durability of the blades. Short broadheads would be unmistakably tougher.”
With visions of more accurate, more forgiving, stronger broadheads, Gary began making drawings.
“By then I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do––the unconventional one-piece ferrule would be short, stiff and strong, and the blades would be much the same. I’d also concluded that I wanted four blades. The simple slits made by two-blade broadheads can close up with fatty, thick-hide animals like bears. And while three-blade heads were quite popular, a four-blade head that flew every bit as well and as accurately would cut 33-percent more with every shot. A super-accurate four-blade head was clearly the way to go for more efficient entry and exit holes, faster bleed-out and shorter, easier-to-follow blood trails.”
Even though all of the basic concepts now seemed clear to Gary, rolling those ideas into an actual, workable broadhead design proved daunting.
“The fact is I hit quite a design stumbling block about that point,” says Gary. “I knew what I wanted, but I soon discovered that to incorporate all of my ideas into a single broadhead was not easy. I worked and worked at it, and I went through all sorts of possible design iterations. But the answer eluded me for a long time.
“Fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you look at it, once I get an idea in my head I just can’t quit. I batted things around mentally and on paper for almost a decade before the right idea finally emerged.
“A fair number of good broadheads utilize some sort of design that has their blades interlocking inside of an aluminum ferrule. Most of those designs slot their ferrules from the front but then must screw a steel tip onto that open front to protect and close the ferrule. I wanted to avoid that complication by using a solid stainless-steel, one-piece ferrule. The solution I eventually developed was to slot my short one-piece steel ferrules from the side without disturbing the integrity of the integrated tip or the threaded rear end. I called it cross-slotting. My male and female V-blades then slide into the cross-slots and interlock inside the ferrule like a precise puzzle. It’s so solid and secure that I called it the Alcatraz BladeLock System after the legendary maximum-security prison in San Francisco Bay. Assembly with the Alcatraz System is simple. A female long-slot blade was slid into a cross-slot and pushed forward into position. Next a male short-slot blade was slid into the other ferrule slot below the first blade and rocked carefully forward to engage with the first blade. A washer was then slipped over the thread tail of the broadhead and the now-assembled head was screwed and tightened onto the arrow. The result was an unconventionally short, amazingly accurate and incredibly strong broadhead.”
Gary Cooper’s overall broadhead design really was a rather slick trick.
“I’ve always thought that the best designs and inventions were those that were simple and yet worked surprisingly well. My new broadhead design seemed to fit both of those criteria. It was wonderfully simple and the slick way it worked was just extraordinary. I considered it a slick trick of engineering and design. In fact, I liked that play on words so much that I decided to name my broadhead and my company SLICK TRICK.”
After several more years of prototypes and in-the-field testing, Gary was finally ready to show SLICK TRICK broadheads to the world in January of 2000. That year Gary attended the ATA Archery Trade Show for the first time as an exhibitor.
“I borrowed $4,000 to make up my show samples, loaded up my car with those samples and a few brochures and drove all the way to Indianapolis for the show. I’m not a fancy guy. My booth was simple and of the smallest size available. Yet my innovative new broadheads attracted quite a bit of interest.
“Not surprisingly, initial reaction from many was guarded. The SLICK TRICK broadhead was decidedly different. It was so much shorter than nearly every head of its type ever made. Some showgoers threw out that it was maybe too small. But that was a reaction to its appearance from the side. From the side it did appear shorter and smaller than ever. But as soon as I would turn the head so that it was pointing directly at the viewer, they would see that the blades were as wide as most other broadheads. You could almost see the lights going on in their heads when they looked at it that way. Then, when I walked them through all the advantages––the increased accuracy, forgiveness, strength and durability––most dealers were quickly sold enough to volunteer to give them a try. After the show I made up samples and sent them out to the dealers that I had talked with at the show. I felt that if I could just get dealers and bowhunters to shoot my heads, they would quickly see all the pluses.
“In short order the comments began to roll in, and that was fun because the typical response usually was something like, ‘Wow! I can’t believe it. This is the best-shooting broadhead I’ve ever tried.’ Those early conversations with dealers from all across the country were delightfully rewarding.”
Bowhunters, too, soon got the SLICK TRICK word.
“I’ve loved talking with the bowhunters, learning how happy they were with my broadheads. ‘You ought to see how they fly and the big holes they cut,’ they’d tell me. What many seemed particularly surprised with was the penetration that SLICK TRICK broadheads delivered on game. Quickly gone was the old bias that only long, thin broadheads penetrated especially well. With today’s compound bows, penetration with short, wide SLICK TRICK broadheads was routinely spectacular. What was particularly interesting were all the comments on SLICK TRICK performance when the broadheads encountered bone. There was one guy who shot a giant Maryland buck but then initially ran into problems with a game warden when the warden inspected his deer. The bowhunter had hit the deer in the hip as the buck dodged through heavy brush. The SLICK TRICK had shattered the buck’s hip and then gone on to penetrate deeply into the opposite ham. At first glance the officer suspected the deer must have been shot with a rifle of some sort. Fortunately, upon closer inspection, the warden agreed that the SLICK TRICK had really done a number on that buck, and everyone was duly impressed by the broadhead’s performance.
