Videos about traditional bowhunts running in Africa, Namibia, by the guys of Russell Outdoor Guides
A new DVD about broadhead sharpenning by Gary and Connie Renfro, populars bowhunters
All the info from 3Rivers Archery
Every hunter is looking for that extra edge for hunting season. This DVD shows you how to get and keep that edge with super sharp broadheads!
Gary and Connie Renfro show you how to get and maintain an extra sharp edge on your broadheads using a variety of modern and time-tested methods. From straight edges to 3-blade broadheads to mechanical broadheads, and everything in between, you’ll learn a variety of methods using a variety of sharpeners and tools.
Over 1 hour and 30 minutes of information, instruction, demonstrations, and insights. A Guide to Broadhead Sharpening is a must-view before getting ready for the hunt!
Includes tips on how to use:
- Carbide Sharpeners
- Hand Filling Methods
- Motorized Methods
- Angled Sharpeners
- Knife Style Sharpeners
Learn how to sharpen:
- Radius Edges
- Straight Edges
- Concave Edges
- Single Bevel
- Double Bevel
- 3-Blade Broadheads
- Mechanical Broadheads
Approximately 90 minutes.
Since I became an official senior citizen, I’ve been accused several times of teetering somewhere between senility and wisdom. Someone now has to push almost seventy candles into my annual cake. I remember when camo was only available in military issue or red and black checkered shirts; when deer camps all smelled like Hoppe’s #9; when four wheel drive vehicles were all Jeeps; when the color blaze orange had not yet been invented. There were no ATVs…..no snowmobiles. Snowshoes and treestands were all made out of wood. Luggage and bows did not have wheels. Boys built slingshots. Kids caught night crawlers and sold them with the help of a sign in the front yard. We played “Cowboys and Injuns,” constructed “forts,” both underground and up in trees. We had BB guns, shot tweety birds stone dead without eating them, did daily chores unpaid and rode bikes without helmets. We carried “milk money” to school every day. Boys fought without knives, and in our hearts we knew that all girls had “cooties.”
When I was still a teenager, I visited the Orvis rod plant in Manchester, Vermont. From a rack in the front of their factory store, I lovingly fondled a featherweight split bamboo cane fly rod. It was only 5 feet long (much shorter than most fly rods) and was made for a 5 weight line…. perfect for many of Vermont’s small trout streams. It wore an all cork handle and a reel seat of simple split rings. If I remember right, it weighed a mere 1 7/8 oz. It was a supreme example of artistic elegance and pure class. I wanted it very much, but the price tag on it said exactly $100, way more than I had to my name. Today that same rod sells for well over $2000.
Prices have changed. Times have changed. People have changed. Society has changed. We are now several generations removed from the farm but still need to grow things. Half a century ago, the term “politically correct’ was nonexistent. “Boy scout” has taken on a whole new meaning, if you get my drift. Today’s youngsters spend all their free time in front of television sets, computers or at malls instead of out in the woods. Kids feel naked without their very own cell phone within reach. People previously known as “whippersnappers” now play violent video games or watch television when not texting or talking on their phones. Teens quit doing chores for under $50 an hour. They also carry charge cards. They don’t walk anywhere they can ride.
No more roving lawn mower or snow shoveling jobs are solicited. Boys wear earrings and necklaces. Girls get boy’s names tattooed onto various body parts. Our “Commander in Chief” thinks he’s an emperor but looks and acts more like Steve Urkel than John Wayne or General George Patton. You get the picture….. Our wind figuratively changed when hunting became an industry. In my opinion, it all started when television stole much of our free time. Interest in the “Big Three” hunting magazines soon waned. Television was King!
So was Elvis. We had to endure live action bowling. Ed Sullivan offered us not only Elvis and the Beatles, but special talent acts like a guy spinning dinner plates on under-spined arrow shafts. We had Howdy Doody and a talking horse named Mr. Ed. I even watched Lassie right up until the episode where the kid got his foot caught in a huge bear trap, then sent his loyal dog rushing back to the barn with instructions to bring back a C-clamp. A dog smart enough to fetch a C-clamp? Gimme a break. Television went through understandable growing pains. Then about twenty years ago, actual hunting shows were born, finding an uncomfortable niche right alongside Star Wars, horror films, I Love Lucy re-runs, fifty new sit-coms and soft porn.
Never again did we have to watch Ozzie Nelson walk around his own home wearing a suit and tie when he had no apparent job. Mr. Ed went to the glue factory. Howdy Doody came down with mildew or dry rot, I’m not sure which, but the painted freckles fell off his face. Today we’re offered full season, weekly TV episodes about people who catch turtles for a living, “exterminators” who don’t kill much except insects, gator hunters who seemingly talk with marbles in their mouths to the point TV producers have to subtitle whatever they say as if they’re speaking in a foreign language. The hunt for Bigfoot continues. One of these days sasquatch hunters might consider leaving a bunch of trail cameras out for more than a few days at a time.
On the TV menu are weekly shows about driving trucks on icy roads, logging, towing vehicles, raising little girls with double chins, the trials and tribulations of “Little People,” the fine art of junk picking and hoarding at it’s worst. Five year old girls are painted up for beauty contests. We’re even treated to one about the perils of being a meter maid. Drama choices are endless! Had enough? Apparently not yet. With hunting shows, celebrities seemingly came out of nowhere, all jockeying not for entertainment or educational value, but for pole positions of name recognition among their peers, potential sponsors and new followers.
Our attention and interest were tested with lots of whispering, poorly hidden commercials, bad acting by people trying to be funny, and shameless, even embarrassing, high five whooping and hollering rants. It didn’t take long to realize far too many celebrity hosts and guest hunters have a very hard time differentiating love from lust. Television hunting shows made hunting look easy, programming youngsters to expect success without ever really earning it and getting quickly frustrated when “it” didn’t happen soon enough.
Commercialized gadgets were invented and promoted to eliminate much of the process. Hunters became “athletes.” Hunting became a “team sport.” People right out of puberty decided to go “Pro,” with deadly intentions but foggy direction, skipping any degree of apprenticeship or woodsmanship skills along the way. I continue to see six year old kids posing their best “bad ass” faces for hero photos. Kids young enough to wear pajamas with the feet attached are regularly seen posing behind trophy bucks. Youngsters who still get a lollipop whenever they sleep dry are shooting big game. Deer are now “whacked,” “popped,” or “smoked” from long ranges. Arrows became “meat missiles,” while bullets became “pills.” Just this morning I saw a photo of a bowhunter posing with his dead critter. On the horizontal rib cage of his prize sat an open can of beer. The words “awesome” and “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” have risen to far more than standard verbiage.
