An observation on African bowhunting

rookhawk

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After spending more than a dozen hours watching videos of bow shots on African game, I’ve come to a few observations that reveal flawed logic of American bow hunters, myself included.

Any of the US naysayers of heavy arrows are using the analogy and experiences of easy pass throughs on Elk to prepare them for Africa. Elk vitals are behind the shoulder where a pass through is much easier.

The mythical status that African animals are tougher might be not entirely accurate. The vitals on almost all the African species are directly above the leg. Thus, there is a lot more tissue running in many directions to get to the vital zone. Easy pass through shots behind the shoulder don’t fail to kill because “African game is tough”, it’s because that perfectly acceptable elk or deer shot is a marginal or total miss on African game.

The high power bows with super fast arrows fail to penetrate on African game. By estimation of the video footage I watched, about 90% fail to pass through. You better use heavy arrows with lots of momentum and cut on contact broadheads!

Just posting this to foster discussion and remind Americans that you’re cutting though much less tissue to get to the vitals of an 800lb elk than you are to get to the vitals of a 125lb warthog.

It’s a problem of organ geometry and location that causes false sense of sufficiency in bows and arrows comparing totally unrelated species in Africa and America.

In combing the literature I was surprised how little is written about the tricks to increase penetration of arrows for African safaris. The Africans say less about this than Dr. Ashby in fact. Kind of interesting.
 

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I hear what you are saying @rookhawk , but will respectfull disagree with you. Even a shot on the 3rd/4th rib on any African animal, still takes out the both the lungs, on a broadside shot. The lungs actually still go quite a long was behind the shoulder.
I dont think it has anything to do with poor shots from out of country bowhunters, and I actually prefer a shot with a bow, into the lungs behind the crease of the shoulder, as compared to a middel of the shoulder shot that we take with a rifle. A shoulder shot up the front leg with a rifle is preferred because it breaks bone, and as you correctly stated, the vitals of our animals does sit in the chest. The broken shoulder anchors them, which means less searching. A shoulder shot usually results in DRT.
I think the toughness mentioned, comes from the will to live, and the tough conditions our animals have to deal with whether it being from the high numbers of predators, conditions, poachers etc. Animals such as Blue Wildebeest, Waterbuck, Gemsbuck and Sable will go a long way even on a perfect double lung shot.
I've had Wildebeest take 3 shots to the shoulder with a 7mm Mag, coughing and blowing his nose with blood, still walking away from us, and only finally expiring after a few minutes.
Waterbuck taking a perfect shot from a 6.5 at 40 yards, and still going 3/4 mile, and requiring a neck shot to end it.
I cant comment on NA game, and their toughness, but there are instances that have left me speachless on what some of our animals have gone through, and still have that incredible resilience.
If you want a topic to ponder, myself and a few of my DG PH's have been discussing a topic regarding Cape Buffalo and how quick they expire from a well placed broadhead as compared to a rifle.
Could the energy from the projectile cause a sudden injection of adrenaline where the blades simply cut up vitals?

Great topic. Looking forward to this one.
 

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I hear what you are saying @rookhawk , but will respectfull disagree with you. Even a shot on the 3rd/4th rib on any African animal, still takes out the both the lungs, on a broadside shot. The lungs actually still go quite a long was behind the shoulder.
I dont think it has anything to do with poor shots from out of country bowhunters, and I actually prefer a shot with a bow, into the lungs behind the crease of the shoulder, as compared to a middel of the shoulder shot that we take with a rifle. A shoulder shot up the front leg with a rifle is preferred because it breaks bone, and as you correctly stated, the vitals of our animals does sit in the chest. The broken shoulder anchors them, which means less searching. A shoulder shot usually results in DRT.
I think the toughness mentioned, comes from the will to live, and the tough conditions our animals have to deal with whether it being from the high numbers of predators, conditions, poachers etc. Animals such as Blue Wildebeest, Waterbuck, Gemsbuck and Sable will go a long way even on a perfect double lung shot.
I've had Wildebeest take 3 shots to the shoulder with a 7mm Mag, coughing and blowing his nose with blood, still walking away from us, and only finally expiring after a few minutes.
Waterbuck taking a perfect shot from a 6.5 at 40 yards, and still going 3/4 mile, and requiring a neck shot to end it.
I cant comment on NA game, and their toughness, but there are instances that have left me speachless on what some of our animals have gone through, and still have that incredible resilience.
If you want a topic to ponder, myself and a few of my DG PH's have been discussing a topic regarding Cape Buffalo and how quick they expire from a well placed broadhead as compared to a rifle.
Could the energy from the projectile cause a sudden injection of adrenaline where the blades simply cut up vitals?

