The foundation of a successful and safe dangerous game bow hunt, whether it occurs in North America or abroad and irrespective of the professional you choose to help you, begins with your equipment. My professional hunter, Andrew Renton (http://www.keiriverhuntingsafaris.co.za/; U.S. booking agent Wade Derby of Crosshair Consulting, (925) 679-9232; www.crosshairconsulting.com) — someone with whom I enjoyed a fabulous plains game bow hunt a few years ago — told me the recommended minimum for bowhunting Cape buffalo is an 80 lb. draw weight compound bow shooting an arrow that weighs at least 750 grains, generating a minimum of 80 ft./lbs. of kinetic energy. In my research, both talking with those who have done this and a lot of reading, it was also noted that the K.E. level should be achieved in shooting the heaviest arrow that would tune and fly accurately with the bow. Translation: Momentum is more important than raw arrow speed. Some hunters may find that using an arrow rest could help with their accuracy. Although searching for the best rest can prove difficult, luckily there are bowhunting specialists such as Outdoor Empire – outdoorempire.com – that may be able to help find the right one.
And so, in early February 2012, I made a trip to Salt Lake City to visit the offices and factories of sister companies Hoyt and Easton/Beman. At Easton, Gary Cornum and Shawn Monsen dialed me up with Full Metal Jacket Dangerous Game arrows. I shoot 28 ½-inch arrows, and the 250 size shafts weigh 17.2 grains/inch. By adding a 9 grain X Nock, 75 grain Brass X HIT Break Off insert, and four-inch fletches, total raw arrow weight is a tick over 600 grains. Since buffalo can only be hunted with a single forged, two-bladed head that has its cutting edge beginning at the tip, we called Michelle Eichler at Muzzy, and she sent out some 200-grain Phantom SS two-blade broadheads with super-strong .040-inch resharpenable main blades. To those heads I added a couple of small aluminum collars stolen from some other heads to make them weigh in at about 214 grains. My total arrow weight was 816.2 grains.
Then I went across the street to Hoyt, where Pro Staff Coordinator Kevin Wilkey and Marketing Director Jeremy Eldridge set me up with a new Hoyt Carbon Element RKT with 80 lb. limbs and Fuse UltraRest drop-away arrow rest. We joked about the fact that I could not pull the 32-inch axle-to-axle bow with 6 ¾-inch brace height back at 80 lbs. (75 lbs.? I could do that!) and that I had to work myself into it, which I eventually did. Wilkey, who won the Gold Medal at the 2009 World Games in Kaohsiung, Taiwan — an event considered second only to the Olympic Games in terms of sporting level and the premiere event for compound shooters worldwide, which occurs only every four years; you think he knows his stuff? — also tweaked the bow’s draw length and the length of my Fuse Clinch CFT release until everything was just right. I cannot stress how important this kind of personal bow fitting is.
At the end of the day, at 80 lbs. the bow launched those big shafts off at 216 fps, which produces an initial Kinetic Energy (K.E.) of 86.15 ft./lbs. The trajectory is such that when I set my sight pins I set them at 20, 30, 35, 40, 45, and 50 yards, knowing I would never shoot at a buff past 40 yards with the first arrow.
For plains game I took a 28-inch draw length 70 lb. Hoyt Carbon Element shooting Beman 340 ICS Hunter Pro carbon shafts fletched with New Archery Products’ QuikFletch Vanes and tipped with 125 grain Thunderheads. Total arrow weight is about 420 grains, and this bow sends the package out at about 270 fps and generates an initial K.E. value of 68.0 ft./lbs. It’s a great combination for plains game big and small, from large Cape kudu to the diminutive Cape bushbuck, and the set-up shoots flat enough to make it practical to take shots at extended range if need be. It’s also the same set-up I use for hunting anything that walks on the North American Continent.