With the “help” of television celebrities, who often seem to think of themselves as somehow very special, hunting slowly but surely lost it’s romance. Our “music” increased in tempo but lost it’s rhythm. Many hunters don’t even get into the woods anymore. There is no story attached to 90% of the deer killed on television these days. “Just put me in a good spot” is all they expect. Traditional deer camps were sold…. or only used for poker, booze, smoking, or to test drive new girlfriends.
Hunting became shooting. “Bows” that look more like James Bond tools came to be known as “weapons.” Instead of trying to get as close as possible to big game, the challenge evolved to how far away one could “whack” a deer with either bows or guns….it didn’t really matter. Just last night I watched a celebrity bowhunter “whack” his “biggest buck ever” (home grown to boot) from 56 yards. That buck deserved better. Primitive black powder firearms grew into nothing more than single shot rifles without the brass, using pellets rather than powder, big scopes, thumbhole stocks, bipods, etc. I even saw a muzzleloader dude carrying two of them in case he needed a second shot! I made a mental note to myself: “There could be a market out there for double barreled muzzleloaders….maybe even repeaters.”
Pre and extended primitive “weapons” big game seasons, those fought hard for and established by none other than our bowhunting pioneers, were quickly infiltrated by hundreds of thousands of opportunists simply looking for an easier way to fill their entitled “extra” tags. “Hunting” shows often display sniper talent. Now, before someone takes a bead on me, I want to admit I’ve always admired and respected long range shooting skills of snipers. I’ve bought and read stuff by and about guys like Carlos Hathcock, Chris Kyle, Simo Hayha, etc. But, when hunting is confused with long range shooting, one can’t help but realize sniper talent often emerges as little more than superb target shooting at live targets. Again, no disrespect to long range sniper skills, but in my opinion, anything over 400 yards is a whole lot more about shooting than hunting. The only real hunting part is spotting the animal from afar and stalking or crawling into position to set up for the shot. I might also mention here that I am an NRA “Lifer,” and by no means an anti-gun person whatsoever.
Back in the “Golden Age” of deer hunting, many if not most deer were killed with open sighted .30-30s. I once commented to my dad that a seemingly higher percentage of big bucks were taken in “the good old days,” even though total deer numbers were not nearly as high in that era. Dad pointed out the biggest reason was possibly because most hunters used open sights. Few carried, nor could afford, binoculars or scopes. Since shooting doe deer was not cool in those days, spikes and forkhorns with small antlers were not easily identified as bucks from long range, and so were not shot at. Huh….
In long range shooting, with either gun or bow, the absolutely necessary and noble relationship between predator and prey is remarkably reduced or even eliminated. From greater distances, a game animal’s ability to even be aware of a hunter by way of their normal senses is reduced to all but worthless levels. Because of that fact, there is no longer any real connection with the animal, and therefore not much of a hunt. Elevated “shooting houses” set up on the edges of food plots are correctly named.
Many, if not most, modern hunters are opportunists. Fred Bear himself put that philosophy into motion with his “two season hunter” concept, which in truth was little more than a shrewd marketing plan, at least at the time. Most opportunists are essentially the definition of the word. They choose expediency over basic principles. A big problem surfaces when opportunists sacrifice principles. Opportunists not only despise failure, but most cannot handle it. They dislike eating tag soup, preferring to kill their game “the easiest legal way.” Going home with no blood on their hands apparently leaves a bad taste in their mouths.
Most opportunists don’t belong to much of anything, because many are simply users who don’t really care. There is a big difference in having an interest in something and being passionate enough about anything to really care. Hunters need to encourage and embrace the challenge instead of the “kill at all costs” attitude. Risking an unfilled tag will require re-education of the general public to the sweetness of maybe accomplishing things a harder way, which is often also a simpler way. It becomes a values thing. Slipping the crossbow mentality and justification into archery seasons under the disguise of it being a “more efficient weapon” (there’s that weapon word again) is little more than an opportunist’s excuse and a money driven marketing ploy. I had a hard time not laughing when an able-bodied neighbor of my brother lobbed off two of his fingers the very first time he took a shot at a nice buck with his new crossbow.
True disabilities aside, there is simply no reason to allow crossbows outside of gun seasons. When states dump the truly physically impaired requisite, we end up with 90% being mere opportunists. Once again, our biggest problem comes along when these opportunists sacrifice principles. Our deep outdoor passion should never be thought of as any sort of “entitlement,” which unfortunately is the way the majority of users interpret things today. In reality, opportunists might have efficiency, but they display very little class. Using bows and arrows at ultra close range puts the hunt in hunting. Was a big buck shot from a vehicle hunted or simply shot? Was he an accomplishment to be proud of or closer to nothing but a victim? In truth, many “sport hunters” have little or no desire (or time) to honestly engage an animal up close and personal, instead following the simplistic philosophy that getting a job done the quickest, easiest way is the best way.
This last sentence in itself is a sad reminder that the hunting process has been watered down to pathetic levels. We need to get back into the woods! Shortening the learning curve that comes as a part of any apprenticeship is not the answer. Hunting needs to once again become a “values” issue, accepting challenges but not pushing past them. Extending one’s personal range limits quickly takes our passion from the level of a challenge to that of a stunt, often justified solely by the fact they saw someone on TV pull it off once. Respect for wildlife continues to diminish. Deer are not targets. We are not at war with wildlife. Product names need not imply death, destruction, fury, evil, or hatred.
Who could have predicted egotistical hunting celebrities would someday show up in tour buses and pickup trucks that look more like they belong in a parade? Who would have guessed that hunting celebrities would make statements like, “I wouldn’t think of going hunting without wearing Brand X camo.” Who “woulda thunk” broadheads would sell for $40 each and the hunting industry would get to where breast implants would become a deductible business expense? Hunting, our beloved passion, needs to be redefined and fixed…reborn if you will.
For those not aware of by now, PBS has a brand new official “Preservation of Bowhunting Committee” to implicate and connect more real bowhunters with serious yet passionate people who already belong to PBS. I’m excited about this. Members of the Professional Bowhunters Society are among a very unique group, self-limiting their standards in equipment, techniques and values by their own free will. Their hearts, as well as their values, are in the right place. Self imposed rules of conduct can and should be shared, shown, and encouraged by wise, strong-willed people with good values. As things play out now, right or wrong is too often cast aside during the process of interpretation. It has always fascinated me how flyfishermen can smoothly pull off crusading their passion and beliefs with mass acceptance. They have their very own organizations, seasons, stretches of water, their own magazines, TV shows, mail order catalogs, outfitters, etc. without seemingly offending other fishermen using bait, spinning rods or high tech gear.
They express and even flaunt class right before the eyes of gill crushers with minimal opposition. How can they do that? One of the reasons is that fishing can be a non-consumptive catch and release pastime, while death is a part of hunting that cannot be avoided nor denied quite as easily. I can’t help but ask myself why high-tech hunters, once they “master” their hunting tools, don’t naturally and instinctively realize such and revert to increasing personal challenge levels one way or another rather than pushing onward.