Great topic. Looking forward to this one.

I think your Theory about Cape buffalo arrow deaths is likely true. In the states, a totally quiet bow and a razor sharp broadhead doesn’t disturb deer. My son shot a deer at 25 yards with a very sharp cut on contact arrow and a totally silent bow and the deer barely acknowledge the shot and trotted about 30 yards. Another 20 deer in field continued to eat. He stood in the open squirting blood until he fell over.

The animal likely felt no pain from the sharp arrow right through the heart and therefore there was no adrenaline trigger, he also was clearly not frightened enough to run, but simply trotted as something was “off”. I bet you’re right, that the cape buffalo does not trigger a significant adrenaline dump from a sharp arrow the way they do with the systemic shock of a bullet. It would be wonderful to see data on this to further bolster the theory.
 

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@KMG Hunting Safaris if you don’t like my opinion in the original post, what would be your explanation? Why are pass-through shots on game in the States so common and yet the volumes of videos of African bow hunting result in less than pass-through? It seemed like 1/3 or more of the shots, the arrow went halfway in, 1/3 or more, the arrow went all the way through but stuck inside by the vanes, 90% passing through, and very few actually were clean pass throughs. 10%? 15%?
 

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I have shot around 30 african plains game with a bow all complete pass threw except one a frontal shot on a kudu. My arrow weight around 410 gr shooting 310 fps. My opinion elk are much tougher then plains game
 

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@KMG Hunting Safaris if you don’t like my opinion in the original post, what would be your explanation? Why are pass-through shots on game in the States so common and yet the volumes of videos of African bow hunting result in less than pass-through? It seemed like 1/3 or more of the shots, the arrow went halfway in, 1/3 or more, the arrow went all the way through but stuck inside by the vanes, 90% passing through, and very few actually were clean pass throughs. 10%? 15%?
I don't completely discount your theory, but I would add this: In my experiences, there are two main reasons you see less pass-through's on African game compared to other game animals. The first is partly due to your point of the anatomy. Because many African game animals do have their vitals centered slightly more forward in the body cavity, You see a lot more arrow shots coming into contact with bone either entering or exiting. That "triangle shaped pocket" located straight above the front leg, mid-body, that we coach hunters to aim for is much less forgiving with a less than perfectly placed arrow. The shoulder and leg bones are much closer to the "pocket" compared to the behind the shoulder pocket on other game. Even well-placed arrows going in are much more likely to contact the opposite shoulder or leg bones upon exit thus denying a pass-through even though the shot is lethal.

The second biggest reason I have seen fewer pass-through's on African game in general is the unfortunate popularity of the use of expandable, mechanical broadheads. I personally detest expandable, mechanical heads for hunting big game animals for a number of reasons with poor penetration being the biggest one... Most of the unrecovered African game I have been witness to over the years, Africa or elsewhere, has been due to poor penetration over any other factor. That lack of penetration was either the result of poor shot placement, the wrong bow/arrow/broadhead selections, or both...

In my opinion, Dr. Ashby's findings in his ongoing experimentation with heavier arrows with higher FOC's has been a game-changer especially in demonstrating that heavier total arrow weight and heavier FOC ratios are much more important factors in penetration over arrow speed. This is especially beneficial for hunters who are not capable of shooting heavy draw weights. I have personally experimented with multiple arrow and broadhead combinations over the years on all kinds of game and the results of which have now led me to be a huge proponent of heavy total weight arrows with a front of center ratio of at least 18% or more. The right broadhead selection with these heavier FOC arrows is equally as important.

When advising our African clients for the best chances of success with their archery set-ups, I encourage them to shoot the heaviest arrow possible and select any heavy duty, compact, fixed blade broadhead, that fly's well from their set-up, with the solid, single-bevel, 2-blades designs being among the top performers that I have seen. These heavier combinations will make a significant difference in overall penetration especially with those less than perfect shots that do contact the larger bones.
 
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Most of my shots on game like warthogs have resulted on total penetration. I always used Muzzy broad heads with my bows ranging from 50-70lbs. Hitting them a third the way up the leg would often result in the arrow sticking out the other side, but the pigs would go down really quickly.
 

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Not a crit, but is there a reason other than fashion that bow hunters seem to wear their caps backwards?
 

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Not a crit, but is there a reason other than fashion that bow hunters seem to wear their caps backwards?
In my experience as a bow hunter, often times when you draw, the string will contact the bill of the cap and prevent the shooter from having a consistent anchor point. When this happens accuracy is lost and most likely an ethical shot will not occur.

