Every year at my Grandpa’s hunting camp, we used to sit around a warm crackling campfire on the cool autumn nights with stars twinkling in the distance. We would relax in camp chairs roasting marshmallows and drinking hot chocolate. I will always remember the game we used to play over and over… If I were going on a vacation I would take…. Then as each person took their turn they would have to think of a new item, as well as recite every other item that everyone else said, in the order they said it. Well, here I am playing that game, only I am in my bedroom running around frantically trying to make sure I have everything I need to undergo this huge adventure I am about to embark on. So, if I were going to Africa to hunt the big five with a bow, I would take….
Perhaps the single most important piece of equipment I am taking to archery hunt the big five in Africa is my Equalizer release aid from Goat Tuff Products. For most, their release is crucial, but not the item that the success of their entire hunt is hinging on. For me, it is unquestionably, my release because I am only 5’2’’, and have a 24 1/2 inch draw length. There are only a select few bows on the market that have a 24 1/2 inch draw length and can offer the performance necessary to harvest a large animal ethically. Even then, it is impossible to gain the kinetic energy needed to kill an elephant or cape buffalo.
My whole world changed when I was introduced to the new Equalizer Release. All of a sudden, I am able to draw 28 inches instead of my standard 24 ½”. This opens the door to an entirely new caliber of bows and importantly, greater arrow speed. Every inch of draw length increases the velocity an additional 10 fps. I didn’t believe this release would allow me to gain that many inches on my draw but when I shot my husbands 28 inch draw bow and touched arrows after only shooting it three times, I was amazed! However, it would only be fair to admit that on my first shot, my arrow landed right in the ceiling of my kitchen and yes we kept it their for future laughs.
Without the Equalizer release I wouldn’t have the ability to achieve the velocity and penetration necessary to take down a 15,000 lb. elephant. Zimbabwe law requires a minimum of a 700 grain arrow and 80 ft/lbs. of kinetic energy, and I can easily achieve that with this release. The Equalizer was designed for short draw and older or injured archers but I can tell you, if you want to increase arrow speed without increasing draw weight, the Equalizer is for you.
To also help me gain more strength and be able to increase my draw weight I’ve been working hard with the Safari model Exerciser from BowFit. I use this product multiple times every day and will also have it with me on this and future hunts to warm up before the hunt. It’s a great way to increase the strength in the muscles needed to pull your bow but also great to limber up with, especially on those cold mornings, before you actually have to pull the string on a trophy buck.
Arrow penetration is also critical in making a successful shot on an animal. I know that while I am hunting leopard and lion, I want an arrow I trust will penetrate better than anything else. The VAP (Victory Armour Piercing) arrows with Penetrator Inserts from Victory Archery have provided the assurance I need for maximum penetration.
After hundreds of penetration tests into plywood, foam targets and aluminum, using various arrows and broadheads, I have confidently settled on the VAP arrows weighing 450 – 500 grains because they consistently penetrated further than every other arrow I tried. Not only that, but those arrows offered perfect flight from my bow. I quickly and easily fletched the VAP shafts with pink and white Opti Vanes using the indestructible Goat Tuff glues and the Arizona E-Z Fletch ‘Mini’.
I will be hunting with two types of broadheads for the leopard, lion and plains game, the Shuttle T 100 grain and the Muzzy Phantom MX 100 grain. I have been shooting the Shuttle T Broadhead from Trophy Taker for over a year now and I can’t say enough good things about them. It is so convenient that they sight in the same as my field tips. I am very impressed with the penetration and wound channel created from the Shuttle T. I am also very excited about my new Muzzy Phantoms. This will be the first hunt that I’ve tried them on and I am so anxious to see how they perform. If they penetrate anything like they do into a target and I suspect they do, my animal won’t be going anywhere.
Hunting elephant and cape buffalo with a bow is a very serious undertaking. It requires a much heavier arrow to penetrate their thick skin and possibly rib bones. The ribs of cape buffalo are crossed in such a way that it is near impossible for an arrow to enter the body without hitting a rib bone. Therefore, the arrow and broadhead has to have the power and weight behind it to crush that rib. Nick Giannetti owner of Steel Force Broadheads has been working very closely with me to find the perfect combination of arrow weight, FOC and broadhead that will fly true. It is imperative that the arrow flight is perfect when it leaves the bow. Every bit of velocity is crucial for this shot and too much is lost on impact if the arrow wobbles.