PBS will regain our identity only by embracing the journey…. selling the process rather than the product. There is nothing wrong with intensity, but we must express love of the hunt rather than lust for the hunt! Admitting and agreeing that there is in fact a problem that clear thinking could help is a step in the right direction, even if addressed one hunter at a time. If you haven’t read or contributed to the multiple posted threads concerning the future of PBS as a voice to be heard, by all means join the conversation with opinions and ideas on our http://www.probowsociety.net website.
PBS is in the process of putting together a short film about our philosophies. Your help will be appreciated in any capacity. What the Montana Bowhunters Association has put together will give you an idea of a similar vision for and about PBS. I invite you to view the MBA’s video at http://www.mtba.org Those in our circle have been talking about the dilemmas within modern hunting practices and the truth that there is a need to do something about them, but until now, the answers have been unclear. Translating these tasks to actions will be our biggest new challenge. We need to educate the masses to realize that at least right now, more of them are guilty than innocent.
In truth, this opinion article you are reading would never be seen published in any mainstream outdoor media because it would piss off multiple advertisers enough for them to jump ship. When principles face profits, the outcome is seldom positive. Outdoor media needs to first recognize the fact that currently they are part of the problem more than the solution.
PBS is a very unique group, one you should be proud of. It is not for everyone, but each of us reading these words know people who should belong to this organization but don’t. Our future is looking bright once again, mostly because it’s time to put the hunt back in hunting. Pass the word!
Very interesting project, you can see the details, and send your contributions, in their webpage THE GOOD HUNT
From the webpage:
We love to eat meat, but are we prepared to get blood on our hands by killing animals ourselves?
David Petersen, of rural Colorado, has been doing so for decades. Every year at the end of summer, he spends a month in the wilderness near his mountain home, hunting elk. Most years he succeeds in killing one, which provides him and his wife of 32 years, Caroline, with healthy, delicious meat throughout the coming year. Unlike most hunters, Dave hunts with a traditional longbow, a weapon demanding great woodsmanship and experience if one wants to have any success at hunting. Maximum accuracy range: 20 yards. Many elk pass near Petersen unharmed as he will only shoot if a perfect situation presents itself and he is sure of a fast, humane kill. When this happens, Dave — usually alone and in the dark — field dresses and debones the meat on the spot and in several trips packs it back to his hand-built cabin farther down the mountain. Not the easiest way of hunting, or of earning your dinner, but David enjoys the honesty involved in the work.
Calling himself an old hippie (born in 1946), Petersen has Marine Corps tattoos on his leg from his days as a helicopter pilot, is an award-winning conservationist who loves Hunter S. Thompson, is eloquent in speech and writing, and has a decidedly philosophical bent. In sum, Dave is a hard one to pin down or categorize. It is safe to say, however, that ethical hunting is what most clearly defines him. In his extensive writings (he has authored more than a dozen books of his own, and edited several more for the likes of Edward Abbey and Pulitzer-winner A.B. Guthrie, Jr.), Petersen reflects on a wide range of themes, but returns most often to the vivid stories of his hunts and related wilderness adventures and the intimate participation this has allowed him in the natural workings of a living wilderness. These stories hark back to the oldest human lore and remind us of a time when mankind still lived in harmony with the natural world. Dave’s woodsmanship, mastery of the hunting craft and deep connection to the animals he hunts reveal a beauty in this tradition that only a lifetime of thoughtful dedication and love can achieve.
Dave’s story made a great impact on me, opening the door to what transformative experiences hunting and a life lived on the edge of wilderness can potentially provide. After two years of correspondence, I recently crossed the Atlantic to visit the Petersens. As loudly as Dave may insist that this will not be his last hunt and that he intends to keep hunting “as long as I can do it right,” it is unfortunately clear that age and the encroachment of “progress” on what remains of truly wild country in America are working together toward bringing an honorable lifelong tradition to a close. Consequently, I feel a strong sense of urgency to record this year’s hunt on film.
With this in mind, Dave graciously agreed to allow me to come and film his annual longbow elk hunt during the last three weeks of September. We will be heading into some prime elk habitat, on private land and public, at the peak of the rut. This means we will have an excellent chance of capturing the spectacles of elk mating season up close and personal as well as seeing black bear, mule deer, turkey, grouse, and other wild being that roam the forest. The Good Hunt will follow this master huntsman at close quarters as he discusses a lifetime dedicated to traditional bowhunting, wildlife and public lands conservation, the study of wild nature and an uncompromising way of life that most can only dream of and some can’t even imagine.
Petersen proclaims that hunting has been his best teacher in life and stands as a subculture and metaphor for what he calls “the mother culture.” What is right with hunting, he says, is right with America. And what is wrong with one is wrong with both. This is an honest man, unflinching and eloquent in proclaiming his “natural truths.” To learn more about Dave, who hunting friends call “Elkheart,” check out www.davidpetersenbooks.com
Why support this film?
As David Petersen’s writing and philosophical mentor Edward Abbey once phrased it, “Hunting is one of the hardest things even to think about.” Just so, and let me state clearly that this is not an advocacy film to promote hunting. As Dave states clearly in his writing, what the hunting community needs is “not more hunters but better hunters.”
The Good Hunt will follow one autumn’s traditional bowhunt, fair and simple, and let the viewers — hunters, non-hunters, and anti-hunters alike — decide for themselves what life lessons to draw from the experience. To facilitate a deeper level of conversation, David and I will join other hunters for a few scenes of campfire conversation about the tougher questions regarding hunting. There will also be scenes of Petersen home life, conversation with Caroline, preparing and eating wild meat and more.
As an urban non-hunter who eats very little meat, my interest in this story is the hunting experience itself, one that has formed mankind throughout history, fed the imaginations as well as bodies of cultures around the world, and stands yet today as a primary link between the manmade and natural worlds. In a present-day context, Dave’s hunting and explications of it interest me because they are honest, egoless and direct; because they feed the soul as well as the body; because they challenge me to consider difficult questions about my own lifestyle choices without falling into moralizing. Dave’s hunting and his hunt for meaning and truth in life inspire in me a greater commitment to the causes I believe in, and I’m certain The Good Huntwill do the same for open-minded viewers across a wide spectrum. If you have come this far with me, please consider supporting our film.
The first day of the hunt was an exciting one. We spotted several buffalo as well as a few scrub bulls and wild donkeys. We passed on all the buffalo because both Barry and Kim had seen larger bulls during their pre-scouting trips. This initial trip into hunting country gave us a feel for what was to come – Rough four wheeling for two hours or so, following by 5 to 6 hours of walking and spotting. We generally walked 10 to 14 miles per day.