Some caps have a shorter bill for bow hunting. I prefer to not wear a cap at all but that’s just me.
 

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Most of my shots on game like warthogs have resulted on total penetration. I always used Muzzy broad heads with my bows ranging from 50-70lbs. Hitting them a third the way up the leg would often result in the arrow sticking out the other side, but the pigs would go down really quickly.
Which Muzzy do you prefer @Nkawu ?
 

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I don't completely discount your theory, but I would add this: In my experiences, there are two main reasons you see less pass-through's on African game compared to other game animals. The first is partly due to your point of the anatomy. Because many African game animals do have their vitals centered slightly more forward in the body cavity, You see a lot more arrow shots coming into contact with bone either entering or exiting. That "triangle shaped pocket" located straight above the front leg, mid-body, that we coach hunters to aim for is much less forgiving with a less than perfectly placed arrow. The shoulder and leg bones are much closer to the "pocket" compared to the behind the shoulder pocket on other game. Even well-placed arrows going in are much more likely to contact the opposite shoulder or leg bones upon exit thus denying a pass-through even though the shot is lethal.

The second biggest reason I have seen fewer pass-through's on African game in general is the unfortunate popularity of the use of expandable, mechanical broadheads. I personally detest expandable, mechanical heads for hunting big game animals for a number of reasons with poor penetration being the biggest one... Most of the unrecovered African game I have been witness to over the years, Africa or elsewhere, has been due to poor penetration over any other factor. That lack of penetration was either the result of poor shot placement, the wrong bow/arrow/broadhead selections, or both...

In my opinion, Dr. Ashby's findings in his ongoing experimentation with heavier arrows with higher FOC's has been a game-changer especially in demonstrating that heavier total arrow weight and heavier FOC ratios are much more important factors in penetration over arrow speed. This is especially beneficial for hunters who are not capable of shooting heavy draw weights. I have personally experimented with multiple arrow and broadhead combinations over the years on all kinds of game and the results of which have now led me to be a huge proponent of heavy total weight arrows with a front of center ratio of at least 18% or more. The right broadhead selection with these heavier FOC arrows is equally as important.

When advising our African clients for the best chances of success with their archery set-ups, I encourage them to shoot the heaviest arrow possible and select any heavy duty, compact, fixed blade broadhead, that fly's well from their set-up, with the solid, single-bevel, 2-blades designs being among the top performers that I have seen. These heavier combinations will make a significant difference in overall penetration especially with those less than perfect shots that do contact the larger bones.

Excellent advice Dan. I think that you have nailed it. Personally, I like to avoid the shoulder bone, and slip it in just behind the shoulder for the double lung shot.
I agree with your sentiments on the mechanicals, although my personal choice is hybrid which is between a fixed and mechanical, but I think that is starting to split hairs. I have to say that I have also seen instances where the massive cutting edge on something like a Rage was the only reason an animal was recovered. Funny enough, that was yesterday on an Eland.
 

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@KMG Hunting Safaris if you don’t like my opinion in the original post, what would be your explanation? Why are pass-through shots on game in the States so common and yet the volumes of videos of African bow hunting result in less than pass-through? It seemed like 1/3 or more of the shots, the arrow went halfway in, 1/3 or more, the arrow went all the way through but stuck inside by the vanes, 90% passing through, and very few actually were clean pass throughs. 10%? 15%?

I think Dan hit the nail on the head. I always say that nature always finds a way to prove us wrong, and once that bullet or arrow is in the air, it is out of our control. There are so many instances where things happen that are simply unexplainable. I've seen perfectly hit African and North American animals run off never to be found.
I was more disagreeing with your opinion on the toughness of African animals. The way I understood it, you mentioned the word "mythical" which implied that you thought they weren't tougher than North American game, where I think they do go further after the shot. I think African game has evolved over centuries, dealing with, well Africa.
Touching on your comments regarding the penetration, it might very well be that bowhunters coming to Africa, change to mechanical broadheads, in order to cause as much damage as possible, maybe because of fear of paying for a wounded animal that they fail to find. It is well known that you will give up penetration when shooting a mechanical broadhead over a fixed blade.
It could be because of incorrect advice, where bowhunters are advised to shoot lighter, faster arrows.
Maybe you can post a couple of links to the videos for us to see.
 

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Not a crit, but is there a reason other than fashion that bow hunters seem to wear their caps backwards?

Actually there is: When you come to full draw, the bill of the cap can come in contact with the bow string.
 

