What works for you?...
A few months ago I asked what broadhead you would take with you on a semi-survival situation, such as a long hunt in Africa, where you would not be able to find an archery shop readily available. Now I ask the question: “What works for you?” And by that I mean what systems, tricks or adaptations have you applied to make your bowhunting experience easier or work better?
Speak to someone like Dr Adrian de Villiers and you will hear of many ideas, inventions, changes to equipment, and trick of the trade he has learned over the years. You can spend a whole evening next to the fire listening to all the things he can tell you in this regard. The same goes for Fritz Rabé, Tony Ruggeri, Harry Marx... or any experienced hunter. The longer one has hunted and spent time in the outdoors, the more one has developed one’s own tricks.
This made me think about what works for me. I have certainly not hunted as profusely as Adrian de Villiers, but after hunting with the bow and arrow for more than a decade and a half, I have a few tricks of my own up my sleeve.
In the last couple of years I have very rarely wounded with my compound bow. Why is that... because I am a great shot? No, not at all! I shoot fairly well, but how accurate I shoot has very little to do with the fact that I have a fairly clean slate. The true reason is because I shoot well within my ability. When I am in a blind, I try to take the closest shots I can.
I always wait until buck fever has subsided a little. I will rather let the animal run off, than take a shot under pressure, when I am not ready or if I am not sure of the shot. Tomorrow is another day, more animals will come in – but when the arrow is in the air, there is little one can do about it. I hate the feeling one has, when sitting at the fire in the evening, knowing there is an animal out there that was wounded by my arrow.
I always take my hunting bag with me – whether I stalk, or whether I sit in a blind. The bag is always packed and the content of this bag is as follows: a gillie-type shirt, a small pair of binoculars, an old GPS, gloves, camouflage scarf, book with pictures of tracks and dung, extra broadheads, blunts for birds, broadhead sharpener, whistle (you never know when you might get lost), wind powder, a knife fitted with a small flashlight (for those times you wait till after dark in the blind), small string wax, Disprin tablets (for the untimely headache), extra nock and then of course water and a little food. Having a few metres’ length of para-cord in the bag is also very handy. I have taken a few photos to illustrate the content of my backpack. I am not saying this is what other bowhunters should have in their bags – I am simply stating what I like to carry with me. And the content differs sometimes, depending on the situation at hand.
If I go on a short walk and stalk, I might leave the backpack at home and just take a water bottle or a smaller backpack, containing water and a few snacks.
That is why I like to wear long cargo pants, since it has extra pockets. I can thus put my cellphone and my GPS in two different pockets, so that it will not knock against each other and make a noise.
The long pants protect me from scratches and from ticks – especially if the end of the pants can be tied with laces such as on some of the camo or army pants.
While stalking, it is great to know in what direction the wind is blowing. I often use a chalk puffer, which I carry in my pocket. When I squeeze the plastic container, it blows out a small puff of chalk that immediately shows me the way the wind is blowing. However, I like to know in what direction the wind is blowing all the time. When in a blind, one can tie a thin string with some tuff at the end to a nearby tree where it can swing freely in the wind. As the wind blows one can constantly see the wind direction. Many years ago, I followed the same principle by tying a piece of string with a fluffy feather at the end to either the stabiliser on my compound (Picture 8) or to the top end of my traditional bow. As I walk in the veld I am constantly aware of the wind direction and can change my approach to an animal the moment the wind changes.
To make sure that I take everything I need with me on a hunting weekend I have compiled two lists. The one list is for food and the other for gear. Although I have a general list for both, I do deviate from it depending on where I will be hunting. Every bowhunter will develop his or her own lists depending on his or her own needs and mine is certainly not the norm, however, here it is, just for interest sake.
My basic food list is as follows: barbeque meat, coffee (small Nescafé), long-life milk – 2 litres, red wine, sugar, salt, barbeque spice, fig jam, rusks, chips – Lays’ Cheese and Chives, Doritos/Fritos, maize meal – 1 packet (for pap), tin of tomato and onion mix, 12 bread rolls, small butter, small olive oil bottle, pre-sliced gouda cheese, 2 x yoghurt, 1 packet of sliced ham, 2 litres of Lique Fruit, 4 x iced tee, 6 energy bars for the blind, bag of red apples, six eggs, 1 packet of bacon, 1 packet of cashew nuts, 1 packet of mangos, chocolates, AA and AAA batteries.
My basic gear list has the following on it: bag for clothes or a suitecase: toilet bag: soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen, deodorant, insect repellent, hairbrush. Also in the suitecase is a towel, flashlight, underpants, socks, handkerchief, shirts and pants, extra shoes or sandals, warm jacket, hat, beanie and camo clothing.
Other gear: hunting bag or backpack, binoculars, rangefinder, GPS, broadheads, ghillie suite shirt, cap, knife and broadhead sharpener, cloves, balaclava, rope, gas lamps, extra gas canisters, bows, arrows, mechanical release, quiver and bow case, archery toolbox, sleeping bag, extra blankets, barbeque wood or charcoal and an inverter.
I am quite an absent-minded person and after having ticked off all the above-mentioned on my lists, I feel fairly comfortable that I have more than I need for a hunting weekend.
Everyone has their preferences for broadheads and other gear. I like is the stalking boots made by Wildebees (Picture 9) and the binoculars by Bushnel (Picture 10) that can also range an animal and I have hunted most animals with Rocket Steelheads when hunting with a compounds and I used Zwickeys on most animals I have hunted with my traditional bows.
I do have a few other tricks up my sleeve, but I have reached the limit of the space allowed for this article and will have to write about that at another time. However, the purpose of this article is to make you think of ways to plan ahead or to adapt or devise systems to make your own hunting experience more successful or pleasant – or just to entice you to write to us about your own preferences and things that work for you.
t is still a few months before the hunting season begins, but I think it is wise to start ones planning now.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Africa’s Bowhunter.