On the second day of the hunt we had a little excitement. After fording the Milton River we came upon a small group of wild hogs. They were all walking in single file, into the wind, and oblivious to our presence. Bill and I were able to run right up to the last hog in the line when she whirled and gave a grunt that stopped the whole procession. We launched our first volley of arrows hitting two of them. Bill’s arrow completely penetrated one boar and hit a small piglet running with the group. This piglet took great exception to an arrow in its side and began to squeal with a volume the likes of which were disproportionate to its size. This squealing had a very unsettling affect on the rest of the group. Bottom line is that they started charging Bill and me. In unison, we both looked for a tree to climb and discovered that there were none! Barry and Kim were observing all this through binoculars at several hundred yards distant. Although I’ve certainly seen larger hogs in my day, I don’t remember any being more determined. We were both equipped with very heavy arrows made for the buffalo hunt and they became very useful at this point. Bill turned one boar with a well placed shot which left the sow that was coming directly at me. My choice was to run or shoot and I decided on the latter. Thank God I actually hit her where I was aiming. The 860-grain “Grizzlystik” tipped with a 190 grain Grizzly head entered the hog right between the eyes and exited behind her ear. With their numbers greatly reduced that rest of the group decided to run off which pleased us greatly.
This whole fiasco made for a real confidence booster regarding our equipment. Bill was shooting an 80-pound Black Widow and I was carrying my trusty old 80-pound Stotler longbow. Both of us carried arrows made for this trip by Bob Burton of Whispering Wind arrows. Bob had made some Purple Heart shafts for Bill’s previous trip for Cape Buffalo in Africa. Since they worked well on that trip (nice buff and giraffe), Bill ordered more for this hunt. Bob could not find additional purple heart shafts for me so he came up with an option of resin impregnated Poplar shafts that produced a finished arrow weight of 1140 grains. In addition to these arrows, I was field testing some new heavy carbon shafts called the Grizzlystick from Alaska Bowhunting Supply. I really liked the advantage of the heavier wood arrows, but the Grizzlysticks are almost indestructible, which means a lot on a trip where you can’t run downtown to get more arrows. I’ve purposely hit a granite bolder with a Grizzlystick and had it recoil 20 yards in the opposite direction. In fact, I’ve broken three Judos on one of the arrows I’m still shooting. True to form, the one I shot through the hog’s head is still in my quiver. No matter what shaft I use, the business end always carries the 190-grain Grizzly broadhead when I hunting dangerous game. This one inch wide, three inch long head has served me well over the years.
While Barry and Bill continued to pursue one large bull they saw the second day of the hunt, Kim and I struck out for some new territory that was not previously hunted. The chance to hunt truly virgin territory really appealed to me. From the topo maps for the area, Kim found a long string of small ponds all connected and that eventually drained into the Milton River. From the map, it was apparent that we could walk over twenty miles from the first pond to the river. We drove (if you could call it that) as far as the terrain would allow and logged in the waypoint on our GPS’s. Then we struck out on foot towards the coordinates pulled from the map. Once we reached the water holes we started seeing buffalo in large numbers. One impressive bull was traveling with over 20 cows and calves, which made the ensuing stalk even more difficult. With so many eyes and noses covering his backside, this bull simply grazed with impunity. Finally the inevitable happened when we spooked an unseen cow and the whole herd bolted in a thunder of hooves and a billowing cloud of dust. Back to the string of water holes, we parted some of the dense vegetation to reveal a large group of buffaloes all circling a small pond. While I was busy looking for a trophy in the bunch, Kim stabbed me in the ribs and whispered that the herd bull was in the water ten yards below me. Sure enough the entire herd was watch His Nibs take a bath. All I could see was his nose and horns above the water. Slowly nocking an arrow, I figured all I had to do was wait for the King to walk out of his tub and I would smack him. After a mere 5 seconds, one of the cows grunted in alarm and this peaceful scene erupted into utter chaos. The bull dog-paddled to the opposite side and lunged onto the bank. Standing completely broadside he stared right at me with his nose held high and on full alert. I could see Kim’s 500 Jeffery come to bare and heard Kim whisper “take him”. The distance (around 30 yards) was a bit more than I had hoped for and the fact that he was on full alert, looking right through me made me uncomfortable with the shot. Years of disappoint has taught me never to take a shot that I was not completely comfortable with. Hence, I passed on the shot and was immediately second-guessing the wisdom of what I had just done. I could tell that Kim was disappointed as well.
We had been hunting hard for four days and this was the best opportunity to date. It was with a heavy heart that we finally returned to camp well after dark. Two gins and tonics helped a lot as Bill and I compared the day’s excitement. Bill and Barry had spotted the big bull they were looking for but it had given them the slip after a long hot pursuit. After one of Sonia’s great meals and several glasses of fine Australian Cabernet, I was prepared for a good nights rest and whatever tomorrow might bring.
On the fifth day of the hunt, Kim and I decided to retrace the route of the previous day and continue on into uncharted territory. We did stop on the way to make a stalk on a group of wild donkeys. This heard was more curious than spooked at our presence, which probably attests that we were the first humans they have ever seen. This was their undoing, because I smacked the biggest jack right through both lungs. We watched him fall within sight. The Grizzlystick had struck again. Once we got close for the photo session, I was surprised at the size of these donkeys. The one I shot was in very good flesh and not a tic on him. I was soon to discover that this was true for the water buffalo as well.
As we continued our hunt I knew the donkey had been a real confidence builder. I was now determined to find a good bull and put him down. I’ve found that this feeling happens to me a lot in the field. Sometimes it takes several days of hunting to get into sync with nature and the correct frame of mind for what had to be done. I was now hunting with more intensity. Kim was in the lead weaving his way through heavy palm fronds and low brush. I was scanning the country to my right when I turned to see Kim frozen at mid stride. He was looking right at me with his index finger pointed to our left. As he slowly brought the big Jeffery to his shoulder; my eyes shifted to the direction that the half-inch bore was pointed. There taking a nap in the mud was a fine water buffalo.
He was only 20 yards below me and looking at Kim which gave me an opportunity to nock one of my 1140-grain woodies. I remember thinking- “If he would only stand up”. As if on command the bull slowly came to his feet, still looking directly at Kim. Then I was thinking- “ Just turn a little, so you will be quartering away”. Again, he obliged. It was like my friend Monty Browning likes to say- All the pegs were dropping in the right holes. The only thing left to fill the final hole was for the buff to move his front leg forward to expose a chance at the heart. I could tell he was about to bolt, but I forced myself to wait. Finally he turned his big head in the directly of his exit. In doing so, he made one step with his front leg- Time to drop the hammer! I was already aimed and at half draw when he moved that leg, so it only took an instant to come to full draw and release. As luck would have it, the arrow hit exactly where I was looking. I could hear the metallic click which is the tell tale sign of hitting bone.