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@rookhawk , great comments and excellent discussion by others. I arrowed one really large elk and didn't get a pass through. Luckily, it did put the elk down eventually. I was using 125 gr cut on contact G5 Montecs and fairly heavy arrows to give a total weight of about 425 gr. Also drawing 70 lbs.

Having now read Ashby's writings on the subject of arrow penetration and also watching a lot of cool videos from @Bowhuntr64, I plan to try some heavier 2 blade, single bevel broadheads and some heavier shafts (grizzly sticks or similar) to come up with a arrow in 600 gr weight range. I have a 2023 archery elk hunt booked, so I have some time to optimize a system. Eventually, might take my bow to Africa too.
 

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Excellent advice Dan. I think that you have nailed it. Personally, I like to avoid the shoulder bone, and slip it in just behind the shoulder for the double lung shot.

Many of our PHs agree and advise our hunters to aim for that shoulder "crease" especially if you have the animal slightly quartering away. This is a much more natural aiming point for American bow hunters who are used to aiming from that crease back to mid-body on North American game. I believe a hunter's margin of error in hitting an African animal a little bit back, is still better than having them impact too far forward and smashing into that front shoulder or leg bone. I have been guilty of this myself on more than one occasion. Thankfully, I had the right bow/arrow/ broadhead combination to compensate for my poor shot placement.

I agree with your sentiments on the mechanicals, although my personal choice is hybrid which is between a fixed and mechanical, but I think that is starting to split hairs. I have to say that I have also seen instances where the massive cutting edge on something like a Rage was the only reason an animal was recovered. Funny enough, that was yesterday on an Eland.

@KMG Please know that I have the utmost respect for you as one of the most reputable outfitters in Africa, and I place a high value on your opinions and experience. Very respectfully to your point about the Rage being the only reason that the animal was recovered, I would argue that I have been witness to countless shots in which the Rage (or other expandable/mechanical design) was the very reason the animal was not recovered....

Here is the problem I personally have with mechanicals and why I think they have become so popular even though they are a terrible choice for "some" bow hunters.... Expandables and mechanicals create a huge amount of friction when they deploy. This is not my opinion.. This is Basic Physics 101.. For any kind of effective penetration, that friction needs to be overcome by energy generated from a combination of draw weight, total arrow weight, and draw length... To generalize, in my observations, a hunter really needs to be shooting a bow with a draw weight in the 60lb.+range with a draw length of 27" or greater, and and FOC of 18% or more, for most of these broadhead designs to possess enough energy to penetrate with such large surface frictions created by the action of both their deployment and their large blade spans.

One would need to read the fine print to notice that Rage recommends certain energy requirements in order to achieve a minimum recommended amount of energy necessary for these expandables to open and then carry enough energy for effective penetration. Unfortunately, their commercials do no mention this, and the result is terrible penetration for hunters shooting lower draw weights and shorter draw lengths that don't generate enough energy for adequate penetration of their heads. I'm not picking on Rage per se... I am using them as the best example because they have consistently put forth the the most aggressive, effective, and deceptive (IMO) marketing campaign in the hunting industry. These very convincing marketing campaigns mislead too many hunters in false expectations that have resulted in unethical applications.. It just frustrates me when I see SO MANY hunt videos where expandables are used and you see the animal run off with 1/2 to 2/3rds of the arrow hanging out of the animal....

My second problem with most expandable/mechanical heads is that they are notorious for opening in flight. Historically, every expandable/mechanical design that I am aware of that uses rubber bands O-rings, or similar blade retention devices are extremely unreliable in that regard. Rage has recently advertised their latest design that supposedly eliminates this issue, and to be fair, I have not tested or reviewed them to offer an opinion. Still, I would avoid any design using a retention device like a rubber band or O-ring like a doorknob that has just been coughed on..

My third problem with expandable/mechanical heads is that they have a high tendency to deflect when they contact bone and often track in wildly in the body cavity in the act of penetration. It is my theory that this is mainly due to the blades deflecting off of bone resulting in distorting their shape, and "kicking" the arrow and altering the direction of arrow travel.

My fourth issue and that is these designs are also all historical underbuilt in terms of blade thickness and ferrule design. Most, if not all expandable/mechanicals use aluminum or alloy for their ferrules which are far too weak to withstand the energy placed upon them. I have seen countless examples of expandables that are recovered with bent ferrules destroyed blades. It's very rare to recover an expandable/mechanical head that is in near-perfect condition after the shot. If the blades are distorted too badly in the act of penetration, that not only causes the arrow path to detour, it adds to even more friction loss and less penetration. Again, to be fair, Rage, along with one or two manufacturers are now offering all-stainless or titanium designs with thicker blades that are supposed to address the durability issues. If that is the case, I imagine that the performance of these designs would be improved dramatically if shot from the proper set-up.