“Most decent broadheads shot from a reasonable hunting compound will penetrate flesh quite easily. But what really separates the men from the boys is how a broadhead performs when it hits bone. Overly long broadheads tended to flex or even bend when they hit bone, greatly impeding or even stopping all penetration. Super-short broadheads like the SLICK TRICK appear to almost blast through bone because their ferrules are so much stiffer and stronger, and because they present less surface friction to slow penetration in dense materials like bone. Long, thin broadheads tend to try to cut or slit their way through bone and often become wedged tight in the bone. Unconventionally short, super-strong heads tend to break straight through bone, shattering the bone while the arrow continues on its way. A good analogy is the comparison between trying to split a log with a relatively thin ax or a relatively thick splitting maul. The axe will frequently get squeezed and even trapped in the wood. The blunter, stiff maul forces the log to crack wide open.”
Gary’s original SLICK TRICK broadhead had a 1.12-inch cutting diameter and weighed 100 grains. Not one to rest on his laurels, in 2005 Gary renamed that original head the SLICK TRICK MAGNUM and introduced a new SLICK TRICK STANDARD with a slightly smaller 1-inch cutting diameter. The MAGNUM was offered in 100- and 125-grain versions, the STANDARD in 85-, 100- and 125-grain models. With that expanded broadhead selection, SLICK TRICK’S popularity and influence really began to grow. Even the competition began to take notice and a flock of competing ultra-short heads began to appear. With their appearance, so did some new broadhead terminology.
“As I remember, the editors of this very magazine coined the term ‘super-short broadhead’ to describe the trend that SLICK TRICK pioneered. Soon everyone was using that term, and our little trend turned into a landslide. Super-short broadheads, led by SLICK TRICK, have rewritten the broadhead map in the last ten years.
“To keep the ball rolling and to keep myself challenged, I’ve continued to design and introduce new SLICK TRICK heads. In 2008 we debuted the 1.25-inch GRIZZTRICK for those bowhunters seeking an even bigger cut than that offered by the SLICK TRICK MAGNUM. At the same time we introduced the RAZORTRICK, a super-short broadhead with a leading cutting edge.
“This year we introduced the XBOW TRICK, a 175-grain broadhead designed specifically for today’s high-performance crossbows. For years, crossbow experts have been using SLICK TRICK broadheads because of the way they flew and their inherent accuracy. But the crossbow guys had discovered that with their short bolts, heavy point-weighting provided by far the best performance out of today’s fast crossbows. Most often they achieved that weighting with extra-heavy brass inserts in the arrow shaft. With the new 175-grain XBOW TRICK that’s no longer necessary, which explains why the XBOW TRICK has been so well received by serious crossbow hunters. Then, too, bowhunters heading for Africa have also noticed this 175-grain super-short head and are using it to assemble the especially heavy arrows they need for dangerous game on the Dark Continent.”
Today SLICK TRICK remains in Jonesboro, Arkansas, not far from where the SLICK TRICK super-short concept was originally developed. Founder Gary Cooper owns the company. General Manager Tony Reed handles new-dealer development, the SLICK TRICK Pro Staff, customer support and consumer inquiries. Office Manager Jamie Reed, Tony’s wife, oversees accounts payable, accounts receivable, current dealers and assists with all customer support.
“Being from Arkansas we pride ourselves on our southern hospitality,” Gary says with a decided drawl. “We’re straight with people. We tell our customers that if they’re not satisfied with our heads, we will send their money back. And we mean that. Making dealers and bowhunters happy is what we’re all about. I tell my employees their #1 job is to be cheerful. I figure with a business if you do that and you go under at least it was fun while it lasted. But we aren’t worried, if that happens we’ll be fine here in Arkansas living off possum and poke salad.”
Then he turns serious. “It’s really quite amazing how many broadhead companies have followed our super-short broadhead lead,” admits Gary. “And I suppose it would be easy to get resentful of that. But I think differently.
“Competition in the broadhead market certainly is intense. But I see that mostly as interesting, and I also have a slightly different take on how it all might contribute to a greater good. My philosophy is that I am happiest when I push myself to develop and offer broadheads that, simply put, make others happy. The way I look at it is that if dealers and SLICK TRICK bowhunters are happy, our company will continue to flourish and grow. But on top of that, I sometimes have to remind myself that better broadheads are not a cure for cancer, nor can they plug a big oil spill. But I like to think that maybe some user of our broadheads somewhere is a doctor or an engineer, and the satisfaction, enjoyment and stress relief they get from using our broadheads when bowhunting will allow them to reapply themselves in their respective fields and just maybe they will come up with that cancer cure or an oil-cap solution. One thing I know for certain though is that there are a bunch of average working hero bowhunters out there that put food on the table for their families and are happier at home and work because of bowhunting. It makes me happy knowing that SLICK TRICK broadheads, and all the other super-short broadheads that work so well puts a smile on people's faces. That’s what really counts.”