When the bull exited the small mud hole he had only one inch of white crown dip visible below the fletching, which meant the arrow had penetrated 22 inches (it’s a good thing to know exactly how long your arrows’ crown dip extends and the distance from the nock to the end of your fletching). It was all over in a split second and now it was time to be silent and wait. I was determined to wait a full 30 minutes. At the end of 12 minutes we heard the bellowing of an animal in distress. After four long bellows, all was silent. I continued to wait out the full 30 minutes before taking up the blood trail. Kim was in the lead with the Jeffery extended. After walking exactly 63 paces, I saw Kim drop to one knee and on full alert. Through the thick brush I could see the head of a buffalo on the ground looking at his back trail. Kim motioned for me to move slowly to the left while he stayed in position for a shot if necessary. Kim wisely had me move to see if the buffalo would move his head to follow my motion, indicating he was still alive.
Thankfully, he stone dead! It’s hard to express my feeling at that moment. During the caping process we did a little autopsy and discovered that the arrow had completing blown through a rib (which was sizable) and pierced the top end of the heart.
Somehow the trip back to the vehicle was not as grueling as I had imagined and back at camp, it was cigars around with scotch substituted for the gin and tonics. Cathy and I spent the next day fishing for Baramundi, which is a great sport fish similar to our bass. These fish get up to 30 pounds in these relatively small ponds. We were successful with the Baramundi and also saw fresh water crocodiles and five-foot sharks all in the same pools. We were 80 kilometers from the coast, so that is some indication how high the water gets during the wet season. That evening Bill and Barry were late of the cocktail hour so that was determined to be a good sign. When they finally arrived, Bill announced that he had finally hit the big bull they had been chasing all week. He felt the arrows’ entry angle was a bit back but a lethal hit. They tracked the bull for over six miles in four hours. Each time they jumped bull it would run again. Not wanting to loose the bull or make it suffer, Bill asked Barry to bring it down with a rifle. This was a very ethical gesture on his part because unlike Africa there is no wounding policy in Australia; you simply carry on with the hunt. Anyhow, Barry hit the bull four times with a 404 and it still refused to stop. When it was too dark to continue the track, they had returned to camp. The next morning the whole camp went out to help pick up the spore. It was hard tracking with very little blood. We were starting to get that sick feeling of loosing a fine trophy when Barry gave a shout. He had found the bull dead, approximately 2 miles from where they left the track the evening before. The Purple Heart shaft was still in him and it had penetrated deep. The arrows’ entry was right behind the shoulder, but our speculation was that bull was angled a little towards Bill when the arrow hit. Regardless, it was a happy ending and we were all grateful that we didn’t give up on this magnificent bull.
The whole experience was something I will never forget and will be forever grateful to Barry, Kim and Sonia for showing us the wonders of Australia’s Top End. Now if I can just sleep for the rest of this flight it might make it more tolerable.
NOTE: All the text has been written by Dennis Kamstra, but all the pictures in this part, are from my friend Mario Bregaña.
As I write this, I am flying high, literally and emotionally. I’m at 37,000 feet, on a flight from Sydney, Australia to Los Angles; and I am still experiencing the rush from a very memorable hunt. Thought I would get all the details in print before I forgot them. I just completed a Water Buffalo hunt in Australia’s Northern Territory, known locally as the “top end”. I must admit that the memories are still lingering because I finally made one of those shots about which we all dream. Even taking my vanity into consideration, I have to say that I just completed a hunt the ranks near the top ten per cent of my bow hunting experiences. Being a little long in the tooth with several hunts under my belt, I can assure you that this is worthy of note.
Australia is getting to be a very popular destination for bow hunters. The word is getting out about the fantastic hunting opportunities in all of the South Pacific. The Water Buffalo of Australia’s Northern Territory is one of the few dangerous game species available in this part of the world. You can throw the Crocodile and wild hogs in this category as well, although the Crocodile cannot be sport hunted at this time. Although my hunt was booked with Barry Jones of Buffalo Safaris Ltd., I had also arranged for Randy Cooling and Patrick O’Brian to hunt with Graham Williams of Outback Safaris and Dr. Jan Seski to hunt with Glenn Giffin of Muckadillo Safaris. All these hunts were conducted during the same ten-day period. My hunting partner on this trip was Dr. Bill MacCarty. Bill’s wife (Hogan) and my wife (Cathy) were to accompany us on this hunt and the camp amenities available with Barry Jones was instrumental in picking this outfitter. Although our wives can rough it with the best of them, I felt the women would enjoy the experience more with air-conditioned cabins and hot showers available. As it turned out, Hogan had to cancel at the last minute, so I was glad that Cathy had the extra comforts available.
I must begin by stating that most of us have no concept of the vastness of Australia, let alone the remoteness of the top end. The previously mentioned Dr. Jan Seski probably said is best when he told me that the top end of Australia is just like the “old Africa”, where one can drive and walk for days without experiencing any humanity and the game is oblivious to human existence. Dr. Seski went on his first Australian safari last year and immediately rebooked for this year as well. Jan will have a hard time beating last year’s hunt, where he took the new world record Banteng (with bow), two buffalo, two huge Spanish goats, and several wild hogs.
One of the down sides of this hunt is the distance of travel. From my home near Portland, Oregon, we flew to LA, then on to Sydney, then to Darwin, Australia. From Darwin we arranged for a charter to fly us into hunting camp. All this amounted to 20 hours in the air and 32 hours considering layovers. Thank God for sleeping pills and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Bill, Cathy and I made the best of it in Darwin by renting a car and driving to a nearby location on the Adelaide River that promoted sights of the famous Saltwater Crocodiles. I’m not much into tourist activities, but I have to admit it’s pretty exciting when the first mate of a small boat puts a pole in your hand with twelve foot of line baited with a pound of pork and declares we are going croc fishing! These salt-water crocs are in fact the largest crocodiles in the world (some reported at 28 feet in length!). I was soon to discover that they would come completely out of the water to snap at my offering of pork. The occasion was definitely a photo opportunity.
After cooling our heels in Darwin for two days, we were anxious to get into hunting camp. There was an issue with weight restrictions on the charter flight. We were allowed only 480 kilos (1056 pounds) including people and gear. This sounds like a lot until you consider the weight of 5 people (pilot, co-pilot and the three of us) equaled 915 pounds. It was either a crash diet or some repackaging. So, with the bare necessities we were off to Wongawara, a cattle station on the southern border or Aboriginal Land. It was amazing to fly for almost two hours without even seeing a road. Wongawara is a working cattle ranch that covers 500,000 acres. The cattle are restricted to approximately 3,000 acres and the balance is wild and wooly open territory. The owner, Rudy, commented that he has never been on 80% of his own land. Naturally he has flown over it, but land travel is restricted by the lack of any roads. Four wheeling over rocks and fording major streams has a way of limiting ones exposure to such country.