This is one of my favorite memes... I can't resist.. :LOL:

All this being said, If you have a bow set-up that has the capacity to generate enough energy to open and drive these expandables, AND, the broadhead doesn't deform in the process, it is possible to have good results with these kind of designs... My opinion has always been why take the chance with all of these variables when there are so many other fixed blade designs that are virtually indestructible, have no opening in flight issues, and retain their shape and sharpness during penetration especially through bone...?
 
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@KMG Please know that I have the utmost respect for you as one of the most reputable outfitters in Africa, and I place a high value on your opinions and experience. Very respectfully to your point about the Rage being the only reason that the animal was recovered, I would argue that I have been witness to countless shots in which the Rage (or other expandable/mechanical design) was the very reason the animal was not recovered....

Dan, thank you for the kind words. I completely agree with you on the Rage. I have seen more instances on animals being lost because of the mechanicals than found. The Eland yesterday was just one instance where the mechanical actually saved his bacon. Yet again, penetration was also poor and the hunter got very lucky.

Thank you again for your very valuable contribution to another bow hunting topic. I always sit up and take note when you have something to say on these matters. You and Hannes need to join us with your bows for the Fallow Deer rut one year. Just a casual couple of days with a few PH's all walk and stalk, bow only. Some of the best fun bowhunting out there.
 
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I’ve been a bow hunter for 38 years. In the 80’s and 90’s I only hunted with traditionallongbows and recurves. For the last 18 years I have hunted with a compound. I have killed numerous elk and mule deer throughout the years. I have heard all of the arguments about penetration, arrow speed, kinetic Energy, momentum... blah, blah , blah... over and over. All of the arguments have valid points and when you loose an animal you begin to “ analyze “ which of these aspects you could have changed. In my humble opinion, the patience of the hunter, his mental preparation coupled with his physical ability to shoot plays as big a role as any in success, year after year!
Shot placement is critical in bow hunting!
I don’t put myself on a pedestal hear anybody that bow hunts knows that murphy’s Law is in play at all times, sometimes we make poor shots. but as I have watched a few hunting videos over the years I have to shake my head at the shots that are taken and then the Hunter wonders why he didn’t recover the animal.
 

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You and Hannes need to join us with your bows for the Fallow Deer rut one year. Just a casual couple of days with a few PH's all walk and stalk, bow only. Some of the best fun bowhunting out there.

That is a wonderful offer that I will surely pass on to Hannes. Sounds like a lot of fun!
 

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I’ve been a bow hunter for 38 years. In the 80’s and 90’s I only hunted with traditionallongbows and recurves. For the last 18 years I have hunted with a compound. I have killed numerous elk and mule deer throughout the years. I have heard all of the arguments about penetration, arrow speed, kinetic Energy, momentum... blah, blah , blah... over and over. All of the arguments have valid points and when you loose an animal you begin to “ analyze “ which of these aspects you could have changed. In my humble opinion, the patience of the hunter, his mental preparation coupled with his physical ability to shoot plays as big a role as any in success, year after year!
Shot placement is critical in bow hunting!
I don’t put myself on a pedestal hear anybody that bow hunts knows that murphy’s Law is in play at all times, sometimes we make poor shots. but as I have watched a few hunting videos over the years I have to shake my head at the shots that are taken and then the Hunter wonders why he didn’t recover the animal.
Agreed. I've been a bowhunter for over 40 years (though not in Africa yet) and made my share of mistakes. With every mistake comes the question of equipment. Many times the argument can go either way when you really drill down. I have used Rage in the past and seen both results depending entirely on placement. Most of the time, great expansion and large wound channel and quick result. Occasionally though it will without a doubt deflect off a bone if it contacts it just right. Thankfully I have yet to lose any animal as a result. I've also had plenty of shots that did not pass through completely every time regardless of broadhead design, particularly with quartering away shots when the arrow might run up against the far side but still extremely deadly shot. Although ideal in my opinion, shots do not always have to pass through. An arrow that has slashed into the heart lung area and continues to slash around as an animal makes it's first moves after the shot is extremely effective as well. In fact I wish I could count on that every time.
Today I use the heaviest setup I can with fixed blades (which can also deflect) to remove as much question as possible, and I rarely have reason to shoot over 20 yards, usually less. Shot placement shot placement shot placement.
I'm getting to old not to drop them as close to the truck as I can. ;)

My 2 cents.

Did I mention shot placement?
 

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