There are so many theories on arrow weight, broadhead type, bow poundage and penetration. I have extensively researched everything I can get my hands on pertaining to these issues. But, reading is not doing. I have personally tested multiple types of arrows, diameter and weights of arrows along with different grains and types of broadheads. I am still testing various combination’s of arrows and I am recording all of the results. I am surprised by the outcome at this point and I am very anxious to write an article discussing in detail what I have found.
I have set up two bows to take with me. My Mathews Z7 Extreme is a perfect bow for the majority of the animals I hunt. It has an IBO of 330 with a 28 inch draw (thanks to the Equalizer) and 65 lbs draw weight. With this set up I am shooting 291 fps with 68 ft/lbs. of kinetic energy. It shoots unbelievably smooth and is completely dead in the hand upon releasing. The second bow is set up specifically for the elephant and buffalo. It is a Mathews MR5 and is one of the fastest bows on the market. The IBO is listed at 360+. This bow only has a five inch brace height and is very difficult to pull. Once past that initial hump however, it is as smooth as can be and shoots like a breeze. It is necessary for me to have this speed to compensate for a lighter poundage bow. Luckily, with the velocity of this bow, I am able to maintain over 80 ft/lbs. kinetic energy.
Both of my bows are set up with Trophy Taker Smack Down rests and the Blackgold Surge sights. On my Z7 Extreme I have seven pins so that I can shoot at longer distances. It is also mounted with a Blackgold light to shine on the pins during the leopard hunt as I will be shooting right at dawn or dusk. I am also using a Marauder Hawglite that screws into the stabilizer hole. This allows me to shine a white, green or red light when I am ready to take the shot. Another thing I am so excited to try out is Track Em spray. It is a fluid that when sprayed on blood causes it to illuminate at night. That will be so useful for tracking an animal if I shoot right at dusk.
Along with my archery equipment, my clothing is a fundamental element that contributes to my happiness or misery while hunting in Africa. There is only one word to solve that problem…Prois. Knowing I am wearing the highest quality gear on the market puts me at ease while hunting. It’s just an added bonus that I actually feel cute AND comfortable in my Prois gear, and yes, that matters to me. With their ingenious layering system I am covered for every condition possible with Prois, from hot midday weather to the cold evenings as well as a surprise wet, windy storm. I also know that when I am crawling on my hands and knees through thick bushes full of stickers toward a cape buffalo, I won’t have to worry about my clothes ripping or making noise as I get into bow range.
Knowing the amount of hiking I will be doing, I wouldn’t leave my house without my Kenetrek boots. From the first time I slipped these boots on my feet I have never suffered from so much as a blister and I hike hard. Nothing ruins a hunting trip quicker than sore feet and blisters; thankfully I won’t have to worry about that. I am also taking along Kenetrek Gaiters to protect myself from insectual harassment. Pepper ticks love to sneak up your pant legs and burrow in the skin of your ankles and legs. I have suffered from tick fever once before and it wasn’t that much fun.
We will be hunting in a remote region of Zimbabwe. Along with all my camera equipment and computer, I am taking a Green Energy Solutions solar power charger. It is an absolute must, in order to keep all of the equipment running. I am very excited about this new charger because of how compact it is. This charger folds up very small is lightweight and eco-friendly. Green Energy Solutions generously donated other solar charging devices to leave to the people in Africa.
Each time I have visited Africa, my heart has ached for the people suffering from AIDS, starvation and other physical ailments that most of us do not have to burden ourselves with. I feel it is extremely important to always give back and provide clothes, medicine, dental and health supplies, books, and school supplies. Safari Club International provided me with their blue bags that we can take full of supplies free of charge. I also believe that it is necessary to donate whatever skills available to help promote the health of these people. My husband and I will eagerly be donating our dental skills to provide relief and education to some children in Zimbabwe. Our donations are very small however but if every hunter going to Africa is willing to take a few things, it adds up to make a big difference to those beautiful people.
Now, I am just praying I can stuff all this in my Badlands Terra-Glide Duffle bag.
NOTE: The Quest for Africa’s Big Five will be covered right here on bowhunting.net and filmed and shown on Eye of the Hunter on Versus TV every Thur. at 2 pm EST.