At the end of a rough-cut landing strip, Barry Jones, his wife Sonia, and guide Kim Walters greeted us. As we soon learned, Sonia was to be the chief cook and bottle washer in addition to her duties as clothes washer, and maid; all of which she did with the utmost of perfection. That evening, Barry explained that several species could be hunted during this hunt. Aside from our main objective, the Asiatic Water Buffalo, wild hogs, wild donkeys and scrub bulls were on the menu. Like the water buffalo, the other species were all introduced by early explorers during the 1800’s. The scrub bulls are essentially domestic cattle that have gone feral over the years. I can tell you that the experience has done little for their dispossession. Unlike the buffalo, these bulls have been known to charge on sight and are considered quite dangerous. The buffalo will generally run at the sight of humans, but once wounded they are as formidable as their cousins, the Cape buffalo of Africa are. However, if surprised these buffalo can charge on sight as well. These facts were the reason for Barry and Kim’s arsenal. Large caliber rifles are required to stop these animals when they are on full charge. My guide, Kim, was totting a 500 Jeffery as his back up rifle. This cannon was loaded to deliver 6000 foot pounds of energy!
My curiosity about South America finally persuaded me to book a bow hunt for the buffalo of the pampa plains of Argentina. Having never been to that part of the world, my visions of Argentina were formed by the “Discovery Channel” on TV.
I was surprised to find that Buenos Aires had a strong European type culture with old country charm mixed with the hustle and bustle of a progressive industrial city. This town was the home of my outfitter (Rodolfo Grizas), plus twelve million other soles. For a hick from the woods of Washington state, a metropolis that big was quite a transition. My wife (Cathy) and I were whisked off to neighborhood restaurant for one of Argentina’s famous Bar-B-Q’s. The Argentineans are big meat eaters and they enjoy their biggest meal of the day at around 2PM (like most European countries).
We were joined on this trip by Paul and Susan Sullivan, also from our home state of Washington. Paul was interested in hunting Axis deer, doves, ducks, and partridge; while I was in sole pursuit of the Asian Water Buffalo. I remember seeing a film of Fred Bear hunting these buffalo along the Amazon delta in Brazil. These are huge animals; close to a ton in weight. Although they did not exhibit the extreme temperament of the Cape Buffalo of Africa, these animals have been known to dislodge more than one goucho from his horse. There were all types of stories concerning the close calls of charging buffalo. All this adds to the “pucker factor” of hunting dangerous game. One always seems to pay just a little more attention to the small details when hunting game that can fight back. One does not simply pay attention to the wind direction; he simply does not move unless it is perfect. After the shot, one does not leap for joy; but instead he freezes like a stone to avoid detection. To me, hunting dangerous game with bow and arrow is the ultimate rush. It may not be for everyone, but you can’t beat it for finding your inner resolve.
Paul was to be hunting about 400 kilometers from my hunting area. So we separated with the understanding that we would meet later in the week for a little bird shooting, if time permitted.Cathy and I traveled south from Buenos Aires into the Argentine pampa. The pampa is a huge flat delta area, formed by the run off from the mountain country to the west. This area is predominantly cattle country. We were to be the guests of Manuel de Anchorena the Argentine ambassador to England (retired). His estancia (ranch) was to be our home while hunting on his vast land holdings. To say that the accommodations were opulent, is an understatement. Manuel was quite a sportsman in his own right. Although his great passion seemed to be polo, he had an extensive trophy room that housed the results of many hunts
My hunt started with the introduction to my guide (Jesus), and the explanation of my equipment. The longbow is not a common weapon in this country, nor is any archery tackle for that matter.
When ever I hunt outside the U.S., invariably I’m viewed with skepticism about my choice of equipment. Naturally, a demonstration is requested, which is nothing more than a thinly veiled challenge to the actual killing power of a bow and arrow. These demonstrations are certainly stressful because you must hit the target with reasonable accuracy in order to give your guide some type of confidence that he is not wasting his time. But, that does not compare to the stress of the ultimate show down with the animal; so one must take it all in stride. Even after you have proven your ability to hit what your aiming at, there is no way to convince people of the killing power of an arrow. They just have to see it for themselves.
The language problem between Jesus and myself was a major barrier. Even though the Manuel did an excellent job of interpreting the type of hunt I wanted to conduct, Jesus had plans of his own. The first day of the hunt was ruined by misunderstandings about how to best get into shooting position of buffalo. Jesus thought I should sit in one place while he busted brush in an attempt to jump the animals towards my position. While this was no doubt effective, I preferred slipping up on unsuspecting game, rather than taking a pass shot at spooked animals. Although I saw some nice buffalo on the first day out, the shot opportunities did not happen.
Back at the ranch, I tried to plan a different approach for the next days hunt, with the help of interpretation. On day two, Jesus was right on my shoulder all day. The swatting of mosquitoes and smoking of cigarettes made our approach almost impossible. I tried to explain the need for stealth and non-aromatic stalk; but it was to no avail. Back to the ranch for another “strategy session”. What I really wanted was to be left alone in buffalo country and be picked up at the end of the day. This was going to be a problem, since they were concerned about my safety. I consented to a plan by which Jesus would carry a rifle as back up, but would stay at least 200 meters behind me.
On the third day, I had a great time slipping though the brush by myself. However, the constant shifting of the wind caused problems. I could hear buffalo crashing out ahead of me, but I never actually saw one. Naturally, Jesus blamed my tactics. He was rapidly loosing confidence and patience with the Yankee bow hunter.
By the fourth day, I had a pretty good idea where to find the buffalo. It was just a matter of time, and some good luck. So, I set forth with the same approach as the day before. This time I asked Jesus to stay behind in the truck. I was surprised when he agreed. Rain had fallen during the night and as the horizon began to blush with the rising sun, the dew point was reached and a thick fog descended over the swamps. With the help of my handy GPS, I set a course towards the area of the previous days hunt. Today I was determined to get in close and wait for the buffalo to move into me. With that in mind, I brought my “shaggy camo” suit, a unique three dimensional suit made by Rancho Safari. I had found this camo to be very helpful in previous hunts.
Since I had a lot of open ground to cover, I picked up the pace as I cut through the fog. I was mesmerized by the eerie colors caused by sun’s attempt to burn through the mist. Then I saw shapes in the distance. The shapes looked like grave markers in some ancient cemetery. I froze while fishing out my binoculars for a closer look. Sure enough, thirteen buffalo all in a row with their heads in that unique, down the nose, arrogant stare. They had caught my movement but had not yet figured out just what I was. I eased down into a sitting position doing my best imitation of a pampa bush. I was caught out in the middle of an open grass plain. There was nothing to do but wait out the situation. After a good hour of intense staring, the buffalo seemed convinced I was some type of innocuous growth and simply laid down.
Two more hours passed while the sun continued dissolve the fog. Then, one by one, the buffalo came to their feet. They started to mill about and were feeding right in my direction. I just knew this good fortune wouldn’t last. However, here they came; just like an elephant train.
