October 28, 2010
It's been 40 years since I went to Africa; I was 31 and working for Ben Pearson...
It's been 40 years since I went to Africa; I was 31 and working for Ben Pearson Archery in charge of advertising and sales promotion. Back then, many of you, if not most, were still chowing down on pabulum and strained spinach.
Forty years ago, there were really only two compound bow manufacturers, Hollis Allen and Tom Jennings. Hollis was the inventor/originator, and Jennings was the guy who really recognized the potential and took off with it. Many others followed in a relatively short period of time, but by then Jennings had his foot firmly in the door. For years, his company was king.
Back then, hardly anyone was shooting a compound; recurves were still the bow of choice. I packed a Pearson Marauder, a takedown that pulled 65 pounds and shot Easton 2020 shafts. For the really big stuff I might encounter on the Dark Continent, I made a bow of 80 pounds with some extra-heavy shafts Jim Easton made for me that shot pretty much like lobbing a brick from a slingshot. But they hit like a cannonball! Back then, suitable arrow weights for hunting were roughly calculated at 100 gains for every 10 pounds of draw weight. Hence, there was little if any talk of kinetic energy, and bow speeds were considerably less than 200 fps. My Marauder, considered pretty quick at the time, whipped them out at a whopping 179 fps.
Forty years ago, I thought I was a pretty salty bowhunter. After all, I had about a dozen species under my belt, no honest recollection of how many deer, and now I was heading for Africa to make some bowhunting movies. I knew next to nothing about the land, its people and or most of the animals I was likely to meet. I knew a bunch of them were deer sized or smaller, some nearly elk sized to larger and of course some that resembled a Volkswagen in both size and consistency. I went to the zoo many times to study the critters I wanted. I talked to several acquaintances who had been there to gun hunt. Most of them told me I was nuts! That did nothing but make me mad, and I read up on the country and its beasts. The best information I got was from Fred Bear, who had been there and hunted with the same outfitters I had booked with. And Rui Quadros, my PH, filled me in as best he could, but Rui was in Africa and I was in Los Angeles.
Rui had been to my home a few times and provided a great deal of information. But there are always new questions that arise, especially when planning a trip to the other side of the world. I guess I've always been a worrywart when it comes to my hunting trips.
I was confident in my equipment, but the broadheads were my biggest concern. I was really interested in razor insert heads. Along those lines, we had been working on some designs and finally came up with one that seemed feasible. So, R&D made up a couple dozen for me to take along. These were nothing like the heads we have today, but considering the era and manufacturing costs, they were more than sufficient.
Anyhow, off we went -- Los Angeles, New York City, Lisbon, Angola, then Mozambique. It seemed like it took a week, but finally we met Rui and all was well.
The bowhunting was wonderful -- all spot and stalk. We couldn't hunt waterholes, but that was OK. I had plenty of action, missed some, hit some and even shot a few of those super-heavy shafts into a buffalo that did resemble a Volkswagen!
Yep, that was 40 years ago, and a lot has changed in Africa (and the whole world, for that matter), not much of it for the better. In Africa, you can now hunt waterholes, and there are permanent ground blinds big enough to hold a family reunion, some even adjacent to food plots. The world now is full of better broadheads, bows that shoot faster than 300 fps, laser rangefinders, release aids, ad infinitum.
When folks ask me today when I'm going back to Africa, my answer is a very firm NEVER! I think everyone who dreams about going should go. But I loved Africa as it was 40 years ago, and I'm content with my memories. Besides, I'm not fast enough to get out of the way of charging buffalo anymore!