For a moment I thought they were going to walk right at me, giving me little opportunity for a broadside shot. But the hunt gods decided to steer them past me, at an angle. I couldn’t believe my good luck. The lead cow passed by me at thirty five yards. The wind was brisk and right in my face. All I had to do was to get into shooting position. Ever so slowly, I extended my bow arm and locked my elbow. Rising to one knee, I picked a spot on buffalo number five (the biggest bull). I drew and released in one snap-shot movement. The hit seemed a little high, but only the tip of my nock was visible behind the shoulder. The bull jumped side ways alerting the rest of the herd. I remained motionless. Two buffalo ran up to their agitated comrade and stuck their noses into the blood running his side. With a snort, they ran off, followed by the rest of the herd. The arrowed bull turned to reveal the two blade Magnus just poking out the opposite side.
He ran ten yards and fell on one front leg; got up, ran another ten yards before crashing to one side. He was down for good! After admiring my trophy, I set off to get Jesus. I found him fast asleep in the truck.
After the monumental job of skinning, butchering, and preparing my trophy; we headed for a rendezvous with Paul and Susan. Paul had collected a fine Axis deer and was anxious to begin his bird hunt (his real passion). Rodolfo’s boast of 250 rounds per day proved a bit extreme, but we didn’t miss it by much.
All in all, it was quite an enjoyable adventure. One I would recommend. However, even a rudimentary command of Spanish would be quite helpful, as English is a rare commodity.
80# Stotler Elite take down longbow
“Six Hex” wooden arrows by Whispering Wind
Two blade, 130 gr. Magnus broadheads
“Shaggie” camo, by Rancho Safari (a face mask is a must, because of the mosquitoes)
Arrangements for this hunt were aptly handled by Bowhunting Safari Consultants ( 1-800-833-
To the locals, they are little more than a striped donkey, but for me the Zebra are beautiful animals. I think they make one of the best pedestal mounts of all the plains game. I have hunted both species on several occasions and have come away with a lot of respect for this cunning animal. I consider the Zebra to be one of the most difficult animals to take with bow and arrow. Their since of smell is right up there with any of the plains game and their hearing and eye sight are phenomenal. Couple all of this with the fact that they usually water at night and even then, not with regularity. When they do come to water holes during daylight hours, they usually come running in when other species are watering, providing them cover and early warning systems. They come to water very nervous and seem to be constantly moving. They drink quickly and run away as fast as they appeared.
This pretty much sums up my appraisal of bow hunting Zebra- They are a tough animal to take with a bow. Perhaps I’ve just been unlucky or hunted them in the wrong places at the wrong time, but I’ve hunted them in Namibia, Zimbabwe, and all over South Africa with the same results. I have taken three females of the species with a bow, but have yet to anchor a stallion. It may never happen, but I will die trying!
My first experience hunting Zebra came in Zimbabwe where I was to hunt leopard over bait. I had heard that Zebra was a preferred table fare for leopard and I wanted every advantage I could get. After 5 days without even getting close enough for a decent bow shot (less than 35 meters), I gave up and took a wart hog for bait. I probably should have asked my PH to pop one with a rifle so I could get on with the leopard hunt, but I think that killing “bait” animals is all part to the hunt and something that should add to the total experience of a leopard hunt.
Stalking Zebra has to be one of the most difficult ways to take one with bow and arrow. Consequently, it must be the most rewarding. I say “must be” because I have not yet been successful with stalking. This is probably because my stalking capabilities are woefully inferior to any local tracker. If the terrain lends itself to stalking, this has to be the ultimate achievement for a bow hunter. It is also helpful to stalk them early in the season, when leaves are still on the trees and brush. At least the foliage will conceal your approach for most of the way.
Probably the best way to take a Zebra with a bow is from a pit blind. Two of my Zebra kills have been from a pit. Tree blinds are also successful, but movement is more difficult to conceal and probably more important; the angle of the arrow flight is not conducive to maximum penetration and vital organ shots. When shooting from a pit blind, the angle of the shot is “up” and the rib bones are more thin and soft at the lower part of the anatomy.
I did take my last Zebra from ambush which was fun way to hunt. By observing spore we determined that a specific herd of Zebra used the same passage to and from water. This was a natural funnel with thick thorn bush protecting both sides. Rather than dig a pit blind (which is time consuming and hard work), I decided to try a “Gillie-Suit” made by Rancho Safari, Ramona, California. I have used this camouflage garment successfully in North America for Pronghorn Antelope, deer and elk and knew it worked very well to conceal a bow hunter in open spaces. I simply found a good background of thorn bush and sat on a three legged stool with a swivel seat, allowing the Gillie Suit to drape over my legs and the stool like a full length dress. I mention this stool because it has been a very important part of my hunting gear when using the Gillie Suit. Besides the obvious comfort provided by sitting on a stool rather than on your knees, this stool allows me to turn and shift positions without making noise or showing any quick, awkward movements that are a dead give away to all game animals. I purchased this collapsible stool in America (Cabela’s Outdoor Store) for $50 US. It is expensive but weighs only 5 pounds and the legs telescope in for easy carrying. The seat has a fiber bushing that allows for noise fee movement. I’m a real believer in the combination of this stool and the Gillie Suit. I will mention that this suit is not something you would want to walk in for any distance. It becomes very hot and it catches on every thorn you walk by.
With this combination of equipment I was able to situate myself a mere 15 meters from where I suspected the herd of Zebra to cross. I had a tracker make a big circle, up wind from where we had earlier spotted the Zebra herd. Within 15 minuets, I could hear the thundering of hooves coming my way. Because the gap I had chosen for a shooting lane was quite narrow, the Zebra had to pass in single file. The first three animals came by on a run so I never had a chance to take a shot. However, the good news was that they did not pay any attention to my position as they passed. The next Zebra came by at a slow walk and I placed a wooden arrow just behind the leg crease as it extended its leg for the next step. I’m embarrassed to say that I had no idea if it was a stallion or a female (to me, the sex of a Zebra is difficult to determine unless both sexes are standing next to each other). Once the arrow had stuck it produced a panic alert to the rest of the herd and five more came flying by at mach -1, leaving me in a cloud of dust. However, I was able to determine that the last animal in the group was obviously a stallion. His thick neck and jug head made him stand out. I kicked myself for not waiting for the obvious male to present a shot, but I was pleased to have taken any Zebra with a bow under those conditions. It was very exciting! If the truth be known, I just didn’t have the patience to wait for the “trophy animal”. I just took the first good shot opportunity I had. Perhaps on a future Zebra hunt I can put it all together and finally anchor a stallion. Meanwhile, the female Zebra graces a favorable spot in my trophy room. She had made it only 60 meters before piling up with a slice through the heart. Once in a while everything works the way it should!
Some 45 years ago I took up the sport of archery, and I’ve been bitten by the bug ever since. Early on, I dreamt of taking dangerous game with a bow and devoured the writings of famous successful archers like Art Young, Saxton Pope, Howard Hill, Bob Swinehart, Fred Bear, Ben Person and Bill Negly. Their writings fanned the flames of my desire.
However, it takes money to realize such dreams, and it was only later in life that I was able to salt away enough to scratch the itch that had plagued me for years. In a way, I am glad that I was forced to bide my time since, aside from money, one must also have both the right mental attitude and the skills to tackle life-threatening game with a bow. Now, with some fantastic experiences and hard-earned lessons behind me, as payback to the sport that has meant so much to me, I’d like to pass them along. Hopefully they will stimulate other bow hunters to take up the challenge.
While I love to hunt large predators and have taken leopard, lion, jaguar, mountain lion and bears with my bow, I consider the bovine species to be the biggest challenge for bow hunters – not because they are more cunning or more dangerous, but because of their size and bone structure. I’ve never shot a big bore rifle in my life, so I can only relate what I have read and heard from rifle hunters on bullet velocity, mass and construction. (My setup is a longbow that only casts a 900-grain arrow at 185 feet per second.) You can well imagine the additional concerns when dealing with an arrow that reaches a mere 200 feet per second. With the advent of compound bows, bow hunters have been able to increase arrow speed and resulting kinetic energy. However, even these have their limitations, and the real “hot” bows available today have a hard time shooting a heavy arrow (over 700 grains) much more than 260 feet per second.
The biggest asset in bow hunting is being able to get close to the game. By close, I mean less than 15 meters. At this range, the hunter can effectively concentrate on exact placement of the arrow, and no range finder or sights are required. The hunter can think about hitting the heart instead of a lung hit. Even with as little as 20 inches of penetration, an arrow placed in the “arm pit” will do a lethal job.
My journey for big bovines started with a hunt for musk ox inside the Arctic Circle. Although not in the danger category of Cape buffalo, musk ox presents its own real challenges for the bow hunter – not the least of which is shooting a bow at 20 – 30 degrees below zero F wearing arctic clothing. (I found it necessary to strip down to shoot and re-dress before frostbite sets in.) This hunt brought home my first lesson on arrow mass. I packed aluminum arrows with coffee grounds in order to get the maximum weight in my arrows. The result was a complete pass through, even after a direct hit on a far side rib bone. At least I had proven to myself that an arrow, shot by ME, could actually take a large bovine. It’s funny how life’s experiences can lead to that all-important “confidence” for whatever comes next.
My “proving grounds” was water buffalo in Argentina. While larger than the Cape buff, its “attitude” is not as serious. Although I was able to achieve a one-shot kill, I learned some sobering facts. After the bull was down, I decided to try some penetration tests with different equipment. When I hit a rib bone head on with a heavy 875-grain arrow shot from an 80 lb. longbow, I was not able to get enough penetration to pass through the bone! This is when I decided that hitting the heart was the key to taking a large boned animal with a bow. This means getting very close, hopefully less than 10 meters, and requires waiting for the buff to extend its foreleg enough to open a path to the heart.
So, with that information firmly placed between my ears, I sought a knowledgeable PH able to help me realize my dream of taking Cape buffalo with my longbow. Opportunity came unexpectedly when I took my lion after only five days on a 14-day safari. I called around seeking a PH to take a bow hunter for leopard and buffalo and was lucky to be introduced to Sandy McDonald of McDonald Pro-Hunting. Sandy loved cat hunting as much as I did, and he had a reputation as a leopard hunter. While he worked on leopard baits, he assigned PH Ernest Dyason as my buffalo mentor. I struck up an early friendship with Ernest and his tracker, William, who sadly passed away last year. Ernest was keen on shooting a bow and quickly caught on to the sport by experimenting with my spare. Some of the most fun we had in the field was a two-day “mock hunt” chasing white rhinos (and occasionally visa-versa) with rubber blunts to give me practice in slipping up close on dangerous game while teaching me their reaction to an arrow hit.
It was decided that the best opportunity for buffalo would be on a sugar cane plantation just across the Crocodile River not far from the town of Hectorsprut, RSA. The buffalo there cross the river on a regular run into the sugar cane fields. We spent two days just getting close to buffalo to photograph them. This taught me how to stalk in close. I was comforted to note that these buffalo will not “charge on sight” but rather run away at the first indication of a human. At least, that was my experience when approaching a herd of buffalo. I was later to learn that single “dagga bulls” were a bit less predictable. But that’s another story.
Wouldn’t you know that the day I decided to take a bow instead of a camera, the buffalo were harder to find and much less cooperative. Murphy’s Law always seems to apply when hunting.
After three days of blowing stalks and spooking every buffalo we found, we were dejectedly walking back to the Land Rover when we heard the thundering of hooves once more. However, this time the buffalo were coming towards us instead of heading away from us. Before I had time to process this new information, a small group of buffalo suddenly appeared in a clearing right in from of us. Ernest grabbed my arm and pointed out the biggest bull. “Take him!” In the rush of adrenaline, I got off a quick shot.
Did I remember all the lessons I learned about getting less than 15 meters and aiming for the heart only? Of course not! I shot with reflex action only, and the results showed my error. The actual yardage was more like 30 meters, and my heavy arrow dropped low, hitting the bull high in the front leg. But the bull was losing lots of blood, and I hoped William could follow the spore.
When am I ever going to learn that these trackers can follow an ant in a dust storm? The amazing three-hour race was on. Watching William sticking his hand into every pile of buffalo dung he found, assuring himself he was on the correct track, was something to see. We caught up to the herd and watched as they turned on the wounded bull, starting a huge fight with him in order to protect the herd from a potential predator attracted by blood.
To make a long story short, good professional maneuvering by Ernest and William placed me into position for a second shot. I had my act together now and placed the arrow where I should have the first time. After an obligatory waiting period (exactly 45 minutes), we did the logical thing: We sent William in to sort out the situation. I’m here to tell you that they don’t pay these guys enough money to do what they do. William found the bull lying down in the bush, facing his back trail. We couldn’t determine if he was dead or alive, and Ernest made the hard – and correct – decision to put a lead pellet up his nose. He didn’t twitch, so we assumed he was already dead. However, there is a lesson here for all bow hunters who go in the field for dangerous game: The PH’s decision is final and do not disagree with them – if not for your own safety, then for the other lives that might be endangered by a wounded and lost buffalo.
I recently hunted water buffalo again, this time in Australia’s Northern Territory and place this experience right up there with Cape buffalo; they are every bit as cantankerous and 25% bigger. This time, I finally stuck with my game plan, passing up several shots in order to get in less than 15 meters, waiting until the front leg was extended, and placing a 1050-grain wooden arrow directly in the buff’s heart. The results were as expected: The bull went down for the count within two minutes and only 60 meters away. There was nothing more pleasing to my ear than hearing the “death bawl” of that buff, knowing that it had finally all come together.